Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Weather Rope

My older brother and I recently had a discussion about school journals that were a part of our reading program at school in New Zealand all those years ago.  He reminded me about a story that had made a huge impact on him called The Weather Rope. Perhaps it was the fact that we grew up in a farming community where the weather was always a topic of discussion "We need rain." Or "Wish it would stop raining so we can get the hay in." Perhaps it was the possibility of being able to control things over which we had no control.

The story told of a community that discovered a weather rope that hung from the sky.  All one had to do was to go and pull on the rope to get a change in the weather.  If the community wanted rain then the rope was pulled and hey presto there was rain.  Then if the rain was sufficient for the grass to grow, the rope was pulled again and there was the sunshine to dry up all the puddles.

This all went along very well until people started to disagree with what they wanted.  Some wanted it to stop raining so they could go to the beach.  Others wanted wind to dry the washing.  The gardeners wanted the wind to stop so that the roses would not be blown away.  The arguments began and people were pulling the rope so often and so hard to get what they wanted, that the suddenly the rope fell out of the sky.  People could not longer get what they wanted.

This is so true in life.  People have different wants.  We know that we are driven by what we want to match our Quality World pictures.  Our choices in behaving to get what we want may result, as in the story, in none of us getting what we want.

I have a favourite cartoon which depicts two characters in a stand off,  each with a rolled up magazine ready to strike .  The caption says "No way.  I'll put my magazine down when you put yours down."

I think if we both lay down 'our magazines' and negotiated, listened, supported- all the connecting habits, we would not lose our 'weather rope' and be more likely to both get what we want.

In the words of the Irish Blessing...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quality Schools

In a quest for quality there are schools all around the world implementing practices that align with Choice Theory.  This is not an easy thing to do.  If we look at the conditions for quality we can see why this is difficult.

1.A warm, supportive classroom environment.
This is difficult when you are feeling out of balance yourself.  Someone once said " You can't give what you haven't got" If you are feeling out of balance then it is difficult to give that warm supportive environment so needed for quality work to be achieved. 

2.  Students are asked only to do useful work.

"We have the test coming up and I don't think that my students have had enough practice at doing those comprehension examples. We had better do more rather than that lesson I planned on setting up a class business."

3.  Students are always asked to do the best they can do.

It always seems that we put time ahead of quality work.  In a classroom where you have a range of learners  and learning styles; where some student complete work more quickly than others. It is very difficult to allow the time for students to do the best that they can.

4.  Students are asked to evaluate their own work and improve it.

This is the key to quality and indeed to intrinsic motivation, yet time taken to use this form of evaluation is not given.  Rather we tend to use teacher evaluation most often in our attempt to get the results that we want.

5.  Quality work always feels good

When the time is given to take something to a level of quality, when it is perceived as useful, when the classroom is warm and supportive and students are proud of their work, then it does feel good.

 6.  Quality work is never destructive

This photo was taken in a classroom in a New Zealand school recently. It demonstrates the quality work being done in this classroom.

 Henderson North School in Auckland

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Revisit of Mental Health

In September 2005, Dr Glasser wrote a small booklet  entitled Defining Mental Health as a Public Health Issue.  The description that Dr Glasser gives for mental health - as opposed to mental illness is as follows.

You are mentally healthy if you enjoy being with most of the people you know, especially with the important people in your life such as family, sexual partners and friends.  Generally you are happy and are more than willing to help an unhappy family member, friend or colleague to feel better.  You lead a mostly tension free life, laugh a lot and rarely suffer from the aches and pains that so many people accept as an unavoidable part of living,  You enjoy life and have not trouble accepting other people who think and act differently from you.  It rarely occurs to you to criticise or try and change anyone.  If you have differences with someone else you will try and work out the problem; if you can't you will walk away before you argue and increase the difficulty.

You are creative in what you attempt and may enjoy more of your potential that you ever thought possible.  Finally even in very difficult situations when you are unhappy - no one can be happy all the time - you'll know you are unhappy and attempt to do something about it,  You may even be physically handicapped as was Christopher Reeve, and still fit the criteria above.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stand Downs

This term is used in New Zealand schools when students stay at home for a designated period of time for some more serious behaviours at school. In July 2009 there was an article in the paper about this practice with numbers of students on "stand down " for each school in the local area over the year. In response I wrote the following letter to the editor.
I was interested in your article July 26 about the stand-downs in Waikato schools. The descriptors for stand down, suspension, exclusion and expulsion were useful for the the community to understand that there are times when a student's behaviour just does not, at this point in time, allow them to fit into the school.

I had some concern when the headline read 'bad' students. These students are not bad. The choices they are making are unproductive and disruptive to their learning and the learning of others or destructive to their hopes of becoming useful citizens, but we need to believe that they can be taught to become self-managing.

 As teachers of young children we do not teach the letter "A" once, and expect that it is learnt. We do not, as often happened in the past, punish student who do not learn the first time. Good teachers continue to teach them in many and varied ways to enable them to learn to read, It is the same with making better choices. This can be taught.

We are a nation of blamers.  We blame the coach when our team fails; the government for everything that goes wrong.  We blame the parents, blame the schools, and blame the students for behaviours they choose, but in reality this does not solve the problem. Blaming is designed to help us feel better but it does not address the underlying issues involved.

We need to think about ways in which we can teach students to make better choices and not to give up on them.  Standing down, suspending, excluding, expelling students is not teaching them a better way to behave any more than going to prison is teaching people not to commit crimes.  If it was working well we would not have repeat crimes or repeat stand-downs in school.
I want to link this with the article in the same paper about the Enderly community cop Mason Le Pou.  He knows that the key to success with alienated, disconnected people is through consistently building relationships.  Unless positive generative and trusting relationships are developed with these students who are not yet self-managing, they will not learn to make better choices.  They will not be influenced by authority figures who threaten and punish as the only way to deal with these behaviours.

I am not suggesting that we go soft on students who choose these disruptive and destructive behaviours.  I am not suggesting that this is easy for schools, but while we continue to believe that we can punish and hope for change, we will not  make a difference in the lives of these young people.  If something is not working we need to choose something different.  Discipline means caring enough to teach a better way to behave.  Are we up for the challenge?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


A fascinating study of 180 School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns, all born before 1919 has some interesting findings.  In his book “The Happiness Advantage” Shawn Achor describes the process that researchers used to track the positive emotional diary writings over 50 years.  The nuns who had a high level of positivity lived ten years longer than the ones who were negative.  By age 85, 90% of the “happy” nuns were still alive as compared with 34% of the least happy nuns.  This is pretty convincing evidence of the need to maintain a positive way of being in the world. If the nuns were all faced with the same life choices, it would be interesting to ponder why some chose to happiness over unhappiness.

We know that the feelings feed into the physiology and that illness often results if there are prolonged negative feelings. Helping people understand Choice Theory and by using Reality Therapy with people in need we can help them to live a more balanced life, and remain healthier and happier.    

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Glasser Quality School

This site is about Murray High School - the first High School Quality School

Choice Theory in action

Jane Bond has been working together with Jeff Steedman with a group of teachers at a local school, and a couple of the junior grade staff went out to her kinder last week, wanting to see Choice Theory in action.  

Jane said “It was a special time, as I don't think any of us at the kinder fully realised the extent to which Choice Theory is so much a part of everything we do - from the relationships we have and how we treat each other, the way people speak to each other, and how negotiations happen”.

The school teachers both commented on how great it was to see all the children happily and comfortably and meaningfully engaged in what they were doing - a needs fulfilling environment

Monday, August 29, 2011

Spreading the word - telling people about Choice Theory

Do you get asked "What is Choice Theory?"  An elevator speech is that 30 seconds you have when people ask that question.
A great elevator speech does four things: 
  1. It sets out the problem
  2. It sets out the opportunity
  3. It sets out how the training is going to solve that in a way that's valuable to customers
  4. It inspires the listener
How does this sound?

    • We have a world that is beset with violence, break down of families, mentally ill people, jails full to overflowing
    • Learning Choice Theory has an answer to these huge issues.  Even if we were able to eliminate just one of these areas, society would be a better place for everyone.  
    • We teach people that we need to recognise that we can only control ourselves.  The issues are really all about trying to control others.  Violence is trying to control others; break downs in families are the result of one person in the marriage trying to control another.  Mentally ill people are largely people who have become disconnected from those who are important to them and people are often incarcerated because they tried to use force to control another person. Choice Theory teaches us ways to get what we want in a way that does not stop others from getting what they want.
    • Wouldn't it be a wonderful place if we were able to eliminate these major concerns in society.  Then the only thing we would need to solve is the poverty of many because of the greed of a few.
      Try this for yourself in your area of using Choice Theory and its applications.

      Wednesday, August 3, 2011

      Dorothy Devine sent me the following piece from the Institute of Heart Math,
      "Change your energy, change your life, change your world...

      If we give ourselves unconditional self love for five minutes, the energy created strengthens the immune system for 6 hours.

      When we choose anger for five minutes, this state diminishes the immune system for 6 hours.

      It is a choice...."

      There is also a great free wellbeing survey that gives an interesting take on your stress levels. 

      Saturday, July 30, 2011

      Woodenbong ??

      Where is Woodenbong?  I did not know until two days ago.  I drove out from the Gold Coast about two hours and juddered across the border into New South Wales.  I called into the local pub and asked the person behind the bar if this was the only hotel in town. He smiled and said yes.  The town with its outlying community has a small population of about 600.

      Dorothy Devine and I were booked in for the night to begin work on a Basic Intensive Training with staff at the local school the next day.

      The school was a mere 100 metres from the pub and we were greeted by the Deputy Principal who opened up our training room.  People began to arrive and we were underway.

      Our time with the staff was full of fun and laughter.  Stories were shared, aha moments were evident, deep listening practised and questions were asked, all leading to a very needs satisfying day.  Work will continue between sessions through a Blog called Woodenbong BIT.

      Now I know a little more about Woodenbong and some of its residents and I really warmed to both.

      Wednesday, June 1, 2011

      CT and Caring for the Aged

      Recently my 84 year old mother has been experiencing severe pain due to her oesteo arthritis. She had asked me to be her Medical Power of Attorney. Accordingly, I have been accompanying her to her many medical appointments and assessments. Life has changed dramatically for Mum - no longer able to catch the bus to shop on her own, gardening (one of her favourite pastimes) has become almost impossible and keeping the house clean (in case someone comes!). She felt like she was losing her independence and was making statements like " they told me I'm not allowed to catch the bus anymore". So I have been using Choice Theory to help Mum regain some of the "self power" she felt she had lost by asking her questions...... "can you walk to the bus, Mum?" " No, dear". "What's stopping you from walking to the bus?" "My's my body, it's wearing out" "Ok, Mum, so you can't walk to the bus on you own but you can still go shopping, just differently. There's the Council volunteer group, there's half price cab's that we have organised or there are family members who can take you".
      Mum was suffering anxiety/panic attacks, we believe as a reaction to very strong pain medication. To assist her to manage these attacks I would sit calmly with her and breathe and talk about a "happy" place. She has learned very quickly that she "is in control of the remote" and can choose to change the picture in her head.
      Some members of the family had become increasingly concerned with Mum's doctor (myself included) but how do you get an 84 year old, loyal through and through, to change her doctor?You sow seeds, give her information and let her make the choice herself. This week Mum decided to see another Dr - for a second opinion - even after her "old" Dr phoned her asking for her to see him.
      I am soo proud of Mum and it goes to show that you are NEVER too OLD to learn. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

      Sunday, May 22, 2011

      What a Day!

      Sometimes you just have one of those days! this is how it went:
      Had to get up at 4am for a 6.10 flight to Adelaide.
      Couldn't find remote control for garage door, backed into son's car in driveway.
      Arrive at airport, just miss bus from long term parking area to terminal.
      Run all the way thru terminal to LAST boarding gate - FLIGHT CLOSED!!!!
      What do I do: start crying, tantruming - will it change anything? NO!
      What I do is - stand and take stock of my situation, THINK, walk all the way back thru terminal, out thru security, back to service desk. Book later flight (3 hours later!!!), pay money, then back thru security, buy a chai latte, sit down, BREATHE slowly, gather myself, send a dozen smss and procede to prepare myself for today's meeting and relax......
      Without Choice Theory I would have cried, angered, roared at the check-in chick, argued at the service desk. My blood pressure would have been sky high and I would have been stressing about being late for the meeting. And what would have changed - NOTHING. My situation would have been exactly the same - stuck at the airport, waiting for the next flight.
      THANK YOU Choice Theory for giving me the strategies to cope with whatever is thrown my way.
      NOTE: Later flight was an hour late leaving!!!

      Friday, May 13, 2011

      Growing with Choice Theory

      The following is a growth report submitted by a Basic Practicum participant.  It outlines the growth experienced as a result of the Basic Week and Basic Practicum.

      Before Choice Theory, I used to believe that what others did or said was the cause of my hurt and that I could do little about this.  Since doing the Choice Theory workshop and reading several books by William Glasser, I now see this differently.   

      Today, I am more inclined to recognize that I am not a victim of another or a situation, and therefore, tend to take responsibility for my perception and for the emotions I experience and then the action I choose in response.  

      What I have learned from Choice Theory is that I perceive the real world through my perceptual filters (made up of sensory, total knowledge and value systems) I then compare my quality world with my perceived world, if they match then I experience feelings of satisfaction, happiness, contentment  etc. and am not motivated to change, this is because my needs and wants are being satisfied.   

      Should my perceived world not match my quality world, then I have an urge to “behave” in an attempt to get my needs/wants satisfied.  My behavior is made up of four components, feeling, physiology, thinking and acting and I can be doing all four or, if I am spinning my wheels, I am stuck in feeling and need to take action in order to change the feeling.  By learning that this is how the brain works, I have been able to achieve this growth.

      Thursday, February 24, 2011

      Bob Sullo

      Jill Bayly sent this email to her colleagues at TAFE in Queensland about her attendance at the workshop Bob Sullo presented on the Gold Coast this week.

      I went along to a teacher’s workshop yesterday to listen to a man from the U.S. named Bob Sullo.This was an interesting workshop where I once again connected with the work of William Glasser. Bob is a psychologist, G.O. and student counsellor and works mainly out of the William Glasser Institute U.S.

      It was refreshing to revisit skills whereby teachers encourage and inspire students to engage in their learning simply by participation and interaction with their teacher.

      I resonated with the idea that we do indeed teach the whole student, both morally and academically and that each and every person working within an education setting plays an enormous part in supporting that student to reach their potential.

      Bob spent some time speaking about developing what he called a ‘shared vision.’ I thought this idea was a great metaphor for both our work and with the journey we frequently share with students and staff here at GCIT.

      Bob shared with the group his belief as to how the ‘reward of learning is feeling good’ and reminded us to check in regularly with ourselves asking questions such as:

      ‘What sort of teacher/counsellor/ manager do I want to be?’ 

      “And what would the teacher/ counsellor/ manager I want to be.. do in a situation such as this?”

      Nothing we haven’t heard or seen before, however as practitioners it can be rewarding to reconnect with the viewpoints that often work to make our hearts sing and our clients happy.

      Friday, February 4, 2011

      Twelve Hours Sleep

      Following a Counselling with Choice Theory session recently, a woman who had been in great pain, slept well for the first time since her accident six months ago.

      A three meter fall from a ladder had left her in severe pain with a compression fracture of her L1.  This required her to wear a brace she calls "Lady Gaga".  The fall also set off neuro pain from a previous surgery to remove a tumour.

      The accident and resulting pain was impacting on her relationships with family and her husband.  Others wanted to give her advice, telling her what to do.  Her husband was frustrated and angry at the length of time it was taking her to function as she was able to before the accident.

      Her medical team, while supportive, was unable to give her pain relief that she felt comfortable with.

       She was feeling unsupported, alone and worthless.

      During the counselling session she was able to identify a plan using a metaphor.

      She and her husband had owned a yacht and leaving the mooring each Friday evening and sailing up the Broadwater was a refuge for her from an extremely busy work life.

      Her plan was to ‘take her sails out of the wind’ when she was faced with criticism from others and to ‘tack away’.

      She re-created a strong image of herself in charge of the yacht, hand on the tiller and the wind on her face. The energy shift and the change in thinking when discussing this image was noticeable.

      With this plan in place she was able to relax enough to sleep.

      Monday, January 31, 2011

      A Change in Behaviour

      One aspect in which I have recognized evident changes is how I relate to other people. Often I believed that when I strongly supported something my job and duty were to convince others to do the same. And that was all out of best intentions, I swear. Oh goodness, how hard that job was and somehow always resulted in frustration.  Now that I know more about external control, everything makes so much more sense.  How liberating it is to know that no, it is not possible to make others change pictures in their quality worlds, and at times my job and responsibility is to provide information. How liberating that is. Not that I feel less responsible, because the focus is on making sure that the best possible information is provided. However, at the end of the day, the choice and the responsibility for making that choice is somebody else’s.
      I am taking some baby steps in this direction, but I certainly feel much more relaxed when I go to meetings for example. I am more and more aware that even though some people may make choices that are not compatible with my beliefs, does not mean that they are bad choices and certainly it does not mean that I fail as a person because they are not commensurate with mine.  

      Dijana Sahlibasich, Basic Practicum participant 2010-11

      Friday, January 21, 2011

      The best and the worst of it !!

      In the recent Queensland floods, people were faced with the reality of something over which they had no control.  The first fine day after the torrential rains that brought the floods gave people the sense that the worst was over but in reality the worst was still to come. The inevitability of the rising water hit home as we watched the Brisbane River power its way towards the sea taking with it many large objects including a popular floating restaurant from Coronation Drive.

      People have chosen to do different things in the wake of such adversity.  The wonderful response from volunteers has meant that people have been able to face overwhelming clean up tasks with hope and some enthusiasm.  This spirit of support has constantly been reported on radio and on television.

      People are meeting, supporting and working with neighbors previously unknown. A bringing together of people in evacuation centres with NGOs and volunteers has meant that people have felt safe and connected at a time of crisis.  

      There are of course the other stories as adversity brings out the best in people but also the worst in others.    Looting, scams, rip offs are also part of the scene.  The outpouring of support and action has outweighed the negative choices made by a few.

      A lot of heartache and fears still face many people.  Frustration and anger, hope and relief are feelings that will be experienced as people come to terms with loss.

      I hope that people look at what they have control over and what they don't and work with the things that they can influence.