By Kim Olver
After presenting these ideas at the NAREN (National At-Risk Education Network) in Wisconsin last week, I was asked to write an article that would be able to reach more people to spread the exciting word about Dr. William Glasser's work in the area of Quality Schools.
There are many characteristics that are required in order for a school to be listed as a Quality School. There are currently 13 such schools in the country, with many more on their journey to become Quality Schools.
In a Quality School, relationships are based upon trust and respect, and all discipline problems, not incidents, have been eliminated. Total Learning Competency is stressed and an evaluation that is below competence or what is now a "B" has been eliminated. All schooling as defined by Dr. William Glasser has been replaced by useful education. All students do some Quality Work each year that is significantly beyond competence. All such work receives an "A" grade or higher, such as an "A+".
Students and staff are taught to use Choice Theory in their lives and in their work in school. Parents are encouraged to participate in study groups to become familiar with the ideas of Dr. William Glasser. Students do better on state proficiency tests and college entrance examinations. The importance of these tests is emphasized in the school. Staff, students, parents and administrators view the school as a joyful place.
All of the above criterion must be in place to be listed as a Quality School. When a school is a Quality School, the dictates of "No Child Left Behind take care of themselves. Now, of course there will be a few children who have totally rejected school who are unreachable, but for the majority, they will learn and do quality work.
The way to achieve this is to implement the three conditions of quality. First, the school and each classroom must create an environment that will meet the needs of the students, and consequently of teachers. All humans are born with five basic human needs. We have the need for survival, connection/love, power, freedom and fun/learning. This is true of students and teachers.
In order to help students meet their need for survival, the school and classroom must be safe. They must feel that they won't be hurt physically or emotionally. When students feel safe, there is no need to threaten teachers or other students.
In order for students to satisfy their need for connection/love, they must have a relationship with the teacher and the other students. They must believe that the teacher has their best interest at heart. The more you give love and connection away, the more they come back to you.
In order to satisfy a student's need for power, teachers must listen to and respect their students ideas and issues. This does not mean that teachers must agree with their students but they must at least let the students know that they are important. When students feel listened to and respected, they don't disrespect their teachers and they tend to listen more.
For students to have freedom, they must have choices. They must not be bogged down in rules and regulations. When students have choices, they won't have the need to create destructive choices of their own.
In school, learning should be fun. Learning is always fun when the learning is useful and the students want to learn what is being taught. Imagine students having fun learning! Isn't that the dream of teachers everywhere? When your students are having fun, you do too.
I know this sounds like an impossible task but there are many schools doing just that with training in Dr. William Glasser's Choice Theory. Creating a need-satisfying environment is what actually eliminates discipline problems. If someone has a legitimate, appropriate way to get his/her needs met, then there is no reason to create discipline problems.
Switching courses over to a competency-based approach is critical to the Quality School concept. Students are not permitted to get credit for less than B work and they have opportunities to improve their work until it meets the minimum standard for a B. Concepts are taught in such a way that reduces the need for memorizing facts that can be found in any encyclopedia or text.
This and more speaks to the second condition of quality that students will only be asked to do useful work. It is the teacher's job to convince students that what they are being asked to do is useful in the real world. If you are successful in that endeavor, you will have willing students. Wouldn't that make your job more enjoyable for you?
The final condition of quality is self-evaluation. Students are asked to grade their own work. There are two essential items that must be met in order to get accurate self-evaluations from students. First, they must have no fear that the teacher or anyone else will hurt them with an honest self-evaluation. Second, there must be a clear rubric in place that will give students a model against which to compare their own work.
Self-evaluation does not replace the need of the teacher or teacher's aide (another student already judged to be competent in that particular area) from corroborating the student's self-evaluation. Students are not punished for less than competent work. Rather they are shown where their work is lacking and given the opportunity to fix it. This, again, is a skill that is seen everyday in the real world. Rarely do people actually lose their jobs for substandard work. They are told what is wrong and asked to fix it.
Of course this is just a thumb-nail sketch of what is necessary to become a Quality School but if you or anyone you know is interested in learning more, visit www.coachingforexcellence.biz and check our calendar for upcoming teleclasses, chats and workshops.
About The Author
Kim Olver has over 20 years experience in staff development and supervision and is an expert in leadership skills, staff relationships and diversity. Certified in reality therapy/choice theory/lead management/quality school concepts, she works with counselors, schools and businesses to apply these ideas. Visit http://www.coachingforexcellence.biz.