Several years ago, I decided I wanted to help my
students put school into what psychologist William Glasser calls their “quality
worlds,” and keep it there as they go through the grades. I agree with Glasser
that if students can be persuaded to do this, they will become more invested in
the school community and eventually become life-long learners. Here’s one way
I’ve encouraged my advisory students to value school.
Each fall, during our morning circle meeting, to begin our
discussion of what each of us includes in his/her quality world, I hold a series
of shares on three topics: quality objects, quality places, and quality
Sharing about quality objects
I begin by sharing the
Tibetan prayer rug I acquired when I lived in India. I lay out the
beautifully-colored rug in front of the class and share a short story (1-3
minutes) that includes two important points: why the object matters to me, and
how the object has shaped me as a person. I then say, “I am ready for questions
and comments.” Students are eager to ask questions about the object and its
connections. This sets the stage for each student to be assigned a day in which
he or she can share a quality object with the class.
The next week, I begin by demonstrating how to share a
quality place. The place I usually share with them is an island off the tip of
the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin called Rock Island. I have pictures and smooth
stones from its beach to show them. I tell them why the island is special to me,
and how it has affected me. Throughout the week, students share their real or
imagined quality places, why they are special to them, and how they have shaped
them as people.
Sharing about quality people
The third week’s sharing time is spent discussing quality people. I model this share by bringing a picture or something that represents the person I’m sharing about, though students are not required to bring in objects or photos.
I share a short story
that shows why this person matters to me and how he or she has shaped me. Each
student then has a chance to share her quality person. By this time, students
are getting proficient at engaging, open-ended shares, and my class has built a
wonderful sense of community because of the personal thoughts we hear and
Connecting school to quality worlds
With the stage
set, I am ready to aim for my main goal: to encourage students to value school
and learning so much that they will include it in their quality worlds. I start
by sharing my school-based quality objects. I show students my high-school and
college diplomas. The students tend to be very interested in these. They touch
them, read them, even smell them! Each is a tangible quality object, to be sure,
but there’s much more to them. I tell my students that I cannot even imagine
what my life would have been like without what these represent. I explain that
they have been my ticket to so many good things that have happened to me in my
life. Then, holding up my high-school diploma, I ask my students, “Who wants one
of these?” They all raise their hands. I remind them that this is why they are
here in this school: to learn, to earn a diploma, and to be able to walk through
the doors a diploma can open.
When they raise their hands to indicate
they want to earn a high school diploma, they are endorsing the idea that
learning is a worthwhile endeavor, that time at school is valuable, and that
school is indeed a part of their quality world.
After that, it’s up to my
colleagues and me to make sure their school experiences continue to merit
inclusion in their quality worlds. This is a huge responsibility, perhaps even a
daunting one, but one that inspires me.
Background information on psychologist William Glasser’s “Quality
Glasser’s “Quality Worlds”
William Glasser encourages students to ponder what he calls their personal,
unique “quality world.” For Glasser, examining one’s quality world involves
thinking about the positive, meaningful connections each of us makes to people,
things, ideas, and ideals.
Our quality worlds contain the knowledge
that is most important to us…. If what we are talking about is in our quality
worlds, we care deeply. (p. 45)
Glasser believes that basic human
needs (survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun) are the general
motivation for all human behavior, and that our individual quality worlds
provide each of us with our unique, concrete, specific motivation. He finds that
school is often not part of students’ quality world because they experience
school as unrelated to what they value or need, or because they feel coerced. As
a result, student motivation and achievement suffer.
When students’ needs
are taken into account and addressed in school, this human capacity to reshuffle
what is important to us offers a doorway into students’ quality
William Glasser. Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal
Freedom, New York, New York: Harper Collins
Richard Frost teaches 8th
grade history and science at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse
Published September 2009.