Use The Language You Want Learned

The highest reward is not what students get—rather it is what they become.

Responsibility and democracy cannot be separated. John F. Kennedy in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, wrote,

For, in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, “holds office”; every one of us is in a position of responsibility. . . .”
(p. 255)

Responsibility is the bedrock of our democracy. The following words changed history—borrowed from John Locke and so eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to

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The Horse Whisperer and 10 Suggestions

Adults can use a little horse sense.

Monty Roberts is a famous horse trainer—the model for the Robert Redford film, “The Horse Whisperer.” The trainer conducts demonstrations of how he trains wild mustangs. Monty grew up in central California and, at age 12, started observing them. He now puts his observations and experiences with horses to work with humans. As with the strategies I share, his approach is one of noncoercion to effect behavior changes and improve relationships. The strategy is in direct contrast to traditional approaches of using coercion.

Here is how the horse whisperer trains a wild mustang within 30 minutes in front of hundreds of people.

He gives instructions to the audience and emphasizes that, during the … >>>


Homework (Home Assignments)

Homework is an extension of instruction.

Homework is related to teaching and learning, not to discipline in the sense of classroom disruptions.


Homework provides opportunities to practice and improve skills or gain further knowledge or understanding. Homework also teaches lessons that cannot be measured, such as self-discipline, perseverance, and time management. Homework teaches how to begin a task, complete it, and be responsible for the outcome.


Especially at the elementary grades, homework needs to be tempered with considerations for other demands on young people’s time. Homework has modest influence on achievement in the early grades. When the amount an number of assignments becomes overwhelming, negative attitudes about school and learning result. Assignments should be short, interesting, … >>>


The Power of Hierarchies

It’s not what a hierarchy is; it’s what it does.

A hierarchy is a series of stages in which, the higher the rank, the greater the level of development. Examples of hierarchies are:

• Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

• Jean Piaget’s Hierarchy of Cognitive Development

• Lawrence Kohlberg’s Hierarchy of Moral Development

The hierarchy used in the Hierarchy of Social Development not only engenders a desire to behave at the highest level, it also is significant because of what else it does.

Four highly significant advantages are listed first. Additional advantages follow.

• The hierarchy separates the act from the actor, the deed from the doer,
irresponsible behavior from a good person.
Separation is critical; otherwise, students are defensive.… >>>


Given Names: When Not to and when to Use Them

That which we call a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet. Act ii. Sc. 2. 1
(with respect to William Shakespeare)


Most teachers have a desire to establish good relations with their students. To achieve this objective, young teachers new to the profession often suggest that students call them by their first or given name.

This is a natural tendency, especially since American society has taken to addressing others by given names, rather than by surnames.

I enjoy knowing the name of the server who helps me when I dine in a restaurant. Not too long ago when I asked the server for her name, she responded by asking me for my … >>>


The Empowerment of Choice

The ultimate freedom is the right to choose my attitude in any given situation.
Viktor Frankl

Teaching young people about choice-response thinking, that they need not be victims, may be one of the most valuable thinking patterns we can give them. Students become more responsible when they learn that in almost any situation, or with any stimulus, or with any impulse or urge, they still have freedom to choose a response.



We all experience situations that are beyond our control, either momentarily or permanently. We are confronted with weather and other natural forces, with inconveniences, unpleasant assignments, unrewarding family or work relationships, and numerous situations that we cannot change. However, we can choose our responses >>>


Descartes’ Error

I think; therefore, I am.

“I think; therefore, I am” is perhaps the most famous statement in the history of philosophy. The statement by Rene Descartes, first written in 1637, still has a significant influence on our thinking in the 21st century.

The statement is the foundation of Cartesian dualism that separates the brain from the body. In his book, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Antonio Damasio challenges Descartes’ pronouncement.

Damasio, a Portugese-born M.D. and Ph.D., former head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and currently at the University of Southern California (USC) is the recipient of

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Classroom Meetings

A learning community is a place where students and teachers learn.

Most of us entered the teaching profession to work with young people and because we enjoy learning. An excellent way to pursue both is through the use of classroom meetings. But even more importantly, these meetings provide excellent opportunities for students to practice communication and socialization skills mandated in the curriculum. These skills are difficult to develop unless students actually practice them. Classroom meetings provide the perfect forum.


How people relate to each other is a critical component to the success of a learning community. Classroom meetings facilitate necessary positive relationships because they provide the opportunity towards building trust and respect—which in turn lead … >>>


Business Is a Poor Model for Learning

Using business as a model for learning is disastrous.

Government, business, and even education leaders often make the gross mistake of comparing schooling to business and using a business metaphor for learning.

Schools are referred to as workplaces, students as customers, and performance is measured in terms of accountability. Equating young people’s learning processes with what adults do to make money is a false equation. Using a business model for learning is a practice which has been described by the comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead: “You know, that makes a lot of sense if you don’t think about it.”

The basic purpose of business is to survive. Even in graduate business


Using Breath Management for Better Listening and Voice Preservation

When breathing is active, listening and speaking are improved.

Listening and learning are most effective when breathing is active—rather than passive.

Breathing is ordinarily a passive and a nonconscious act. However, breathing can be made a conscious activity and thereby energize the body for more effective learning and listening alertness.

Once active breathing is learned and practiced, we find ourselves in possession of an extraordinarily powerful technique, which includes:

  1. lowering blood pressure,
  2. calming the emotions,
  3. pumping the spinal fluid,
  4. helping the body realign itself,
  5. calming and controlling the thought process,
  6. managing stress, and enriching the sound of the voice



To begin teaching your body conscious breathing, imagine that someone hands you an extraordinary gift; you GASP in … >>>


Accountability in Schools and Dentists

My dentist is better than your dentist, and I can prove it!

In a  seminar in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I made the statement that educational leaders have given up their leadership—that they have taken the politicians and business leaders’ approaches of accountability and competition as the models for learning. I should not have been shocked at the resounding applause I received from the 95 educators in the audience.

As I point out in the Epilogue of my book, both accountability as it is now used in high stakes testing—and competition—are counterproductive for learning. I quote the comic book character, Dagwood Bumstead, who said, “You know that makes a lot of sense if you don’t think about it.”

There is >>>


Counterproductive Approaches

Learning requires motivation, but motivation to learn cannot be forced.

Highly effective teachers realize this, so they prompt students to want to put forth effort in their learning by creating curiosity, challenge, and interest in meaningful lessons. In addition, however, and especially with youth in poverty, these successful teachers also create positive relationships with their students by practicing positivity, choice, and reflection. These practices are part of the teaching model. This sysdtem avoids approaches that inhibit motivation for responsibility and learning.

Following are 10 counterproductive approaches that are commonly used. Unfortunately, they are so counterproductive that they actually exacerbate the increasing dropout rate of students—especially in low economic areas.

Teachers too often become stressed by reacting … >>>


Contingencies vs. Imposed Consequences

Since people do better when they feel good, use contingencies—rather than imposing consequences.

A simple way to send fewer negative communications and reduce resistance is to use contingencies, rather than consequences. The essence of a contingency is, “Yes, you may do that, as long as you first do this.” “Yes, you may ride in the boat, as long as you wear a life jacket.” Contingencies are so very effective because they promise with the positive—rather than threaten with the negative the way that imposed consequences do.

Although consequences can be either positive or negative, when parents refer to “consequences,” they often think in terms of threats or punishments that are imposed. In contrast, “contingencies” paint positive pictures, empower, … >>>


Using Imaging to Move or Change Behavior

The opening paragraph of my book deals with mindsets. It sets the stage for the entire book because my purpose is to influence young people to have mindsets where they WANT to be responsible and WANT to learn. The objective is to create visual images that drive behaviors.

The following exercise (shared with me by Jack Canfield, coauthor with Mark Victor Hansen of “The Aladdin Factor” and the “Chicken Soup” series) gives students an experience of the power of imagery for both behavior and learning.

Students will need room for the exercise.

Divide the class in two groups, A and B. Say the following to group A:
I want you to close your eyes and imagine in your mind a … >>>