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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Monday, September 17, 2012

School Improvement: The Importance of Self-Evaluation and Reflection

Someone who read “Natural Consequences and Responsibility” was kind enough to send me an e-mail that impressed me for two specific reasons: it offered a wonderful example of self-evaluation in action and it incorporated the serious reflection needed to help our schools improve.

Her school attempts to implement many ideas advocated by Dr. Glasser and choice theory, including the use of a “connecting room.” After reading “Natural Consequences and Responsibility,” she decided to evaluate if what they do matches what they want and reflects what a “connecting room” should be. She discovered that many students sent to the connecting room are unable to articulate why they have been sent there. Others seem truly mystified about why they are there at all! Still, following protocol, the students are required to complete a form that identifies what they did, what they wanted, and what better choices they can make in the future. Despite the positive intent of the connecting room, the reader believes many students view it as a punitive place and simply “play the game” by telling teachers what they want to hear. Her e-mail ended with the following words: “There is a better way of doing this, I believe. I have begun to question the value of what we do.”

That’s self-evaluation in action. Self-evaluation isn’t only looking at where you are and developing a plan of action. It’s revisiting the issue after a plan has been implemented and assessing how well it matches what you envisioned. We might not always like what we find out. This reader had the courage to do that.

Her e-mail also represents the kind of considered reflection needed for sustainable school improvement. I work with a number of schools that try to apply the principles of choice theory. Unfortunately, many of them blindly “drink the kool-aid” and fail to deeply evaluate and question their practices. Once they establish a “connecting room,” for example, they naively believe they have effectively transitioned from punishment. Changing labels isn’t the same as changing practices. To make genuine gains, we need to question what we do. That takes courage. Those who question are frequently perceived negatively, seen as “not on board,” accused of not being a “team player,” and suspected of undermining school leadership. All of that may be true. But oftentimes, those who ask difficult questions are our best advocates. They appreciate that quality requires hard work and commitment and is not achieved easily.

Building leaders, be grateful if your staff has some of these deep thinkers, these reasonable skeptics. And if you are one of those staff members who asks the difficult questions that inspires us to reflect, think deeply, and continually assess what we’re doing, I would be delighted to work with you.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo
PO Box 1336
Sandwich, MA 02563

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit

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