2007-05-31 / Community

Teacher, former students honor psychiatrist's concept

Dr. William Glasser developed, focused on Choice Theory
By Joann Groff joann@theacorn.com

DIANE JADWIN/Special to the Acorn ALL  SMILES- - Conejo  Valley Unified School District students Charlene  Gibbert,  Parker Jadwin,  Christina  Chambliss, Rachelle  Gibbert  and  Brooke Stuart  share  the  limelight  with their  former  teacher,  Gail Edelman Small, and psychiatrist Dr.  William  Glasser  at  a presentation for the doctor. DIANE JADWIN/Special to the Acorn ALL SMILES- - Conejo Valley Unified School District students Charlene Gibbert, Parker Jadwin, Christina Chambliss, Rachelle Gibbert and Brooke Stuart share the limelight with their former teacher, Gail Edelman Small, and psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser at a presentation for the doctor. Seven local children made presentations last month to a famed psychiatrist after one of their former teachers asked them along to visit his home.

William Glasser is an American psychiatrist who developed and focuses on the ideas of Choice Theory, which states that all behavior is purposeful and originates from within oneself in an effort to fulfill one's basic needs.

An event in Glasser's honor was held at his Brentwood home last month.

Each of the kids were students of Gail Small's multiaged classroom in Conejo Elementary's Open Classrooms program, where she taught first-, second- and thirdgraders. "Making the choice to i n c l u d e former students in my Glasser presentation was a risk," Small said. "I felt, though, that a conference of professionals hearing from children themselves defines so much. Each child, with a smile of knowing and as an individual filled with creativity and thoughts to share, brought out a special quality in the day and conference."

Brooke Stuart, 11, made a "choice flower" about her life and all the choices she is able to make. The petals on the flower describe the things and people she loves and what things or events make her feel "powerful and free," she said.

Brooke's mom, Elaine, said her daughter recently competed in and won a speech contest at her school, and they attribute that to her choices to write and practice that speech until it met her high standards.

"The 'choices' curriculum taught to our daughter in third grade has been very important to Brooke's development," said Elaine Stuart. "She has developed excellent study skills because she understands the importance of learning as much as she can now for her benefit later in life. She enjoys the learning process and feels good about herself when she completes a project."

Charlene Gibbert, 12, created a book about her thoughts and feelings surrounding her choices.

"If a teacher says, 'Do your homework or else,' it makes me feel funny and is not helpful. If the teacher says, 'When you read this you will discover interesting ideas that we can talk about and share,' that makes me curious, and I want to find out what I'm going to learn," Charlene said.

Cassandra Soltero, 15, was particularly excited about the presentation, as she is considering studying to be a psychologist, Small said.

"I presented posters of magazine cutouts about his idea of how seven caring and deadly habits make or break relationships," Cassandra said. "I got personal and talked about how all of the deadly habits tarnished my relationship with my stepsister quite recently. I was very relieved when everyone was laughing the whole time because of the comic relief my pictures added to the presentation.

"My favorite part of being able to speak this weekend was looking up at my wonderful teacher, glad that she had believed in (me) to speak in front of such a professional audience."

Small said learning about choices is very important to a child's development.

"Choices don't happen overn i g h t , " Small said. "However, the sooner children realize and understand choices, the easier it is throughout their lives. Teachers incorporating choices into early learning are giving children priceless gifts."

Parker Jadwin, 11, said he felt good about speaking to Glasser and the other attendees.

"It felt as if I got to be myself in front of the adults," Parker said. "I also felt very comfortable speaking in front of important people, even though I didn't know them. It was so amazing to speak out to Dr. Glasser and Ms. Gail that kids have choices too." LuNel LeMieux, a former student of Glasser's, attended the presentation.

"Never underestimate the power of kids," LeMieux said. "They can learn more, do more and think about things much more deeply than most adults ever give them credit for. The students demonstrated Dr. Glasser's Choice Theory concepts with pictures, posters and skits, with several proud parents looking on. They were amazing, and the audience was very impressed."

In addition to Brooke, Cassandra, Charlene and Parker, presenters included Christina Chambliss, 10; Rachelle Gibbert, 10; and Cathy Soltero, 13.

Small is a Fulbright Memorial Scholar, educator, author and speaker. She taught kindergarten through sixth grade in CVUSD from 1969 to 2004. For more information, visit GailSmall.com. Learning about

choices is very

important to a child's development

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