Classrooms and schoolyards are filled with students with varying degrees of social knowledge and skill. They behave in a manner consistent with their experience and resulting beliefs. Some behaviors are appropriate and result in positive outcomes, while others are inappropriate and result in negative outcomes. In order for students to learn from these experiences and produce more appropriate and positive outcomes, they need help and assistance. They need someone to teach them, not discipline them.
The greatest lesson we can teach our students is the knowledge and skill to solve problems. Although many educators believe we are accomplishing this in math, science, and other subject areas, the most relevant situations for using this skill are with real life problems. Most students have shown the ability to learn this skill and most have been able to transfer the skill to the academic side of school. Very few have been able to transfer academic problem solving to social situations.
The steps in problem solving are basically the identical steps used in decision-making. Thus, by teaching problem solving, we are in effect teaching decision-making. The traditional schools of the past have seldom included decision-making in the curriculum, believing that decisions for students came after graduation. Until that time, students' responsibilities were to simply obey the rules and meet the requirements set down by the board, administration, and classroom teachers.
In truth, students are making decisions constantly. In today's world, some of the decisions facing them are extremely important and some are potentially dangerous. Should I quit school, marry this person or that one, use drugs, drive while under the influence, prepare for college, play sports, or join a gang? Many of the decisions students make while in school have a lasting effect on their lives. Perhaps teaching how to make decisions is the most crucial skill in the entire curriculum.
The five problem solving steps presented in this book are a combination of the steps most often cited in scientific problem solving with a view espoused by William Glasser (1986). The final two steps were added following implementation and the realization that both were vital for success. The seven steps are:
Step One: What is YOUR problem? Define and Agree.
Step Two: What did YOU choose to do? And Why?
Step Three: What are the results of YOUR choice (decision)?
Step Four: What other choices could YOU make?
Step Five: What do YOU choose to do now and next time?
Step Six: Demonstrate that YOU can do it?
Step Seven: How can I help YOU?
These problem-solving steps are the core - the heart and soul of the book. They should appear very familiar and simple common sense. Most principals and teachers believe they are using problem solving with students, but in most cases it tends to be a lecture after punishments are doled out. Their results vary according to student and circumstance, but for the most part, are not effective in changing student behavior. This book will present a diferent slant to using problem solving and combined with the following nineteen tasks, will give you a strategy that truly works in changing students' experiences, beliefs, attitudes and behavior.