Charlotte Wellen

Educator, National Board Certified Teacher, Murray High School
Charlottesville, VA, United States

About Charlotte

Bio

I am a National Board Certified Teacher, a Practicum Supervisor for the Glasser Institute, and the Choices Teacher and English Dept. Head at Murray High School, the first Glasser Quality Public High School, which is located in Charlottesville, VA. I have been a teacher for thirty years, in Colombia, S. America, in Turkey, in Sri Lanka, in China, and here in the United States. One of my most important life goals is to support the creation of as many quality schools as I can, so students, parents, teachers and administrators everywhere can learn the skills that will lead to personal happiness.

Languages

English, French, Spanish, Turkish

Areas of Expertise

Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management, Teaching, Conference Presenter

An idea worth spreading

Public High Schools can be happy places, places that even at-risk high school students love to come to every day, places where students and teachers feel like friends and loved ones, where academic challenges are welcomed and the chance to do a true quality product is greatly valued. Public High Schools can do away with disrespect, especially the punishment of low grades. At my high school, Murray High School, it's impossible to fail. Students just keep working, with teacher support, until they figure out how to master the skills they need to do well in the world and to achieve their goals. Students who used to say, "Just give me a zero," now say, "I know I need to do this because I need to graduate, so could you help me figure it out?" We have very high test scores and an at-risk population. Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management work consistently to create a place where people can be happy and successful together. This can be replicated. We can help.

I'm passionate about

Teaching Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management! When my beloved Murray students learn they they are making the choices that will lead to their own happiness, that feels SUPERB!

Talk to me about

Everything! God, the Universe, and Everything!

People don't know I'm good at

canoeing.

My TED story

My students and the staff at my school, Murray High School, have developed a system of education that works extremely well, even with at-risk students. It doesn't involve punishment, yet there is an orderly, respectful environment, even among students who have had a history of violent response to frustration. It doesn't allow any grades below a B, yet students who have failed many classes, blossom academically. The school is based on the ideas of Dr. William Glasser, the psychiatrist who developed Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. I take my students around the country to teach others how to do what we do. I ask them why they want to give up their own time to travel and present about Murray. They say, "It's not fair that we are the only students who get to have a happy school where we are respected and involved in decision-making. These ideas are free and easy to implement and they would make a tremendous difference in big, unhappy schools. We want more schools to try these ideas."

Comments & conversations

17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week: Who was your favorite teacher?
Dear Mary, Thank you for your kind words! Those two definitely changed my entire life. I kept in touch with Mr. Thomas for many years. He wrote me long letters full of suggested readings, which I really enjoyed, so he was continuing to teach me. He and his family moved to New Mexico, where he was a teacher for years and then they moved to Idaho, where he became a high school principal. He's retired now and I have lost contact with him. Mr. Baldino became the head of the Central Virginia Education Association and worked for teacher rights all over the country. When he discovered that I had become a teacher, he became my mentor and has helped me many times over the years. I thoroughly realize the blessings I have received from these two men. I love them both and I know they love me, too. Because of their caring lives, I have had the honor to be there for my own students. This is my 35th year of teaching and I still am in love with the profession. I teach at Murray High School, the first Glasser Quality Public High School, based on the ideas of Dr. William Glasser. It is an idyllic place to teach, with so many support systems to help students and teachers get along with each other. We emphasize the concepts of Choice Theory. Students learn how to mediate with one another and with the staff and their parents to work out any conflicts. We very very rarely have any students choosing to put their hands on each other and if it happens, we mediate as soon as everyone is calm and come up with a plan to keep the conflict from happening again. The staff is amazing and the students are very grateful for their beloved school. We travel around the world and teach teachers how to start up Glasser Quality Schools. We also speak with student teachers at UVA, Longwood, and JMU. The teachers are always astounded that the workshops are designed and led by high school students. They realize that as teammates, high school students have been severely undervalued
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week: Who was your favorite teacher?
continued from below... Jefferson made in his life, like his relationship with Hemings and that he didn't release his slaves until after his death. We sat there, taking notes like good little students, but inside our heads, we were completely confused. What was the truth about Jefferson? Was he a heroic father of our country, or a racist? Was he someone to admire, or someone to critique? Of course, this was the exact point of the activity. And they didn't tell us. They asked us. What was the "truth" about history? How did we know what "really happened?" How would we ever decide what the "truth" was? I went home that night and explained to my parents around the dinner table that I now understood that history was made up of particular stories written from the point of view of individuals and that our job was to compare the stories and figure out our own theory of what happened. They were blown away. The next year, I took another special course with Mr. Thomas. We studied world cultures. During that year, he listened to me when my parents' impending divorce overwhelmed me. He gave everyone else something to do and he sat there with me and really listened to my sorrow and fears. Then, he really taught me about the complexities of the world. He was fired. It was 1971 and his hair touched his collar in the back. He circulated a petition to stop the Vietnam War amongst the other teachers. He allowed us to create a controversial door decoration at Christmas -- photos of war from throughout history with a sign in the middle saying, "Peace on Earth?" We were tremendously proud of our idea for that door and we won first place in the competition. But the administration felt it was inappropriate. Then, he refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, explaining that the founding fathers didn't approve of such pledges. The ACLU got him his job back after two years of negotiations. I had a front row seat to his struggle. That's a teacher.
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week: Who was your favorite teacher?
My favorite teacher was Mr. Van Thomas. When I was in eighth grade, I had him as a team teacher with another amazing teacher, Mr. John Baldino. They had gone to college, William and Mary, together, and they were so full of life. They were teaching in one large room 60 middle school students. They were in their early 20's and full of beliefs about what made good education. They were teaching us American history. One morning they came in and told us to take 25 sheets of paper out of our 3-ring binders for a project on the Civil War. We were outraged! How big was this project going to be? 25 pages!! That was completely unreasonable! Then, we were told to crumple up these sheets of paper and they divided the class up into halves and told us that we were soldiers in Gettysburg and we should let fly those balls of paper. For about five hilarious, ferocious minutes, we wailed into each other, laughing and yelling. It was complete, joyous chaos! I've never forgotten it. Afterwards, we talked about what it felt like to be soldiers and if we felt that it had been fun in the Civil War, or what we thought soldiers faced on real battlefields. We also talked about how wars stop and if they were as easy to stop as the battle we had just been waging. Once, Mr. Baldino came in and told us to take out our notebooks and take some notes about Thomas Jefferson. We diligently took notes for 25 minutes about how wonderful Thomas Jefferson was, all the things he did for the country, the Declaration, religious freedom, Monticello, UVA, what a hero he was and a true father of our country. Then, Mr. Baldino was called to the office and Mr. Thomas came in. He told us to get our notebooks out and he was going to give us some more notes on Thomas Jefferson. We all moaned and he said, "No resistance, please. This is important." We said we'd learned all there was to know about Thomas Jefferson. He laughed and said he doubted that. Then he began to tell us all the mistakes
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
Dear ZX Style, (For some reason, the red Reply button isn't available, so I'm using an earlier one) This is in reply to your comment in which you paraphrase me. That was a good strategy because it lets me know how to clarify. I don't mean that we shouldn't let kids feel like failures. I mean we should completely do away with the entire concept of defining people as failures because that strategy ends up with too many of our citizens quitting learning too early. If you give a student a C, D, or F, you're letting them know that you're accepting low achievement from them. If you say, "This part is good, but this part needs work and here are some strategies for improving it," then the student doesn't just settle for a lower achievement, but pushes further, learns more. Isn't this what we want? I don't believe that kids don't like to learn. I've never met a single kid (and I've been working in schools all over the world, including huge city schools in the US for 35 years)who didn't like to learn, when the teacher made an effort to show how what was being learned was relevant and fun. I don't think we have to have a choice between harsh teachers and learning. I think all teachers can learn how to help students love learning, without harshness. We don't have to tolerate misbehavior in classes so that learning doesn't happen, but we don't have to be harsh either. Choice Theory is one method I've learned that helps students take a look at whatever behaviors they're using that aren't helping them learn and stay in classes. If a teacher has high expectations, AND helps students form loving and supportive relationships with the teacher and classmates, much MORE learning takes place, in my experience.
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
Have you found that poor reviews = more empathic behaviors from instructors? It seems to me that poor reviews would result in less empathic behaviors because teachers would feel judged and in an unsafe environment. They would feel more cynical, sarcastic, and unappreciated. I believe students would not feel comfortable judging staff in a rating system if there was not already a problem of grading in the college. Because there is a risk of low grades/failure in working with staff (which is the current system of assessment), students are willing to grade staff, almost as a type of revenge. If there were no grades and instead a system of teams working together and working out conflicts, I believe no one would want to participate in a rating scale because it would be seen as hurtful of the team. For instance, in our school, we meet twice weekly to keep everything running well. I someone needs support to get something done, they ask for it. They are not seen as weak or insufficient because they are overwhelmed in some way. We all know that the time will come when we need the support, too, so we offer it willingly. We don't need some rating system to tell us that we aren't doing well. We self-assess and then get the support we need. If we get information from the outside that we aren't doing well enough, we work together to solve the problem -- for instance, I had a parent complaint to my principal that I wasn't answering emails quickly enough. The principal and I looked over my schedule and realized that it was impossible for me to do it more quickly without taking me away from students, which was not an optimal use of my skills, so she assigned some of my email responsibilites (for admissions) to someone else who was not with students as often. Problem solved. I realize that what I am suggesting is a long-term fix with many system changes needed to enact it. What results have you had with the rating system leading to more empathic teaching methods?
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
Rather than rating educators, how about educating educators? Every single human on this planet can learn the skills necessary to relate to students. Adults who do not know how to do this can learn. They can take courses. They can have mentors. If they are treated with respect and empathy by their administrators, that is the first step to learning how to do that, and the value of doing that, with their students. Rating them and firing them is the exact opposite of what we want them to be doing with our students. We do not want them to rate and then "fire" our students. Why should teachers be treated more harshly? If we spent time and money surrounding these angry teachers with care and support and encouraging them to learn to work out problems, they can learn. They also, just like our most reluctant students, can transform themselves into achievers. I have seen it happen over and over at our Glasser Quality School. Educators who believe themselves superior to students, soon see the benefits of working out conflicts with them rather than attacking them. Because there is a system in place to help students and teachers mediate conflicts on a daily basis, our classrooms are places students and teachers look forward to coming. When that is not happening, teachers seek out help and that is not condemned, but encouraged. We see teaching as a team sport, where teammates ask for help when needed and help is supplied with gratitude for the asking. If teachers don't feel safe in their jobs, they won't try something new. They won't take risks. They won't admit to weaknesses, nor ask for help. Creating a safe environment for teachers to learn and setting mutually agreed upon goals and working toward them as a team will help the angry teachers relax and begin to enjoy working with their students. Probably, they have no idea how to create a strong relationship with a student, nor are they aware of the positive differences that would make in their own lives
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
Easy. We ask them to think. For instance, at a Glasser Quality School, students take on a lot of the work of running the school. A good example would be that we have applicants from schools in our district throughout the year. Students taking the Leadership course create a workshop to get to know these applicants and their families. They invite them in for the workshop and do interviews and make recommendations to the Admissions Committee. They also make a list of the challenges they believe these students will face when they arrive in our school the following year and suggestions as to how we can support them. Students are also in charge of running the weekly Community Meetings. They organize retreats and Community Days. They travel around with me to various universities and conferences to teach about Glasser Quality Schools and how they have impacted their lives. In classes, they have the opportunity to think, as well. I am currently teaching a course called English Through Drama and the 17 students in the class built a strong relationship with one another, as we were studying world dramas from Greek theater to contemporary works. We became a writer's workshop and helped each other improve writing skills, all with the goal of writing our own full-length play together and performing it for the community. These students, many who have never wanted to stay after school to accomplish anything, met with me last night, Saturday, until 10pm, writing, writing, writing. They are pushing themselves to make sure the play is done in time to present before the end of the school year. We believe that this dedication to the achievement of Quality Work is an important element in helping humans develop happiness in their lives. They no longer want to settle for a job. They want a career that matters to them. We help them figure out what they need and want and how to bring it to pass. That's a deep level of thought that often isn't required in public education.
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
The concept of failure is hurting kids and has been hurting kids as long as it has existed. For instance, my father, who became a renowned NASA scientist and who invented metals that could endure the stresses of outer space, was so damaged by failing fifth grade, that he refused to do any more education after high school and became a NASA mechanic, eventually rising to be a metals technologist who traveled the world, teaching the people at Boeing and in Japan how to do what he did. He overcame the feeling of failure in this way, but he took a very low salary as a technician because he wouldn't take a risk of failure in college courses and become an engineer. He had already made up his mind that formal education wasn't for him. He only stayed in school long enough to graduate because my grandmother insisted and he didn't want to let her down. This happened in the fifties, when dropping out of high school was the norm. Today, many of our best and brightest young people feel no connections with adults at school (and too often, at home as well) and consequently do not work hard to achieve. They accept mediocre grades, or even failing grades and barely get by. We can demonstrate at our school that these students are every bit as able to accomplish great things as the kids who make A's and B's and go on to Ivy League schools. They just aren't connected to the system, and they resist. There's no point in designating anyone a failure. It doesn't make them tougher. It slows them down. It creates self doubt where none is necessary. Every single student can make it and learn and enjoy themselves. All that is required is the time given and the relationships built and the intellect challenged in a meaningful way.
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 1 year ago
Rate educators based on their empathy alone.
This information about relationships is just as important for parents as it is for educators. I'm a teacher in a Glasser Quality School and we emphasize building strong relationships with our students and helping them learn how to build strong relationships with their friends and family, as well. In For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barrier Between You and Your Teen, Dr. Glasser says, "The secret of a successful relationship between any two people when the power in unequal is for the person with the most power to do as much as he or she can to show respect for the weaker person's position…..Your teen may be weaker but he is not without the ability to do himself and others a lot of harm by showing you that you can't control him at school or anywhere else when he is out of your sight. As I will state over and over in this book, when he is on his own, your only control over him is the strength of your relationship." This is so true and one of the first things people who visit our school comment on is the amazing feeling of friendship and community in our building. One last comment. At a Glasser Quality School, students are not allowed to settle for anything less than B quality work. This seems ultimately respectful to us. We are the educational professionals in their lives and if we write down in our record books that they have earned C's, D's, F's, and zeros, then too often, children interpret this as a statement that they are C, D, F, and Zero people. They carry this belief inside them somewhere throughout their lives. Instead, when the school itself says, "We KNOW you can earn at least a B on this topic, if you keep at it. We will help you figure out how you learn best. We are there for you. Don't give up," then on a deep level, students realize their own personal power. We see transformations every day. For instance, right now, I'm sitting in a classroom with students on a Saturday night, writing their own play to produce. Fun!
17378
Charlotte Wellen
Posted over 4 years ago
Sheena Iyengar: The art of choosing
Dr. William Glasser (a psychiatrist who has created Reality Therapy, used around the world and based on Choice Theory) has developed Glasser Quality Schools, in which students and teachers learn how to make the best choices for themselves. I teach at the first Glasser Quality Public High School and I can definitely say that I have learned many skills about choice making and how the choices I make affect my life. I've watched our troubled kids learn Choice Theory and begin to make choices that help them succeed at reaching important life goals. Rather than being overwhelmed by too many choices, we can learn to slow down our choice making, especially in important situations like maintaining a marriage, or succeeding in school. We can learn how to think, "What are the probable outcomes of this choice and do I want to deal with them? If not, what choice will lead me closest to what I want?" At Murray High School, we are amazed at the power we have to make choices to craft our lives