A lot of teachers are unhappy in their profession and approximately 50% of students do not want to go to school. That’s what Dr. Clete Bulach concluded from his interviews with teachers and students from every school district in the state of Georgia. Dr. Bulach is a retired Ohio school superintendent and an associate professor emeritus at the University of West Georgia. He began writing a book about a school climate and culture that creates an atmosphere where kids would want to go and where teachers would love to teach them. He found that there is only one school in the state that is like that school, and it’s a school culture where the kids control their own behavior. Dr. Bulach says you’ve got to stop correcting misbehavior. If you change that and get the kids to control their own behavior, you have changed the culture and climate of the school.
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Changing The School Climate And Culture with Dr. Clete Bulach
I have with me Dr. Cletus Bulach. He’s a retired Ohio School Superintendent and he’s also an Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of West Georgia. He’s the author of numerous articles and educational journal. He’s the co-author of the two books, School Climate and Culture vis-à-vis Student Learning: Keys to Collaborative Problem Solving and Responsibility as well as A High Performing School Culture and Climate, New Insights for Improving Schools. With so much conversation about schools, students, and learning environments, I thought it would be a great conversation to have Dr. Cletus join us here. Welcome to Heartrepreneur Radio.
It’s a pleasure to be on your show, Terri.
Thank you. It’s good to have you. My first question is how did you get into wanting to be so active with schools and students? What led you to that?
Back in 2002, I was doing a lot of work with character education and bullying behavior. I got an invite from the State of West Virginia to bid on a contract to evaluate every school district in that state. I thought, “How in the world would you do that?” I put in a bid. I was the only bidder. I spent five months interviewing teachers and students in every school district in the state. What I learned from those interviews were so amazing that I thought, “I’ve got to write a book where kids want to go to school and where teachers are ready to go back to work on Monday and don’t want to go home on Friday.”
What I found in interviewing teachers and students is that a lot of teachers are unhappy in their profession and many students, approximately 50%, do not want to go to school. I would ask them, “Why do you go to school?” They said, “We have to.” I said, “You mean if you didn’t have to, you wouldn’t go.” “No, I don’t like school. I wouldn’t go if I didn’t have to.” I began writing the book to create an atmosphere where kids would want to go and where teachers would love to teach.
I’m remembering the first mid-year through fifth grade. I loved going to school. I couldn’t wait to go to school. Then, in sixth grade, I had a teacher who clearly didn’t like being a teacher and that changed my attitude about school. From sixth grade on, I didn’t want to go to school. That’s interesting to me because you’re looking at both sides. You’re looking at the student and you’re also looking at the teacher. I don’t know many people that do both.
No, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I almost repaid for the experience, but they paid me pretty good money to do that. I did see a number of great schools. There are four types of schools out there for. I found the book that I have written there is not a school in the state of Georgia that is like that school. There are some. There is one in West Virginia and I saw that school. I couldn’t believe it. It was a poor middle school between the mountains. I walked into that school that morning and the kids are just going around and having a good time. Ten minutes go by and they’re still milling around. I said to the principal, “What’s going on here?” He says, “The kids get extra locker time this morning.” I said, “Really? Why is that?”
He says, “Yesterday they had less than 25 redirects.” I said, “What’s a redirect?” He says, “When a teacher has to stop teaching to correct the kids for misbehavior.” I said, “In what grade?” He says, “No, the whole school.” I said, “The whole school? You got 357 kids here and there were less than 25 times where teachers have to stop teaching to correct kids. You’ve got to be kidding me.” He says, “They started this ten years ago. When we started it, the best benchmark was 100 and then we’ve reduced it to 80, then 70, then 60, then 50. Now, it’s 25 times. The kids get it four times a week.” I said, “That’s unbelievable.” That is a school culture where the kids control their own behavior and that doesn’t happen in many schools unless I don’t know one school in Georgia that does that.
What’s interesting is the book, School Climate and Culture vis-à-vis Student Learning, the subtitle, Keys to Collaborative Problem Solving and Responsibility. It sounds like they’re building a collaborative environment with our students.
I have a number of techniques to create that environment. What I did to experiment that I had with 30 of my graduate students who were teachers, I said, “I want you to count how many times you’ve got to stop teaching to correct kids’ behavior.” They did that for a week and I said, “Go back to them and cut it in half. If they do that, you’ll give them a reward.” In elementary school, the reward is easy. It’s five minutes of extra recess. The kids love it. You see what happens in almost all the schools today. If a kid misbehaves, everybody looks to the teacher to correct a misbehavior. If a kid is being bullied, all the kids get around and watch. They don’t intervene. They wait for an administrator or a teacher to come and stop it. That’s what I call the existing culture of control in our schools today.
If you change that and get the kids to control their own behavior, you have changed the culture and climate of the school incredibly. The discipline problems reduce 75% because the kids will control their own behavior. I’ll just give you me my own experience as a teacher. When I was a teacher, I was having a bad day and didn’t feel very well, I go to the kids and I say, “How about you give me some help today. I don’t feel very good.” They were good in school.
If a kid acts it out, another kid says, “Cut it out. It’s not good.” The kids will control their own behavior, but you’ve got to make it legitimate. In the existing culture today, I’d say almost every classroom across the United States, if a kid is acting out and the kid next door says, “Cut it out,” the other kid will look at you and say, “Who do you think you are sucking up to the teacher. Get off my back.” Kids who intervene in the existing culture of control are criticized by their teammate, their other students.
I was going to say that this is true what you’re talking about in schools. It’s true in business and we’ll get to live because the command control model doesn’t work. We have to stop trying to manage people and allow people to co-manage their behaviors. We have to start changing our culture. Let’s get into human behavior.
I call this school the Citizenship School because we’re teaching kids how to be good citizens. Good citizens help each other. If a citizen sees another citizen doing something wrong, they will attempt to stop that person and not just wait for the cops or whoever is in charge to stop it. They will intervene on their own. That’s what we want good citizens to do, but school systems today are not built like that.
How does this relate to human relations?
Since you’re a coach and you do a lot of work in this area, there are five reasons why people behave the way they do. The philosophers had been arguing since the eighteenth-century. If you can go on the web and look up Nietzsche, a nineteenth-century philosopher, he identified two previous philosophers who said, “People behave the way they do because they want to have freedom from fear, freedom from stress, and they want to be alive.” That’s need number one.
Need number two, they want moments of happiness because if there are no moments of happiness, there’s no life. He agreed with all that. He said, “That’s correct, but there’s another need that is more important and it’s power. People want power, and I changed power in my book to control.” There are nine forms of power. That’s chapter four in book number one. If you look at Trump, the Congress, North Korea, China, and Syria, everything thing is about control.
They want control and power. That is a very real need that humans have. Many kids go to school having no control. The rules are there. They’re told what to study. They have to do exactly what they’re told to do. They have no control. Some of these kids aren’t happy either because of their home environment or there’s nothing at school to make them happy.
They’re afraid because they’re bullied over there, and they’re not well liked by the other students. Then, you come to the fourth need and it goes back to nature and nurture with babies, which is caring. Babies who are not cared for don’t mature properly. Kids who are not cared for at home because maybe the mother is working two jobs or dad is not there and they go to school and believe the teacher doesn’t care.
When I asked the kids what they like, they say, “The teacher.” I said, “What don’t you like?” “The teacher.” I said, “Tell me about that.” They say, “Some of the teachers care about us and we got these other ones who only want their paycheck and can’t wait till they retire. They don’t care about us.” If a kid doesn’t feel cared for, has no control, is not happy and is scared or afraid, then you come to the fifth need, which is purpose. You look at Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. You look at Mahatma Gandhi, all of these people say, “Life with no purpose is not life.” If these five needs are not being met, many kids going to school, they are not being met.
You talk about the shooter, talk about that guy in the Parkland, Florida, he had no purpose in life. He believed nobody cared about him. He had no control. He was being bullied. He wasn’t happy, and he was probably afraid for his life. What did he do? He gets it done. He’s got a purpose. He’s got control. Many of the shooters’ five basic needs are not being met. They grab a gun, they get them met. There are other ways to get your needs met. There’s suicide, there are drugs, there’s alcohol. A lot of kids get their needs met through gangs and believe it or not, these five basic needs are being met through religion. Their church, the Bible or the Quran, gives them control, purpose, and caring. The good Lord cares. You are one of God’s children. Happiness. Euphoria.
This has been interesting. If people take away the freedom, happiness, whether you want the words power or control, the caring, and purpose, those are huge lessons that we can all take with us that apply worldwide and that are important for us as heartrepreneurs. Dr. Cletus, how can people connect with you? Where can they contact you at?
There’s my website. It’s WestGA.edu/~cbulach. Everything on my website is free. There are six surveys there that are free, a bunch of manuscripts on bullying behavior, and leadership and human relations. They are all free. Send me an email of anything you want and I can attach it to my response.
Thank you so much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed our time together.
I appreciate that Terri. You’re a great host.
- School Climate and Culture vis-à-vis Student Learning: Keys to Collaborative Problem Solving and Responsibility
- A High Performing School Culture and Climate, New Insights for Improving Schools
- The Purpose Driven Life
About Clete Bulach
Dr. Clete Bulach is a retired school superintendent, associate professor emeritus from the University of West Georgia, and co-author of the 2nd edition book titled “Creating a Culture for A High Performing School: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform, Dropout Prevention, and Bullying Behavior.” His resume, a survey to measure openness and trust, and other materials are on his website.
Dr. Bulach was the external evaluator for the character education grants 1999-2003 for the State of Georgia’s and West Virginia’s Departments of Education 2002-2006. Character data has been collected on over 200 schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. On-site visits were made to every school district in the State of WV. He has written a book based on data collected during interviews with students and teachers during those on-site visits. The title is “Creating a Culture for High Performing Schools: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform and Dropout Prevention.” Co-authors are Dr. Fred Lunenburg and Dr. Les Potter. Rowman and Littlefield are the publishers 2008.