Dr. Christina Ager, Professor and Executive Director of BBEST, was awarded Lehigh University’s College of Education Outstanding Contribution to the Discipline Award for her creation of and work through BBEST.
Dr. Christina Ager's Thank You Speech
Lehigh University, November 17, 2005
I want to thank each of you who contributed to my education here at Lehigh. More than that, I want to thank you for contributing to my transformation, from a working class kid into a professional with the ambitious goal of significantly improving how schools support all students toward positive behaviors.
I'd like to speak a bit more about transformation, for it is, I believe, the greatest gift we can bestow on another person. The gift of transformation begins with vision - often the vision of someone other than our selves. Someone who sees in us something we do not, a capacity we are not convinced we have, an emergent self we do not yet recognize. This other vision, this possible alternate universe, leads to our believing ourselves capable of real change, to our seeing ourselves differently, with more potential than we previously thought. How powerful is being seen? Quantum physics shows us that being seen changes waves of possibility into particles of substance. No less is true at the human level.
Being at Lehigh was about transformation. My own certainly. But more importantly, I learned I was capable of facilitating my students' transformations. Here from my professors I learned not only to believe in the possibility of transformation, but also to embrace it as a fundamental concept and every day commitment. To take on the transformation of individuals and systems as an essential part of life's work.
I also learned the technology of transformation, a technology that is based in relationship and connection. Transformation only occurs, in the true Buberian sense, in the spaces in between. In the relationships between individuals and in the relationships between people and their environments. It is in these spaces that the power for change resides.
And what is our vehicle for building relationships? Behavior. Behavior is our technology. I am a spiritual behaviorist. I believe in the transformative power of each and every action we choose. We, as educators or employers, can, by arranging the environments of school or work promote the success and well being of our students, our colleagues, and our employees. As leaders we are responsible for the experiences of our charges. Simply by employing praise and recognition we can transform hostile and angry people into willing students or enthusiastic employees. By stopping in the hallway and truly listening to and being present for a colleague we contribute to connection and transformation.
I learned that we are each responsible for our own behaviors, no excuses. That no matter what the provocation - and believe me, people with behavior problems are experts at provocation - we must choose the ethical action. I learned the zen lesson that what other people do is about them, but always and each time, what we do is about us. I learned that we can teach skills - simple or complex, situational or social, that would allow individuals access to a wider world. That we, as the responsible adults in any situation, can profoundly shape the way in which people, young or old, move through the world, and subsequently, how they see themselves. For the students BBEST and I work with this means helping them transform themselves from aggressive, angry kids into learners who can negotiate difficult interpersonal situations and even, sometimes, into leaders.
And so, I thank you deeply, for your gift of transformation - my own and consequently, that of the thousands of students BBEST has been able to effect.