Choices…

Something I learn more and more each day I teach teenagers is this:

We are not what we *want* to become, we are the choices we make everyday.

I suppose what I mean is that many young people believe that they need to “find themselves” or that they need to “try out a lot of different things so they can discover who they are”.  The problem with this is that while you are “finding yourself” or “trying out things” you make choices that may be irrevocable and life-altering. So the next time you think you want to try something new or do something illicit or immoral you may want to think that the choice you make has consequences – regardless if it is a good choice or a bad choice. You just need to decide if you’re willing to live with the consequences (whether good or bad).

Too many young people feel they are “forced” to make a choice they don’t want to make. But this is far from the truth. We all can make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing. The right thing may be the hard thing and the wrong thing may be the easy thing, but you do have the choice. Example: I have a choice to go to work on workdays. I don’t *have* to go to work. No one is forcing me. No one is holding a gun to my head. But if I make the choice to not go to work then I have to live with the consequences of possibly being fired and eventually possibly losing my house and all those things and people I hold dear. I’m not saying that’s a wrong choice necessarily, but it does have some apparently bad consequences. One could take it to the extreme and say that even if someone is holding a gun to your head you still have a choice. You just have to be willing to live (or die) with the consequences.

You may want to become an author or a photographer. But if you make wrong choices during that path to becoming an author or a photographer, you’ve possibly decreased the chances of becoming an author or photographer. I suppose this can be stated in another way:

the dreams we have of what we want to be are affected by the choices we make everyday.

It is choices we make, not what we want to be, that determines who we will become. The dream you have of what you want to be will hopefully provide you enough motivation to make the right choices.

I wish the students I work with everyday could truly understand this and then practice the self-discipline necessary to control their behavior and their actions to refrain from making wrong decisions.
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(originally written Nov 12, 2012)

A comment made to the original article included:

Comment: “But what if something happens that really isn’t their fault. I mean needing to find who you are to me is important, especially as I had an identity crisis two years ago.”

Response: “We just have to remember, as I said, that while you are trying to “find who you are,” you are still making choices and those choices define who you are. Choices have consequences. Play the scenario out…

“Students, particularly the students I work with, have little or no regard for choices or consequences. That’s where I’m coming from on this. Many of them are “finding themselves”. But the funny thing about finding yourself is that when you’re done you often find yourself right back where you started (not always).

“T.S. Eliot writes in his poem Four Quartets the following:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

“But we need to remember that along the way if we make wrong choices we’ll end up being in places we don’t want to be and who we wanted to be will have had nothing to do with what we have become. This is part of John Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, not to mention the Prodigal Son parable.

“See, you seem like a smart enough young man who makes thoughtful choices. We all make dumb choices from time to time and do completely off-the-wall, typical, dumb guy stuff. And they’re fun things to do. We laugh at the time and laugh when we remember them and reminisce. We should pause and remember that those actions could have ended another way and we’re just lucky we didn’t end up in jail. Maybe we should pause before we do those actions and take precautions to not end up in jail or the hospital! My students tend to lack that ability.

“And now apparently studies have come out saying that males lack complete executive functions of their brains until they’re 25?!?!  Dang. No wonder we do stupid stuff. But that doesn’t excuse the behavior or the actions. It just makes us more aware of its causes so we can make more-informed choices.

“Yeah, things do happen that aren’t our fault. But how we react to it is our ‘fault.’ I guess what I’m trying to say is be proactive, rather than reactive. If we can be proactive and stay away from those things that cause us to make bad choices or where we could get in trouble, than we don’t have to react to things that were done to us.”

 

Counseling Referral Form

I had a student today that skated the boundaries of appropriate behavior all period. He wasn’t exactly…overtly misbehaving, but was a continual annoyance. He had done the same thing to the teachers before me and the ones after me. I wrote him up on a negative disciplinary referral. I then spoke to another teacher about how we needed a form to document behavior but didn’t require disciplinary action. Something to give the principal so she could talk to the student or send to the school social worker so we could assist them in improving behavior without punishing them – a “second chance” so to speak. He agreed that we needed something like that and he had often wanted to write a student up without disciplining the student.

Keeping with the theme of “You Matter,” I spoke to my principal about creating a form that a teacher could fill out for a student they want to send to the office but isn’t exactly a negative referral requiring disciplinary action. There are a number of times I have a student that I want to document behavior but don’t want disciplinary action to follow because I don’t think it would motivate the student to change their behavior. I believe sometimes the student just needs to know we care about him/her and s/he just needs to be talked to to see if there is someway we can help. But the student also needs to know that the situation is serious and needs to be handled. I suppose my thought could be summed up in the words of American educator and author, Dr. Marvin Marshall, “Each time you coerce someone into doing something by using your power of authority, you deprive that person of an opportunity to become more responsible.”

The students I work with need to feel they have made an active choice in their behavior, not simply coerced into the choice because of negative consequences. She thought it was a good idea. We’ll see if it comes to fruition. If it does, we’ll have a positive referral, a counseling referral, and a negative referral. I think the counseling referral is a perfect addition in light of making students feel they matter and not simply another problem for some teacher or administrator to fix.

 

Not the Day I Planned

Today was not the day I planned. It was not the day I thought it would be. I started the day with certain expectations and they were shot down. Not intentionally mind you, but it was still frustrating. It’s days like this where you have to admit you messed up and redirect fire or start over from scratch. I committed to both courses of action. 

As you may recall from yesterday, I thought the “You Matter” concept was better received by the faculty yesterday. Well, as it turns out, I think at best it was lukewarm. That was a blow I didn’t expect. But, in their defense, we do a lot of the things “You Matter” advocates: we greet students, we talk to them one-on-one, we attempt to make them feel they are successful. But I felt (and still do) that there was something missing that tied it all together. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough. I’ll have to readdress that and talk to the other teachers about it. I don’t know how much persuasion they really require. I think it’s more a question from them of, “Why do we need this, when we already do so many of those things already?” I think my answer needs to be that  the “You Matter” material kind of ties it together in a neat package, it focuses it.

Naturally, I got ribbing for being “touchy-feely” and such. I should have expected that and the other male teachers were going around jokingly saying to me and each other, “Hey, don’t forget! You matter!” But I think in the long run they believe it’s something we need and they’ll do it once they see the results.

My classes didn’t go as planned. Lots of absences today. Which means I have to repeat on Monday what I did today. Additionally, I realized today I gave out the wrong assignment to one government class last week. I think I’m to the point of simply starting over in government. It was really frustrating. This switch from blocks to periods and to new standards for all my classes has also increased my frustration. I simply am not feeling organized right now and I felt it in all my classes. I don’t like that. 

I got two new students today from “reentry.” Reentry is when students have been with us before and return. When they return they are isolated in ISS for a minimum of one week. This isolation can last longer depending on their behavior and their work. They have certain things they must complete prior to joining the rest of the students. So these two joined me in my contemporary issues class. They changed the entire dynamics of the class. Our classes are already small, This class had only five students and now has seven. It’s hard enough to get these types of students to engage in appropriate discourse. But once you got the flow of the class going, it’s not too bad. Then you get two students like this and it’s like starting over from ground zero. It adds to your frustration.

A freshman in my last periods (block) told me another student had been bullying her. This infuriated me. She’s 14, he’s 18. I don’t tolerate that at all. He thinks he’s an adult and a “man.”  For the record: “real men” don’t act like that. Last week, I caught him bumping up against her and such. I told him I didn’t want to see that happen again. He tried to brush it off. I told her to let me know if anything was going on. She has tried to ignore it, but today she admitted it’s gone too far. Monday? We’re having a “Come-to-Jesus-Meeting.” Oh I’m still hot about it.

The principal was absent today. Our “assistant principal” (who-really-isn’t-an-assistant-principal-but-does-the-work-of-one) lead the morning assembly. He went ahead and talked to them about how they mattered and how they mattered to us. It sounded jilted to me, but it was an effort. I’m looking forward to Monday when our principal returns to see what she has planned.

Days like this happen. Not all days are perfect. Not all days happen the way we plan. I kept my eyes on the prize and the goal. I’ll keep persevering, running the race. It’s days like this that make me so grateful and blessed to come home to my wonderful wife and awesome four kids who stay out of trouble and try their best at all things. Truly a refuge from craziness. Here’s to hoping this weekend is productive. One of my twitter friends loves lists (and by making this list if she reads it, it’ll be stuck in her head, so that’s pretty cool!), so here’s the list: 1) science project for 10yr old son; 2) work on organizing classes; 3) rest – I think I may be getting sick; 4) work on a digital wallpaper; 5) maybe? get out in the garage depending on the weather. 

I hope y’all have a great weekend. Let me know what your plans are if you feel the desire and/or got the time. I’d be interested. Hit me up on twitter: @_ericturner

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