Almost every day when I am in class, some student does a boneheaded thing and breaks one of the very few rules I tell them I enforce. Generally, we’re talking about cell phones or iPods. I don’t understand how this generation, who in many ways is way smarter than my generation, can still make the same stupid choices that I might have made when I was young.
Here’s how it goes:
Me: “Okay class, here are my rules– No cell phones, no iPods, no hats or hoods, no eating in class. If I see or hear anything against these rules, whatever object is breaking the rules becomes mine until the end of the day, where I turn it in to the office for your family to pick up later. Anyone have any questions or concerns about this?”
Some Joker in class: “But you can’t take our phones, we have rights!”
Me: “You absolutely have rights. You have the right to either follow the rules of your school and this class, or you can refuse and accept the consequences for your choices.”
Joker: “But we get them back, right?”
Me: “Your parents can pick them up after school. This isn’t new. You have received a copy of these rules already.”
Now at some point in the class, some kid has their phone or their iPod out and I take it away. And each time, the student looks at me like they never heard the above conversation.
Sometimes, students will break other rules that they know about, and again they become surprised when they get caught. On good days, I look at them and tell them to take it like a man.
When I was young, I used to cause all kinds of trouble in school. On occasion, I would argue my punishment because I would claim to have not done anything wrong. My parents used to tell me to accept punishment for things I’ve done wrong. It never clicked for me. Later on in school, I had a teacher tell me that my behavior, while bad, wasn’t the worst thing I was doing.
I used to believe that I was standing up for something. I envisioned myself as a crusader for youth rebellion against the morals of older generations. This teacher made me realize that I couldn’t make that claim as long as I avoided owning up for my behavior. I was just another punk kid who didn’t like following rules. She made me examine my behavior in a way that I never had before.
After that, I didn’t cause nearly as much trouble as I had before. I went from being a failing student to being honor roll, and doing really well academically. I’m not saying I never broke the rules, but I started, from that point on, building a reputation for standing up when I did something wrong. After that time, when I did something wrong and was called on it, I said, yes I did it. I did it and am willing to take whatever you’ve got.
Today, young people are being encouraged to walk away from taking responsibility for their own actions. In my home state of California, teachers will allow a student to pass when that student has done none of the work required to pass. They will tell you that it’s not the students’ fault. The students are too poor, or come from backgrounds where education isn’t a priority, or come from broken homes, or whatever excuse to allow the students to pass. The part that pisses me off most is that the teachers who do this don’t give a damn about their students. They allow this because they, THE TEACHERS, don’t want to put in the effort to teach.
Young people, if you have never listened to or believed an adult in your life, today is the time to change. You, and only you have control over your life. Everybody who allows you to BS your way out of accepting consequences for your actions is trying to make you dumber and lazier than you should be. Don’t give them that power!
When you are in school, let’s be honest here. You are in school because you understand that the only way for you to get out from living with your parents is for you to get a job that makes enough money for you to support yourself. Get to know the rules of your school and of your classes. If you choose to break those rules, own up to it. Every time you stand up and say, “I’m sorry, I thought I would be able to do whatever without you noticing. I know the rules, and I accept the punishment.”, you take some power back for yourself. Every time someone tries to make an excuse on your behalf, you lose some of that power.
When you are at work, don’t allow someone to hang a sign around your neck that allows you to be less than your best just because you are young. YOUNG DOES NOT EQUAL STUPID! Youth can be an advantage, if you use it. You have more energy than older people, you haven’t been jaded by years and rhetoric, and most importantly, you can change and adapt more quickly than older people. Instead, be the best you can be and push those around you to do the same. If they choose not to, call them on it.
Don’t live life passively. Don’t allow life to wash over you while you sit on your thumbs. Make active choices. Worry about debating the grey issues later. Just make a stand one way or another. If your stand comes with consequences, accept them with grace and style. Don’t whine about the unfairness of life, and don’t allow others to deflect onto themselves consequences that you have earned. Many times, those consequences will be less if you have the backbone to take what’s coming to you than if you try to skate by unscathed.
Finally, don’t allow others to slack off without taking responsibility for it. Understand that if your co-worker or classmate doesn’t take responsibility for their actions, and nobody questions it, you look worse for it by proxy. So next time you are in class, and you break a rule, accept it. Take it like a man. Unless of course, you are a woman, and then take it like a woman.