Saturday, December 8, 2012

Should the Norm be an Acceptable Behavior?

This morning I drove into town to complete some errands before the first winter storm of the season descends on the area. It's a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and somewhat mild temps. As I headed back home I passed a stretch of the county road which had been the resting spot for someone’s VCR cassette tape many weeks ago. It had evidently fallen out from a vehicle and was removed from its case. Over the course of this time period, the combination of passing cars and westerly winds had strewn the tape back and forth across the ditch, creating an ugly eyesore for anyone taking notice. In my estimation I've probably driven past this eyesore at least a dozen times, thinking that someone needed to stop and pick it up before the winter winds made it even worse. It was when my vehicle got about 100 feet past this mess that my conscience got the best of me and I back up to address the issue. It had gotten substantially worse since the first time I spotted this back in early October, and it probably took me an entire THREE minutes to clean up both sides of the road. I asked myself why hadn't I done this before? And because of this new-found love for teaching, I began exploring the issue of how we ALL accustom ourselves to the norm as acceptable behavior.

This went way beyond the idea that a 50 ft stretch of littered landscape needed to be cleaned up, and I pondered how all of us (from kids to adults) become ignorant of conduct which once was intolerable. Why would the good citizens who travel this road, not just once a day but several times, close their eyes to the need to stop their vehicle in order to attend to picking up the mess? Maybe they saw it the first time, but after that did they close their eyes to what needed to be done? And I am no better than anyone else since I could have done this many weeks ago, too! It’s one thing to see this trash as disgusting, but altogether more alarming when people begin to accept it as the norm without doing something about it.

Over the past four months I’ve witnessed something similar in the realms of education. All too often I have a sizable portion of students who come to school deprived of sleep as a result of staying up late in order to chat online, text, or play the latest video game. Assigned schoolwork becomes second priority (if that), and they are null to any sense of urgency. I’m not against young people having fun outside of school, but I have concern as to how this is ‘new norm’ could impact their future. As I contact parents in order to voice concern, I find more and more of them are acceptable of this behavior…and I’m often told “they will grow out of it.”

While most likely they will move beyond adolescence, they renege on a time in their life when they need to learn structured routines, in addition to placing education at the forefront of their lives. I have colleagues who are frustrated with the lack of response and I feel their pain. My approach is to take each student one day at a time, working whatever persuasion I can into every lesson plan. I am far from being a one-man army in this quest, and above all else I want to make sure that I never lose my sense of concern…just as so many local residents lost sight of the trash along the road. Although little is known about Aesop, the legend speaks of ways which he was able to inspire the least-likely of learners. Let us learn from him and never lose sight of how our roads should look when they are clean of debris and how our children can learn when they stand clear of diversions.

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