It couldn’t happen to me….

Being a parent isn’t easy. And, being a teacher of middle schoolers isn’t any easier, either. Because when they move on, I do not. I am stuck in seventh grade. There is something about growing up and growing old. I want to share my mistakes, in an anonymous sort of way, with others so they won’t make the same ones I made. I want them to avoid the scrapes, the pain, and I want them to listen, to mind, to take my advice at face value. I want them to grow and learn, but try as I might; kids just have a difficult time learning through other’s mistakes, because it won’t happen to them.

But, then a really bad, good example happens and it provides an opportunity to reach out and make a difference. I quoted Groucho Marx, this week. He said,

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”

It also, gives me time to pause and look back, way back to a time, when I could have been that story.

Last week was Red Ribbon Week in my school. Red Ribbon Week is in October and it is time to focus on making positive choices and avoiding drugs and alcohol. We set aside time during our advisory time to talk about choices and we practiced making choices in class. We began small, move to this side of the room if you like pizza, move to the other side of the room if you like burgers. Yeah, easy choices. However, I saw kids look across the room at their friends, make eye contact, and say without words, ‘hey I am with you, I don’t like burgers, but I like you. I am with you.’ We amped up the choices and added riskier behavior, including smoking, drinking, and drugs – and they all made the right choice, the one I hope they are able to make, when the time comes.

I asked the group and one of the kids replied. “These are no brainers. I’d never do this.” she said. And I replied, “What if you didn’t have 28 other kids with you?”  She paused and responded, “I’d still make the right choice.” I nodded and left it at that, but I could see her thinking – a seventh grade teacher can sense it when they are thinking, pondering, mulling over an idea, taking it for a ride. I could see others in the room thinking it over and wondering if they could be strong in the face of peer pressure. Some will, some won’t.  Some will have to learn the way Pete Seger learned, the hard way.

courtesy of Values dot com! Thanks for being an inspiration.

I learned the hard way, too.

And then, in the middle of the day Tuesday, I checked the local newspaper on-line and I saw the headline that changed my day, changed the day of hundreds of kids around the area. It changed four families and a community, forever. It was about a boy, a high schooler who was tragically killed in a car crash. Sadly, the entire episode was completely avoidable.

The next day in my advisory class, I asked the following questions. “Do you wear your seat belt, even in the back seat?” “Would you sneak out of your house to be with three other kids?” “Would you take your dad’s car for a ride at one in the morning?” They knew the story and it was a no-brainer. But, then I asked, “Do you think those four boys thought it could happen to them?” And, I could feel the attitude shift and the brain kick in and they began to realize, it could happen to them. They were just one or two bad decisions away from being in a place where they could be a bad example. I guess we all are or could be.

So, I sit Saturday morning, writing, thinking, reflecting back over the week. I hope my lesson and the tragedy is ‘the fine print’ for a few kids. I hope they can learn from my mistakes and the mistakes and others, because, I don’t want them to learn the hard way. No one should have to learn that way. Despite the sober beginning to the day, today is gonna be a great day. The sun is shining, and it is a beautiful fall day. I’ll be dancin’ with a rake, climbin’ a ladder, and following a mower. But, I’ll be thinking of making better choices and hoping my kids can learn from stories instead of experience. Because, it could happen to them. Making the Days Count, one story at a time.

Do you tell stories to your kids, do they listen? Or do they give you the ‘dog look’? Kids, flip it – do you listen to our stories?

NOTE: I didn’t link the article and I won’t. I don’t know the kids or even have former students or kids who attend the school, but I could. I am praying for the families involved and the school. I am praying that my own kids will make the right choice and say no when they need to.

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9 thoughts on “It couldn’t happen to me….

  1. Oh My Goodness, Clayon – prayers for all the families. All you can do is give guidance. Kids are going to do what they are going to do…we did. Some will listen…some have to do it just because they are who they are. I still don’t believe in the word, “Can’t.” Didn’t like the word, then, and REALLY don’t like it now. I’m hoping all your “kids” and your children let all that you teach, seep into their consciousness – or even their unconsciousness – because EVEN if what you have said or taught saves 1 child…isn’t it all worth it?

    1. Yeah, one at a time. Good point about Can’t – it made me want to do it even more! we can only hope the bad examples serve as reminders of the possibilities of what could happen.
      Congrats on your Giants! Now you can focus on your Niners – they looked good last night! Take care and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Clay, I have something like this rolling out this week. A girl tried to kill herself and announced it on Facebook. She’s in 8th grade. Obviously, she wanted to be stopped. People who want to die don’t leave notes on Facebook.

    And yet, her day to day must be awful.

    You have to see it? The mean girls? The awkward girls? The jocks? The dorks?

    What makes someone more resilient than someone else.

    Don’t they know all this is temporary?

    I think not. I remember how slowly time moved in middle school. It. Was. Interminable.

    I am praying for those families with you. There are so many. Too many.

    1. Renee thanks for stopping by! We live in a tough world – I look forward to reading your post, as I always do – even if it is a couple of days after it comes out! My school is focusing on bullying issues as well as helping kids with their choices. Overall, the climate is good, but we have our issues. This fall the school partnered with another school and screened the movie – Finding Kind to focus on girl bullying. I missed it, but it got a good review. Again, all we can hop is that we reach one kid or two, or more, and do our part.

  3. You must be an excellent teacher, Clay. Smart and caring and understanding of the fact that education is about so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. I love that Pete Seeger quote, it’s a good one.

    I think that “it won’t/can’t happen to me” thought is the biggest lie we all tell ourselves, especially when we’re young. As a teen I lost a number of friends – in car accidents and to drug overdoses. As a mother, I passed the “education” on to my son when he grew into his teen years. it seemed to take.

    Ironically, I am enjoying a gorgeous day in Cape Cod today at a planned weekend with friends. There is one woman who was supposed to be here, but is instead attending funeral services for her son’s friend who was killed in a car crash a few days ago. My heart goes out to all those parents. I plan to share your blog post with my friends.

    Bless you for your good work.

    1. thanks for stopping by, my thoughts go out to your friend. And, thank you for the compliment, I like to think I reach kids, and if I don’t, I know one of my colleagues will. We are all like the man in the story along the beach tossing starfish back into the sea. i hope you enjoy your weekend and you’re able to catch up with your friend. Stay safe, I have been watching the Weather Channel and know what’s headed your way.

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