Monday, March 30, 2009

We Choose Who We Become

In We Are Our Actions and We Choose Those from TJ on a Journey by TJ Shay, he states, “My message to the student, in response to information about how the family behaves is, ‘You get to choose who you become.’"

After reading this, I had to share a story about a former student (I’ll call him C.) who has really come a long way. C’s father was a drug addict and divorced from his mother. C wanted so much to have a relationship with his father. He spent years trying to get the dad’s attention and doing whatever was necessary to achieve this including acting out in school. Luckily C’s mother was strict and didn’t allow C to use his dad as an excuse for bad behavior and insisted that C take responsibility for his actions. I taught C for four years and watched him struggle to make something of himself. It was really hard to watch especially when he was making wrong choices and there was nothing that I could do to help him. His mom and I just encouraged him all that we could.

When C turned 18, he was so excited because his dad recently got out of prison (for drug charges) and was going to buy C some stereo equipment that he really wanted. We heard for days how he was going to buy this stuff and what he was going to do with it. C was so excited and hopeful that they were going to have a great relationship now. C had big plans for all the things that the two of them would do. I think the new relationship was more of the present than the stereo and C had such high hopes for the future.

Then the day after his birthday, C came to school all withdrawn and angry. During class I watched him disrupt my lesson and pick a fight with kids who were his friends. I knew it was time for me to act so I took C for a walk while my assistant stayed with my class and pried the story out of him. Apparently dad used the stereo money for drugs and had gotten caught by the police again. C was angry about not getting his birthday present, angry and worried about dad’s situation, and hurt because he thought his dad didn’t love him. This betrayal made C so angry that he felt like anything he did was useless and didn't matter. I explained to him that he was a man now and had to accept certain things as well as take control of his own life instead of letting other people’s actions influence him. I said that his dad loved him and would always love him and that his dad’s actions had nothing to do with love. His dad has always been irresponsible concerning C and probably wouldn’t change but that didn’t mean that C should follow in his footsteps or use those actions as an excuse for not being the best that he could be. I firmly told C that he was a man now and had to accept the fact that his dad would never be the man that C wanted him to be so let it go and move on with his life.

Now fast forward this story about 10 years. I have a Facebook account and I get a friend request from C. He is now happily married and living in a nearby state. He is a preacher at a church and doing well with his life. His mom is remarried and doing well too. I am so proud of C and his family to rise above their struggles and make a life for themselves. I have seen too many people in the same situation like this family and they find it so easy to give up and make excuses. I guess that is why I loved what TJ had to say in his blog post because it brought really great memories of a student who decided to be successful with his life and worked to achieve this goal. He had to make the choice of what his future would be.

Original image: '"It is our choices. . . that show what we are, far more than our abilities."' by: Jan


Ferdi Serim said...

Wonderful Pat! Thanks for sharing this story, it shows that it is important to approach each day as an opportunity to plant seeds of support, caring and kindness along with compassionate truth. You got C to see things as they are, and a decade later, his life changed, and the cycle for his family is changed as well. He, along with all your other students, and those teachers who are inspired by your example, are indeed fortunate!
- Ferdi

Kevin Jarrett said...

Pat! Great story and illustration of how a teacher's impact can ripple through life. Think of all the great family memories you have helped make possible. Bravo! -kj-

loonyhiker said...

Ferdi: Thanks for being an inspiration to others!

loonyhiker said...

Kevin: Sometimes it feels good to look at some of the things we've accomplished instead of the things we haven't been able to change.