Sunday, April 13, 2014

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” Ghandi

This week, the educational world was rocked by a serious incident of multiple stabbings in a well-respected suburban Pittsburgh high school. I, like many others, was glued to the television set as the terrible tragedy unfolded.  The viewing public was left with one question:  Why?

Although I do not know that answer, I do know that while listening to KDKA radio a few days after the stabbings, the announcer said that there have been over 500 acts of violence in the nation’s schools since Columbine occurred on April 20, 1999.  I was a classroom teacher that day, and I remember the terror that my students felt as the news was reported.  I remember how many students asked me a seemingly simple question:  “Am I safe at school?”  Although I said “Yes” in 1999, I am not sure that is the correct answer today.

I am 61 years old, and my teaching career began in 1974.  Nothing like shootings or stabbings occurred.  I believe Columbine was the game changer.  Principals and administrators provide anti-bullying programs.  In some cases, the ratio of counselors to students has improved.  And yet, our students are both angry and unhappy.  I am going to venture a reason for this anger and unhappiness.

The world is so fast paced and so expensive, that to support a family, both parents are working full time.  Little time is left for family dinners and conversations.  The personal connection is broken in the family, and I think children want more.  They will say they want more “stuff”- an Iphone, a car, cool clothes, a coach bag, etc.  I am going to venture a guess and give an opinion; one that 37 years in the classroom formed for me. I think students want more of a family life, and more caring and involved parents. Many of the students I knew through the years had what I call a “nodding” relationship with their parents.  They nodded at each other when they saw one another, and sometimes had a stilted conversation of “How’s school?”  “Fine.”  But there was no real connection or caring.  Kids would tell me that they wished their parents would ask them real questions and actually LISTEN to what they had to say.

I will take this one step further, and say that the nation’s children are mirror images of their parents.  If the parents are angry and unhappy, the children are too.  Parents are their child’s first teacher, and kids will copy what they see.  I know that the world is a difficult place to be, but it is also a beautiful place to be.  I believe it is especially beautiful if you are lucky enough to have children.  Think of it; you are giving the world your own personal legacy.

I say that your children are well worth the extra effort to prepare time for a family dinner and conversation a few times each week, and to show them a positive attitude. Home, like school, should be a place where our children feel safe and loved and valued. Ask questions and listen when your children talk.  They love you and desire your attention and love in return.  Just as teachers are role models every minute of their lives, so are parents.  Try to be what you want your children to be.  And give them an extra hug after you finish reading this.  They are a part of you and they deserve the best you have to offer. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

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