“you are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…”

In Education, Well-being on Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 08:30

reply to gpicone…thanks for giving me things to blog about!

gpicone:  “Thanks for your support and for this post. I haven’t written about it yet but in my final year I was sent to work in what was basically a prison compound for students that the district no longer wanted to pay to have sent to outside programs where they might receive help for their emotional and behavioral problems. 2 teachers were set on fire (their hair lit with lighters) and both were fired (pun intended? How could it not be!) for being flammable I suppose! And with our big fat popular governor of NJ (ironic that a man who indulges himself to his own detriment should be the leader of austerity for everyone else and no one notices) bad mouthing us and cutting our benefits I had no choice but to leave after 33 years in teaching. I didn’t want to go but…”


i hear so many stories just like yours.  teachers who were forced to retire because of the lack of support in the system.  teachers who are over worked and under paid.  teachers who have just been beaten down by the system.  more and more, i see great teachers being forced out of teaching because, while they dreamed of teaching children and spent their schooling studying to do so (and love it), have become nothing more than paper pushers and glorified babysitters.  it’s tragic. 

i am assigned to two “traditional” schools (a middle and high school) as well as our alternative program (i work with both the middle and high school there).  ironic that you mention the ‘hair on fire’ incident because we have a kid who set a girl’s hair on fire and was sent to us (this is NOT a program for severe emotional and behavioral issues….we have a different program for that).  so, we end up with many kids who make/made poor choices.  i say that because many of the kids we get really DID just make a bad choice (you brought alcohol for you and your friends to drink during lunch…bad choice) but we also have kids with felony records (from rape to firearm charges and everything in between), probation officers, babies at 12 years old (sometimes second babies at 12, first at 10 or 11), etc.  some of these kids have one brush with the law and realize that is NOT where they want to be and end up going back to their home schools after they are with us (they are given a length of time they are to be with us, usually a semester) and are successful.  and some…well, let’s just say i have seen quite a few former students on the news as well (carjacking with a baby in the car, breaking and entering, name it, i’ve probably seen/heard it).  what i do notice is the great majority of these kids aren’t “bad” kids but have little guidance or support from home and are just following in their brother/sister/mother/father’s footsteps.  if dad is in a gang, you are gong to be in a gang.  that’s just life to them and it’s all they know.  and i will also say that i have met some kids for whom, and i hate to say/feel this, we just don’t know what to do with.  you can’t reach them and they have little regard or empathy for others.  but, even for those few kids, there are moments when you can see them trying to care or trying to do the right thing, they just don’t get it.  as a whole, though, these are the kids who will likely wind up in the penal system or worse.  it is rare that you can’t reach most of these kids on some level and see the person they could become, but it happens. 

the overarching difference i notice between the kids who end up “flying right” and realizing that their behavior isn’t going to get them anywhere and those that appear to just not care and continually get into trouble, have failing grades, brushes with the law, etc. is the family environment.  i am generalizing here, but the kids who have parents that actually show up when you call or bother to come to a meeting, those are the kids who usually end up going back to their home schools and graduating or at least not coming back to the alternative school aagin.  the kids who have parents that you never see (and frankly appear to be bothered when you actually do get in touch with them and ask them to come to a meeting/pick up their sick child/check on homework), those kids get the message that they don’t matter.  if their own parents don’t care enough about them, why should they care about anyone and why should anyone care about them?  those are the kids i see on the news.  and they are the kids who are “repeaters” in and out of our school because they continue to do things that get them sent back to the alternative program.

look, i’m not going to sit here and say that all kids just make poor choices and, in the end, turn out to be successful and contributing members of our society.  it’s a bell curve just like most things…there are the outliers.  but, when a kid has to go to the hospital because of an injury (or a drug overdose, a result of a fight, etc.) and you call and call the parent/emergency contact/guardian and they either refuse to come or don’t answer their phone (even when calling for 5 hours)…what message does that send to that kid?!  that your own parents don’t even care about you, so why should you care about anyone?  you’re not worth it.  

the point of this (wordy, i know) response is NOT to make excuses for these kids.  ALL BEHAVIOR HAS CONSEQUENCES, positive or negative, and i don’t believe you get a free pass if you have a crap home life (it is my experience that the apple and the tree are never far apart), but kids usually do what they see.  from my observations, parent involvement is KEY to a successful outcome for children (however “success” is defined).  i am not going to say that parental involvement is a panacea and “cures all ills” but it is a huge factor in a child’s outcome.  so, ask yourself, HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE?  do you know their friends?  if you work, do you know what your child does when he/she gets home from school and you are not there?  do you know where your child is at any given time?  are you parenting or trying to be their friend?  while having a good relationship with your child is important, i have also seen those who try so hard to appear “cool” and be their child’s friend that they are not respected by their kids or seen as any kind of authority.  their children do not see them as an someone they need to listen to and, thus, have no regard for any kind of rule their parents try and implement (if, on that rare occasion they do try to set a boundary or make a rule) and this filters down to others in positions of authority, i.e. teachers, administrators, police.  so, be your child’s friend, someone they feel they can come to and share openly, but…MAINTAIN THE PARENTAL ROLE.  these kids need guidance and many of their behaviors appear to be a cry for attention…the attention they are not getting elsewhere.  and, remember, negative attention is still attention.

as antoine de saint-exupery said in “the little prince” (if you have not read this gem of a book, do!  such a beautiful story with so many life-lessons), “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” in relation to the prince and his beautiful rose (really, if you haven’t, go read it).  be it the tiny puppy who was SO adorable (that has now become older, maybe less adorable, and possibly wreaking havoc in the house), the cute kitten you rescued from the gutter who now needs care, or the baby you chose to have.  you should not take that dog to the pound to be killed (see: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.aspx) and you certainly can’t take your child to the pound.  but…disassociated parents do greater harm, in my opinion.  you have just increased the likelihood that your child will be less successful academically, have more behavior problems, a greater chance of being involved negatively with the law, the list goes on and on.  just as that now grown puppy that relied on you for feeding, walking, and care can’t take care of itself, neither can your child.  they need you and you have a responsibility to them.  that puppy had no say in whether or not you took him home and that child did not have a say when you became their parent.  you chose this, TAKE CARE OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES.  be FOREVER responsible.  even if it means breaking the cycle and raising your child in a way different from the way you were raised (the old, “i got beat as a kid, so i beat my kid” cycle).

become an ACTIVE participant in your child’s education and school life.  an ACTIVE participant in your child’s social life.  an ACTIVE participant in your child’s spiritual/moral/ethical life.  demand to know who your child’s friends are (up until i graduated high school, my mother had to meet every single person i went out with, was friends with, dated…while i may have been embarrassed at my mom calling my prospective date’s mother and requiring to meet the person before we went out, i knew that this was only because she cared about me. and, as far as i knew, this was normal because all my friends had to do the same), be involved in their schooling (demand to see homework, keep up with their grades and attendance, have some sort of presence at school, even if it’s just emailing teachers to let them know you are involved and supportive and will be there if needed).  believe that these things have a direct impact on your child’s future.  the child you chose to bring into this world.  the child you “tamed.”

more so, know that should you decide that this is not your priority (you have your own life to live and you send your child to school to learn life lessons you should be teaching…yes, there are many parents who expect the schools/teachers/coaches to “raise” their children)…you WILL have to deal with them at some point.  be it via a phone call from jail or the morgue.   gruesome, i realize, but a fact.  at the very least, the less involved you are in their education, the more likely it is that they will not be as successful in school and may not have as many options open to them after.  one way or another, you will have to deal with your child.  do you want to do it now and help mold them into who they could become or when it might be too late and they (and you) are paying for their mistakes later (i.e. not able to get a job, not able to go to college, have a police record, are in jail…you can imagine the host of outcomes).  am i saying that parental involvement is a panacea and end-all-be-all?  absolutely no…not at all.  but, don’t you want to give your child every opportunity to be successful in their life and happy?  to be a contributor to society and not a burden?  this is one way to do so.
please…be it a child, animal, or rose…be responsible for what you have tamed.


for information on parental involvement and student outcome, please see:


for information on parenting styles and outcomes, please see:


“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

  1. i have not read it yet, but will now. funny that i start reading one, it sends me to another, and another, and another…and soon i have just spent a solid chunk of time realizing that, union or non-union (georgia being right-to-work does not have teacher unions that can negotiate for us), we ALL have the SAME issues. so, how can unions be the sole problem and root of all evil in the public schools? not so sure, that…

  2. This was a great post. Thanks. I just wanted to ask you if you had read my post entitled “Compassion” It follows along these same lines of thought.

Thanks for your comments!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: