By Corinne Wnek
I never thought of myself as a calm person. Given my family tree, I am convinced that it is not even genetically possible for me to be calm. Yet, many people who know me would be surprised to hear this. I’m usually described as ‘sensible and strong’ because I’m a fixer of outcomes, a mender of fences and a hauler of emotional trash when it needs to be discarded. I choose to be this way.
That’s the real me, a kind of ‘handyman’ in a skirt behind a desk. It’s true that I am not an over reactor to life’s curve balls, and I admit there are a lot of curve balls in my field of education. But on the inside? Appearances really are deceiving. Well, that’s for another article on, perhaps, the miracle of modern therapy.
My training as a teacher and counselor helps a great deal in reminding me to think about the power of choice. Teachers, for instance, make choices in their classrooms every day to figure out what will help their students because they want them to be interested in and responsible for their own learning. It’s tough to teach these days if you’re not, in part, Lady Gaga or Snoop Dogg. A lot of kids choose to believe that having a seat in class entitles them to entertainment. But it rarely occurs to some of them that they are the ones expected to perform.
As counselors, we try to do the same thing as teachers but we also have to focus on how family issues such as chronic illness, death and divorce, substance abuse, learning disabilities, mental health and sexual identity issues and the general ‘yuckiness’ of being a teenager effect students in school. Through all of this, we still have to help kids buy into the concept that they need to do homework.
How do we get students to understand that school is a mirror of ‘real’ life and they are expected to make choices? That being on time for class is training for being on time for a future job. That meeting deadlines for a teacher gets you used to doing the same for a future bear of a boss. That learning to manage conflicts with other students in a school is a dress rehearsal for managing future conflicts with a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker.
We need to get kids to understand that every difficult situation in life, including school life, offers the chance to make a choice about how we will respond to it. Only then can we realize how powerful we are because we can have a say in how some aspect of our future will unfold. We can stay angry about something or try to see the other person’s point of view. We can abide by the rules or make excuses about why we do not. We can goof off and fail and hear negative criticism or we can do the work necessary to get good grades and hear the sound of applause. Choices.
So ask your child everyday to think about the choices they make from the friends they hang out with to the clothes they wear to the foods they eat. You’ll get an “A” in parenting and your kids will get an “A” in Life Skills 101.
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