Sunday, May 05, 2013

Warning: There is a Life Lesson here...

Usually I use this blog as an opportunity to share my experiences in life, most recently, my living in Japan. I try to keep it positive, informative, and even when something crappy happens, address it with humor and humility.

But this time, in fair warning to you, the reader, there is something that has been weighing on my mind that I feel the need to write about, and it’s not positive or funny. But it IS important.

This week I have had two events that really made me stop and think. One, my husband was addressed by the sergeant major of the base… and not in a good way.  Two, a third of my college students earned a D or F in my class this semester. And I have come to realize that these two things are indeed related.

Let me start with point number one. This goes back to a 7- to 9-year-old league baseball game a little over a week ago. Xan’s team had a baseball game at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. A ridiculous time for a little league game, in my opinion, being a night owl and all, but that is what the schedule said, so we were there at 7:45 a.m…. with only the coaches in sight. Five minutes later, we had two more players. At game time half the team was there. The good news was that 1) the other team only had half of its members there, too, and 2), at this level the score is not officially kept because everyone is a winner, so no worries about forfeits. I could spend a whole other blog post refuting the “everyone is a winner” philosophy, but I won’t take up your time with that now…

At 8:15 a.m., a quarter of the way in to the game, we finally had a full field of players. Only three children had had any chance to warm up, which is SO critical. Kids who warm up properly prior to playing sports are less prone to injury. Not to mention that learning to be on time and committed to things is a life skill… but I will address this later.

Now, my husband is not the official coach for the team. He advises the official coach who is young enough to be my son (if I had been on a Teen Mom show in the 1990’s) and has never coached before. Rodney also works with the kids on the team with their batting, some of which have never connected bat to ball. At the end of the following the game, on Thursday, Rodney addressed the parents. I was not there to hear it because I was rushing Will across the base to his game… trying to make sure he would be on time to warm up. Essentially, Rodney told the parents to have their kids at games on time… for the kids’ own safety and to set a good example for timeliness… an important life skill. Now, how he said this, or the tone he used, I cannot say, since I wasn’t there, but there was no cussing, nothing that should have shocked anyone… except maybe that he was being honest and direct.

Yesterday, Saturday, Xan had a game at 9 a.m. And the base sergeant major and some sort of entourage was there to greet Rodney. Again, I was not there, but the gist of the brief meeting was that Rodney received four complaints from team parents, he should not be “condescending” to the team parents, and he needs to realize he is not coaching a major league team. Of course he is not coaching a major league team. Major league players who show up late to games are fined thousands of dollars.

So, essentially, the complaining parents were embarrassed about being called out publicly and decided to take their embarrassment as far as they could… in the form of an “official warning” to my husband who volunteers his time to help their kids. I really wish these parents would have been mature adults and addressed Rodney directly about their concerns. But that would have taken integrity and courage. It’s much easier to anonymously submit a complaint. Well, I hope these parents got what they wanted. Rodney will probably not be assisting on Xan’s team any more. This is unfortunate for those kids who were finally starting to actually hit the ball pitched to them. It is also unfortunate for Xan, who loves having his Dad working with the team.

And shame on the system that allows something like this to happen. Clearly, there wasn’t an investigation conducted. Supposedly there were four separate complaints, but after talking to the parents I know on the team, they were just as surprised and appalled as I was (or they are really good actors). Also, I personally could easily submit four separate complaints anonymously by using my home computer, my work computer and two computers at the library… but that’s not my point, so I will move on…

Point two: My failing students. I am an instructor who actually cares about my students’ future success. I really believe that college should prepare you to enter the workforce and teach you life skills, not just give you a degree at the end of four years, and a varying amount of random knowledge.  I also have high standards and I hold students accountable - that's part of the "life skills." You have to follow the assignment directions and you have to turn your work in on time (barring any emergency, such as a hurricane, an illness, or death in the family). A third of my 50 students could not do these things this semester. It killed me. It seemed so simple, but there was every excuse in the book, despite my warnings in the syllabus, lectures and written description of the assignments. “I forgot...,” “I had to work…,” “I have three other classes,” and the most common and my personal favorite since I am teaching an online class, “My computer/internet broke.” My answer: If you commit to something, don’t procrastinate and keep a calendar. That’s what successful people do.

I asked for feedback on the class at the end of the semester, and I actually had a student write: “I am a senior this semester and every single class so far has allowed me to submit assignments late. But this class had no such policy which caught me unaware when I tried to submit something a day late.” I really hope this is not true, that all of her other instructors didn’t adhere to deadlines. What is the point of a deadline, then? A responding student said, “It would have been nice to get at least partial credit for submitting something late. Maybe a 12-24 hour window?” Yeah, as far as I am concerned, that window is called ‘planning to have your paper finished a day or two early.’ My sympathy goes out to these graduating students’ unsuspecting future employers. Hopefully they, nor their clients, care about deadlines.

But after the baseball team issue this week, I can start to see where the problem lies… with the parents who signed their kids up for the baseball team, but can’t commit enough to show up on time. It sounds a lot like my students who register for the course, but can’t turn their work in on time. And then wonder why “I gave them an F.” No, honey, you earned that F. I had nothing to do with it. But, I bet your parents didn’t think it was important for you to show up at your baseball games on time. Blame them for you missing deadlines and getting an F. Or, better yet, you’re an adult… blame yourself. And have the integrity and courage to do it.


scrapcreator said...

This life lesson needs to be read, considered, and heeded by so many. Placing blame on others is much easier than taking responsibility, but it doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. You have seen first hand what happens to children who do not see responsibility modeled by their parents.

Unfortunately, I see something similar almost every day at work. We teach responsibility but it also needs to be learned at home. :(

Lee Hynes said...

Self discipline is the key to success in EVERYTHING. Without it these kids will be wasted.