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Thursday, March 22, 2012

What we have to do - What we want to do

I endured a difficult encounter this morning with a teenager who evidenced immense frustrations and unfortunately expressed emotions in all the wrong ways.

As I sat back this evening and relaxed while browsing twitter feeds I discovered a profound quote that I lifted from a great author (Harvey Mackay) on business issues. The sentence jumped out at me because it summed up the essence of what contributed to the teenager's anger. Mackay stated -

"I tell myself this every day: We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do."

At this point in time, if there was one sentence that I wish teenagers would examine and digest while they struggle in and with school, it would be Mackay's mantra featured above. If you've ever been a parent, you can probably relate to the meaning of Mackay's quote. That is, teens (and this one in particular) may pursue what they want to do prior to properly addressing what they have to do. This philosophy is not unique to teens, they just seem to manifest it more often.

I'm guilty of over generalizing and simply attributing the impatience and consternation of teens to the live-for-the-moment, instant gratification world they have found so comfortable. The impetuous drive toward personal goals that often leaps beyond reason and practicality among adolescents seems to reverse what Mackay suggests.

Let's take an example that's easy because it happens so frequently. It can be excruciating to watch the initial practices of the modified level (7th and 8th graders) basketball season. Players loathe the fundamental drills so essential to long term success in the sport, like bounce passes, dribbling with the less dominant hand, executing set plays such as in-bounds drills and setting picks and screens. Instead, nearly all of them just want to scrimmage and hoist up high-risk low-success three point attempts or improvise plays on an individual level outside of any cooperative and coherent teamwork.

Some of it may evolve from the "me first" mentality emerging from watching NBA games that appear to foster the star-power nature of the sport's promotion and marketing strategy built around players who need only one name to be identified - i.e. "LeBron" or "Kobe." These single named icons almost obscure or transcend the identities of their teams. Some of it may be related to a reluctance to practice the conventional fundamentals that are viewed as boring and redundant.

The same may be perceived in the classroom. Homework or skill work is viewed as nothing but busywork. Creating graphic organizers or developing outlines prior to generating a report is seen as a waste of time and something that merely gets in the way. This perspective isn't confined to math and reading classrooms. In music, for example, many smirk at calls to practice, and express a desire to just play the instrument.

Well, if I really expect teenagers to slow down and conscientiously commit to what they have to do before they move on to what they want to do, then I'd be as unrealistic and impulsive as I suspect so many of them are - which is why I will keep on getting up each morning and persist in working constructively with teenagers at school as they wrestle with the peculiarities that define their development. After all, if my memory serves me well, there was a little bit of that in me back in the day.

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