Saturday, November 28, 2009

Honesty Is The Best Policy

As a teen, do you ever stop and think about what it means to be honest, to tell the truth or to "not lie"?   Does being honest also mean you can stretch the truth in some way to better meet your needs or make your story sound better?  When you find yourself in the middle of a situation or story where being honest may mean you will get in trouble, lose a friend, miss out on an opportunity or not get what you may want, what do you do?  Do you have a two-second conversation in your mind about honesty, defined as freedom from deceit or fraud, or do you eliminate any time to consider how honesty or dishonesty will play out in your actions and just do or say what will present you in the best light or get you what you want?  Are you honest with your friends, your teachers, your parents?  Are you honest even when you know it may lead to a negative outcome or consequence?  What is most important to you....being truthful and building respect or being untruthful and building distrust and possibly animosity?  It's important to take more than two seconds to consider this and consider how honesty plays a major factor in determining your reputation and how others may view you.  

I wonder how much honesty is discussed at breakfast tables, in classrooms, at dinner tables or in sunday school?  I wonder this because I witness everyday teens making decisions where choosing to be honest or dishonest usually dictates what happens next. In my opinion, too many choose a stretch of the truth or dishonesty, usually out of fear of a consequence or fear of losing something of value, maybe a friend, object or reputation.  Choosing to be honest because it is the RIGHT thing to do may not always be the first consideration or an automatic thought.  Why is this?  Is it because of what they witness or is it because not enough value is placed on honesty?

To be fair to teens, they live in a society where they constantly see examples of adults who choose dishonesty.  They see adults choose dishonesty on TV, at school, at church, on the sports field, at home, in magazines and most other places where they find themselves.  They see adults choose dishonesty to gain something, to look better or to avoid trouble or some kind of negative consequence.  When they observe the adults in their lives choosing dishonesty, what are they to do?  How are they to understand the mixed messages that are being sent and still make the right choice?  There are many stories from teens who recount times when they knew a parent, relative, teacher or other important adult KNOWINGLY chose dishonesty.  What is the message we, the adults, are sending to teens and young people about honesty?  If they see the adults in their lives choosing dishonesty without hesitation or apprehension, why should they choose something different?  The adults set the examples in their lives, modeling the behavior we would like for them to repeat.

The message for teens and young people is this:  Sometimes the adults in your life may not always make the best choices or decisions.  Sometimes they are not honest.  Sometimes they do not tell the truth.  Sometimes they do lie.  It is important to admit to teens and young people that sometimes adults behave in this manner.  It's also important to admit that young people and teens are placed in binds when the adults in their lives behave dishonestly but require the young people and teens to behave honestly.  It's important for everyone, adults and young people, to realize the importance of honesty and it's impact on the lives of others.  Sometimes adults don't always remember this fact and maybe teens and young people are in an ideal position to remind them.  People are watching what you are doing and saying.  Remember that you are a role model to some person, whether young or older.  People remember when you are honest AND when you are dishonest and form opinions about you based upon your honesty or dishonesty.  Choosing to be honest teens and young people usually leads to adults who are responsible, accountable, dependable and respected.  How do you want others to view you?  As an honest person or as an dishonest person?  Do you want others to be able to depend on you and believe what you say?  If your answer is in the positive, if you want others to view you positively, depend on you and believe what you say, then there is one thing to remember:  honesty is the best policy.   

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Longing for Approval?

Aren't you proud of me?  That's the question that was asked of me.  A question that a young person asked me, not his parent, but an adult in his life.  For a few seconds, I stared intently at him.  Intently because in those few instants many thoughts raced through my mind.  I wondered what he must think of himself, but more importantly, what he must think about what the adults in his life think of him.  I snapped myself out of my self-imposed daze and enthusiastically answered, "of course I am proud of you.  I'm very proud of you".  Aren't you proud of me?  What a question coming from an adolescent, a teenager, a young person.  For some of you, it may seem like a simple, basic question.  For others, it will probably elicit a reaction similar to mine.

That exchange stirrred up some questions in my mind.  Do teens get enough "good stuff" from the adults in their lives?  The good stuff of affirmation and confirmation that they are doing a good job in school and at home.  Do teens get enough positive approval from the adults in their lives?  Do they get enough recognization and acknowledgement?  Do they get enough feel goods from their teachers, counselors, pastors, coaches, and all the other folk who have little or lots of influence in their lives?  Being a teen is not always an easy job.  It can be confusing, stressful and full of unexpected twists and turns.  All teens need to feel appreciated and confident that their lives are of importance to the adults around them, mainly their parents.    

What is the message for youngsters?  I think it is this: You are valued.  Valued by your parents, teachers, and most of the adults in your life.  Many hours of sacrifice and preparation are spent to ensure that you have what you need to navigate your life experiences, be it at school, out with friends or in some other place of influence in your life.  Most of you are doing well in school, are able to engage in sports, social and vocational activities without any injury or harm.  Many of you follow the rules set by your parents or others who have a current say in what's going on in your life.  Sometimes adults get caught up in the stressors of everyday life:  work, finances, bills and concerns over whether the teens in their lives have every opportunity to succeed.  So, if you have ever wondered if someone is proud of you, think about your parents, extended family members, teachers, administrators, coaches and all the other people who work hard to ensure your well-being.  They are all very proud of you, satisfied that their labor and sacrifice has been worth it, happy that you are exceling in school, maintaining positive peer relationships, exhibiting responsible behavior and showing compassion and caring for others less fortunate.  Yes, we are all proud.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snitching or The Sharing of Essential Information

Snitching.  What is that?  Ask any young person or teen and they will certainly have an answer.  A dictionary definition is "to turn informer, to tattle".  For young people, snitching is viewed as a big deal, one that could change how they are perceived by their peers and friends and change their school experiences.  Many teens view "snitching" or being labeled "a snitch" as extremely negative or bad, something that helps you to lose friends, get teased and bullied and at worst, physically assaulted.  They know stories of other peers being beat up, taunted in class and in the hallway or worse for "snitching".  That is the impression of young people, an impression largely perpetuated by messages and images portrayed in videos, magazines and other mediums frequented by teens.

For young people and teens, snitching or not snitching can impact their behavior.  The story of Derrion Albert immediately comes to mind (refer to previous posting, GONE TOO SOON).  Assaulted by peers and schoolmates, it was difficult for the authorities to conclude their investigation because other students who had witnessed the fight refused to come forward with information, for fear of being labled "a snitch".  Derrion ultimately died of his injuries.  Derrion's story was a national story, but there are many stories of instances in which young people and teens refuse or are reluctant to report some information for fear of being labeled a snitch by their peers.  Stories of incidents that occur in the classroom regarding teachers and other students.  Stories of incidents of hurt or harm to other students within the school environment.  Stories of the knowledge of existing weapons on school property.  Stories of the knowledge of pending incidents of violence.  The list could go on and on.  The messages associated with snitching need adjustment, so that young people are better able to make better choices and decisions and hopefully can prevent the occurence of negative and harmful incidents.

The message for young people is this:  Snitching does not have to be viewed negatively.  How about thinking of it as an opportunity to promote the health and well-being of your peers and friends?  If you aware of something that will impact the school environment or impact the well-being of a peer or friend, consider it your duty and obligation to report what you know to a social worker, counselor, teacher, school adminstrator or your parents.  It is the right thing to do.  Making threats against the school or students, a student threatening to harm themselves or others, a teacher who is inappropriate in or out of the classroom, a fight about to happen, a fight that has happened, or any incident which you believe does not ADD value to your school should be dicussed with one of the above individuals.  Many young people are sharing information with the correct people.  However, if you're not comfortable with sharing your name, then share the information anonymously by writing a note or letter.  Students often leave letters and notes in the mailboxes and under the doors of teachers and administrators as a means of communicating what is right and what is wrong. 

Young people understand what is right and what is wrong.  Some sometimes struggle with what to do with information that should be shared with an adult.   Information that they feel may threaten the health and well-being of peers and friends.  They want to share the information but they also don't want to earn the label of being a snitch and losing their social status.  How others percieve them is important and often not a bargaining chip.  My answer is don't be a "snitch", that person that others "say" is not cool.  Don't be a person who is influenced by others to change what you know and believe to be right.  Encourage your friends to do the same.  This is the first step in changing the perceptions of snitching.  Be a person that believes in good over bad.  Be a person who cares about the safety of your school and your friends.  Be a person who doesn't agree with what those "celebrities" have to say about sharing information.  Be a person who shares essential or important information for the health and well-being of yourself, your friends and your school.  Your class, your friends and your school will benefit from young people who know, believe and act.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One Down, Three To Go

Well, the day has finally come and there is nothing you can do about it.  That day, being the end of the marking period, the last day of the quarter.  That day when many teens wake up, realize that "play time" is over and scramble to school and attempt to meet with their teachers in a last minute, desperate, attempt to get extra credit or talk their way into a better grade.  Promises to do better, promises to attend after-school tutoring, promises to sit in the front of class, promises to keep  promises.  No stone is left unturned in the arena of promises.  This past school week, many students experienced a happy or, in some cases, sad dose of reality.  It's now only a matter of DAYS before the official grade report, aka, report card arrives home and in the hands of "those other people".  Some of you just may have some explaining to do.

What will yours report?  Will it report a job well done, a confirmation of your hard work, long hours of preparation and study, and your understanding of the commitment needed for the most important aspect of teen life, which is school achievement.  Will your report card indicate that you understand that education is the catalyst to most, if not all, successes, that education, once achieved, can never be lost, that education solidifies your sense of self, that education is what will prepare you for the future that you envision, with all its possibilities?  Will yours report a job not-so-well done?  If so, then why?  Is it because you truly have experienced challenges in grasping the lessons in a particular class?  Is it true because you have missed a significant amount of time out of class as a result of a legitimate, excused reason?  Or, is it because you lost track of time and goofed off in your classes believing there would always be more time to get the work done, do better on that quiz or test, turn in that homework or complete that research project?  Did you put too much time and focus in your athletic career or social career?  Too much time on the football field, soccor field, volleyball court, swimming pool, or basketball court may lead to increased skills, but will also lead to disaster in the classroom.  Too much time on Facebook, MySpace, email, the phone, the IPOD and those computer games will also lead to disaster in the classroom.  Too much time being the social butterfly who attends every party and looks for reasons to be out of class will also lead to disaster in the classroom.

Wherever you find yourself this 1st grading quarter, the lesson for young people is this:  School is your MOST important endeavor.  It comes before all else....sports, friends, fun times.  Whether a freshman or a senior, know that what you accomplish in the classroom will matter.  It will matter to the colleges you apply, the military in which you may enlist or any other program in which you may choose to apply.  Don't take for granted that you have a lot of time because you don't.  The grades you receive in ALL four quarters are calculated into your GPA (grade point average).  Don't wait for your teachers or parents to come to you about your school and class performance.  That is your responsibility, part of your JOB of going to school. You should be constantly communicating with your teachers regarding your performance, grade, assignments missed or extra credit and tutoring opportunities.  When asked about your grade in a class, the answer should never be "I don't know".  Take full ownership of your academic skills in the same manner you do your athletic and social skills.   Work just as hard to improve your grades as you do to improve your other talents.

So, let this first quarter be the wake-up call.  A wake-up call to keep doing what your doing, if you have an A average, or to make some changes and rearrange your focus and priorities if your grades were less than good.  Strive to be the "A" student, the one that understands that there is NO time to play and that each quarter matters in the game of education.