You Can't Change Me
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Friday, May 01, 2015

One of the most important roles as an educator is being a model of good behavior. There are many different influences that students are affected by daily: family, church, school, peers, culture, etc. More times than not, some of these influences are in opposition to affirmed moral standards. The saying “You are what you eat” holds true for more than just nourishment of the body, for it is often typical that individuals are social and/moral products of their environment. So if the social “food” that our students are consuming outside the classroom is the insensitive and apathetic vulgarity of the world, what exactly are we expecting them to be inside the classroom? Are we modeling acceptable behaviors in front of them?

These influences can lead students to fall under the category, at-risk. An at-risk learner is one that is considered to have a high probability of dropping out of school, or is simply failing academically. An at-risk student may eventually end up in a G.E.D. program, alternative school, or even jail. Is it possible to reverse this reality and encourage at-risk students to turn away from the only (yet hopeless) world that they know for something better? The hardness created by outside influences can cause these individuals to become defensive when offered something better. “You can’t change me” is the idea (spoken or unspoken) that fights back. This is true; people can’t change other people, for the will and nature of man is as strong today as it was 10,000 years ago. However, there is a response and a choice that individuals have to make themselves. Charles Swindoll put it like this: “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” So there is a choice to be made that cannot be forced, but it will not be accepted if it is not seen or heard first.

At the bottom of this issue lies a greater question for us all on the personal level: Why? Why should we care about our behavior and success? What is the orientation of our motivation and conviction? Solomon was the third king of Israel, and arguably the wisest and richest king to ever live. He had all the wisdom and riches of the world, yet he considered these worldly achievements “vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). He found ultimate value in the duty of “fear[ing] God and keep[ing] his commandments” (Ecc. 12:13). Knowing this of the man Solomon, I believe it is important to ask: Are our convictions great enough to lead us to live a fulfilled life? Is our motivation strong enough for us to be able to react to life in a way that disregards the circumstances of a bad 10% that we were dealt? I believe there is a specific decision that each person (student and teacher alike) is to make that can ultimately reverse the risk, nourish the needs, and fulfill the life. 

I share Solomon’s conviction, and this is why I choose to model acceptable behaviors in my classroom. I do not believe that I can change any student. However, I do believe that I am able to live my life before them in a way that presents them the opportunity to make a life-changing decision.


Matthew Young

Middle school math teacher

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