This morning I heard on the news that the injured spectators at the Daytona 500 have hired lawyers and are considering filing suit. My immediate reaction to this was extreme frustration – almost to the point of anger. I wondered why people, who chose to attend a race (where crashes are not uncommon) and chose to sit near the track, would think that they should have the right to sue NASCAR for the injuries they sustained.
I empathize; I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a car come flying at me and to sustain injury from the debris. But I can’t help but wonder – where is the personal responsibility in all of this? If you make the decision to attend a race and you make the decision to sit near the track, should you not be the one to accept responsibility for those decisions?
This is not an isolated incident – there is a lack of personal responsibility all over the place. You can place a cup of hot coffee between your legs while driving, and if it spills and burns you – no problem! You can sue the company from whom you bought it and win. Nevermind that it was your decision to first buy the piping hot cup of coffee and second to place that piping cup of coffee between your legs. You do not have to accept responsibility for those decisions! How pathetic is a society where this can happen?
The news about the Daytona 500 got me thinking about our students. Learning personal responsibility is critical and our students deserve to learn personal responsibility in the safe environment of school. When I think about personal responsibility, I think about students taking ownership of their learning. This does not mean that we teach and it’s up to students to “get it,” or that we assign late grades or zeroes when work isn’t submitted on time. Rather, it means that we teach students how and when to ask for help, how and when to use their resources and how to make good decisions.
If we are to help our students grow into contributing members of society, we have to do more than teach them the content and skills of the various disciplines. We have to provide them with opportunities to practice personal responsibility, and we have to be there to help guide them through those opportunities.
As educators, do we think about this as we plan our daily lessons? Do we think about our students who need us to provide them with opportunities to practice personal responsibility and then give them what they need? When we see students who clearly do not take personal responsibility for their actions or decisions, do we throw up our hands and complain to our colleagues about “students these days” or do we seek out those students and talk through what they could have done differently?
As educators, we have an amazing opportunity to leave the world better than we found it – because we are truly shaping the future. I want to leave the world a place in which people are good to each other and take personal responsibility for their decisions and actions.