Don Shomette

People are the Prize

“You’re Gonna Have Your Hands Full With That One…”

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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAimpossibleDuring this time of year, as students are transitioning into new schools, conversations are taking place between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ teachers that can go something like this…

“I’ve heard that Charlie Smith will be in your class next year.”
“That’s right.  What can you tell me about him?”
“Oh, you’re going to have your hands full with that one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mark my words.  In ten years he’s going to be in prison.”
“That bad?”
“That bad.”

Ever heard a conversation like this before?  How did it make you feel?

This conversation implies two things.  First, it’s obvious that Charlie Smith is on the path to failure—or worse—prison which means that along the way he’s expected to hurt himself or someone else.  And two, his future seems to be accepted as a foregone conclusion.

Now, let’s replay this conversation and add four words.

“I’ve heard that Charlie Smith will be in your class next year.”
“That’s right.  What can you tell me about him?”
“Oh, you’re going to have your hands full with that one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mark my words.  In ten years he’s going to be in prison.”
“That bad?”
“That bad.”
“So what’s the plan?”

How do you feel now?  See a spark of hope for Charlie?

It doesn’t take any special skills to see which kids are failing.  In truth, it’s painfully easy.  What is difficult is inserting ourselves into the kid’s life in order to alter or at least deflect his trajectory.  It takes time, patience, and commitment.  Sometimes those are hard to give, but we must still try.

Here are a couple suggestions that may help.

Just Don’t Do It.
Don’t accept any criticism of a student unless there is also a plan to alter or deflect a negative trajectory. At best this is gossip, at worst it’s negligence. When you find yourself around these types of conversations, be quick to ask, “So what’s the plan?”

Don’t Impose Your Path.
No one wants to be forced to do something they don’t want to do. We want the student to avoid failure, but our idea of success may not be theirs so let them go their own way. My nephew was failing high school until they readjusted his classes to allow him more time to learn to do what he loved to do—work on cars. Not my idea of fun, but now he’s a pit crew leader in NASCAR for a winning car. Yeah, he’s successful and we’re really happy and proud of him.

Don’t Discredit the Power of One.
Parent, friend, teacher, coach, principal, SRO—somewhere out there is that one special person who can make all the difference in that student’s life. J.R.R. Tolkien said that the only reason he finished The Hobbit was because one friend kept urging him forward even though he wanted to quit. Had that one friend not been there, he never would have written The Hobbit and he certainly never would have gone on to write the number one book of the millennium—The Lord of The Rings. Knowing this, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most important character of The Lord of The Rings is…Sam. That’s right, Frodo’s friend and the dude who’s primary job was to carry the food.  In a letter, Tolkien explains that had it not been for Sam urging Frodo forward that the quest would have failed. Sound familiar? Never discredit the difference one person can make.

No One’s Future is Certain.
Luckily for all of us, it doesn’t work that way. Dwight Eisenhower was 52 years old when he was appointed to Supreme Commander of the Allied Army. Prior to WWII, he was a colonel on his way out of the military after a career that had been very ordinary. Yes, he was talented in many ways but no one would have predicted that he would go on to lead the entire free world to victory and then become the president of the United States. Remember, as long as there’s breath, there’s hope.

Try Something.
We may not have all the answers or even be able to change the outcome, but we must try. Young people are counting on you.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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