(#153) Who Is Responsible For You?

Want a better life? Then take the next step.
-First-Year College Student-

Before I facilitate any workshop, I find it invaluable to invest a few hours speaking with the folks with whom I will be working.  It helps build a connection and we make sure we “nail it” for the participants.  Everyone benefits from the pre-workshop preparation.

Recently, I received some thoughts from a school I will be visiting in New Jersey.  Although the thoughts and questions are timeless regarding student success, they did make me pause and consider (again!) what, how, and why we do what we do in the classroom.

The topics my Garden State colleague graciously shared with me can be summarized as follows:

  1. How do we (the educators) engage students so they want their education? (As my colleague said, “No one dragged them here.”)
  2. How do we get students to want to read?
  3. How do we get students to take responsibility for their education?
  4. How do we get students to think about making/leaving this world a little bit better?
  5. How do we get them to think beyond just getting a job?

Those are all GREAT questions—and universal in education.  Effective teachers want to know how to connect with their students and develop a sense of caring about their (the students’) education. We design our lessons so our students can see relevance to their lives. Moreover, today’s students bring in different skills and expectations than their predecessors in higher education. The effective teachers work to meet the students where they are and coach them to a place of meaning and contribution.

Having said that, there is an cliché–and a twist–I share with my students: You can lead a horse to water—but can’t make him drink.  But you can make him thirsty!

Image: sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my experience, if the student does not care, then there is not much the teacher (or anyone else) can do. It is very hard to counter “I don’t care.”

However, for the vast majority of my students, it is not that they don’t care; it’s that they have not yet made education a “non-negotiable” part of their lives.  I start with that premise and constantly come back to it with my students.  Part of what we (the teachers) have to do at the beginning of the term is establish a mindset and vocabulary that grounds the experience.

While we cannot make them drink, we can develop a thirst!

I shared my colleague’s questions (above) with my students.  I told them that I had no problem answering the questions. I did want, however, their student perspective.  I found their response to item number three most telling. When it comes to who should take responsibility for their education, here is a representative sampling of what my students had to say:

    • In my 21 years of life, I have learned you can’t make a person do anything.
    • Students are the ones responsible for their own education.
    • Letting students know the benefits that can be reaped…not only material but also the emotional, the dignity, the feeling of accomplishment; the rewards are unending.
    • Ultimately, it is up to the student, but having a family-like environment with your class goes a long way.
    • Encourage students to get involved; to think; to question
    • It would be utopian to have a class that you can reach with one method but the reality is you can’t.
    • Well, the teachers should personally connect and motivate their students; but at the same time, there is really nothing much a teacher can do. The student has to really want it; at the end of the day, a student is going to do whatever they want.
    • Don’t allow excuses; give them the opportunity to make decisions on their own…decisions that will affect their lives.
    • Tell them they’re responsible for the choices they make. No one got anywhere sitting around and complaining about life.  Want a better life? Then take the next step. There are plenty of resources to help students [on campus].

Video recommendation for the week:

Oprah speaks about taking responsibility for ourselves.

  • Teachers can’t make a student take responsibility…they have to want it.
  • You hold each and every student accountable for their own actions. Actions cannot be taken back…only improved upon.
  • Students need encouragement—encouragement they don’t hear anywhere else.
  • Remove students who do not want to succeed in school.
  • Don’t baby them. This is a world where the strong survive…let them sink or swim
  • You can’t; they have to want it for themselves.
  • I honestly don’t know.

All the responses shared (for the most part) one of two themes:

  1. It helps to have encouragement and connection with the teacher; and
  2. Your education is your responsibility.

Just like life.

Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!


On May 4, I will offer a special Saturday edition webinar. Click here to register now for “Habits of Well-being and Balance.”  Or go to my website for registration information. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Make it a wonderful week!


©2013. Steve Piscitelli.

About stevepiscitelli

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