I've been teaching high school for 19 years, and have heard EVERY crazy excuse you could ever think of. From, ‘but I don’t see how this really helps me in life’, to ‘I'm wicked busy outside of your class Miss', to 'my mom recycled it' (yes, I've heard that one more than once!). Students also LOVE to blame other people for their poor decisions, after all, how can a teacher get mad when the ONLY reason they didn’t do their work is because their parents had more important things for them to do? (It's funny to me when talking with the parents how different THAT story really is ;-) )
After all of my years of sifting through excuses the one I hear most often (& the one that stokes the fire of this redhead the most) is, “yeah, but at least I…” Students use these five little words often, believing they prove progression in life and if they are satisfied with their meager attempt, then so should I. To be more clear, here are just a few examples of this excuse in action:
ME: You are 30 minutes late to class again.
STUDENT: Yeah, but at least I came.
ME: You do not need 25 minutes to go to the bathroom.
STUDENT: Yeah, but at least I came back.
ME: This assignment was due two months ago.
STUDENT: Yeah, but at least I handed it in.
I actually have a very fancy lecture that follows the ‘at least I’ excuse. It involves me talking about them having integrity, not choosing to live a life where they settle, and how settling speaks to their character; I must say, it is a masterpiece of motivation! But I truly do mean every word in this rant. It breaks my heart to see so many of them choosing to settle for mediocre and just accepting ‘whatever’ for a life, when they have so many other exciting options available to them.
Since the weather has been so beautiful, I decided the other day to take myself on a long productive run along the glorious beach front. I was going to be active, enjoy the view and put some serious miles on my way too bright running shoes. But, this supersized power run with seagulls and the sound of crashing waves actually turned into a 3K run around my community. As I came up to the front doors of my home sweaty and proud of myself for being pro-active about exercise, I said, "I know I am capable of more, but at least I actually ran today". I was instantly kicked off my soapbox of, ‘you should have pride & integrity’ and realized that I was as equally guilty of cutting corners and telling myself that settling was acceptable as my students were! I stopped in my tracks... I was dumbfounded.
During my shocked stupor, a movie reel of 'at least I' moments zipped through my mind...
…I know I have the abilities to do more in life than I am doing, but at least I have a good paying job.
…I know I could be more productive today, but at least I caught up with emails.
...I know (INSERT ANY of my desires), but at least I cleaned my house! Yup, you name the desire, job, or 'must-get-done's', and I can always so easily settle for cleaning my house! Even back in University, my room was the cleanest, and my dresser drawers were perfectly organized BEFORE I would even consider studying for exams. Come on, I needed an organized clean space to work in! (Man, my eyes get a work out simply by rolling them in circles at my own crazy!)
Could I really be as bad as my students? ARGH! How is that possible? I have so many years of wisdom over of them! I couldn't believe it, I was still behaving like a high school student. Of course the list of 'at least I' just kept growing the more I thought about it.
I realized that I have been allowing these words to help me feel good about accomplishing something, when I didn't do what I actually wanted to do in the first place! They are an illusion, giving me a false sense of pride in my actions and are keeping me from pushing myself to do and be so much more.
Yes, maybe I are still taking me in the direction of my desires, but what if I stopped settling for the bare minimum and took the steps I REALLY want to take or simply dream bigger for myself?
How different would my life look?
How much stronger and confident would I feel?
What could I really accomplish if I just stopped settling for 'at least I'?
What do I have to loose? That's simple... the ill feeling that I don’t deserve more than a ‘yeah, but at least I…’ life.