The Seahawks Parade and What We Teach Our Children
Ah, the hoopla and uproar over the celebratory parade for the Superbowl Champion Seahawks in downtown Seattle tomorrow. Will the schools close? Shall we skip work?
Here’s the deal: children are always learning what we teach. Sometimes what they are learning is not what we intended.
Caveat: full respect to the Seahawks for a tremendous season. It is not only that they won, but how they won that impresses so. What an example of team effort and sacrifice for the good of others. The MVP award to a linebacker that pretty much nobody has ever heard of. A defensive end that, just a few years ago, played for an 0-16 team. Myself, I thought the MVP award should have gone to the entire team, as every game of the season highlighted team first and individual fame second.
And yet. The players are pros who make enormous sums of money in a short career that is usually nomadic. How long will they be identified with Seattle? Just this morning I heard a discussion with a famous sports pundit, who, on the question of how Seattle will manage to retain these players in the face of looming contract renewals and the expectation of huge recompense for the stars ($100 million for the quarterback for one example) offered the idea that they may need to let Marshawn Lynch go after next season. The soul of the offense, the creator of “Beast Mode,” and this two days after the greatest victory in Seattle pro football history!
If schools close (and Seattle schools will not) or if parents hold their kids out of school, what is the lesson that is sent? How many parents were “too busy” to attend the school’s open house? How many parents do not attend the school play featuring the kid down the block they have known since birth? How many parents attend all of the school functions their child performs in? How many parents know what the homework is, or the course of study?
If a parent chooses to send their child to school, and then slips out of work to go to the parade, what lesson does that teach? That work is less important than a party, if the party happens during work hours? That your responsibility to the employer who provides your income is less important than your “duties” as a member of the 12th man?
Kids remember. Forever. In 9th grade I started both ways for a not very good junior high football team. I was a co-captain, and thought I looked quite heroic on game days in my spiffy #36 uniform. How many games did my parents attend? None. Think that has affected me my whole life?
One of the many lessons teaching taught me is that students recall things differently. I cannot count how many students have told me of the greatest thing that they ever experienced in my class. An appalling percentage of the time it is something I cannot recall, or a lesson I was not attempting to teach.
Best example. A few years ago I received a letter from student I taught in 1989. She had come to the junior high as a new student, and was miserable. Her mother had died, and her father re-married a woman she could not stand. Her life was in tatters. I remember that year because my own father and my wife’s brother also died. I wrote this girl a long letter about dealing with the death of a loved one. I probably would not do that today. A 40-something male teacher writing a personal letter to a 14 year old girl? Might as well resign, as you are quite likely to be fired. Knowing me, I would probably do it again. In any case, she wrote that her life got worse rather than better. Her grades plummeted, and she got heavily into drugs. Over the next 5 years she was about to attempt suicide – three times. Each time she took out my letter, read it again, and changed her mind.
Over time life got better, and she was writing from her new life with a man she loved and a small child. She thanked me profusely, and as I read her letter tears ran down my face.
The horrible part is that I could not remember her at all, or writing the letter. I pawed through the old year books (I kept them all) to find her picture. Nada. I had done something tremendous, and it made very little impression on me at the time.
At the other extreme, I think in my early teaching days I “taught” some students that sarcasm can be an effective weapon against the defenseless. I inadvertently did a lot of damage to self-esteem, and I cannot go back and undo it.
It is not at all black and white. In about 1979 the Rolling Stones played a concert in the Kingdome. Two of my colleagues “skipped school” by calling in sick, so that they could attend. One of them was a woman past 60 who loved rock and roll and used song lyrics quite a bit in her English class. The other was a 2nd year teacher who was my assistant coach for volleyball. I did not think the young teacher should have done it, and it was not in season or I would have really been upset. But I thought it was pretty cool that the older woman went, as she was teaching her students what music meant to her. Of course they both got “caught,” as many of the students went as well and saw them there. An amusing side bar is that I turned down a chance to see the Rolling Stones on their first visit to America in 1964, before anyone knew who they were, because I thought $3 was an exorbitant fee!
And I am not pure in this either. In my 2nd year of teaching I cut school to drive my friend and co-apartment dweller to the airport, as he was moving back to Florida. The next day the principal was so concerned for my health (I don’t think I had ever taken a sick day in two years) that I was filled with guilt and never did it again.
Whether or not you choose to take your child out of school to attend a parade for a bunch of wealthy athletes, and/or to skip work, you are teaching your child a huge lesson.
Be sure you know what it is.
Copyright 2014 David Preston