Joe Paterno passed away today. Normally I don't get to involved with football, but this one has been on my mind all day. He had cancer, and some complications from treatment, but how much did the events of last fall impact his ability to recover? Had this scandal not been discovered, would he have had more energy to tackle the disease within? It is possible that months of stress and public embarrassment wore down his immune system to the point that, at age 85, he just didn't have it in him to fight any more. It is also possible that nothing in the outside world could have changed the direction of his disease-- as we all know too well, the Big C does not play favorites. This is something that probably won't be covered by the 24 hour news cycle.... but I wonder, nonetheless.
We all know the story: Paterno held his players to a high standard of ethics, academics, and athleticism. And yet, he worked side by side with an alleged child molester for years, and when someone told him they had witnessed the abuse in action, he forwarded the info... but not to the police. And that decision, sadly, will be a huge part of his legacy.
It reminds me again of the story I've heard told about Bob Kerrey. As a young man he was a Navy SEAL serving in Vietnam, and he not surprisingly regrets some of the choices he made. He supposedly said a man is not judged by his worst day but by his best, or something to that effect.
It is not that simple; nothing important ever is. Paterno is in no way implicated in being involved in any of the abuse. His assistant coach Sandusky is reported to have been molesting boys he met through the
charitable foundation he created to help needy children-- if it's possible to be even more evil than someone who leaves a child with scars it is someone who creates a public front of doing good things for the very kids he's scarring. By all accounts, JoePa was disgusted with Sandusky... but also with himself for allowing it to continue. And yet, Paterno ad his wife donated millions of dollars to Penn State and helped hundreds of his athletes become better people. The math overwhelmingly points to his ethical reputation... and yet, that one act of silence tips the scales pretty far.
We all have made-- and will make-- decisions of which we are not proud. I hope we learn from them and are supported by those around us as we try to move forward with our lives. Some actions are easier to forgive, and some very hard to forget. The sad truth is there is no concrete right or wrong answer to many of these dilemmas. My hope is that my reputation buys me some benefit of the doubt, and that I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day.
Out here in the cheap seats, I have an easy time forgiving Kerrey's situation; war is hell, and what happens there cannot be judged in the same light as if it happened at home. Letting an issue get swept
under the rug in your own backyard that potentially exposed multiple children to 9 more years of
abuse... well, I'm having a harder time forgetting about his worst day. Luckily for me, it is not my place to judge. In the end, we are all just human, and we all make mistakes. I hope you were at peace before you left this earth, and that peace follows you to wherever you are now... and that those of us left behind can learn from your life.
Today was another of my behavioral training days. I took on a leadership role in my school to tackle this initiative. My reasons were fairly selfish to start-- I wanted to make the case that I was a part of my main building, not just a stand alone offshoot, and I didn't want to listen to anyone else lead us through this quagmire.
Since then, I've come to realize I need to start a support group. "Hi, my name is rach, and I believe in PBIS..." For those of you not in the know, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports are a way to focus on identifying the positive behavior you want all your clientele to perform, and then teaching said behavior to everyone, and then and only then do you figure out which people can't be successful with said task and figure out how to change their experience.
As a parent, I've been opposed to this approach in our schools. "I don't want my kids getting a token for doing what they know is right". Since we're being honest here, this is still true. I'm very aware that behavioral programs that focus on the good kids doing what they should be doing can often turn those kids into targets of resentment. It's hard enough being the children of two teachers... but being 'perfect' children? Nope, I didn't want that on my conscious.
But as a teacher, and a colleague, I focus on positive behavior all the time. Thank you for checking in on a kid. Gold star for you! I love my job. You guys make me smile every time. I have pictures of kids at prom, of my grandstudents, of each of my graduates in my room. I mail home a good news card to at least one kid every week, highlighting something specific that they did right. I hang up every article I find of any of my students from the newspaper. I send a newsletter to any kid who has ever been in my classroom, no matter if it was for 4 hours or 4 years. Yea, I address the things they need to work on, but I also celebrate their successes. Constantly.
So how do I balance the two parts? Honestly, I'm not sure. I guess I keep my eye on the prize, which is to realize that while my kids are great kids, they still can learn more. And as a teacher, I can always do more to help my sunshines be better prepared for the social structure of the real world. It's always about learning... and about giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.
I have not been writing. Like, at all. Which is not cool. How am I going to become a writer if I don't write! What I struggle with is writing in such a way that it can be helpful for me and not harmful to those about whom I'd be writing. So most of the time, it's easier to stare at a blank "new post" page and leave it at that. I need a new plan, because not writing is not the answer either.
That being said, I need to write more. I want to start my book this year. No, I need to start it this year.
When I was in high school, my pastor wrote a sermon at the start of Lent suggesting that instead of giving up bad habits, we take up good ones. Why give up chocolate when you could start doing one nice thing for someone? This has always resonated with me, and I'm taking it as my theme of resolutions this year. In fact, the only resolution I've ever kept is the one to drink my 32 oz nalgene bottle of water daily. This year, I want to be more forgiving of all people I encounter. None of us are perfect-- not even me, as much as I pretend otherwise-- and we all deserve to be treated well, no matter what baggage we bring to the table.
I had a good year last year, and I hope to say the same 360 days from now.