In working with young people, we often have these periods in time where the opportunity to present an important life lesson presents itself. We always have a choice in this moment, do we ignore it or take the time, and effort to try and pass an important lesson on to someone else.
This weekend was homecoming for the school that I work at. As a result, there were a ton of activities to build school spirit and foster some community development (and to get some more donations). There was a new event this year that I volunteered for/got suckered into, the Car Rally. A group of parents came to the school Saturday morning and then drove around some of the back roads, made a few stops, showed off their cars and had some good bonding time.
Working at a private school, most of the kids come from affluent backgrounds, so as you could imagine the cars were pretty spectacular. There were a few Ferrarris, a couple of Lambhorghinis, a Corvette or two, a hand full of BMWs, a few custom made kit cars, and even a Rolls Royce. While I sat in awe of cars that I could never afford, I was given the task of driving one of the school’s vans with two students who were going to be photographers for the event.
So me in the mini-van go and join a convoy of muscle cars and we head up out of the city and into some great back country roads that I didn’t even know existed. The weather was great to have the windows down, crank the music up, and blast along the country roads.
I find myself lagging behind the main group, so I step on the gas a little bit harder. Apparently they didn’t design Caravans to keep pace with Ferraris, who knew? I approach this beautiful corner going down a gentle hill, it looks like it was designed for racing around.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this, as there is a police officer waiting for me at the bottom who flags me over. I curse under my breath, and my heart begins to race. As the officer walks towards me I have two conflicting thoughts run through my head.
Earlier in the year I was busted for speeding, and I was able to play the “poor student” card and I had my fine severely reduced. I wonder if I can play the “poor teacher” doing my job card, and get this fine knocked down as well.
The officer was getting closer and closer.
On the other hand though, there are two students in the van with me. I find that one of the biggest challenges when dealing with young people is getting them to take responsibility for their actions. So many people, of any age, are quick to blame others when they do something wrong. I realize that I am sitting on one of those Teachable Moments.
The officer was getting closer and closer.
Here I am faced with a crisis, do I take a more expensive fine and potential point deduction on my licence to do the right thing, and teach these two students a valuable life lesson.
I roll down my window and say “Hello officer”.
I listen to everything that the Police Officer says about going too fast, and I state that I didn’t know that it was a 50 km/h zone, which I honestly did not, and I take my ticket for $111….yuck.
As I sit and speak to the Police Officer, a number of other cars on the rally drive past me looking right at me. They sure were not going 50.
After we leave, the students make two observations 1) The guy was a complete ass and 2) Everyone else got by going about the same speed. Both points were pretty accurate to say the least.
I take this as a further teachable moment and say that it doesn’t matter what kind of guy he was or what anyone else was doing, it doesn’t change the fact that I was wrong and got caught. While I’m gritting my teeth and agreeing with them at the most superficial of levels, deep down inside I know that I was wrong and I got caught, so I had to do the responsible thing and accept the consequences of my actions.
I was also pretty worried that I would get in trouble for speeding with students. However, those fears were alleviated when I arrived at the first check point and one of the school’s Headmasters comes up to me, puts his arm around me and starts to laugh at me….I even take the opportunity to tell him that I turned it into a teachable moment. I’m officially in the clear.
In looking back, I remember a time when I was maybe 12 or 13 and my mother got busted for speeding with my sister and I in the car right around Christmas. She could have easily played the “Single Mother at Christmas” card and got away with a stern talking to, but she later told me that she decided to accept it full on in order to teach us a lesson about responsibility…apparently it worked.
I got to spend the morning and volunteer my time and teach an important lesson to some young people and it only cost me $111…ahh well, it’s cheaper than Teacher’s College.
Until next time,