Part II: How I Taught Students The Language of Accountability and Changed My Classroom
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Getting down into the root of excuses and how they sabotage accountability.
What's the best excuse you've heard as a teacher or a parent?
I'm sure in your lifetime you have heard some wild excuses from either school, work, or even in relationship situations. Excuses are all ways in which we are not at fault. Some may totally be legitimate, others not so much.
The Oz Principle has a nice, one sentence description of victimization:
The world's societies suffer from the current cult of victimization because its subtle dogma holds that circumstances and other people prevent you from achieving your goals.
Read that again.
Circumstances and other people prevent you from achieving your goals. Yup. That sums up all excuses. But, it also ties it back to victimization. When you look at the connection, victimization is a way of saying, "Everything is going against me and it's not my fault." Excuses are saying, "I can't be held accountable because..." Both are not accountability practices.
That is exactly the first exercise I do with students... go over excuses and victimization mentality. I originally had this as a class opener. Students took a few moments to make a list of excuses they used or heard at school being used by other students. Students shared their excuses and they got a big kick out of hearing the truly absurd ones.
But, what students didn't know was that I wrote them all down. I wrote them in a bullet-ed list so all my classes could see everyone's excuses.
The next day I printed the list for all my students with the definition of victimization above at the top of the list. I went over the definition and had students number circumstances and other people as number 1 and 2. Then, on the back page to give an element of surprise, we looked at the list of excuses they gave me from the previous day. Circumstances and other people were "blamed" for all the excuses listed.
Students had an epiphany that day. They realized that no matter the excuse, they are responsible for all things in their life. Yes, some things are unfair, but they can choose to wallow in it or at least attempt to change. Students really welcomed the fact that they really have so much power over their lives at a time when they might not feel like they do. Parents and teachers are constantly telling students what to do- at school, then at home. Little is left to students in terms of choice. But this small revelation, really let students see how much they really are in control, even when it seems the odds are stacked against them.
What's the best excuse you've heard or even given today? Is it circumstances and other people that were blamed? It's not them holding us back... it's us.