Responsibility: To Know it & To Teach It

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I have to say that I grew up in a home that was big on responsibility and making good choices. I didn’t always make them, however that was the general expectation as I grew and developed into the independent individual I am today. Today I look back and realize that I am a product of my upbringing and without the lessons learned, I would still be learning them today as an adult, or worse.


This brings me to the point of this blog post. I will be slightly vague in this post, however I had an experience recently where I understood that instructions were given from home to school that were inconsistent with my expectations of students and the structure of the classroom. I couldn’t help but ask myself in the moment “Are we cultivating a society that is irresponsible and without care?” The reason for the question is simply that I never teach with respect to a school year, or a term. I teach with respect to life, integrity and character. I choose to never excuse my students from responsibility, but rather encourage them to embrace responsibility head on. If they do something wrong, be truthful about and take responsibility for it. In my mind, this is the only way that growth can occur. In order to become better, I must first realize where I need work or help.

Winston Churchill said “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Do we want our students to be great?

The same goes for when students are expected to come to school ready to dive into learning. Now of course I would never ignore Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, acknowledging the fact that there are physiological needs that must be met before learning can take place. To go further, you might even say that taking the time to have teachable moments in the classroom, out-of-the-classroom and at every available opportunity is still meeting a need. So again, my point is that I feel that students need to have experiences, they form the impetus for learning and teachable moments.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.

~Abigail Van Buren

If I had never been allowed to fail, I would not truly understand what it meant to succeed. If I was never given the opportunity to learn responsibility, then I might be irresponsible today. I believe it is important to note that school, at least for me as a teacher, is not simply six and a half hours of rhetoric and academia. What good is all that anyway without a focus on character, integrity, honesty and responsibility?


Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”

— George Washington Carver

I often tell my students that intelligence is great, in fact it pays to “know,” but what good is all of that knowledge when you are not able to pass it on to others? Character goes a LONG way. I tend to paint that picture that when it comes to that grand job, or that ivy league school of choice, what is it about you that would make you stand out from the crowd? Consider someone who is at the top of his or her class academically, but lacks the wherewithal to socially relate to his or her peers, colleagues or higher ups. Hence, as an educator, I believe in teaching students those elements of character, that along with academic success, paint a much cleaner and clearer painting on the wall for all to see.

Responsibility is a life skill. Why not start today in school with parents joining in with teachers in order to wet the student’s appetite with responsibility? Instead of excusing behaviors, what would happen if we turned them into teachable moments. Yes you did this, but let’s talk about how we want and need you to learn to engage responsibly. After all, the ultimate goal is for them to become an upstanding member of society, a leader, a servant, an individual. A little bit of responsibility can go a long way, as it continues to develop over time. I believe we (educators and parents) must be intentional with our interactions and support of students because after all, these individuals will one day need to pass on these values to others.

“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”

— Michael Korda
Editor-in-Chief, Simon & Schuster



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