Sunday, June 7, 2009

Just checking...

I'm a counselor who works with college students. In past lives, I was a teacher, a resident director in a freshman residence hall (gasp!) and I also worked as a high school counselor. Basically, my career has been built around talking to people. Sometimes I talk AT them, but I usually try not to do that. Over the years, I have found myself giving advice (though I try not to do that), and some of it has been helpful to the people I've worked with. Most of the time I try to help people come to their own resolution, because I believe you really know the answer to your predicament; I just have to help you cut through all the crap that stops you from thinking clearly.

One of my former students told me I should write a book with all of the tidbits of "wisdom" I give to my students, but Lord knows, half the time I don't remember what I tell people. So I thought I might start writing some of it down here, and you (whoever takes the time to read this) can tell me if you think I'm right or what. Honestly, I know I'm not always right, I just couldn't think of a catchier title for this blog.

I'm good at receiving constructive feedback, whether positive or negative, but don't ridicule me, or I'll have to hunt you down. (I should say here that I'm originally from Brooklyn, and have a tendency to talk tough, even though I'm not even 5 feet tall. Take it for what it is.)

So, here goes...

In my line of work, I get a lot of people who make excuses. Now, I do understand that everyone has certain circumstances that might have held them back from succeeding at whatever they set out to do. I understand that we're not all born with the tools necessary to achieve the "American Dream". I know. I was raised in public housing in Brooklyn, my mother was on welfare and my father was on disability, and I have eight older siblings. I witnessed some scary stuff as a child - people on drugs, people in gangs (though they didn't really shoot each other back then, they just "rumbled"), even some traumatizing stuff in my own family. Something told me that I needed a good education in order to have a different life from those I saw around me. Something told me that the responsibility lied with me if I was going to succeed in life. So, although I have been known to make excuses for not doing certain things, most of the time I just did what I needed to do to get where I needed to go.

Here's just one example of some of the things I hear:

Me: Why aren't you going to class?
Student: It's too early.
Me: What time does it start?
Student: 9:55 - too early for me! The teacher doesn't want me coming late, so I don't go at all.

Are you serious? 9:55 is almost 10 am! Most people have to get up for jobs that start at 9 am. My job starts at 8, and I live 40 minutes away. That means, pretty much, that I have to get up around 5:30 (it takes a while to look this good). I understand that, as a college student, you have late nights. I understand that you need to get some zzz's at some point. But if you can't get up for a class that starts at almost 10 am, something is wrong.

And that's why you're failing. Am I right or what?


  1. Girl you are so RIGHT! These children now a day don’t know how good they have it. Just the opportunity to go to college is a blessing.... They don't understand and it seems like they don't care to understand the sacrifices made before them for them to have such an opportunity. I also believe it starts in the home. Preparation is key and that starts at home. I have three young men at home; my oldest is 16 this is my time to prepare him. He needs to start setting is alarm clock to wake himself up, instead of me waking him up, because when he has gone off to college I wont be there to wake him up. So, you are so right! In my opinion it take preparation and education so the young people understands how far we have come (especially the minorities)

  2. Thanks for your response! I agree with you that preparation begins at home. It's great that you are getting your son ready for college (and life) now. It gives him added responsibility while showing him that you are trusting him to get things done on his own. Good job!

  3. Ok first things first. My aunt rocks. Ok now that I got that out of the way. I couldn't agree with you more. My Mom got me an alarm clock for Christmas one year, and there was no turning back. I feel like I am part of a dying breed of people because I just can't understand why this generation coming up feels so entitled! I know that they struggle with issues that are different from those that I grew up with. However, I feel that parents now are too busy trying to be their childrens friends when they need to be their parents. I am grateful that my parents chose to raise me in a structured environment. No they weren't my "friends" when I was 16, and so maybe I didn't "like" them but you better believe I always respected them. Now that I am older, I can say I respect them, like them and love them.

  4. Um, I just woke up. What's this blog about?

  5. To Mel: First and foremost, your aunt rocks because she learned it by watching you! :-D

    I personally think that there is a sense of entitlement because parents have created little monsters full of self-esteem. A positive self-esteem is a good thing, but when there are no actions or reasoning behind praising your child, the child starts to think he/she is worthy for no other reason than that he/she exists. Just as we would explain to our children why they are being disciplined for doing something wrong, we really should explain to them what they did right to deserve praise. Your parents did a great job of parenting, and I know, because they had a big hand in parenting me. They didn't even need to read any books to do it well!

    Raul, you're lucky you're my brother. Refer to the third paragraph! :-)