Responsibility is something that is extremely important to me; I feel I am a responsible person (I am generally perceived as being ‘sensible’) and always encourage the children I teach to take responsibility for themselves.
I’ve never been afraid to take responsibility for my actions (or at least own up to my mistakes). I remember, when I was at primary school, owning up to pushing a poor girl called Lucy, I didn’t mean to push her hard, but unfortunately she hit her head on the wall (she was fine though). I knew by owning up I would get a visit from the Deputy Head, Mr Warboys, who would shout at me in front of my class. It was the normal punishment for this type of thing and could be quite terrifying. I also felt strongly, even at that age, that honesty and accepting responsibility for your actions to be important. I think this incident also helped form my views on the ‘public humiliation’ method of punishment, something I would never do to a child myself.
The only person in the world that you have control over is yourself; this is something I often remind children of. Taking responsibility for your actions is important. I believe that you can only improve if you take responsibility for your actions. For instance, I’m sure all teachers have come across children (and adults!) that blame others when things go wrong, ‘it was his fault, he called me a name’ or ‘it was her fault, she took my pencil’ (or from parents ‘what did the other child do?’).
When you don’t take the time to reflect on your own actions and the results of them, you don’t learn-all actions have consequences, some good, some bad-we need to own that, and take responsibility for them, especially when they have bad consequences so that we can learn to avoid the same result in future.
It can take time for a child to recognise how their own actions may effect others and take responsibility for that. I ask them ‘who is in control of you?’ because we only have control over ourselves and therefore the only way we can make changes to things we don’t like is by doing something different ourselves. This can be a hard concept to get your head round as a child.
I have talked to adults about this view as well; particularly teachers who have been struggling with behaviour and relationships with children. My advice is always to think about what you are doing, saying, showing with your body language etc-you can’t control the other person, you can only control yourself. If you change your own actions then they may change the way they react, you can only influence others, not control them. I try to think like this when I am dealing with challenging situations myself and I have found it a useful outlook.
I have tried to live my life with this view and I get frustrated at people who have an ‘excuses mentality’ e.g. ‘I really wish I could do…but I don’t know how/I’m not allowed/no one will help me’. It frustrates me because I see people moaning about their situation but doing nothing about it-I want to stress here that I know their are people in this world who are powerless and have very little agency to change their life situation; I’m not talking about these people.
If you are lucky enough to have some amount of power and agency over your life then don’t complain about things, if you don’t like something, take some responsibility and do something about it.
When I was a teenager doing my A levels, I was a typical low self esteem, under performing boy. I didn’t work hard enough on my courses and I didn’t get the results I needed for the university I had applied for. That is my own fault, I take responsibility for that. I could have sat and sulked and moaned about the teachers and made lots of excuses-I didn’t. Instead, I took control of the situation and found universities that had places available and I went through the clearing system. I didn’t get exactly the course I wanted, but it was through those choices that I fell into teaching so, everything worked out for the best in the end. I remember my mum telling me later, how proud she was of me (not for my exam results!) because I had taken responsibility, showed maturity and independence and sorted the situation out for myself.
I think that was the moment I started to grow up and started to use responsibility as a positive force for change. That was when I really learned that you ca only control yourself, so take responsibility for yourself and take control of your own destiny.