Iron Ranger's view: Support your kids and they’ll shinePsychologist Charles L. Brewer said that when it comes to a youngster’s development, “Heredity deals the cards and environment plays the hand.” It has been my experience that Brewer is correct because we teachers see the results of bad environment (aka bad parenting) quite often.
By: Joseph Legueri, for the News Tribune
Psychologist Charles L. Brewer said that when it comes to a youngster’s development, “Heredity deals the cards and environment plays the hand.” It has been my experience that Brewer is correct because we teachers see the results of bad environment (aka bad parenting) quite often.
On a Monday morning after hall duty I walked into my classroom filled with chattering eighth-graders. There was a dollar bill on the floor. “Oh, oh,” I thought, “someone dropped their lunch money.” So I reached down to pick up the dollar and, swoosh, it disappeared. I looked at the class, and there was Corby reeling in the dollar with a piece of thin black thread.
A week later we met at the computer room for 20 minutes to practice our spelling lesson. When I walked into the computer room, Luke called me over. Without his fingers on the keyboard, Luke’s monitor flashed to life. In big, bold letters the monitor showed the words, “Mr. L. is the best teacher ever.” I stood there in a state of confusion. Luke, who had remarkable laughing eyes and a huge propensity to spoof his teachers, finally explained the mystery. He had brought a long computer cord to school, hooked it to his monitor and to Corby’s computer. Corby was sitting at the far end of the table, eight feet away, typing what showed up on Luke’s phantom monitor. Corby’s laughing eyes were just aglow.
Then, one early June morning at 7:30, I was sitting in the classroom preparing for a final exam scheduled for 8 a.m. Corby walked in, and said, and I quote, “Mr. L, I need to talk to a man, and it looks like you’re as close to a man as I’m going to get today.” I put aside my work, leaned back in the chair and looked at Corby to see if he was serious. He was dead serious, so I asked, “What’s on your mind, Corby?”
“I’ve been in both your
seventh- and eighth-grade phy-ed classes. We’re at the end of the eighth-grade year. How good of an athlete do you think I am?”
“Corby,” I said, “you’re the finest athlete I’ve seen in 25 years of teaching junior high phy ed. You’re best at floor hockey, and you’re a natural at every activity we presented.”
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “I’m going home to ask my parents if I can go out for hockey next year.”
Soon the year was over, summer passed, and Corby’s ninth-grade year began. I noticed Corby’s name on the detention list almost every week. I also noticed he was never on the “A” or “B” honor rolls anymore. During the spring parent conferences, I saw his parents walk by in the hallway, so I asked them if they would talk to me about Corby. I told them about my observations.
Corby’s stepdad became really angry.
“He’s just a good-for-nothing kid,” he said. “I’ve told him a hundred times he’s never going to amount to nothing. He spray-painted nasty things on the bathroom walls, he put Gorilla Glue in the key holes on the doors, and he smokes cigarettes right in school. He was such a good kid last year. I can’t figure out what happened to him.”
“Last year when I talked to him,” I said, “he was interested in going out for hockey. Did he talk to you about that?”
“You bet he did,” his stepdad said, his voice growing louder and angrier again. “I’m not spending $800 on equipment so that damn kid can go out for hockey. I told him to go out for swimming. That’s what I did in high school. All you need to buy for swimming is a $25 suit.”
Most of the more than 3,500 youngsters I worked with over the years proved pretty resilient. Corby survived his parents’ divorce in a fairly healthy state. He became a sensitive and considerate young man. None of his pranks were hurtful.
But when his angry stepfather took away Corby’s self-
esteem, mocked his enthusiasm for hockey and made Corby feel as if he were a burden to the family, he changed the hand heredity dealt. Corby developed an I-don’t-care attitude. He did some really bad things. He is now incarcerated.
A good share of youngsters I worked with were, like Corby, open about the things in which they were interested. Even if it’s going to cost a little money and take up some time, parents, back them, I tell you, back them.
Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, a retired educator and a lifelong Iron Range resident.