Friday, January 23, 2009

The Dawning of a New Quarter

“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~William Jennings Bryan

When I was in basic training, we used to sing the same cadence every morning while marching to Physical Training:

Here we go again.
Same old stuff again.
Marching down the avenue.
______ more weeks and we'll be through.

Some mornings, I loved this cadence. On other mornings, I hated it. The difference was always my attitude on that particular morning. If I was feeling motivated, the number of weeks remaining seemed so small, so achievable. If it had been a tough morning, the time I had left seemed insurmountable. The only constant was that I knew I could not fail. There was entirely too much riding on my ability to suck it up and continue to press forward no matter how much it hurt, how tired I was, or how much I missed home.

"But Mr. Ogle, what does this story have to do with the quote, and what do both of them have to do with the Third Quarter?" I am glad you asked. The first semester taught me a lot about myself as a teacher, but it also taught me a lot about some of you as students. Those students who work hard everyday to complete assignments on time and participate in class can stop reading now.

Now that I have the attention of the bunch of you who populate my gradebook with zeros and those of you who sit in class day-in and day-out with your head down staring blankly at the wall or the back of your eyelids, I want you to consider both my story and the quote very carefully. The quote tells us that destiny is not something that will just happen, it must be achieved. I know that all of you want something out of life, but you are making the fatal mistake of thinking that if you just wait around long enough it will happen. It doesn't work that way. With the way things are going these days, jobs for high-school dropouts are few and far between. There is no reason to believe that they will not continue to diminish both in number and salary. If you continue to approach school with the attitude that it is just an inconvenience to you, I promise you it will be something you regret for the rest of your life.

Still waiting for the explanation of my basic training story? Okay, here it goes. Much like many of you do not enjoy high school, I was miserable in basic training. Sure, looking back on it, it doesn't seem that bad, but while I was enduring it, I couldn't imagine it ever ending. I remember waking up for PT after only a few hours of sleep (like usual) and thinking to myself, "Will I ever get a good night's sleep again? I don't know how much longer I can keep this up." There were so many days when I just wanted to stay in my bunk, suffer the consequences, tell them I quit. I'm sure that the thoughts going through my mind on those mornings is pretty similar to the thoughts you have about coming to school, but I kept dragging myself out of my bunk and down to formation. I kept marching where they told me to march. I kept running when they told me to run. I kept shooting what they told me to shoot. The entire time hating nearly every minute of it. I could go on and on telling stories about how hard it was, but the point is I kept going even though I didn't want to, and it afforded me more opportunities than I could have ever gotten otherwise. For you, high school is the same way. You don't have to like it. It doesn't have to come easy, but if you just suck it up and do what you are told to do when you are told to do it, it will get over much faster than it will by just sitting around waiting.

Here we go again.
Same old stuff again.
Sitting in the classroom.
Eighteen more weeks and we'll be through.

Then I won't have to look at you.
Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy you.
And you won't have to look at me.
Awesome, awesome, awesome me.