He never considered the future. Before being sentenced to 45 years with 20 years to serve in custody for two counts of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and one count of serious injury by vehicle, Garrett Kyle Anderson said while crying, “I just never knew that the choices I was making would affect my life, and more importantly, the other families’ lives. If I could take it all back, I would. I would go in place of them. I’m so sorry this happened. I’m very sorry.”
I like to read and discuss stories of individual success or failure/tragedy with the students. The discussion is always “how did this happen”. Get out your pink sheets (1st day health activity-Goals or Good Behavior), “Did anyone write down that they wanted to be in Big/Boy/Girl prison by the time they were 22? Well, why not?” The fun begins — because a discussion begins where kids are actually thinking and talking about their future. They don’t want bad stuff to happen to their future. Stories remind them it’s important what they do today. My motto is get the kids thinking. Thinking creates feelings which lead to a predictable action. In this case a reminder, am I prioritizing the standards that will get me to my goals or am a Garrett heading for disaster?
Front page stories in the newspaper, such as this, are opportunities to revisit the most important concept taught in health class — a student’s future. My teaching philosophy is to give students just enough facts, so they can apply those facts to the possible interruption or destruction of their future. I want them to think and feel the interruption/destruction made by a choice or a series of choices, than have them think their way back thru the decision making process that occurred to make the destruction possible. The articles provide an opportunity for discussion — What were the excuses made along the way? What type of decisions was Garrett making long before he got in his car that night? Was he planning on making something of his life? Did he have hopes, dreams, or goals? If he did have goals were they a priority that he was daily committed to? What makes you different from a Garrett?
To change people’s actions you have to first change their thinking. Teens live in the here and now, without experience. They haven’t coughed up a piece of their lung, or experienced a viral STD etc.; bad stuff happens to other people. Front page news stories or stories from advice columns provide an opportunity to remind students to focus on their future. Successful people prioritize every day.
Sooner or later everyone experiences a moment that scares them so bad because they realize this would have ruined my life, destroyed my plans for my future. A decision is made, I am never going to put myself in this position again. Do you think Garrett ever had that experience? Have you had that experience? Do you know someone with that experience?
- I had a student come visit me one afternoon. She walked thru my door and asked — do you remember me? She had come back to tell me why 3 years previously she changed her life. Her best friend became pregnant in the 9th grade. That was her wake-up call because she had been doing everything her friend was doing. She reverted back to the person she was before she decided she really wanted to be popular.