How Do You Do?

13 Mar

That’s How I do!

This is a phrase that I would often hear from students during my 33 years in the public schools.

Usually it would come in response to a question that I would have about their work or social habits in school or in the classroom.

I might ask, “Why don’t you ever come to class on time?”

“That’s how I do.”

Or, “Your homework is always late or missing. Is there a reason why you can’t complete your assignments”

“That’s how I do.”

“Why must you always make insulting comments to other students in the class?”

“That’s how I do.”

“Why did you hit that student when he accidentally bumped into you in the hallway?”

“That’s how I do.”

“Is there a reason why you find the misfortune’s of others so amusing?”

“That, Mr Picone, is how I do.”

It was always quite a frustrating response to hear especially since it was almost always delivered in a trite and unapologetic tone and also because it offered no explanation or even excuse as to the student’s aberrant or incorrect behavior and it made any and all attempts to offer or suggest corrections very difficult.

But eventually after many years of contemplation and of hearing this phrase over and over again (and of growing older and wiser I like to think) it dawned on me. These students had at least been giving me the best and most honest explanation that they had for their behavior. They didn’t know why they did what they did or why they had formed the habits that were defining their life, but they were however, aware of the fact that they responded to similar situations in predictable ways.

They were aware of their predictable behaviors and their predictable responses. They didn’t know why they did… they just knew that they did… what they did… and so…”That’s how I do.”

These students were what is commonly referred to as “dysfunctional” because their behaviors did not coincide with what were commonly seen as positive societal or educational  behaviors…They didn’t do what they didn’t like to do. They hit back when angry. They made offhand and insulting remarks that they thought were funny. They found no urgency in being on time. And they hated or became angry and frustrated when others did these same things to them.

We all function on auto pilot from time to time. I think that those whom we classify as “dysfunctional” fly on an auto pilot that likes to crash into things more often then it likes to avoid trouble…and I also believe that it is a learned behavior that is instilled in them at a very early age.

 Most of the dysfunctional students or people that I have met always seem to live by one rule: Always play by MY rules which at no time and under no circumstances will apply to myself.

All  of us function in certain ways, or have things that we do, or responses that we make, or habits that we can’t seem to break, without always knowing why. More often than not it takes someone close to us to point out these behaviors because we just don’t  notice these rote behaviors ourselves. Have you ever noticed this or been told this about yourself? Why do you think what you think and more importantly…

How do you do?


10 Responses to “How Do You Do?”

  1. elizjamison March 13, 2013 at 2:16 am #

    “But eventually after many years of contemplation and of hearing this phrase over and over again (and of growing older and wiser I like to think) it dawned on me. These students had at least been giving me the best and most honest explanation that they had for their behavior. They didn’t know why they did what they did or why they had formed the habits that were defining their life, but they were however, aware of the fact that they responded to similar situations in predictable ways.”

    In a way I agree but in a way I don’t. I feel like my kids today are so “psychology savvy” that they know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. They understand how to take advantage of 504’s and IEP’s (not that all of them do, of course) and many of them are quick to say they are ADHD. They know how to push the buttons of their parents or their counselors.

    I agree with you that they are aware of their habits, aware that “they do what they do”. But I think there’s some kind of innate knowledge in there today – how can I use what I do and why I do it to get ahead in some way?

    Of course there are the troubled kids. Teachers see it every day. So the hard part I think, is telling the difference. That’s a huge responsibility for teachers.

  2. trophos March 13, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    I have no answers, but I had to laugh: I always seem to have one class every semester that is just *late* – some days when class starts (and I start and end obsessively, precisely on time) only half the class is there. Used to drive me nuts. Now it just annoys and puzzles me. Every semester I try a new approach at curtailing it. I gave a brief speech today at the end of this semester’s *late* class, mostly just remarking on how the world at large interprets punctuality as a sign of respect, and vice versa. We’ll see if it has any impact. I suspect not, as it seems to be just how they do…

  3. A Voice March 13, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    People are not encouraged to think in this society. The incredibly cynical part of me wants to say that the reason behind this is because encouraging people to think makes them buy less and legitimately expect better quality in everything. The more charitable part of me wants to say to respond to that but cannot find a legitimate counter-argument.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is some sort of remarkable conspiracy to poorly educate people and to discourage critical thinking and criticism. What I do notice is that education in the United States of America is remarkably appalling and leveraging the Constitution in respect to ‘States Rights’ is an excuse, red herring.and a very real problem. Until college starts, if students go to college, legitimate thinking is in no real way part of the curriculum because all that matters is passing the tests, not knowledge and how to apply said knowledge in situations outside of a classroom.

    In respect to primary education, why is this the case? In no particular order:
    -the administration is only truly interested in raw numbers: how many pass and fail, where the school ranks in the state and county and where, how many ‘incidents’ take place, faculty pay and their pay;
    -disgruntled teachers, both with students and with the administration, often see teaching as a mere job that they simply have to suffer through and, therefore, are ineffective;
    -AP courses in no real way help more advanced students, intellectually or emotionally. Again, these classes don’t truly help get students to think but take away purportedly burdensome courses in college. But, more than that, more advanced students are often socially awkward and therefore lack emotional maturity. So, they will be segregated with only others like them and potentially graduate early to see an academic world that is at once different and so similar to high school that they, again, were not allowed to experience emotional growth within;
    -primary school aims exclusively at the ‘mean student’ and leaves behind the rest, forcibly. There is nothing else to say to that;
    -students, without knowing the details of why, see education as waste of time because they don’t learn anything. At some base level they recognise that they aren’t being engaged, taught to think or to apply what they are learning to life outside of a classroom. They can’t quite articulate it but, deep down, they know. What I wrote above doesn’t help them any, either.

    So, this is what it looks like to be inside primary education in the United States of America. To think otherwise is to be either uninformed -talking with teachers who are honest is a big help in becoming informed, especially when they care, want to see change and are protected by tenure. Administration doesn’t like these teachers but these are the ones that would see change if they believed it wouldn’t get them fired. They know just how much they can rock the boat.- or inappropriately optimistic. This is the situation and when I see what the commercial environment looks like in this country, broadly construed, I can’t help but see a connexion.

    The incredible cynical side of me may be wrong, there may not be that strong a connexion…but there is a connexion that can be made easily and, I think, cogently. After all, if we recognise that change is needed and these things are problems, that education really is necessary to get things back on track in this country, there needs to be a reason as to why we aren’t doing anything about it. I don’t see a reason, but I see a lot of excuses.

    That’s how I do.

  4. Dan Hennessy March 13, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    I think that you had a deep insight . Somehow , most kids want to be honest , say how it is in a truthful and to-the-point manner . But , then , they’re kids . Their premises get all screwed up and they have a different reality from the teacher’s . Their logic leads to dis-functional behavior and frustrating comments and not a whole lot of insight on their own problems .

  5. 1tric March 13, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I hated school and conforming. I hated rules. I was late because to me all the “sheep” were early. I didn’t do homework because I saw some of it as pointless. I did what I thought was non pointless. I have thankfully grown up. Looking back I was troubled, and had I believe, an inbuilt drive to be individual. Some teachers really got me and had an enormous influence on me. I am well grown up now, very happy in my skin, and thankfully I married a “sheep”. I do not recognize the compliant pupils my children are. Thank goodness for genetics. Oh and I tell them I was an A student!

  6. jojodiet2013 March 13, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Students!! 😀 they teach you something everyday 🙂

  7. awesomeclawson March 13, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    “That’s how I roll.” Is what I hear sometimes. Ha! I’m like roll where!?

  8. serendipityherbals March 15, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    “That’s how I do” when being asked about a not so good behavior, indicates to me at least, that their own personality, their own ego, has been raised and constructed on a fundamental premise of being less than, being not so good, being wrong, can’t do better. I think the roots of this goes back to when they were babes, and didn’t get the appropriate positive attention, interaction, and boundaries they needed. I think, as they grow, throughout the years, their own core identity is wrapped around that less than concept/feeling, and at least their owning it is some part of their soul that’s present. But, there is something a bit sad about it, at its core, because I know what better parenting skills can bring out in a child/adult. Hope, the ability to change, things to look forward to, accomplishments made, exciting future goals to plan for (even with the ups and downs of living)…”that’s how I do” sounds very sad to me coming from beings changing and growing everyday.

  9. TamrahJo March 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    As I get older (and I hope wiser) it has occurred to me that while the kids’ behavior may seem dysfunctional, it’s often only a more upfront and less subtle copy of the behavior I see adults engaging in – – I continue to believe kids’ act out the behavior they see in the adult world – –
    As an adult, no one ever hit me for running into them while walking the office hall, but they did start nasty rumors when they were afraid I was would get the promotion, instead of them – –
    No one flung insults at me, but they would make disparaging comments about the project and try to derail it, simply because they weren’t chosen to lead it.
    So when I see a kid acting in ‘dysfunctional’ ways, the first think I do is look at the adults around them – – and all becomes clear….

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