Saturday, September 28, 2013

If Dog Rabbit...

As you continue to read this post you will hopefully understand the title.  It is a popular saying my grandpa frequently used with me.

Nearly every single day I hear the excuses.  They come from everywhere and everyone.  I hear parents tell me that, "It won't be a good day for little Andy because...." (you fill in the blank).  It could be lack of breakfast, sleep, broken home, you name it.  

I listen to students inform me of why they made a bad choice on the bus or in class.  The message seems to center around blaming or making excuses.  Last week a student told me, "When I'm on the bus it gets loud. When it gets loud I get angry and I hit people."  My first thought was, this student should never attend a concert :  )

Even in my own home I hear the excuses. My oldest said, "Today isn't gonna be a good day, I have a terribly stuffed up nose."

Don't kid yourself, it isn't just students.  I hear adults do it as well.  We blame parents, we blame our own busy schedules and we make excuses for why we won't be at our best.

True story, last April I ran in the Orthopedic Rehab 5K.  As I prepared for this race I had been told it was a "fast" course and that the last mile flies because it's downhill.  For weeks I trained and prepared.  The day finally arrived and it was frigid.  I vividly remember going out to warm up and I ran straight west up Michigan Ave.  I was being pelted by snow.  The wind was howling out of the west and I knew the middle part of the course all headed in that direction.  I could feel myself beginning to slip into an excuse mindset.  I see this all too often, individuals make an excuse or lower expectations.  It is as though some people don't want people to think they gave it 100% and came up short.  I ask why? Why make excuses, why lower expectations?  Why not just do your best and OWN the outcome?  For three weeks I have talked to our students about being proactive.  I continually urge them to take responsibility and not to blame others.  For some I'm seeing growth, but for many I still hear excuses.  

So I take you back to that day in April.  Wind howling in my face, snow ricocheting off my bare arms. I started mile 1 at a torrid pace.  I was feeling great, I was only 10-12 paces behind Dave Jordan!  Next came mile two, the wind socked me in the face and I could feel myself tiring.  I was passed going up the hill, it was at this moment I could have broken down mentally.  I could have blamed my training, the weather or anything.  Instead I tried to be mentally strong and push myself.  I was determined to give it my all!  During mile three I positive self-talked myself through the difficult parts.  In the end I finally PR'd!  I ran an 18:47.  But the story doesn't end there.

Three weeks later I ran my next 5K.  One big difference, between the races I got pretty sick.  As I arrived that Saturday morning to run I wanted to back up my 18:47 with another fast time.  Inside I felt weak and way below my best.  I had decided on the drive in that I was going to run my hardest.  No excuses!  I didn't mention my health to anyone there.  I started out fast, my first mile was pretty good.  Mile two was a struggle, but I still felt as though I had a good race going.  Then mile three came and we turned up hill.  I didn't seem to have my finishing gear, but I was positive self-talking myself through it.  When the race ended I didn't PR. I ran a 19:32.  45 seconds slower.  I owned my time.  On this day, I gave it my best and that's what I produced.

Years ago when I spent night after night with my grandfather I would share scenarios with him.  I would say, "if only," or "I could've," or "I should've,".  He always responded with one of two sayings, "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!" The second was, "If Dog Rabbit."  I still chuckle when I think of him saying that to me.  The point is, he didn't want to hear excuses, he just wanted me to OWN the outcome.

All of that being said we come back to human nature of downplaying expectations and making excuses for not being at our best.  

As adults we ask our students/children to be willing to take risks.  We don't want them to fear failure. Yet as adults we don't always model this.  Adults can be quick to make excuses and deflect responsibility.  Day in and day out we must model being Proactive, we must be the positive force that always gives it our all and takes responsibility.  

This week's big questions:  How do you model being proactive?  It's important to understand, relate and empathize, but we all choose our attitudes.  If you have a child that is coming from a difficult environment how do you help the student look beyond the struggles?

Next Week At A Glance:

Monday, Sept. 30th: Happy Bday to Lori Phillips
Monday, Sept. 30th:  Tech meeting at 1pm
Tuesday, Oct. 1st:  Happy Bday to Brad Lenhart
Wednesday, Oct. 2nd: No Wednesday Assembly, 5th graders leave for camp
Friday, Oct. 4th: 5th graders return from camp at 4:30

*  Upcoming email on Fall Festival
*  Please make sure you've taken Online Safety Quizzes, due Sept. 30th
*  Please input goals on Stages
*  SAU tutors will be beginning soon, please email me preferred times

Articles Worth Reading:

Increase Student Engagement by Grading Backwards +TeachThought @TeachThought

Educators of the Future... +Justin Tarte @justintarte

Making the Most of a Small Space +Erin Klein @KleinErin

How to deal with co-workers +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

Inspire or Enrage? +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

11 Tips on Teaching the Common Core Critical Vocabulary by Marilee Sprenger

HACKtivate ED: A model for collaborative problem solving by Bryan Kitch

Exploring Pumpkins in Kindergarten by +Matt Gomez @mattBgomez

The Things I Won't Be Doing This Weekend... @ShutUpRun

4 Reasons To Let Kids Play Minecraft shared by +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

10 Ways to make the rest of today amazing +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

21st Century Education (3 min)

Set Your Mind Free (5 min)

Teddy Ballgame: cool story about a difference maker. (11 min)


  1. Ben,
    Excellent post my friend and truly hit home with me. I have the opportunity to coach high school football and our staff tries so hard to have our players own their mistakes and game decisions. We model this when we make calls that did not work and own our decisions. This is such a critical life skill: personal accountability and self discipline. As always, very well done.

  2. I didn't read once in this where you made a mistake, saw that you made a mistake, "owned it" and went back to make certain that you had learned from that mistake something of value, then placed that valuable new knowledge into play in your life in order to improve. From what I read here, your whole ethic is "don't be such a wimp: You're just not trying hard enough."

    I have a grandpa that told my Mom the same thing "if dog rabbit." -- this is a saying of polish and germanic origin, and I would guess your grandpa must have come from the working class of pre-WWI Europe. The reason I bring that up? The people who once had a very harsh, unyielding insistence built into their very being, who, by that internal harshness brought themselves to be a close contender for world domination, the Germans, learned the hard way that "No Excuses" is something one only says to one's self. If someone tells you an excuse, it is your solemn duty to bring your grandfather down a notch in hour mind and say "Aw, Grandpa, we've learned since then that Love brings up everything unlike itself for the purpose of healing." and realize that if you are hearing excuses all the time, and your mind is telling you "They're making excuses!! Why, I could do more than THEY did. I'll show them all by running these races. Then they'll see."

    But, they can't see. All they see is a harsh man trying to prove to everyone that being hard on yourself is the thing that made you win... and you ran away from everyone in the proces. Run back. Listen some more. Ask yourself "What if this 'excuse' is true, and the obstacle in their path was something I was supposed to help them remove?", rather than telling them that their obstacle wouldn't have stopped you... and therefore shouldn't have stopped them. Because I'll guarantee you that a lot of those "excuses" are probably young people trying to share with you in an "I have a problem I think you could help with" kind of a way, not in a "I am your problem because I shouldn't HAVE to do the thing youre telling me to do ... and here's why." ... because clearly, they're not asking to be excused from doing the thing, they're asking your forgiveness for having tried and failed, and they know you don't accept failure. So, teach them how you held yourself to that standard, by knowing you are doing your best ... and try to figure out how they could possibly think they are doing their best when you, someone they look up to a great deal ... keep acting like they aren't doing their best ... But they are doing their best. You aren't. Youre asking them to do YOUR best or better. But if everyone did your best, youd just be average. Thats what they mean by saying "teach a man to fish" ... dont just hand them fish all day, show them how you block out the negative jerks who tell you YOU'RE not doing your best when you know you are ... which is only when youre alone and fighting ideas of besting yourself, but youre not carrying your lessons there to your life.

  3. No where in this did I see the actual entire explanation of If Dog Rabbit. It is short for "If the dog hadn't stopped to take a piss, he would have caught the rabbit" My Dad said If Dog Rabbit to me for years but never explained what it meant. So I just thought he was an idiot spouting nonsense.