When the best role model isn't even a person

Having Your Say

having your say

November 26, 2008|By David Donaldson

My advisory class at the Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences, a public charter high school in Baltimore, includes a daily lesson in character building or study skills. Recently, I asked six students participating in the group - all boys - to make a list of five male role models. I decided to participate as well, and quickly came up with a list that included educators, my father and my best friend, an Iraq War veteran.

What was an easy task for me, however, proved rather challenging for my students. I had questions and statements from them ranging from, "Do they have to be males?" to "I can't think of five."

When it finally became time to share their writings, none of the boys selected their father as a role model. Not one of my students has a father as an active participant in his life.

One of my students selected his grandfather, because out of all his brothers and male cousins, his grandfather and he are the only two who have never gone to prison. Another student selected his mother because not only does he buy her a Mother's Day present but a Father's Day present as well.

The most touching story took me by surprise. At first, I thought this regular class clown was going to make a joke of the assignment. However, as he began to explain, I appreciated his sincerity.

"I do not have a father and, well, my mom does her best. However, you said we had to pick a male role model. I could not think of five, but just one. So I picked my dog.

"He does not know if I had a good day or a bad day, but he does know I always need a friend, and so he is always there for me. That is why he is a role model - because he is always there and very loyal."

Maybe you had to have been in that classroom with me to fully experience the moment. But I doubt it.

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