In our new normal, a new definition of ‘self-control’

We must acknowledge we have no control over many things in our lives – and turn our attention to what we *can* control, Jordan Martin writes.


As a teacher, this year has forced me to prepare for school in ways I never would have considered before. Accommodations need to be made for students who will learn remotely, time needs to be set aside for cleaning down tables and desks, and money must be spent wisely for fear of an upcoming budget crunch.

While maintaining a high-quality learning environment, I also need to ensure that our students are being safe so we can do everything we can to have kids in school.

When I talk with other teachers and members of our Wilber-Clatonia community about all that we are doing to make the year work, a theme is beginning to emerge – locus of control. Locus of control is the amount which people believe they – compared to “outside” forces – have control over their lives.

While it’s a term I often teach in a psychology class, having a healthy sense of what is within our control and what is outside of it has never been more relevant today.

Like most Nebraskans, I was disappointed that Husker football was canceled. For a time, I actually was hopeful that some sort of fall season would be pulled off. However, as we all know, the season was canceled, and the effects will be felt on an emotional level and a financial level in this state.

In this situation, what is within our control? I cannot change the minds of presidents of Big Ten universities, and I cannot suddenly produce the millions of dollars to help the local businesses that will be hurt. But there are circumstances that are within my control. I can wear a mask and practice social distancing to ensure coronavirus will finally slow its spread. When in Lincoln, I can prioritize patronizing those places that make game days special.

I can make a positive outcome out of a negative situation.

Likewise, in teaching, I cannot control what students do when they are home. I cannot control what color the COVID Risk Dial will be for the community I teach in. However much I may want to, I cannot stop the fact that coronavirus has reached and will continue to spread throughout my community on some level. These circumstances are beyond my control.

What I can control, though, is what my students will experience when they enter my room. We will do everything we can to be safe, and we will do everything we can to enjoy learning. I can still do everything in my power to make the learning experience relevant and enjoyable. I can still bring a positive attitude, a smile, and a warm welcome to students whose world is constantly changing in uncontrollable ways.

We all have parts of our lives, COVID or otherwise, that are outside of our control. It is important that we acknowledge this, so that we can turn our attention to those circumstances that are in our control. I have no power to tell you that everything will be alright in these trying times, but we all have the power to have a positive effect in areas where we have control.

Jordan Martin teaches social studies at Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools. He moonlights as an assistant one-act drama coach in the fall and a speech judge in the spring. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.

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