Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tony Stewart - A Teacher's Perspective

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life. Read more slices or add you own here.

It has been awhile since I have written a slice.  Actually about a month and a half. July marked my one year anniversary as a "slicer," and I missed celebrating that milestone.  But, I needed some time away, and I am back and ready to begin writing again.

Picture this scene from a typical playground, possibly even yours.

Children playing on the swings and slides.  A student who is a known bully pushes another student and makes him fall.  The bully continues to play, but the student who was pushed comes after him shaking his fist and yelling,  "You can't do that to me!"

The bully continues to play for a few minutes, and as the student approaches him, the bully takes a swing and injures the student.

The teacher comes out, and the injured student is so badly hurt, he can't tell his side of the story.  Only the bully can talk, and he says he didn't mean to hurt him.  But, the bully has a past full of anger.

Have you seen this situation?

As a teacher, what do you believe?

Most importantly, how do you react?

Last weekend a similar incident occurred on the race track with Tony Stewart and a 20 year old young man.  The young man died of injuries caused by the accident.  Tony Stewart has a reputation for being a "bully" on the track.  He is known to show much emotion and yes, many times, anger.

As the reports started rolling in, some said it was simply an accident.  Others brought up his reputation and automatically assumed he intentionally tried to hit the driver.

The only person who really knows what happened is Tony, and he will have to live with this for the rest of his life.

My thoughts were how people automatically assumed guilt because of his prior behavior before the accident was investigated.

How many times do we, as teachers, do that?  How many times is there a situation where we assume guilt before we investigate because of a student's prior behavior?  I know I have.  Is this fair?  Is this how I should have reacted?

This tragedy has given people some important things to think about.  This teacher included.


  1. This was such a terrible tragedy. I'm not sure what exactly to think about this incident, but you have given me something to think about as this pertains to the classroom. Thank you!

    Sweet Writing Life
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  2. Wow. We do have preconceived notions about people and jump to conclusions. The bully is often set up to be the obvious suspect or bad guy. The other thing I'm thinking about is how some actions we can't take back no matter how sorry or unintentional. This is a hard lesson. Regardless of why that young man died, I'm fairly sure Tony Stewart is in pain.

  3. Fantastic piece because as you said, as teachers, we see this. It's so sad to see this in real life with adults. Thanks for writing about it because you've made me look at this tragedy in a different way. Glad you're slicing is back! Hope school is going well!

  4. Welcome back and congrats (belated) on your milestone anniversary. It is unfortunate what happened. It is also unfortunate that we all (myself included) preconceived notions about people based on past experiences. You are right. Tony is the only one who really knows and he is the one who will have to live with it.

  5. Welcome back, I took a little break too! Your post could have been me saying the same thing. I always try to find a positive out of everything...even tragedies such as this...so I hope that one lesson we all learn is to recognize if our anger may cause injury to others...even if the intent is not there. How often do we not filter some of our words...and cause hurt? I have no clue as to what really happened...and I agree...Tony Stewart is the only one who really knows...and from this accident (as I don't think there was any intent of harm), maybe he will get help in how to control his anger. Jackiehttp://familytrove.blogspot.com/

  6. It's something to think about also that our actions tell others who we are, tough to make people see us differently. What a sad thing for all. Good to apply it to our challenges!

  7. I am glad you are back. And with such a thoughtful post.

  8. You've made a meaningful connection from school to the real world. Something for us to all think about.

    Welcome back, Leigh Anne.

  9. So very thoughtful of you to point out that there is always more than one side to any situation. Your point of view is so critical to understanding this complicated life event.

  10. I joining the chorus of slicers welcoming you back no matter how long you've been gone. You will always be welcomed back. And thanks for your thoughtful post about Tony Stewart and lessons to be learned.
    Have a great year :)

  11. I was interested to see how you would parallel this incident with teaching, Leigh Anne. You made a very poignant connection! I think it is important for us to teach our children and students how their actions have consequences, sometimes bad and sometimes good. Whether Stewart intended to hit the driver or not (I choose to believe he would never intentionally strike someone down), he does have to live with the consequence of his choices.

  12. Leigh Anne, so glad your back slicing! Your voice was missed, but what a way to come back with this thought provoking piece. You are spot on when you connect the two scenarios. How many times have I assumed guilty? Thanks for the reminder and I'm glad you are back! Hope the beginning of your school year -- junior high!?! -- is going great!!!

  13. I read this piece aloud to my husband (an avid sports fan) and before I even reached the connection to the race car incident - he said "That's sounds like what happened to Tony Stewart". This is an EXCELLENT piece of writing, Leigh Anne and such an important one for all of us to read. I have passed it along to several of my teacher and principal friends. Great to have you back and thank you for this important reminder.

  14. Thought-provoking slice, Leigh Anne! So often we do let our preconceived notions about someone color our reading of a situation. Your post is an important reminder to look beyond the different labels our students may come into our classrooms with and to try to judge each situation as it arises.

  15. The bully still hit the other child so I don't get your connection about labeling the bully before you know what happened. The bully from what you wrote has admitted that he has hit the other child it does not matter if he intended to hurt the other child or not.

    The bully has to face the consequences of his/her actions. To let the bully get away with their actions because the victim is to injured to defend themselves is just as wrong. In fact it reinforces the bullies belief that he/she can get away with their bullying.

    Now lets say the play ground has video watching over the children, and that video reviles the bully did knock the other child down, and it shows the other child shaking his/her finger at the bully who than hits the other child hurting them.

    Now let fast forward to the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident, Tony Stewart has a past history of on track rage and has followed through with his threats in the past to wreck other drivers.

    Here Tony Stewart causes Kevin Ward Jr. to crash by contact on the race track, Kevin Ward Jr. while not a smart thing to do gets out of his wrecked racecar and shakes his fist at Tony Stewart was Tony Stewart approached him under the yellow caution flag. Tony Stewart see Kevin Ward Jr. shaking his fist at him and his anger rages so he makes a split second decision to accelerate and buzz/spray dirt on Kevin Ward Jr. to teach him a lesson as he is going by only Tony Stewart misjudges and hits Kevin Ward Jr. with his right rear tire instead resulting in Kevin Ward Jr.'s death.

    We know that the bully/Tony Stewart did not mean to hurt or kill Kevin Ward Jr. but his actions were negligent by his use of his 1,300 pound 950 horse power racecar to send that message and he had a complete disregard for the safety of Kevin Ward Jr.

    We also know that the bully/Tony Stewart has a history of angry behavior from 1999 all the way up to 2013. We know the bully/Tony Stewart had to sit out the second half of the 2013 season because of injury so he had no other incidents of bullying for that year. Now we are in 2014 and the bully/Tony Stewart once again is involved in another incident only this time victim of his bullying has been killed.

    Has the bully in this case finally stepped over the line because in the past his bullying was not dealt with in an effective manner and only reinforced the bully's belief that they could keep getting way with it?