Conforming to Negativity

I was reading The Art of Non-Conformity blog this morning and it got me to thinking (I know a dangerous thing to do) about how in reality I am very much a conformist, just like many other teachers. I talk and say how I want to change things or that I want to do this or that, I might even think about how I would like to do things differently.The truth is that I tend to go along with what other people tell me I should do most of the time. Once in a while I might surprise myself and others, but really not all that often, I tend to stay between the lines and conform.

While I was growing up conformity was an expectation at home and at school, we were not expected to “stand out”, speak up too much and if we did or tried to, we were “taught” to get back to our “place”. I learned to stay under the radar, be successful enough, but not too much, so you didn’t get knocked back down with well aimed comments or worse, from peers and adults who would all too often, do what they thought was necessary for you to stay where you “belonged”.
When I went in the military immediately after high school, it was a place where conformity is a job requirement and the lessons I had learned in school served me well. In the military everyone had their place in the pecking order and it only was when you tried to go outside “the book” or above/below your pay grade that it caused problems. I quickly learned that those who stood out or were different, had a much more difficult time being successful or got quickly cut down to size by the system.
This meant that I learned to let someone else be the lightning rod and either garner the glory or suffer the consequences, while I was protected in my ability to do a good job in relatively obscurity.
Our present education system requires conformity of its educators and punishes or gets rid of those who do not conform to the system. There are many stated and unstated (but understood) assumptions from your peers, parents and administrators, that most educators must adhere to in order to remain a part of the education system. I don’t believe there are that many teachers who are “rebels with or without a cause” that remain teachers, without learning to conform to at least the edges of acceptability in their schools. It is just too difficult and stressful to remain on the outside looking in.
If you don’t follow or attempt to go beyond or around the system, you are looked upon with suspicion at best or hostility at worst. Then it becomes a difficult work environment, in which you have to make some choices: leave, constantly battle against the system or try to do a good job, while not rocking the boat and stay just under the radar. Most go with the last one.
Our education system was designed to prepare students to conform to a world that no longer exists and as part of that system the teachers had to conform to the system as well. Unfortunately, we have continued to perpetuate this requirement to conform to those who are teaching today even though the world has changed considerably in that time.
In today’s world teachers are under attack from politicians, former business leaders, pundits and the host of others who have never taught in a classroom, our nature to conform has become a challenge not an asset. We are so used to simply doing what authority tells us, that we just do it.
Sure we grumble, moan, bitch and complain about what we have been given to do, but when push comes to shove, most of the time teachers simply batten down the hatches, do what we need to do, while the storm rages around them. Then after it is over, look around to see what kind of mess there is to clean up.
  • Isn’t that what most of us are doing today?
  • Isn’t that what they want us to do?
  • What can we do differently?

The last one is the million dollar question.

What have you done to make a difference today?