Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Nature of the Beast

I've talked to a few colleagues about my last post, and it seems like how we feel about whether or not our peers are held accountable for their breaches of rules and expectations is a litmus test of sorts. Why do we care if what they are doing doesn't impact us? If we knew they were stealing or cheating on their taxes, would it make us do that, too? For some people, the answer to that last question is, "Yes." They follow rules in order to avoid the consequences associated with breaking them.

I want to believe that I follow the rules because I think it's usually the right thing to do. Even so, when I consider my colleagues who bend the rules, for example, by taking time off without leave, I wonder if I were in a situation where I didn't have much leave, but I needed the time and my full paycheck, too, if I would be tempted to get unofficial coverage and skip out to take care of my unavoidable personal business.

I also admit that I don't adhere to every policy to the letter. I'm often late in the morning (but always there before the students), and I feel like I make up for it after school. I'm also lax with the text book expectations from central office, because I want my students to have more choice in their reading and writing. I can usually justify my infractions. I'll bet most people can.

Over the years, I've given my students a lot of writing prompts, and some of them are even relevant to this issue. There's the classic, If you could make a law what would it be and why? Another good one is, Why do we have rules? But the most revealing might be, What would you do if you knew you could get away with it?

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