More on Standards

I have been considering your post for several days, wondering if I should post the questions it raises for me. Marvin’s post on military standards snapped the issue into focus for me. This is also an extension of the discussion from earlier this week.

My learning style is independent and I am a global thinker. I jump conceptually rather than following a string of facts. This does not make me an ideal candidate for operating in a tightly standardized environment, at least in terms of tight adherence to standards. As I said to Scot, my natural inclination is to follow the intent of the standards rather than the letter.

Even if I try to force myself to tightly adhere to standards, it doesn’t work for me. One example that comes to mind: I was nearly killed skydiving when I had a particular malfunction and decided to adhere to the letter of my training rather than the common sense of the situation. Because I didn’t fully understand the ‘why’ of the instruction, I didn’t have the ability to understand that in that particular situation, following my training was acutely dangerous.

Myers-Briggs would have it that there are four groups of four specific personality types. At least one of those four groups is particularly suited to standards-based environments. People in that group are frequently found in teaching, the military, law enforcement, emergency services and a host of other, similar, professions. They are the backbone of society. My best friend took the test and discovered that he was of this group and it made perfect sense to him. He fights wildfires in Alaska.

I am most definitely not. My personality is great at expanding on something, finding new ways to do old things and finding the shortest distance between two points (figuratively). Routine is torture for me. Even in tennis, I will be happily cruising along in a match and then out of the blue I ‘try something different’ and the wheels fall off. My need for stimulation exceeds my need to win, apparently.

We are all wired the way we are wired and recognizing this can allow me to find ways to harness the strengths of this style while being alert to the pitfalls. I too expect that my classroom will operate under clear standards. One of those standards will be “Sometimes we don’t follow the standards”. As I said to Scot, that’s a trickier road to follow. But I take heart in several factors. One, I’m not the only person who is wired this way. Some of my kids will need the flexibility just as much as I do. Two, I am acutely aware of my difference from the norm and the peril of straying from the defined path. Three, this is the way I’m designed to operate.

This is not to say I am a loose cannon. I operated successfully in organizational environments for the full 20 years of my previous career. I will cleave to the standards where necessary and self-correct along the way. But it is critical that I understand this tension and continue to explore it as my education progresses. I feel strongly that this will be an ongoing challenge for me but it will also be the very heart of who I will be as a teacher, the very heart of whatever success I am lucky enough to have.

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