Standards

Teachers today are held accountable for a wide variety of standards.  What other industries/professions adhere to standards?  Why?  Share your own experiences if you can.

When I worked as a trader and trading manager there was a complex web of rules and regulations that governed behavior. There was core licensing. For me, passing a Series 7 and Series 63 (for supervisors) was required by the SEC. The companies I worked for reported a variety of things regularly, some daily. All of these needed to be monitored and kept in compliance. There were clear rules about interactions with customers and other counterparties; what was allowed, what was not. There were also rating agency standards of things like transactions volume and balance sheet usage.

Looking back on it, I have many thoughts, particularly as I contrast that experience to that of a teacher. One is that it is frequently somebody else’s job to monitor, track and document adherence to standards. It is not the day to day experience of a trader to be working to standards in the foreground. However, standards are a major presence in the background, informing everything that is done. For teachers, it would seem that there are specific curriculum standards which frame in a very powerful way certain foreground and background aspects of each day.

Both kinds of standards (background/foreground) pose challenges for me. I have a strong tendency to be goal directed to an extreme and to be inpatient of obstacles to that goal. This is particularly true if I have been given a task and a method to accomplish that task but I feel the method is sub-optimal.

I already see myself in conflict with the first grade math curriculum. The folks who wrote Amelia’s math curriculum have a curious inclination towards breaking the children’s confidence with what they have learned while not giving them intellectual, emotional support for the higher level of learning that is intended. As an example, almost all of the children are comfortably doing addition facts with numbers 1 to 10. So the curriculum now introduces ‘doubles + 1’ and it’s no longer good enough to do 3+2=5. Now the kids need to know 3+2 = 2+2+1 = 5. I applaud the idea that they are being exposed to multiple strategies and multiple ways to look at number sets. But many kids find this mostly confusing and slightly disheartening in the absence of a larger context of why doing 2+3 is fine AND there are other ways to get to the same place. I find myself in conflict with this aspect of the curriculum and wrestle with how far to deviate from ‘the standard’ in the day to day teaching (of course with the same end goal of accomplishing a certain set of learning over the year).
Fortunately, as of today I have limited or no responsibility for complying with standards. I have much to learn in how to balance the obvious wisdom and safety of strict adherence to the letter of the standards with a more flexible approach based on the welfare of the children and the ultimate goals of the standards. I tend to live at both extremes (not enough respect for the collective wisdom of apparently arbitrary rules versus overly strict compliance to obviously flawed minutia). This is particularly tricky for me because my mind tends to think in ‘systems’ and standards are simply a ‘system’ designed to accomplish certain narrow outcomes. The standards for Wall Street (regulatory and rating agency driven) were all designed to protect the clients and ensure financial stability of the regulated companies. We have all seen how well those particular standards worked in accomplishing those goals. None the less, my intention is to develop more capacity to find creativity and wisdom but to work closely in the context of external standards.

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