624: Standards and Expectations

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Organizations of people (schools, businesses, etc.) have expectations for their members. Many of those groups have codified those expectations into standards which are actually written down and distributed, to be sure that everyone who is a member (employee) of that group is on the same page, regardless of what is accepted behavior for them outside of their participation in that group, at home, or in other aspects of their lives.

This is completely aside from those professions whose expectations bleed over into private life, like teachers and politicians, to name just two. There, the expectations of professional life are also expected (by the public) to be scrupulously observed in one’s private life, too – despite the freedom enjoyed by others who are able to behave as they see fit outside of work hours. Still, that is a rant for another place and time.

This particular diatribe is for organizations which publish and distribute their expectations and professional standards for their members, in this particular case employees, and then deliberately flout them.

See, professional standards are written down so that there is a clear understanding of what is expected of an employee, regardless of upbringing, culture, or previous practice. Generally, these correspond to a visual and behavioral image the company wants to portray to their “customers.” This includes such common things as what is considered to be professional dress for that workplace, not being under the influence of intoxicating substances while on the job, and others.

Frankly, I don’t care what aspects of professional behavior a company feels important enough to commit to paper, but it they ARE important enough to commit to paper, they need to be followed and enforced. If they are not that important, don’t write them down as rules to follow and distribute that information to everyone. Common sense – which isn’t actually very common (another rant, another time and place).

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Well. The bee in my bonnet today is over the professional dress. It is explained in our employee handbook that employees are expected to dress in a manner which reflects good taste and a professional appearance. This is so that a teacher or other employee LOOKS like a professional to be respected – someone with authority – whether they actually HAVE any authority or not (that, too, is yet another rant for another time and place). So, wearing denim jeans are prohibited, because jeans don’t project that “professional” aura about their wearer to the “customer.” OK. Message received.

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Then, we are instructed: Wearing jeans is prohibited except for Fridays (if worn with a school spirit shirt) or other specified days. Wait a minute. Jeans are prohibited because they are not professional, but you can wear them every Friday if you pair them with a school/company logo-imprinted T-shirt. So, if that Friday clothing is considered professional enough for every week, what’s wrong with being comfortable Monday through Thursday in a pair of blue jeans and a school logo T-shirt, too? Or, is it that you are only allowed to be unprofessional in front of your customers (in this case, parents and students) on Fridays? Does that extend not only to dress, but all those other professional standards, too, where all those other things are prohibited (in writing) that might also make you more comfortable at work? How about a tension-relieving shot of Jack Daniel’s? Why wouldn’t that make the work place more tolerable and comfortable, too? Heck, how about a NAP? There’s actually some research to back that one up for improved employee performance on the job. Other comfortable (and questionable) things come to mind…….

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And, what about those other ‘specified’ days? At my work place, we were just given an ENTIRE WEEK to wear our jeans – and nothing was ‘specified’ about the school logo T-shirt this time. Does that rule still apply, or does that mean all bets are off on the chosen topper for those jeans?

I do understand about giving employees a treat (especially a treat that costs the management not a single penny), and has it crossed their minds that not everyone considers being allowed to wear jeans, contrary to the published dress code policy, to actually be a treat? Apparently not.

So, you are thinking, jeepers, lady – just don’t wear jeans, and shut up. OK. I suppose I can be pleased that we were given the opportunity to show up to work looking unprofessional, not the REQUIREMENT to do so.

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421: Uncertain

An artist is supposed to be the authority on a work of art they create, insofar as to what it means, or reflects, or is supposed to represent. Artists are not necessarily the best authorities on their own work when it comes to value, or even if the piece is a good one. However, they are supposed to be the one who knows the meaning behind the piece – the inspiration.

Well. Sort of.

Sometimes, when one of us (read, ME) gets through with a piece, we are as flabbergasted with what we see as anyone else looking at it. Is that a reflection of being “in the moment” when the thing was under construction, or is it a reflection of absolute schizophrenia? Not too sure I want to inspect that too closely, either.

This piece is one of those.

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I am not sure if it is guilt, or sorrow. Regret, sorrow even, surely, but guilt?  Where did that come from? What is going on here, and is it something I want to reflect upon, or do I just go with what I see….and let the analysis fall where it may?

 

221: Insolence

I teach school, grades pre-K (4 year olds) to 12th grade (17-19 year olds). I am no stranger to insolence. Yeah, I remember back in the dark ages when I was a teenager and knew everything worth knowing, and my teacher mom was an idiot, an old fuddy-duddy, she was plain uncool and just not with it. It still amazes me how much smarter she got in the few years it took me to reach the advanced age of 21.

Still, being confronted with teen-aged insolence still manages to raise the short hairs on the back of my neck. Anybody who has seen a snarling cat or dog who has THEIR fur ruffled and fluffed up with the adrenaline rush of fury knows full well the sensation of your own fur raising, prickling at the back of your neck. It is a glorious rush of feeling I now recognize and understand, and have learned to control (most of the time), so that I don’t actually kill people. What it does now is get my mental wheels turning, weighing options as to how best to address this child who has challenged me.

Most of my students will tell you that I am a very easy-going teacher, slow to anger, and willing to provide a second chance to correct a mistake. However, like when I was raising my own children (not the children of others I am raising five days a week in my classroom), I have learned that the motivation is the primary determinant of whether to offer a second chance, or whether to stomp them into the dirt instead.

People make mistakes. Mistakes are unintentional, and we learn from them. Mistakes are not things we punish people for, unless the mistake becomes a lazy habit, and there is no correction after multiple reminders. Most of the time, it can be clearly seen that the problem was a mistake. Sometimes, though…..

Sometimes, it is not a mistake. Sometimes the child flops his big, hairy toe over the line you have just drawn in the sand, and dares you to do something about it. When that happens, you must address it, and without hesitation or delay. There is a reason God made you bigger than your children. It is so that you as their parent can gain the upper hand of authority when they are small, and then gradually transfer to them adult freedoms and responsibilities as they age and it is appropriate to do so. When done properly, you have few problems as they grow larger and more autonomous.

When not done properly, you have my students – who raise the short hairs on the back of my neck.