Education Opinion

Following Directions Is Hard, When You’re a Natural Rule-Breaker

By Starr Sackstein — May 16, 2019 3 min read
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As an adolescent student hell-bent on being perfect, I compliantly followed rules in order to game the system and please my teachers who I respected very much.

Despite my need to appear perfect, there were certain idiosyncrasies in my personality that still showed the early seeds of my need to bend rules to make them work for me.

As a joke, I often say my teaching superpower is navigating and exploiting loopholes to get my students what they need, but in real life, I think my natural inclination is to break rules; not just for the sake of breaking them, but because I have a difficult time doing things that don’t align with my personal vision and philosophy about life.

The older I have gotten, the harder it has become probably because it has taken me all of this time to really know what I’m all about.

Needless to say, this is coming up at a particularly challenging time in my life. Recently, I’ve had to take care of some health issues, which has required me to rest more and take care of myself in a way I’m not comfortable doing.

So what does this all have to do with education, you ask?

A lot of times we say that kids and/or teachers need to comply by following directions, but we often don’t see the hypocrisy in our requests. Honestly, although I’m good at doing what needs to be done, I’m extremely particular about doing it in a way that works for me. As long as no one is telling me HOW to do something, I can usually find a way to make every situation OK.

Although I do believe that order, to some degree, is essential, I think that we often try to control people a little too much. If we teach students the skills to behave appropriately and are clear in our expectations, why can’t a learner determine the way that best suits him or her to show what they know?

Perhaps I’m waxing philosophical right now because I’m terrified of being out of commission for more than a couple of days, but honestly, I know the doctors, like teachers, tell us what to do because it will help us heal/learn faster, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging to comply.

So how can a natural rule-breaker get in step with the necessary care directions being provided?

For now, I’m going to think of the break as a way to give myself time to heal and to really think about what is important. Often, I joke with my husband, who meditates every day and practices mindfulness in all that he does, that I do these kinds of things in my own way. But the truth is, I have a very hard time sitting still. My mind races, and I have a hard time shutting off.

Until now, these things have served me well in terms of ambition and career goals, but they don’t always serve me personally. Instead of giving in to the fear I have about the recuperation time, I’m going to look at it as an opportunity. This chance to follow the directions of my doctor and to heal faster or just in the way my body needs.

At 41, I may be able to convince myself that slowing down is a good thing. Time to rest. Time to think. Time to meditate. Time to reprioritize.

Needless to say, after the ceaseless movement of years, right now my life feels like it is coming to a halt for a short period of time. I’d like to say that I’ll have a lot of time to read, but folks have told me that isn’t restful. Maybe I will get better at sleeping during the day and the mental holiday I will be on will be refreshing.

How can we make the rules more flexible to meet the needs of our most challenging learners? Or how can we try to reframe situations so our challenging learners don’t feel like they need to compromise their beliefs? Please share

Picture made using Pablo.com

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.