146. Doing It Your Way

I got some immediate and helpful feedback about my previous article, “Doing It Their Way.” A friend suggested that I write an article examining strategies for keeping integrity and living and teaching in a way that doesn’t seriously conflict with your strongly held convictions. That’s a tall order, but since I think I’ve already written several articles in which I ask you to remember that I’m not always giving answers – sometimes simply underscoring old questions – I will take the plunge into this question.
The first step (as I see it) is to choose your battles. Figure out which of your convictions you feel strongly enough to stick with them. Figure out, also, which causes seem likely to bring you some desired results. This doesn’t necessarily mean dispensing with lost causes; when dedicated people hang in there because they believe in what they’re doing, impossible things can happen. But it’s useful, as you struggle, to know what seem to be your chances for success. The knowledge can either strengthen your resolve or, when necessary, help you take another look at your convictions.
Another element is timing. If you’re at a meeting where people are discussing the format for report cards, trying to figure out where to put effort grades, or whether to even include effort grades, that may not be the best time to say, “I don’t think we should have report cards.” It’s a judgment call; maybe that’s precisely the right time to say it. You have to consider who you’re
dealing with – who’s likely to back you up, who’s been working on report card formats for five years, who swears by report cards, who has power and influence, how much power and influence you have (you may have more than you know). Consider, also, how important it is to you to keep your job, and whether that’s even an issue. Perhaps you only want to work in an atmosphere where you can be true to yourself. Maybe the security and comfort of a stable job are less important to you (and the people who depend on you, if there are any) than your principles. And examine the extent to which there’s real danger of losing your job. I used to oppose tenure, because I thought it protected the status quo and put young rebels in jeopardy. I still question the concept of tenure, but it does also protect people, once they get it, from being fired for standing up and speaking out.
I don’t remember a specific moment when people started taking my thoughts and utterances seriously. I can’t zero in on that moment because I can’t read minds. Some may have been taking me seriously all along, and I just needed to catch up with them – learn to believe in myself. But wherever you are in that struggle, please consider the possibility that your two cents are worth a lot more than two cents – that you may have a good idea, and doing it your way may set things right.

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