Monday, August 29, 2016

The New Policy

We are a school that wears uniforms. Like any policy or rule with punitive consequences, it is hard to enforce when a student decides to defy it. Oh there's the small, hardly noticed infractions which the school no longer fights: shoes and socks. It used to be that brown or black, standard close-toed school oxford-type shoe was required. Once in a while a pair of boots, even UGGs, showed up in the winter.

Sitting in a meeting one day discussing yet again the uniform policy, an administrator mentioned the UGG problem. He added, "Can you believe how ugly they are?"

I piped in, "Do you know how comfortable they are?"

After a few years, the brown shoe policy went by the wayside. After a few years, we were seeing red sneakers, rhinestone studded slip-ons, ruby reds and all kinds of boots. Policy changed because it was a harmless way for students to express themselves and declare some independence through bright green loafers. Then came the socks.

Honestly as a teacher, the vivid bursts of personality were quite refreshing. Students could maintain the rules with a little bit of swinging from the vines like a monkey in the wild.

Then there is hair. And beards and mustaches, and afros, and, streaks of blue, and interpretations beyond comprehension. For young men, the hair is supposed to be behind the ears and above the collar. But what if that young man can tuck his hair behind his ears and pull most of it back in a man-bun? What if the streak of magenta is underneath the regulation brown.

The worst part is being the teacher who is supposed to nail the students and write them up. For years I had a reputation of not enforcing the policy; I am so focused on teaching, communicating, and inspiring, that I didn't see, or chose not to see the little infractions.

Administration had a new idea. Let's enforce the principle of uniforms instead of the rule. Let's look at why we have uniforms.  In the new magna carta a buzzword emerged. Sacred. Education is sacred and we want to create an environment in which nothing interferes with or distracts from the sacredness of learning.

Now the question emerges among students: Is learning sacred?

We must first get to the bottom of what sacred is...and it has a lot of variety in its meaning according to how a particular student views sacred.

Three definitions for Mirriam Webster:
1.Worthy of religious worship: very holy

This doesn't work in a public school sanctioned by separation of church and state--which I am grateful for.

Definition #2: relating to religion--ditto

Definition #3: highly valued and important: deserving great respect

Learning as sacred is supported by the third definition.

But some of the students don't comply with learning as sacred.

  It's mandatory and therefore doesn't meet the description of sacred.

Yet, if you ask Malala if learning is sacred...
If you ask my grandfather who ran away from home because he wanted education instead of a position in the family business...
If you ask a woman, a black man, a native American, a Chinese, who may have been denied the opportunity to learn...
If you ask a child in Africa who doesn't have the money...
If you ask a child who walks miles, or takes an hour long bus ride...
If you ask a college student working two jobs if learning is sacred...
If you ask a teacher...