Compliance vs. Consistency

In education, and in many fields, we often talk about the importance of being consistent: in our instruction, our responses, our methodology, and our communication. In my opinion, consistency is very important. It provides structure, predictability, and clarity around expectations.

Often times, however, I believe that we mistake consistency for compliance. It isn’t important only that we teach the same standards to their full extent; we should also teach it exactly the same way that the classroom next to us does. We shouldn’t only make sure we provide balanced literacy instruction using a mixture of large and small group approaches; we should use the exact same lesson plans as every other teacher does to do this, and we should read those plans word for word. It isn’t adequate that we observe students as they learn and adjust our instruction in response to them; we must be observed writing down what we see them doing.

I have often been that our compliance with every detail of a school or district’s approach is so that anyone, anywhere could take over and do our job for us, just reading on from where we left off, if it became necessary. Does that become necessary often? In my experience, the answer is no.

If we are just reading from plans, why do districts spend time or money recruiting experienced and/or highly qualified teachers? Why should some schools perform differently than others? Why should we worry about whether or not a teacher builds relationships with his or her students?

To me, taking a compliance-based approach to managing our teachers is both defeating and hypocritical. We give students multiple ways to demonstrate their understanding. But teachers only get one. We value diverse perspectives and ideologies in our students. But not in our teachers. We coach and educate students by moving them from where they are forward. But teachers all move along the same track. If this methodology doesn’t work for our students, then why would it work for our teachers?

I hope that we will take the time to reflect on our understanding of consistency and that we will learn to differentiate it from compliance.

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