On ducks and peer pressure

The school I teach at: Two days ago, a gaggle of seniors engaged in the time-honored tradition of The Senior Prank.   Police officers then engaged in the time-honored job of catching them.  The principal engaged in the time honored tradition of suspending them.  In my opinion, every body pretty much did what they were supposed to do. 

The kids were kids, the police did their best to cut down on mischief, the principal did his best to mantain safety, order, and compliance in “his” school.

A few more specifics: There is a small pond outside the school.  The students apparently had thousands of rubber ducks.  The plan was to populate the pond, I guess.  They all ran off when the officers arrived.  A k9 unit flushed several of them out.  The suspension was 5 days, barring the kids from the end-of-the year activities.  The kids were not arrested but it appears they’ll have to explain themselves to a judge.

The student body pretty much did its job.  They found a cause and (pardon the pun) flocked to it.  In an astounding show of unity and organization, a staggering number of them came dressed in yellow today as a show of unity with the mallards at the root of the whole thing.  Many of them wore specially designed shirts with slogans like “What the duck” and “you have got to be ducking kidding me” or “free ____” (Where ____ is one of the caught kids names… Since ____ is free, I’m a little unclear about the meaning of that one.)  They had duck buttons, duck stickers, duck pictures taped to them…

Again, everything I’ve reported thus far is not anything I really have a problem with.  Everybody pretty much did what they were supposed to do.

My problem is that over half my co-workers wore yellow, sported buttons, and all the rest.

Because I work with emotionally disturbed adolescents, I am keenly aware of the importance of mantaining boundaries between myself and the kids.  This does not mean that I dislike them, don’t interact with them, etc.  But it does mean I constantly mantain a mindfulness that they are students and I am a teacher.

Because I have worked in places that were a bit dangerous and always hovered on the edge of quite dangerous, I feel strongly about mantaining a united front with the other adults, unless the other adults are quite clearly engaging in abuse or neglect.  Behind closed doors I am all for yelling, screaming, and fighting for the kids.  But when the kids are watching, I am determined to support my colleauges and I expect that in return.

Maybe my experiences aren’t helpful preparation for where I am now.  But this isn’t really the point.  My point isn’t so much about my disagreement with other people.  It’s about my feelings about myself.

Because what happened is I found that two groups had been created, among the faculty.  I found myself being measured up, assessed by everyone I was meeting.  Was I wearing yellow?  Did I have a duck button?  What’s worse is I found myself doing that same thing: looking around wherever I went, to see where everybody around me stood.

And it’s not about the principal of the school.  It’s about the principle of the matter.

I had concocted this rather absurd fear that somebody was going to offer me a button or a feather or something to wear.  I was afraid I was going to be put on the spot.

I am not proud of my fear.

This is all hard on me because, despite what this post might imply, I am not a rule follower.  I hate being “that guy” I want to be on the forefront of the protest, I want to be fighting for the opressed and down trodden, I get itchy at the idea that I might actually be part of the establishment.

Even before I was a Christian I got half the truth: Jesus is not a convervative (in the American Political sense) He’s not a Republican.  

I’m struggling a lot more with the other half the truth.  He is not a liberal, either.  (In the American Political Sense.) He’s not a member of either the Green or Democratic parties.

It cost me a little something to follow Jesus today.  I had this oppurtunity to take up my cross and follow him.  In this little tiny way I did it.   I wish it came with a warm and fuzzy joy. 

This post was submitted to Watercooler Wednesday, a weekly blog carnival.  Click on this link and get in on the action.  You know you want to, and all the cool kids are doing it.



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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

7 thoughts on “On ducks and peer pressure”

  1. Maybe Jesus was a radical socialist who was all about fighting the power and knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism. I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism is just as bad an idea as knee-jerk “authorities are always right.” In this case, I certainly believe that you did the right thing. While the authorities may have gone too far in this case, it is not so clear that the teachers should have engaged in this protest.

    On a related note, it is so important that parents present a united front so their kids (particularly teenagers) can’t get a wedge in. Even if you think your spouse is 100% dead wrong, you should not voice this in front of your children.


  2. I’m so totally shaking my head…sigh. You are such an old fart.(grin!) Truth is, every single day comparisons are made, lines are drawn, and adults make the same separations/definitions that kids do. Right under your nose at church – “mmm, look, so and so is wearing the same exact shirt for the third sunday in a row!” or “mmm, wow, how can I get a brown tshirt like those other people are wearing”. I realize you are really talking about “rules” here, and about obedience and about your feelings related to those things. But surely Jesus had a sense of humor: seriously! Can you imagine how he giggled a little inside when he raised Lazarus and saw other peoples reactions? There, late at night, under the starlit sky, he probably shared a huge chuckle with God. Rules are for a reason, and being a good example is important, but dude, this is high school seniors putting fake ducks in a pond and wearing funny tshirts. Can’t you see your #3 doing that as a senior? Can’t you see him being the instigator? I want my kids’ teachers to draw lines and to instill a sense of respect, and part of my job as a parent is encouraging that. We respect them because they are human, because they are working, because they are giving, just because. I know as a parent I have to demand respect from my kids and when they don’t give it, my spouse steps in. And I’ve stepped in when I thought the kids were disrespectful to him as well… but why did you feel that not wearing yellow was so important? Why did you feel that it was a personal battle about following Christ? In reading and re-reading your post, I’m not sure I can really understand the “principle” that you are holding up. Is it that you didn’t want to support a rule breaking event because you needed to maintain stature as a teacher, as a Christian, as a Christian Teacher? Is it that you didn’t want to cave to the desire to ‘be like everyone else’? Is it that you thought it was blurring the lines between authority and non-authority? I want to hear more about this! I’ll have to tell you about the time #1 got 5 detentions at once and how we laughed at her and joked about it for weeks…even though we made her comply with it.


  3. Andrew:
    Thanks for your observations. You’re right, there are some paralells here to parents being on the same page with each other in front of the kids.

    It seems like I wasn’t very clear.
    I totally agree that Jesus and God shared a chuckle over the ducks. I also agree that my #3 is highly likely to engage in this sort of thing. I’m not sure I’d even stop him. I’d just expect him to pay the consequences if caught, and I think I would have issues if the police came and he ran from them. It seems to me the whole point of a prank is it that it’s unwanted, that it’ll cause a bit of trouble if you’re caught. So it seems to me that if you get caught you ought to be ready to pay the piper.
    In this instance, I think the kids did what kids are supposed to do. A select few were involved in the prank. Nearly the whole student body protested the reaction… Which I think is also fine.
    But the teachers are the ones I have a small issue with. I’m working at proclaiming at what I see is a truth without seeming judgemental. Bottom line: I don’t think they should be engaged in the protest. If they take issue with the principal’s actions I think they ought to do so in private.
    But my much wider issue is really with myself. I’m disapointed that it’s so hard on me not to be one of the cool kids. I’m disapointed in myself that it’s so easy to get into divisions.
    The principle at work here, I guess, is that I think there ought to be boundaries between teachers and students. We can be friendly toward them, but we aren’t there friends. It’s a set-up for everybody to hang out with them in one breath and then grade them in the next breath.
    This is probably more crucial with my population than most teacher’s students. My background probably beat the importance of this into my head more than most backgrounds did. Possibly, my judgement of the others for this reason isn’t even fair.
    But seeing that I’m currently thinking that I do have this one right, my judgements toward myself stand regardless: if I think I’m right it ought to be easier for me to stand on this truth.
    Does that make sense?
    Thanks for your thoughts and questions.


  4. Not to be glib (though that seems to be the kind of comment I most often post, because I’m lazy . . . ), but:

    “Warm and fuzzy”–like . . . a duck?


  5. First of all, it actually took me a minute to catch on to the “put it on your bill” and so I actually typed a few words and then my brain caught up with the coffee and I started giggling. Not often can I actually giggle before 8 am, so thanks!
    When I went back and reread your post after reading your reply, I totally got it. All along, I had missed the “protest” part of it. I didn’t realize that the teachers were supporting the student body in protesting the consequences of the actions. I thought the teachers were supporting the silly prank itself. So, now I’m in total agreement with you. My #1 got 5 detentions once, for using a study hall pass to go to the library instead of the actual unmonitored loud and noisy cafeteria. We all thought it was stupid and funny, but as her parents we made her do her detentions. Yes, if you are authority, BE authority. Support authority. It does go back to being obedient to God in being obedient to our community/culture etc as long as it doesn’t cause us to separate from Him. It does indeed sound like you made the right choice… I’m sorry for the “old fart” comment…hope it didn’t ruffle your feathers any!


  6. Ruffled feathers… I actually missed yours at first, too.
    And I think that if you happen to be the sort of guy who, while standing behind an “old” friend in line, chuckles at the grey hairs of said “old” friend, you pretty much lose the right to complain when this person makes old fart comments right back at you.

    That’s all just a theory though.


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