30 August 2013

Complacency Makes Me Cringe

 Complacency has been on my mind this week because of the number of times I have interacted with complacent people or heard mention of it by others, and it makes me cringe. As any English teacher would do,  I looked up the word in the dictionary for more careful consideration of what I would write about it.  Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines complacency as "a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder."

When I started this post several hours ago, it started as a rant about complacency in the workplace, but as I continued to muse on the topic, I realized I had to discuss the more serious issues of complacency we heard this week at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.  (a speech I always enjoyed reading and analyzing with my students)

All across twitter on Wednesday we saw people share their own #Ihaveadream ideas, and many people in education shared dreams of learning opportunities for all, learning opportunities based on more innovative ideas, opportunities to never stop learning.  So, when I also encountered numerous statements indicative of an attidude of complacency, I cringed.

"That innovation stuff just isn't me; I'm more of a traditional gal."
 So, listen, I have nothing against tradition.  In fact, there are many traditions I respect and some for which I feel nostalgic, especially in relation to classic literature, art, and music.  Believe me, I enjoy my share of the classics.  However,  I cringe when I encounter people who refuse to consider a new approach anything--learning, teaching, creating presentations.  I've even heard--"I've been teaching over a decade; I know how to lecture and teach writing" or "I earned a degree in this field years ago, so I know how to plan for a presentation."  As if presentation styles haven't changed in twenty years?  Seriously?

Consider the person who says--"I can't work too hard because I'm a single parent, and my child requires my attention."  To not even try harder is unacceptable to me; it makes the rest of us have to work even harder, and even if we enjoy what we do, it's cringe worthy to be associated (by default) with a lack of effort.  I work in the field of education, so all adults should be modeling for students the diligence, determination, persistence, and hard work we expect of children and teens.

Forever glued in my mind is a statement of a former co-worker who rarely did any work outside work hours.   "I don't have much work to do at home, but I do carry the problems of students home in my heart."  To be sure, complacency or perceived laziness or lack of interest is a downer at work, and it even hinders the organization for which you work.

Nonetheless, there are other even more serious reasons to avoid complacency.  Consider what we heard this week from President Obama at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  "They did not die in vain, Their victory was great.  But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.  The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own.  To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency."

at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial April 2013

Indeed, there is much work to be accomplished in this world--in our lifetime.  For the sake of equality for all people, for the sake of children who deserve an opportunity to learn, for the sake of those who have gone before us.  We must not be complacent in efforts to make a difference.