Unwritten Laws

I recently asked my TechLab students to ponder unwritten laws. This writing prompt came from a book I have called  Caffeine for the Creative Brain by Stefan Mumaw. I refer back to the book on various occasions when I need to jump start my creativity or spark an idea. It’s really geared toward the marketing profession, but I’ve found a lot of use for it in education, too.

Pondering the unwritten rules in my circle, I’m reminded of daycare days at Children’s Corner. Both kids were sticklers for the unwritten laws of the playground:

  • if you didn’t make it, don’t break it (particularly useful in the sandbox, where the temptation to smash someone’s sand sculpture is often times unbearable)
  • hands are not for hurting
  • bathroom words are for the bathroom

I’ve developed my own set of unwritten laws pertaining to my role as a parent. For instance, when my kids were little and acting unkindly with their playmates, I would take them into a private area to reprimand or redirect. As they get older, I make it a point not to point out flaws or dole out reprimands in front of their friends (I save that torture for when we’re alone); unless there is imminent danger involved. Then all bets for saving their little psyches are off. I try (but am not always successful) to acknowledge goodness before flaws. As a daily dinner table ritual we share something good that happened to someone else, and something we did that was helpful or good for someone else…unwritten law: always look for the good (sometimes we have to actively seek it out).

My unwritten professional rules include never using anyone as a derogatory example in my teaching (to both students & faculty) and understanding that while everyone might be on the same road, we’re not all driving the same speed (and often times we’re in different vehicles). As an Academic Technologist I recognize that the majority of technical problems presented to me aren’t really technical in nature at all. Unwritten rule: make people feel good about the tools they have/use (and see value in them) and the people will attempt to use them more.

Other unwritten laws I’ve encountered:

  • wherever one sits during the first week of class, is probably where that person will sit for the remainder of the semester
  • certain tables or areas of the caf are connected to certain social groups.
  • conversations in the locker room after noon workouts are limited to the work out, how the work out will affect our bodies the next day or a subject closely related
  • when meeting an acquaintance in the grocery store, we never comment on the contents of each other’s carts
  • when entering any public restroom, if the option exists to put an empty stall between yourself and an occupied stall, do it.
  • when taking an escalator, stand on the right and let people walk on the left (please, people…do this!)
  • in a communal kitchen, wash your dishes.

2 thoughts on “Unwritten Laws

  1. People in like (but unique) vehicles give “the wave. VWs, Harley Davidsons, old Ford Fairlanes–when they pass one another, their hand barely leaves the steering wheel or handlebars, but there is definitely a wave of recognition.

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