Friday, April 24, 2009

Integrity... where hast thou gone?

I remember thinking that "those adults" just didn't understand. Didn't they know how hard it was to "choose the right"? Didn't they know that "all" the other kids I knew were not only not choosing the right, but were, in some cases, actually encouraging me to do quite the opposite?Surely, if they really understood how hard it was "these days" they would not be so strict when I made a mistake.

"They have it so easy. It's not hard for adults to "choose the right" because you don't have peer pressure like I do."

That about sums up my assumption of life as an adult. And, I feel fairly confident that most of my friends at the time (and most of the children that I know now) felt/feel the same.

Over and over again, I had been told that you just decide. Make up your mind before you are met with temptation, stick with the plan and decision made, and it won't be hard for you because you won't have a choice to make. You will have already chosen. Easy.

"Hey, Dawn. Wanna cigarette?"

"No, thanks. I decided a long time ago that I'm not gonna smoke. It stinks and makes your breath and hair smell bad."

"Hey, Dawn. What do you want to drink? Try this. It's tastes really good!"

"Actually, my family has a history of alcoholism and I don't wanna go there."

"Hey, Dawn. Wanna watch this movie?"

"No. I'm "Mormon" and we don't watch rated R movies."

"Hey, Dawn. Wanna go sit in my car and talk?"

"Um... I really like you, but let's just stay here with everyone else."

So... that's what I had planned for myself as a teenager. Makes everything easy, right? Right?

No. It did not make everything easy. I had made up my mind before any of these temptations came my way. It was supposed to be easy. That's what "everyone" told me. Why, then, was it so hard?

Fast forward.

"Hey, Girls. Let's go see a movie Saturday."

"Cool. Sounds great!"

"Dawn's coming, so we can't see a rated R movie."

"Oh, that's right. OK."

"Thanks, guys. I think (insert new movie title) just opened. Let's go see that."


(Saturday comes. See movie. Come out of screening.)

"Hey... let's catch a "Super Saturday" matinee. Hahaha."

"Really? Cool. What's the other movie called?"

"It's called "Whatever We Want To Watch That's Behind One Of The Doors Before We Get To The Guy Who Checks The Tickets."



"Yea, you know... we paid almost $8 to see one movie. They charge way too much for a movie, so let's go see another one. We'll figure out which one just started and go in."

"What??? Seriously?"

"Yea. I do it all the time."

"Me too."

"I've done it before, too."

"Guys! We can't do that! That's stealing."

"Oh that's right! Dawn would never do that!"


Yes. Really. That happened to me. As an adult. And I felt bad. I felt like I was some extreme "Christian" fanatic because I wouldn't steal from a movie theater... even though my friends would have done so (all of whom claimed to be "practicing" Christians, and some even went to church with me every Sunday). Not only did I feel awkward and "dumb", they actually mocked me. Adult women were mocking another adult woman because she was willing to choose the right.

Fast forward again.

For those of you who don't know, I work at an elementary school. I am an EA (a glorified lunch lady and recess teacher, mostly).

This past week I was called into the Principal's office.

Not because of something that I had done, but because of something that I had seen.

Rewind a little now, to the Tuesday before I was called in...

While eating lunch in the staff room, we (some teachers and EAs) were discussing the WASL. Now, there are some very strict and clear rules about what you can and cannot say or do during these tests.

You are not supposed to look at any of the students' tests. You are not supposed to give them ideas. You are not supposed to remind them of things they have learned in the past. Really, you are not supposed to do anything that would help them in any way on the test. You are basically only allowed to:

Be in the room while they take the test.

Make sure no one is cheating.

Remind them to check all of their answers.

That's it.

Oh, yea... and one more thing... if you see any inconsistencies or illegal activity during the testing, you are required, by law, to report it.

Now... to be fair... some of the kids have IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans) that allow us to read the questions to them. Some have IEPs that allow us to write down the answers for them that they come up with on their own. Some have IEPs that allow us to give them more frequent breaks than other students get, etc...

However, none of the students have IEPs that allow us to "prompt" them to get an answer. None of them have IEPs that allow us to give them definitions for vocabulary that is related to what they are testing for. None of the students have IEPs that allow us to spell words for them.

We are not allowed to read any of their answers. Even when we are allowed to read the questions to them ,we are not to read their answers. Never are we to look in their books to see if they answered all of the questions. Once a student has given you their book, you are to put it away. You do not open it, and you do not give it back to them.

In reality? Many people do check to make sure that all of the questions were answered. If all of the questions are not answered, they will hand the test back to the student and tell them to take it back to their desk and finish it ("No harm done there"... right?).

Many people do check to be sure that answers are correct. They may not actually tell them the answer, but they might "remind" them of a process or something else that would help them find the correct answer (I'm not giving them the answer, just telling them that what they have is not correct. That's not too bad"... right?).

Many people do assist in giving ideas for writing. "That's good, add more, where did that take place?" (I'm not actually telling them what to write, I'm just trying to give them ideas so they can write their own story. That's not too bad either"... right?)

In a nutshell, we were talking about "turning a blind eye". One teacher had said that a student had turned in her WASL packet and then told Mrs. _______ that she hadn't answered 3 of the essay questions. Mrs. _______ was just sick about it! She knew that this student could, quite possibly, fail that portion of the WASL because she left those questions blank. However, the law clearly states (and we are given refresher courses every year) that you cannot give a student back their test once they have given it to you, so she did not give it back.

Here are some the the comments I heard at that point:

"I'd have just given it back to her!"

"No one would ever have known if you would have just given it back right then!"

"Give it back to her! It's not like you're helping her with the answers. You're just making sure she finishes it."

"I check through all of my kids' tests to make sure they didn't leave any blank. I don't allow them to turn their tests in until they have answered all of the questions."

"You know that everyone does that, right?"

"They do it all over the state, so it's not like we're giving our students an advantage."

"If we don't do it, and the other school districts do, then our students are actually at a disadvantage!"

Now... I knew that we (collectively) "turned a blind eye" to some things. I am new to this, but I knew that we "just looked the other way" or "didn't hear what was said" by some of the test administrators. That is not to say that we should have done that, or that it is right to do so, but it is something that happens.

Upon hearing these things, I said, "I know that we all turn a blind eye to some things, but how much is too much?" No answer.

I had heard something in a classroom that was absolutely against the rules (against the law, really). Might I have been trying to reach out to someone who had been through something similar? I'm not sure really. Looking back, however, I think I may have meant it rhetorically... just to get everyone to think... but still, I had received no reply. I was arguing with myself concerning what I should do. I knew that the things I had seen and heard were not OK; were not legal. But I didn't really want to be the only one who stood up and said, "Enough is enough."

That was it. It was done and the time had gone. I had said my peace... gotten it off my chest. Tuesday afternoon and all was well...

Fast Forward again... to Friday afternoon.

I got a call from the principal. She wanted to know what I had seen during the WASL. I was scared. I hemmed and hawed... I tried to explain that there were things that happened all the time that people just turned a blind eye to... that what I had seen and heard may have been going on in other classes, as well... blah, blah, blah... I didn't want to be the school snitch! I didn't want to be the "spy".

However, my boss asked me specifically what I had seen and heard concerning a certain person in a certain room.

I should have just been honest and upfront about it initially; not tried to worm my way out of answering the question. But, I could not (I would not) lie when asked outright about something in particular. Yes, I took the easy way out and tried to avoid the question. I tried to justify it because everyone else was. But I would not lie.

***Side note: Since then, I have done a lot of reflecting. I have reflected concerning evasion and justification... I am thinking that avoiding something, or justifying, is pretty much the same thing as lying. That is what I would tell my kids. That is what is right... even if it's hard... and, even if it does make my life a lot harder.***

The ramifications of what I saw and heard were not pretty. I knew that they would not be. That's why I was justifying it in the first place. I didn't want to deal with the consequences of being honest. I didn't want my to be honest to adversely affect teachers, students, and others. I just wanted to do what was right. I didn't want to have to explain myself to others. I didn't want to get anyone in trouble. In other words... I didn't want to make waves.

Fast forward to the following Monday...

Upon returning to school, I was interrogated by coworkers as to what, exactly, I had said and why I had told the Principal what I had seen. They knew that I was the one who had said something because I was the only person who had been in the room with "said teacher".

I explained that I was asked outright and specifically. I explained that I had tried to evade the question. I explained that I felt I could not lie when I was asked a specific question. That didn't seem to matter.

"I would have lied!"

"I would have said that I didn't remember."

"I would have just made up something that wasn't so bad."

Those are the responses I received. From "good", "honest" people. People that actually claim to be "good" and "honest". Most of them were people that I would have never expected to hear these things from. I was appalled by the lack of integrity in these coworkers of mine! Most of these were women that I had admired and would have gone to for advice concerning something like this. I now know that this is not an option. My decisions must always be decisions that I make between myself and God.

Why was I feeling like the bad guy? Why was I feeling like I had done something wrong? Why was I feeling like I had to explain myself to others?

I had made up my mind many, many years ago that I would be honest. That should have made this decision easy.

But it didn't!

I am an honest person. I don't lie.

Or do I?

I was willingly turning a blind eye to those things that might not have been, in the opinions of myself and others, "so bad". I was picking and choosing which rules (laws) I was willing to follow.

I must admit that there have been times that I have "been busy" because I have made sure I was busy. There have been times that I have not answered the phone when I was home... just because I knew someone wanted something from me.

What is the difference between a "small" lie (or "stretching the truth") and a big lie?

A lie is a lie.

Honesty is honesty.

If the problem is big or small... honesty is honesty.

If it's a hard choice or an easy choice... honesty is honesty.

It's easy to give back the dollar to the clerk when you've been given too much change. It's right there... it's only a dollar or two.

It's easy to not take a shirt from the store without paying for it. That would be stealing! "Good" people don't do that!

It isn't, however, easy to do what is right when you feel like the only one (or you actually are the only one) who is doing so.

I am amazed at the lack of integrity that I see these days. There are many people that don't even know what integrity is. That is so sad to me.

Unfortunately, I have noticed, within myself, that there are times that I have kept quiet about something, or have not stood up for what I thought was right. That, to me, shows a lack of integrity.

Where has integrity gone? So many claim to be people of integrity. Yet, I think most of us are people of convenient integrity.

Convenient Integrity.

Yep. That about covers it. That is what I see in the world today.

Convenient integrity.

While I still feel awkward and odd, I know that what I did was right. I would tell my children to do the same thing I did... and I am glad that I did it.

Was it easy? No.

Had I decided to be honest years and years ago? Yes.

Was it still hard? Yes. It was. Extremely difficult.

But right is right.

Honest is honest.

Good is good.

These things (what is right, what is honest, what is good) are not dependent upon my own feelings of comfort and convenience.

In the end, I am glad that my Heavenly Father is pleased with me. I know that He is (I sure wish I could see Him and hear Him tell me, though). But right now, it's a lot easier to feel what is here on earth with me... awkwardness, guilt (because someone got in trouble), embarrassment...

I now those feelings will go eventually. They are already fading.

But my Heavenly Father's love for me will not go away.

I will always find comfort in the knowledge that I chose what He would have had me choose. Even though it wasn't easy.

And that is worth it.

But don't ever mistake "being worth it" for "being easy".

They are two, very separate (and quite often, polar opposite) things.


  1. Good Job Dawn! Hard to remember sometimes that he never said it would be easy ,just worth it. Like you said when it all comes down to it, the only thing that is going to matter is when you are standing before Heavenly Father and you will know without a doubt that it was "Worth it". Worth the embarrassment, Worth the heckles, worth the sadness. Because you will be able to stand at his feet and with a very clear heart say you did your best. I love ya!

  2. Thanks, Tina.

    You know... in all of this, I never even remembered that saying. It's great. I can't believe it didn't come to my mind.

    "I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it."

  3. Bravo! Dawn you are so right that our world lacks integrity and it is very sad and unfortunate. Our children are watching us and what we do in moderation they will do in excess. It used to be valued just like a person's word was their bond. Now its really only something we choose if its "convenient" as you said. Thanks for the reminder that we need to do whats right not whats easy or popular...something our politicians and leaders desperatley need to embrace... I really respect your convictions.
    P.S. Can you make time to run for President please? You would get my vote :)
    - A gal who can save money, balance her budget is honest and does'nt sway from whats right to make points... You would have my vote!
    Sharon ( You know, over here in Texas)

  4. At my first mission zone conference, I was asked a direct question by my mission president in a personal interview about a couple of missionaries who had left the boundaries of our mission. I was so embarrassed that I had any information about it and I was so upset with the offending missionary. can't evade a direct question...even when you really want to. And it's amazing the things that we still have trials with. It's the same sort of stuff that we had trials with before...only on a different level.

  5. I'm sure if I had enough money I COULD save it... and I'm sure it would make balancing a budget much easier if there were more to work with!

    Come on, God. Let me try!


  6. Okay, it's been a year. Time to post something again. Anything. Really.