• Emily Lee

How do I stand out from the crowd?

To learn how to stand out from the crowd and to be truly unique, we need to understand what the majority of us are doing and how we fell into the trap of abiding by the cultural norms in our society. When I was a primary school teacher, I noticed that children in schools were often shouted at and given a punishment for behaving inappropriately. By inappropriate I mean, acting in the wrong manner, being sillier than they should or small incidences that would cross the normal cultural boundary in that particular environment. Sometimes the children who were punished didn’t even have a chance to tell the teacher if they were in the wrong. However, children who are quiet and well-mannered were often praised.

At school, the children need to put up their hands to speak and they need to be chosen by the teacher to speak. They need to ask to go to the toilet, to have a drink in the classroom and there are certain actions children learn that they need to ask permission before doing. But is this just one way of keeping the children quiet and not voicing their opinions instinctively.

This taught behaviour is called conditioning. It’s a process whereby individuals are trained to adopt certain ideologies and norms in all aspects of life, from education to employment to how we should live our lives which are approved by society. This majority way of thinking or doing is also known as herd mentality. In some ways, schools must adopt this behaviour as it would be difficult to teach when 30 other children are talking. I am not deeming social conditioning but understanding this foundation of society will help you stand out from the crowd.

But this is what I didn't like about certain types of teaching, that everyone should be quiet when working, no one should shout out and most of the time is the teacher who is speaking at the front of the classroom instead of the children. And as the children grow older throughout their education, they learn by not speaking, they will be praised as they would be the well-behaved respectful dream pupil to teach. But in the real world, this causes a lot of issues when those children become adults. If they don't speak at school, at home or in another supported environment, they forget how to speak. It caused me a lot of issues whereby I didn’t know my authentic self.

So how does conditioning work? As a child conditioning is all around you taught by your parents, your teachers etc. You don't realise what is happening, you just associate certain sounds with certain actions and/or rewards. There is normally a neutral stimulus, a bell, a whistle, a clap. These sounds are then connected to a certain reaction, a certain action by a group of people. For example, the sound of a whistle means go/stop. In PE or a football match, the whistle is blown to indicate the start of the game or to stop the game. Sometimes with other types of conditioning, a reward or punishment is also included to reinforce the behaviour. If you work hard in school, I will give you a sticker.