Acts of Deviance


Every day, society labels individuals based on their behavior. Every year, Mrs. Teresa Zentz, Social Studies, has broken social normalities to educate her class and help them to dissipate the societal way of viewing social behavior.

Shannon Hearne

Violating people’s personal space, eating soup with a fork, saying goodbye when answering the phone, embracing uncomfortable pauses in conversations and having an individual conversation in public are all shining examples of violating social norms. Mrs. Teresa Zentz, Social Studies, embraces these differences every year in her Sociology class by educating her students on the specifics of this social science.

“I have been violating social norms for about ten years. I don’t have a particular favorite year [that I performed the experiment], but it was nice when I was pregnant. It really threw people off,” Mrs. Zentz said.

Mrs. Zentz has immersed herself so far into her career that she has even brought her breaking of social norms to a physical level, rather than simply violating verbal norms.

“I licked the floor. The reaction from students was priceless. I also drank the ‘juice’ of the yogurt [that I brought that day],” Mrs. Zentz said.  

While many students showed signs of repulsion or displayed a quizzical look, Mrs. Zentz knew that, by impacting her students in such a intense manner, that they were in fact absorbing information taught in class at a rapid pace.

“I think [the biggest lesson] that students learn is that there are so many norms and folkways that we follow and don’t [even] realize until it is violated. It is always interesting to see how many things we could do that would be [labeled as] weird. The fact that we are pressured by the reactions of other people [is key to understanding Sociology]. The reactions of other people influence what we will or will not do in the future,” Mrs. Zentz said.  

Labels define society. Even if not intentionally, upon meeting someone for the first time, an individual’s mind categorizes the new person based on characteristics such as their appearance or behavior. Mrs. Zentz attempts to break this organizational habit by performing Social Norm Day once a year in each of her classes.

“I typically just violate the norms the one time. I might do a few other odd things here and there throughout the semester, but [I] usually stick to Norm Day,” Mrs. Zentz said.