It’s automatic.

The other day I stopped my car at a 4-way, stop signed intersection. (Really, truly stopped, not one of those I-bet-if-a-cop-was-watching-me-right-now-I’d-get-ticketed-slow-rolling-pauses.)

I glanced to the right, saw another car had arrived a few seconds before I did, so I paused to allow that car to proceed before I moved ahead.

I’ve done this probably one bazillion times in my driving life. For whatever reason, this time I reflected on how truly remarkable it is that this process, this act of allowing a driver to your right to make the first move at an intersection, came to be automatic in my driving repertoire. Yield to the right.

I don’t much think about it. I just do it.

What processes have become automatic to us as educators? Which of these processes benefit student learning? Which detract from it?

I pondered these lists of automatics…..

Automatic (and they shouldn’t be)

Screen shot 2010-12-22 at 7.51.24 PM

Automatic (and they should be)

Screen shot 2010-12-22 at 7.51.08 PMIn rereading Blink, I began to appreciate the skill of being able to assess a situation at first glance, and with a certain gut instinct and an ingrained set of background knowledge and experiences, make an important decision in an instant. As administrators, we’re presented with a seemingly endless stream of conflicts and situations that need resolutions. Some of them are solved in an instant. Others require patience, evaluating all facets of the problem, and involving other stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The skill, then, is not necessarily being able to solve problems in an instant, but being able to differentiate among which situations require a more thought-out solution and those that can be solved in a cinch. Automatically.

I’d love to hear your automatics and your reflections on how they impact your daily practice and student learning opportunities. A holiday break is upon us, and I hope to be able to find the time to reflect upon the things that I do daily, automatically, and decide how my priorities need to be better aligned to serve students. How should I more wisely spend my time? How can I better support my teachers? How can I work more collaboratively with my administrative team members? How can I promote student autonomy in the learning experiences we design?

If the willingness to improve doesn’t become automatic for us, we won’t yield for that integral reflection, and we deserve to be ticketed.

Cross-posted on The Principal’s Posts.

16 Comments

  1. Lara said:

    Fantastic post. I particularly like the one about having time and getting into classrooms. This has left me with lots to think about. Thank you.

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thank you for the taking the time to comment, Lara! We almost always have that choice to make – to leave the office or not to leave the office. Getting into classrooms always benefits kids!

      December 23, 2010
  2. Chris Wejr said:

    Love the post. What I think of as automatic is when I REACT to things rather than pausing to REFLECT first. I see this so often with staff members and students – we react in the way we always have because that is how it has always been done. We need to reflect on those things that are automatic and consider whether or not this needs to change.

    Thank you for obeying traffic laws. 😉

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      You make an excellent point- we often react without pausing to reflect. Sometimes we have to react: emergency situations, etc., but many times, bad habits become ingrained and we need to do a better job of thinking through our actions! Thanks for commenting!!

      December 23, 2010
  3. Excellent list. I wish I could have read this when I first was a principal. These were things I had to learn overtime. I would have been a better principal if I started off with these ‘automatics.’ I will share with the new principals that I’m working with now..thanks!

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Mary, thank you for your comments! I agree, with every new day comes new experiences and the chance to reflect and learn about our practices. Glad you will be sharing this with new admin!

      December 23, 2010
  4. Fabulous. Intellectually reflective. I will be printing this out and think it would make a great assessment activity for my staff as well…

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thanks, Amber… appreciate your feedback. Good luck with that iPad decision 🙂

      December 23, 2010
  5. Lorraine said:

    As much as self reflection is central to my pedagogy, it is quite tough to remember to reflect prior to reacting in familar situations. Thanks for highlighting positive automatics – given me something to think about!.

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Lorraine, thank you for your comments! I agree it’s important to reflect before reacting. It’s not always the easiest thing to do! I am going to continue to think about other positive automatics as I go about my day today!

      December 23, 2010
  6. Much like Chris said, I find it interesting that we do react when often times, we just need to take some time to think about past situations before we make a decision or comment. Even when it seems we need to make a ‘snap decision’, we can always take a few moments to think “how this would make me feel if someone said/did this to me”. Those few seconds of reflection can often make those ‘reactions’ much more palatable to those who the reactions affect. And it only takes a scant a few seconds.

    A very salient post Lyn!

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Cale, it seems like we’re always asking our students to consider, “How would you feel if someone said/did that to you?” but how often do we think that ourselves before reacting or responding to a situation? Excellent point! Thanks for your comments!

      December 23, 2010
  7. David Truss said:

    Lorraine has expressed the point I thought of when reading this.

    The reality is that most of what we do automatically is missed by us because it is, well, automatic. Being reflective about our decisions is something I want to be automatic, because it is so hard to realize how our responses and reactions may be automatic when we are ‘in the moment’.

    One of my favourite quotes is, “The meaning of your communication is the response that you get.”
    I work hard to recognize when the responses I get from people are not what I expected… and then accept a good portion of the responsibility for the miscommunication. It’s hard to do, but I try:-)

    When we can see that the reaction we are getting isn’t what we expected, and reflect on that, we can often make things better before they get worse… and re-evaluate some of our own assumptions and automatic responses.

    Once again, a great post Lyn!
    Enjoy your well-deserved holidays:-)

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      David, thanks as always for your comments! I love that quote you shared. As leaders we need to be intuitive about our colleagues’ reactions to our decisions, whether they be displayed outwardly at the moment or revealed in time, so we can assess how our decisions impact our team and organization. Enjoy your holidays as well!!

      December 23, 2010
  8. Dave Meister said:

    Lyn,

    Sometimes it is the automated response that I have to repress. It is easy to give an answer or to solve a problem with what I would do instead of asking questions that probe what a person is thinking about their dilemna. It is my job to remove obstacles for teachers so they can teach to their best ability. In some cases I think listening and guiding a teacher to their own solution, by being a sounding board as opposed to the “know it all”, might actually be the best repsponse. A good post to contemplate Lyn! Thank you!

    December 23, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Dave, you make some great points! Some situations are not best solved in an instant. When we’re quick to respond based on our experiences alone, we don’t allow for the opportunity for others to contribute and problem solve together. I love the idea of the administrator as a sounding board to help guide teachers along the decision-making path! Thanks for your comments!

      December 23, 2010

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