Automaticity

So much of what we do is done without thinking, automatically. We may ask a question and then answer it without giving our students time to think and answer on their own. We may always be at the center of classroom activity; things revolve around us. We may have a pessimistic streak, tend to see the worst outcomes, and avoid any classroom ideas that seem risky. We may be super organized and structured and frustrated with students that aren’t. We may lack patience with students or teachers that have different points of view. We may not have compassion for students that are struggling in ways we never did. We may take care of our children at the expense of ourselves and lose ourselves in the process.

Whatever our personal tendencies, they result in actions that are largely automatic. We are acting out programming that we have developed over a lifetime. Many of these programs are deeply embedded from childhood. Because automatic actions are so much a part of us, they are almost invisible. We don’t notice the actions themselves, although we may notice the patterns, results, or lack of results that they create.

For example, we may want to get teachers excited about new Web 2.0 technologies and no matter how many times or hard we try, we get nowhere. If this persists over time, we can continue our actions and live in hope that things will change magically in the future; we can let anger and frustration build slowly and blame the teachers who are not ‘getting it’; or we can begin to examine our programmed behaviors and beliefs to see if they are getting in the way of the results we wish to achieve.

There is nothing inherently wrong with our programming if it is serving us, and the goals we have for ourselves, now. It is up to us to consciously examine our behaviors and beliefs. As we examine them we let go those that are no longer useful and choose those that are consistent with what we wish to create. If we are to be effective leaders, and effective teachers we don’t want to live out automatic behaviors and beliefs that are remnants of our past and inconsistent with our present aspirations.

As leaders, as teachers, we are called on to be deliberate.

 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

pete

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4 thoughts on “Automaticity

  1. Thanks for this – it was an “aha” for me. I’m going to print it out and hang it next to my desk. I’m one of those folks who tends to bang their head on that wall, get frustrated, back off, and then come bang on it some more.

  2. I am in an educational technology class right now and we were just asked to act as though we were a teacher that wanted the principal to incorporate more multimedia into the classroom instead of just text-applications. The principal and most of the other teachers were opposed to the newer technology. We were asked to find some good research to prove how it can help students learn better and improve in necessary areas to suceed in school.
    I think it is great that you made the comment, “We can let anger and frustration build slowly and blame the teachers who are not ‘getting it’; or we can begin to examine our programmed behaviors and beliefs to see if they are getting in the way of the results we wish to achieve,” because I think it gives other teachers hope that you can’t look at the negative aspects of the topic and get so focused in on what is not working that you are greatly hindered by the possibilities of what could happen. Maybe the “programming” that you refer to, needs to be broken so that you can come up with a new way for the other teachers to see the possibilities of new technology.(taking specific credible research to them to prove why it would benefit your school)

  3. Brooke;
    I agree. I believe we need to do a much better job at helping teachers see the value of technology and helping them through the very uncomfortable period when they are trying new things and are out of their “comfort zones”. During this time, it is very easy to go back to doing things the old way because it feels so darn comfortable and familiar.

    Research might help some. I’m sure there are a lot of strategies that would have a positive effect.

    pete

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