Blind Spots

October 16, 2019

Last week I had the chance to facilitate a couple workshops at a conference center in Ohio. Over the course of the conference, two different employees shared something fascinating. More on this in a second…

 

I need to point out that our conference center had an elaborate safari theme complete with animal statues, paintings, and the whole nine yards. On the last day of the conference, I was heading to the front desk to check my bags in and noticed the hotel music was fantastic. (Feel free to hit “play” on the music video if you’re interested in hearing for yourself.)

 

The speakers in the lobby were pumping “Africa” by the 80’s band Toto. I noticed a loose correlation to the safari theme and assumed hotel management had hand-picked the song to enhance the overall theme and experience.

 

When the conference center concierge appeared at the front desk I briefly mentioned how much I loved the music and we struck up a conversation. After some small talk, he started lamenting how the music had not changed in fifteen years and likened the music to torture. (I’m not kidding.) 

 

I didn’t think too much more about his comments until I made my way back to the front desk later that same day to pick-up my bags. I noticed a different employee was working and decided I’d see if the new concierge harbored the same resentment towards the music as his colleague had. 

 

As I approached him to request my bags, I made mention of the catchy music. This time “In the Jungle” by the Tokens was playing (which is obviously another great song).

 

Much to my surprise, the new employee agreed the music was catchy…but quickly explained that it was catchy like the plague. He said he’s listened to the same four songs…on repeat…every single day over the past two years.  He shared some colorful language about the hotel music as well, but you get the idea. (I vaguely recall reading an article about hotel employees and lobby music years ago, so I’m assuming I’m not the first person to think about this.) 

 

I started thinking about each employee’s reaction to the music and couldn’t help but think the conference center had a huge blind spot. My guess is they may have assumed the four songs contributed to a really neat guest experience but may have overlooked asking their employees for feedback.

 

The work we do in schools is susceptible to the same blind spots if we’re not careful. For example, in our efforts to put kids first we might be prone to overlook the needs of educators or perspectives of parents.

 

In chapter 5 of Reclaiming Our Calling, I wrote about the things that might not be on our radars yet…and why it’s important to work together to start seeing these blind spots. I also geeked out a little in the book and included a quick science experiment that educators can use to help reveal their own blind spots. The point I was trying to make was that if we’re not intentional, we might miss the very purpose of education. (Or we might settle for surface-level learning when the profession is so much more.)

 

Regardless of whether we’re talking science experiments, the purpose of education, or song selection in a hotel lobby…we all miss things when we’re not looking. And some of the things we miss are really important to the people we are trying to serve. So we should try to start seeing. And hearing. And listening.

 

Questions for further reflection:

 

1. How have you had success being intentional about getting the perspective of others (e.g. students, colleagues, parents, supervisors)? 

 

2. In what ways do you look for opportunities or new pathways to teach, learn, and lead? 

 

3. And finally, what’s your favorite safari-related song?

 

 

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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