As a principal long days are pretty typical. We could have to stay late for any number of athletic contests, concerts, or parent meetings. Sometimes we might do two or three in one night. The next day when we come in we all must be careful to avoid our inner Trump. The following are three situations in which our implicit bias can manifest.
As mentioned in the opening, being tired can lead to an unconscious reliance on hidden patterns in your brain. I work in an alternative high school. Truancy is often an issue. I’d had a long day previously and was monitoring lunch. I saw one of my students outside wandering around the building. I rushed out of the lunchroom and yelled at the student to get his butt back over here. I made an assumption based on stereotypes of my students that he was trying to skip. On reflection, this student shows up almost everyday and has never skipped. He won an award the previous quarter for his attendance. Because I was tired I didn’t think I just reacted. When you’re tired and making decisions be careful of applying stereotypes to situations.
It’s a rare day when Principals don’t have to deal with discipline. This can often be a very stressful scenario. Just the other day I was informed of a fight between students where a staff member was hit in the face. Discipline was called for and the staff’s safety was of concern. These types of situations, where we are under intense pressure are key moments when implicit bias can manifest. This might lead to harsher discipline than would normally be administered. A good way to check for implicit bias is to regularly check our discipline data. If we find it skewed in one direction or another we can do a self assessment and make sure that our biases aren’t subconsciously impacting our decisions.
Dealing with internal and external politics is another constant. In a lot of cases we have to balance the needs of our staff against the needs of the district. In these situations, when making a decision it often appears that there is only a binary choice, either a or b. Again this is an aspect of the job where implicit bias is automatically tapped into. When I was working as a teacher the district was threatening to shut down our school. Teachers and students were up-in-arms. In this scenario I automatically assumed that the upper administration were uncaring, out-of-touch, dictators and we of course, were the scrappy underdog. Where they villians and we the heroes? Of course :-)
As principals, when we are tired, stressed or under political pressure we are more likely to make decisions based on our implicit biases. When reflecting what are other scenarios in which you have to watch out for your own biases? Please share in the comment section. For more quick tips check out my blog or podcast at theprincipal entrepreneur.com
I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......