Inattentional Blindness

When it comes to reading I usually choose professional education books over fiction to continue my learning as a principal and instructional leader. I have strayed from ed literature after hearing a podcast with Life Coach, Mel Robbins on the Manic Mommies podcast. Her sense of humor and powerful message led me to order her book Stop Saying You’re Fine before I even finished listening to the podcast. Even though her book is not an professional education book, I have been making many connections to my position in education throughout reading it.

The biggest connection I’ve made to education is while reading her chapter on how admitting what you want focuses your attention. “Inattentional blindness” is a phenomenon that describes how we often miss what is right in front of us unless we are completely focused on it.

Here’s the best example to point this out. Just watch this youtube clip for 1 minute to take the awareness test. You need to keep track of how many times the team in white passes the ball.

Did you see it? The only reason I did is because I read about the results of this in Robbins’ book. In a study involving a similar clip, 46% of people missed it.

What’s the point of this? Robbins states, “you miss an enormous number of opportunities to change your life on a daily basis because you are not focused on what you want. You are focused on your problems and maintaining the illusion that you are fine. Until you face the truth about your life and start focusing on opportunities to take action, you will continue to miss the gorilla moonwalking in the background.”


So often in education, our discussions can go down the trail of unending outside factors (home life, socio-economic status, the schedule/yearly calendar, previous year’s teacher, etc.) When we spend our time listing outside factors affecting a student, we are wasting precious time to look at what we can change to better meet a student’s needs. Here are just a few examples.

  • The young elementary student that is tardy everyday, because his/her single parent works late the night before and sleeps past the alarm. Keep the child in at recess (not a favorite choice), add an individual incentive for that student if he/she does make it on time, make arrangements to keep the student after school, change the schedule so the student isn’t missing the instruction that they need the most (I understand that’s difficult to do) or start giving them a wake up call each morning (I’ve actually done that and after about a week of this, they get really sick of it and start coming on time…or change their number).
  • The student that is 2 years below reading level and is already getting a “double-dose” of reading (full 90 minutes of literacy in the classroom and 30 minute reading intervention daily), but you know is never reading at home. Then add a “triple dose” of reading and set the child up with 15 minutes of the day reading to a volunteer. No volunteers? Contact a teacher of an older grade and have a student volunteer come down to listen to the student read. If you are the older grade, then have your student go to a younger grade. Or have your student record themselves reading into the free program audacity on your computer.
  • The student that just transferred to your school and you wonder what in the world the previous district had for curriculum, because this child is so far behind, yet came with a glowing report card in their cumulative file. Get started on interventions right away.

I challenge you to think about what opportunities you’re missing out on in your classroom/school, because you’re focused on the problems or obstacles. What are you not doing, but making excuses for why you’re not doing it? What is it that you want for your students? What are you going to do to make it happen?

Photo cc license shared by CrazyFast

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