Thrown for a loop by a mirror

When we're faced with persuasive evidence, we scramble to quickly make up our minds. We jump to conclusions and categorize our experience conveniently. We then see what we want to see and nothing else. The evidence confirms what we've already concluded. We've been thrown for a loop by the impressive indications of others' advantage, danger or trouble to us.

When we fall into this pattern, our thinking does not work for us. We've set up a small factory for the manufacture of people problems. We continue to fabricate illusions about what's right or wrong with other people in self-serving ways. We use our descriptions of them to replicate what has already been decided in our favor. If we had a problem with them in the first place, we experience the same old problem repeatedly. If we expected them to help us out, we cling to these preconceptions. It then appears the other person is not changing, learning, or rethinking their effect on others. That's a mirror we're seeing when others' condition looks that way to us.

Our thinking works for us when we embrace reflective consciousness. We consider how the other person's stagnation is our own. We wonder why we've jumped to conclusions about them and how we've made up our minds erroneously. We question whether we are overly impressed (halo effect) or overly critical (demonizing) of their conduct, traits or effects on others. We realize that what we are seeing about others is showing us something about ourselves.

When we reflect on our descriptions of students, we utilize what we are being shown to change our minds. We get out of the loop we've been thrown into by the persuasive evidence. We get into a different circuit where our thinking works for us. We learn more about the person we expect to do more learning. We see more about the student who seems to not be seeing themselves clearly. We challenge ourselves about trainees who appear to fall short of challenging themselves.

We can change our approach to any learner who's approach appears to need changing. We take what we perceive objectively as a reflection of how we're perceiving them subjectively. We then gather more insights to perceive the students with more empathy, consideration, understanding and acceptance. This will likely knock the students out of their loop and induce them to reflect on their "made up minds" too. When one mind is transformed by reflection, many other minds follow suit.


  1. I agree with you on this (are you surprised??!!). I would go further to say that as teachers we need to recognize that we have our own values which is alright. It is also all right for our students to have different beliefs and values. What we need to do is negotiate meaning so that students and teachers are open to these differences and able to understand each other.

    For example, I might believe in an economic system in which there is a great deal of government oversight, which is something many of my business students are against. I am not going to fault them of this belief if they can 1) understand where my position comes from and 2) can justify their own position (with supporting information and an explanation of the basis for this belief).

    Often my students that are my strongest critics in class do the best. Why? Because I can separate their beliefs from their school work. It is more difficult when there is someone that agrees because I am not sure, as you point out if they are really learning or if they are just falling into the behavior patterns we expect.

  2. Wonderful addition to this post Virginia! I often characterize the dynamics you're describing as "having enough self respect to show others the respect they deserve".

    As you intimated, recognizing our own values establishes the basis for recognizing other values. I suspect the students with different values learn the most because they experience getting respected, validated, admired instead of manipulated, forced to comply or baited to appear agreeable. Thanks!