Could Arrogance Be the Dark Side of Experience?


Arrogance of assumptions has been popping up a lot in my world lately.  People assuming they know all the facts, know exactly who you are, or just assume what other people tell them is the absolute truth.   These folks are already finding answers before they’ve even asked a question.  What brings that on?  I’ve been wondering.

We’ve been reviewing a lot of data this past month to find places where we can adjust instruction to better meet student needs.  As a result, all kinds of assumptions are getting torn apart and questioned.  I’ve noticed that when there is resistance to looking at things in a different way, it’s usually tied to someone saying “But I just know this is the right thing.  It’s what’s always worked before.”  And that’s usually running counter to whatever the current data is saying.  So it makes me wonder – why the resistance to being open to new perspectives?  Not all these people are what I would call arrogant, and yet they act like they know it all and mere data or facts can’t possibly be more accurate than they’re personal assessment.  How do they get so far afield, and they don’t even see it?  Add that to the pile of stuff tumbling in my mind like laundry in the dryer.

And then I had my own eye-opening experience last week.

I was responding to a discipline issue in PE at the end of the day.  (This has become an almost predictable occurrence with this particular class in PE.)  As I entered the gym, I was hoping it wouldn’t be my usual buddy having issues. However, as I came through the doors, Coach pointed to the corner.  There was my buddy, slouched against the wall and wearing a thundercloud on his face.  We were literally 20 minutes from dismissal and that means I had a lot of things to do to get ready to dismiss the school safely and quickly. I really didn’t have time for his rant against the world that day.

As I approached him, he started telling me how it wasn’t his fault, no one was listening to him, it was the other student who was lying about him, blah, blah, blah.  (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this speech over the past year and a half.)  I questioned him about what was going on, but he just kept saying Coach wouldn’t listen to him.  The minutes ticking by, I determined he just wasn’t in the mood to deal with PE that day, and we agreed he’d sit out and calm down.  I left and went back to the dismissal routine.  However, five minutes to dismissal time I get the call that my buddy has walked out of the gym and is now wandering the school somewhere. Frustrated and annoyed, I go in search of him.  I finally found him in his classroom.  His back was to me when I lit into him about what in the world was he thinking leaving the gym and roaming the building.  He started trying to tell me no one was listening to him, and I cut him off saying I’ve heard it all before.  At that moment, he turned around to face me, tears on his face.  He told me he wasn’t feeling good and wanted to go to the nurse, but no one was listening, including me.  The sting of my own arrogance smacking me in the face stopped me in my tracks.  He was right. My experience with him had taught me that 9 out of 10 times he was deflecting his own part in the “drama of the day” with whining and complaining about everything being somebody else’s fault. But this was the 1 out of 10 times that wasn’t the case.

My arrogance in assuming I knew what this was all about made me fast forward right over getting the facts to get to the usual answer.  Small problem – unfortunately, that wasn’t the right answer for today’s facts.

That got me thinking. As helpful, time-saving, and sometimes even life-preserving as experience can be, what it if it can take on a dark side of arrogance?  An arrogance not born out of hubris, really, but out of hard-earned experience that usually doesn’t fail us?   An arrogance that blinds us to the facts right in front of us and makes us fast-forward over the details straight to an answer that doesn’t actually match the question?  That’s an arrogance that could honestly sneak up on you – and you’d never really know.

That thought – and my own recent experience – helped me see just how easy it is to find yourself somewhere you never meant to be.  When our experience starts keeping us from learning, growing, and changing, then we’re in danger of crossing over to the dark side of that powerful teacher.

So how do I get back to the mindset space I want to be in?

Once again, the basics of Math and Research come to our rescue!  As I learned (and temporarily forgot) long ago . . .

  • Rule #1 – Always ALWAYS verify the facts as though it was the first time encountering the situation (even when it’s the 97thtime – and ESPECIALLY then).
  • Rule #2 – Always ALWAYS verify it yourself.

Experience should be a mentor, never a dictator.

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “To find what I’m looking for I must go forward, where I have not been, rather than back, where I have.”  Solid advice, Pooh.  I’m going to try to take it.

Please share in the comment section – have you found yourself in a similar situation?  What worked for you to keep your perspective open and growing?  Looking forward to learning from you

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