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My Struggle With Wait Time

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Wait time was something I tried to practice regularly as a classroom teacher. It is always in our nature as teachers to want to jump in and solve a student’s problem, help them when they are stuck,  respond immediately to a question they ask or problem they have. It took a lot of focused and conscious effort on my part to “unlearn” this.  Wait time allowed for several things to happen. One, the student had the opportunity to think longer, which usually allowed for deeper thinking as well. Two, it allowed me as a teacher time to think about my response and consider what might I say to guide that student toward more critical thinking or problem solving. Wait time was something I struggled to develop but tried really hard to do. Now I’m an Assistant Principal.  There are so many times throughout my days when I’m faced with a problem that needs solving, a question that needs an answer, or an action that needs a response. I’m not referring to emergency situations in this post, just the general day-to-day things I am experiencing.

In my first three months, I have found that my natural tendency to lunge into immediate action in response to, well basically anything, is still present in this new role.  I want to respond to things in a timely manner. If a problem presents itself, if a concern or question is brought to me, or even if we as a campus are seeking ideas for this or that, I want to immediately offer them up–I am in full brainstorming mode and sometimes, or a lot of times, I am the first one to say, “Well, what about this…”. It’s not that I think I have all the answers. I have so much to learn and I definitely do not want to present myself as some kind of expert.  I do all this with good intentions, just like when I was a teacher. I want to help. I want to do a good job. I want to fix or contribute or move things along. The problem is, “timely manner” to me often means right now. It was the same way when I was in the classroom. I thought about this a while back. How this is so familiar to me, how this mirrors my struggle with wait time in the classroom.

Some may ask, “Well, what’s wrong with that? You are efficient.  Johnny on the Spot”.  Well, a lot of things are wrong with that, I am learning. Here are a few examples:

  •  I don’t always have all the facts. I may only hear one side of something and my immediate response is not the best idea when I hear the rest of the story.
  • Waiting a bit and mulling over a situation allows me time to push past “immediate idea” and I have time to think a little more creatively.
  • If I wait and think about my immediate idea or “gut instinct”, I then have time to think of what would be on the other side of that decision. This often allows me to see how a new or different problem might arise based on my response. I am now thinking broader.
  • Situations that may have one or more parties in strong emotional states have time to cool off if I wait. This helps everyone go from “venting” to “conversing”.
  • In response to, “How might we facilitate _____ on our campus” type of conversations, my immediate idea might be a good one but the timing may be off, or the steps I offer up may be better done in a different order. If I exercise wait time, I might have a better chance of realizing that, laying out a different set of action steps.
  • Giving myself wait time allows me to get input from others who have more experience than me. Who may have done the same thing I am thinking of and can share their experiences. Who may have a much better idea that I have not thought of. Who may pose questions that I have not thought of, that allow me to clarify my own thoughts.
  • Waiting gives me time to see things that I may be overlooking.

Today I happened to wake up very early and I dropped into #satchat. The question that came through my feed was about what traits are usually seen in highly effective leaders. Questions like this really jump off the screen and hold my attention as I watch the responses flow in from everyone. As a new AP, I really want to hear this! Here is a  response that came in which really jumped out at me:

Wait time!  I may be effective in my normal state of immediately attending to things.  But am I highly effective when I do that? Probably not. I know I’m not. Who would be?

Later today, I was co-moderating #nt2t (New Teachers To Twitter) chat and somewhere during the conversation I posted this Tweet:

Sometimes it seems like things just sort of start popping up…little reminders to ourselves that we might miss if we are not paying attention to them. As I think about my first three months in this role, I think about the principal who shared that advice with me a while back. I think about my current principal and how she does such a good job of modeling “wait time” for me. I am reflecting on how my natural tendency to rush and act may be something that hinders my ability to be highly effective. How my struggle with wait time still exists and seems continues to be an area in which I need to grow.

I need to remember that while trying to do a good job in my new role, wait time is still important. There are things that require immediate action, but there are other things, things that make up the majority of my time, that really would benefit from some wait time from me. Which brings me to a final reminder. This was shared at the end of a chat today, and the idea of “courage” written in it really hit home:

What do I fear, that causes me to fail to wait? Do I fear that I might seem unsure? Do I fear being “uncertain”?  Why do I fear that? For some of us, for the “Johnny On The Spot”s like me, courage doesn’t necessarily mean act.  Sometimes, it takes courage to wait.

I am working on this.

 

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6 thoughts on “My Struggle With Wait Time”

  1. With time and experience, and age, comes wisdom. You are asking and reflecting on all the right questions and situations on your hero’s journey to being the best educator you can be! 🙂 Enjoy the journey, it’s not a race. We live in a culture where we’re conditioned to rush ….”time is money” …the instant gratification mindset. We need to “unlearn” to learn and relearn the power of bring present and patient, the rewards are worth it …and it’s health physically, mentally, and spiritually. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and asking the hard questions of yourself, that is real courage. All the best with your career and hero’s journey! 🙂

  2. Traci,

    This is excellent! I’ll admit, when I saw the title I expected it to be about classroom teaching, but you blended both classroom teaching and dealing with issues very well. : )

    First, as a classroom teacher I videotaped myself one day and when I watched one area that I critiqued was who I called on and what was my wait time. I discovered that I called on students that were “with me” and that the wait time I exhibited was only 2 seconds. That’s it…2 measly seconds. I made a concious effort to improve and my goal was to wait 5 seconds. 5 seconds sounds quick…but it felt like an eternity. Change can be challenging.

    Second, you nailed it on the head with wait time! Internally if we do not react right away we worry that the message being sent is one of uncertainty. The fact is, it takes courage to wait and process and make a sound decision.

    Great post Traci! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Traci, this is such an insightful post. I hope many new administrators read this, as well as experienced ones for the important reminder that we don’t need to make quick decisions to be effective. And, it’s okay to tell someone that you’ll need to “think about it and get back to them.” I think it also sends a message that the issue is important and you want to give it the attention and time it deserves, rather than an off-the-cuff response. I remember my first year as an AP, and I felt the pressure to make swift decisions in order to validate my position. I have since learned that it’s not necessary, and probably counter-active. It’s one piece of advice I offer to new admin!

    Thanks for sharing this!

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