The Worst of Me

mmZCRsEWhich of your character traits is your worst enemy, in your life but especially in your job?

In one of my courses, we’re writing reference letters for fictional characters.  In addition, as a possible blog assignment, I suggested students write reference letters for themselves, imagining they’re applying for their dream job and giving an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.  It made me think about how I would assess my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher – and as a person, for that matter.

My biggest flaw (and I have thousands) is irritability.  I get annoyed even with people I love, people whom I know have the best of intentions.  When someone interrupts me when I’m talking, or hogs the spotlight, or expresses him/herself in a way that’s less than clear, I turn bitterly cold and sometimes shut down completely.  This seriously bruises my relationships with my students and others.

Example A:

Student: Miss, what were you saying about that thing?  That talk?

Me: “Talk?” [Long pause]  [Note: I know what the student is referring to.]

Student: You said something about … a talk, you said … we have to do something.

Me: When did I say this?  Today?  Last week?  What exactly did I say?  I need more information here.

Student: Never mind.  Forget it.

Example B:

Me: Would you like some coffee?

Mother-in-law: Well…you always make your coffee very strong.

Me: Yes, we do.  [Long, long pause.]

Mother-in-law: Maybe you could add some water to mine?

Me: So you’d like some?  Certainly.

I’m not suggesting that teachers, or people, should always be friendly and sweet.  However, irritation can be mean, and its primary goal is to make the receiver feel bad.  (The ultimate objective is to change the receiver’s behaviour, but it is not a good method for doing so.)  I struggle with this in the classroom, in my marriage, in my friendships, and in my interactions with grocery store cashiers and people who walk too slowly in the metro tunnels.  It tires me out and in makes me an a**hole.

What about you?  Do you have character traits that make your job, or your life, more difficult?  Have you done anything to change them?

Image by Michal Zacharzewski

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13 responses

  1. I’m also very irritable but on the flip-side I can be WAY too accommodating. It allows people to take advantage of me and makes me want to kick myself later.

  2. Wow, you might have been channeling me when you wrote this. I have a short fuse when it comes to people who are poor at expressing their thoughts clearly. Its something I really have to work on in my family life. Thank you!

  3. As usual, Ms. Curious, I can relate to what you are saying. Irritable T-Buns is me lately in one of my classes. I hate it, it makes me probably MORE miserable than it does the students. It’s the mix, so I’ve got to hang in there for 5 more weeks until we change classes. I do hate it about myself as well.

    I can relate! :)

  4. Great post! As a student, I tend to be too shy about getting involved in things related to my degree. I’m always afraid of annoying people if I ask too many questions or reach out too much, maybe? I try to push myself to talk to profs more often now, and it’s amazing how much they want to help those who come to them!

    • Katmah: I sympathize. I find this especially true of me when it comes to doing research. I am happy to read books all day or even communicate in writing, but the moment I have to call someone on the phone or organize people for a study, I get very intimidated!

  5. I actually avoid making interrogative phone calls at all costs.. It’s borderline awful. But I have been improving! Maybe by the time I finish this degree I will be a pro at all that!

  6. My seventh grade teacher liked to say, “I’m sure you are quite able to to use the restroom,” then stand there, patiently, waiting for us to realize our mistake and rephrase the question.

    Was she teaching us the difference between ‘can’ and ‘may,’ or was she frustrated by a bunch of pre-teens interrupting her lessons? ;)

  7. Reblogged this on Virtually Riki and commented:
    I so agree with this post about how the worst of us shows up all over our world–unfortunately.

    From a teaching perspective, I want to integrate this to my class. Currently, I have my students reflect on their strengths, but I haven’t thought about having them do it in writing a letter about themselves. Think I’m going to do this for the end of quarter reflection assignment. :)

  8. Wow. . . so much of what you say resonates with me, specifically as a teacher and also just generally as a human being. I love reading your blog for this very reason.
    I actually rediscovered Myers-Briggs typing this summer (after being semi-burnt out after a rough semester), and finding out that I’m an INTP explained so much about how I function in life and also how I interact with my students. Knowing myself better has helped me adapt and re-evaluate my teaching and classroom management. It also has given me the tools to better understand my students and their learning styles. It’s made such a difference! Not that things are now all rosy sunshine–far from it–but having the knowledge and self-understanding to cope is wonderful. :)

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