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Exploring Our Unexplored Weaknesses

By Dave Stuart Jr.

The Mensch [teacher] has a tremendous willingness to learn from everything and everyone. He or she seeks feedback and is not blindsided by unexplored weaknesses.

— Bruna Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow, p. 54

To be the kind of teacher from whom great teaching tends to flow, the internal work is where it's at. A piece of this work is, I think, the exploration of one's weaknesses, as Martinuzzi suggests above.

The teacher who would become a Mensch must ask:

  • Where am I weak?
  • What's beneath that weakness?
  • How can I improve?

One of the weaknesses I want to explore in myself this school year is my tendency to live in a state we all know: Survival Mode. Last minute lessons, morning-of trips to the copier, constantly feeling as if we're just catching up.

A sliver of my weakness is procrastination — letting my work time slip into time-wasting pursuits like unconstrained news reading, or “real quick” Twitter checks, or undisciplined email management. That last one is tricky because email is something I need to do thoughtfully — after all, there are dignified human beings on the other ends of many of those messages — but it's also something that I can use as a means for procrastinating. When I'm stuck while writing a post or planning a lesson, I can find myself thinking, “Hmm… wonder if I have any new emails.”

So, yes — procrastination is a part.

(For a simple activity that teaches kids about procrastination, see this post.)

But it's far from the whole. I suspect a huge additional part is that I still say yes to too many things: too many meetings, too many efforts that I support, too many extended conversations with colleagues I admire. My yes-itis, at this point in my career, seems to flow from a few springs:

  • An underdeveloped ability to adequately estimate the costs — emotional, cognitive, temporal — of an undertaking.
  • An underdeveloped clarity about what it is that I'm here to do — as a teacher, as a teammate, as a writer, as a husband and father.
  • An underdeveloped knowledge of, in all spheres of my life and callings, which work matters most. I've pretty well figured it out on the teaching side of things, but everything outside of the classroom is still, as evinced by my propensity for getting into Survival Mode, too foggy.

The work continues then — joyfully so. It is a great delight to find the areas in which one must improve. How terribly boring all of this would otherwise be.

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