This morning, one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop, tweeted me the link to her recent blog post. It’s rare for me to read a post where I feel as though the author is talking to me, but that’s what I felt when reading Sue’s post. Within a couple of minutes, I tweeted her back and said,
I really applaud Sue for so openly sharing her greatest strength, and how it can also be, her greatest weakness. I love how she didn’t just write about this weakness, but wrote about what she does to continue to work on it (and improve). Sue’s inspired me to write a post on the same topic: a post that’s hard to write, but a post that I think I need to write too.
I think that my greatest strength is that I care deeply about kids, and I really want to do everything I can to ensure that ALL of them meet with success. Even almost 30 years later, I still remember when I was in Grade 2 and identified with a non-verbal learning disability. I remember that psychologist saying that due to the large gap and my many needs, I would probably always struggle in school and never make it through university. Even back then, I wanted to be a teacher, and based on her assessment, this was not going to be a possibility. I was devastated! But I had teachers and parents that didn’t give up on me. They helped me learn strategies to succeed. They taught me how to advocate for myself. They showed me that a “label” could be changed, and they helped me change that label. I wanted to be a teacher. I became a teacher. And I was — and still am — determined to be that teacher that tries to change those labels for other students.
My passion for student achievement though is attached to other strengths, but also, weaknesses. While doing what I can to help students, I meet with successes, but also failures. I tend to blog about both. For me, blogging is about reflecting (and I think that’s a good thing), but I wonder sometimes if in an attempt to discuss my beliefs, I also come across as implying that I know how to teach and learn best. I don’t. Yes, I know what works well for the students in my classroom, but all students are different. Teachers are different too. I might feel comfortable with trying something that others don’t. We may all deliver the same content, but not all in the same way, and that’s okay. I think that I need to more often go out of my way to engage in discussions and learn from those individuals that may teach differently. They still do all that they can for students. I know that I can learn a lot from people that I may not already be learning from. I can then take what I learned to better reach the students that need it.
To do this though, I need to address one of my other weaknesses: initiating conversations. You see: I do want to learn from new people, but this means that I need to take the first step. What if the discussions don’t go well? Will I become upset? That’s another problem: often my passion, leads to tears. I try to plan out exactly what I’m going to say (before I say it), so that I won’t cry. I try to anticipate what others might say, so that I’m prepared with the responses, and again, don’t cry. I try to walk away before the tears come, but what if I’m not successful? Here I am speaking about my greatest strength as my drive to increase student success, and yet, knowing that this strength often makes me question my own success (in one way or another).
What are your greatest strengths, and how do they lead to some of your greatest weaknesses? How do you address these weaknesses? Thank you, Sue, for causing me to reflect tonight. I’m interested in hearing what others have to say about such an important topic!
You asked me last week if there a thing as communicating too much. Tonight I asked you is there such a thing as caring too much? Teaching is not your job, it is your passion. I tell people all the time, it’s not about the money for Dunsiger. The hours she puts in she would make more working at a job that paid her minimum wage. One thing that I truly love about you though is that you do not expect anyone else to do this. You work hard and long hours because you love what you do, not for praise or rewards. I have never once felt like I had to measure up to you. So you call it your strength and your weakness I call it your calling.
Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, Jo-Ann! I said that one of my biggest weaknesses is that “often my passion leads to tears,” and as I sit here reading your comment with tears running down my face, I guess this must be true. 🙂
I really don’t think that there’s such a thing as caring too much. Yes, I care deeply about all of my students, and I will do everything I can to help them meet with success. My passion is teaching. I love what I do — every aspect of what I do — and I’m very lucky to get to do what I love every single day. But I do think that this strength does result in some of my weaknesses as well. The act of reflecting though has made me more aware of this strength/weakness, and I think that must be a good thing.
And thank you, Jo-Ann, for being a wonderful teacher and friend. I love learning with/from you, and while our grades may vary, this hasn’t changed our ability to both support each other. You inspire me, and your suggestions and questions have helped me reach students … THANK YOU!
Aviva, it is very hard for many people to Admit their follies. We often are always willing to share our success but never our faults. This is a brave post and I am glad that you shared it. It’s funny I know that you don’t like talking but you have (atleast with me) never once shy’d (sorry awful speller) from a conversation. I too remember my grade seven teacher telling me that I would need a secretary for the rest of my life. This was due to my poor writing and written communication skills. However, here I am a teacher, now a blogger (many thanks to you) and completed a thesis. There are times I would like to find that teacher and say, “ha” but then again what would that accomplish. As for my weaknesses, writing, is still number one for me, which is why I often turn to a strength; talking. The one problem is that it also leads me to another weakness, not thinking before I talk. Unlike you I tend not to think which has its many problems. Though over the years I have continued to work on both of these weaknesses and though they never go away they make you stronger.
We are not defined by what we cannot do but by how we learn and grow. Acknowledging our weakness and strengths makes us stronger, better and in the end more successful. Thank you for sharing this great reflection.
Thanks for your comment, Jonathan, and for sharing your own strengths and weaknesses! I think that you make a great point about how our weaknesses make us stronger, and I think that the act of reflecting on them, makes us stronger still. (I do really thank Sue for this!)
As for not shying away from talking, I do like to speak. I also though prefer thinking time before speaking, especially if the topic is one I’m passionate about (as it’s one that will more likely, eventually, result in an emotional reaction). The thinking time helps me curb these emotions. That being said, I know with you that you like a good discussion, and that the comments I make will not be taken personally, but just as professional dialogue. (I have other friends where I feel the same way too.) If this is the case, the dynamic of the conversation changes, as then I don’t worry about hurting feelings (something I really hate to do), but instead, just talking topics. I particularly love Twitter and blogging, as then I can converse freely, but in writing and with the thinking time first. (Thank you so much for blogging more, by the way!) And maybe that’s another interesting part about strengths and weaknesses: in different situations, they may present differently. Also, if we can acknowledge our weaknesses and figure out strategies that work, they tend to impede us less.
Thanks for continuing this great discussion! I’m curious to hear what others have to say!
Hi Aviva, your greatest strength is such a great strength because you not only believe it but you demonstrate it every day and stand by it despite obstacles. I really appreciate that about you. I think you have also found ways to compensate for your weakness – you initiate amazing conversations daily by blogging, tweeting, teaching, storifying (not a word, but it fit the list). I think in some ways you have turned this weakness into a strength that so many of us benefit from listening in on. Thanks.
Thank you so much, Kristi, for the kind words and for helping me see things just a little bit differently. I know that I definitely still have these weaknesses, but I’m glad that I’ve found some ways to address them that make things better. And thank you for being one of those people that encourage, support, and challenge me so much through these online interactions: I’ve learned, and continue to learn, a lot from you!
Aviva, I’m so glad I could initiate this kind of blog post and honesty. We are all “imposters” in our own way; we all worry about how people will perceive us; we all want to be successful and make a difference. Shining the light on our weaknesses and our growth also makes it less scary, somehow.
Thank you so much for the comment, Sue, and for the inspiration! This post was an important one to write, and one that I probably wouldn’t have written if it hadn’t been for you. I think that “shining this light” also makes us more aware of these weaknesses and proactive in addressing them. Since writing the post, I almost find myself standing back, looking at what I do, and thinking about what else I could do and how I could do things differently. Thanks for encouraging this thought, and doing so, by being so very open about yourself as well!