13
Oct
15

Turnabout is fair play.

Every year, I have my students create blogs and then respond to weekly prompts. The idea is to keep their metaphorical pens moving–to give them space to think and write about things besides class. Recently, after some of my classes read The Scarlet Letter, I asked them to consider Hawthorne’s final advice

Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait by which the worst may be inferred!

and then put his advice into action by writing about one of their own flaws, something they’re not proud of.

If I’m going to ask my students to engage in such a personal revelation, I should do the same. It seems fair. So I intend to confess to some of my flaws and weaknesses in this post, with the intent of owning up to them and starting to work toward correcting them.

First of all, I’m not very patient with people. As a parent, a teacher, and an adult, I’ve learned to disguise this weakness, but I’m often frustrated that the kids can’t remember to hang up their wet towels after they shower. Why should this bother me? They’re kids! I’m bothered by people who sit at a stop sign with their blinkers on and wait until there’s not one single car on the road from horizon to horizon before they turn left. Why am I so annoyed? They’re trying to be safe! I’m angered by students who take out their phones during class to snap selfies or check Facebook. Who can blame them? Every media outlet tells them that constant connectedness is one of the most important parts of their lives! All of these people deserve more patience from me than they receive. As I said, I don’t act out against them, but I certainly do grind my teeth and clench my fists. Acting like I’m patient with people is not the same as being patient, and I need to work toward genuine patience.

Next, I’m prone to jealousy, particularly of well-to-do people. I know that I chose my career with a full awareness of the pay scale. If I wanted to be rich, I should have chosen another profession. Still, I find myself looking at people who make eighty thousand dollars a year, thinking that I work just as hard as they do and feeling slighted by the difference in our paychecks. In truth, everyone who has a career works hard, and I knew what I was getting into when I started teaching. It’s time to make peace with the fact that teachers will never be paid as much as most other professionals, or at least to quit feeling jealous of them because that certainly doesn’t change anything.

Finally, I’m cheap. I won’t buy a new pair of jeans if I have an old pair that still fits. I won’t buy a new car until the old one literally stops running. When I was single, this wasn’t a problem. Now that I’m married and have a house full of kids, though, I find myself projecting my cheapness onto them. When a new school year starts, they want new backpacks and lunchboxes. My first reaction is “Why? We still have the backpacks and lunchboxes from last year.” Honestly, three backpacks and three lunchboxes would probably cost me a total of sixty dollars. Why not just go buy them? Similarly, my wife likes to get her hair done (and in fairness to her, she does NOT have an extravagant salon regimen). Even though I know that getting her hair done makes her feel good, and even though I’m happy when she feels good about her hair, I still have a voice in my head that says “That hair appointment cost like eighty bucks!” I think all of this is rooted in my MidWestern upbringing. MidWesterners are notoriously cheap people. It’s time to let it go, though. I have a job and my family deserves to be treated to things they want.

Well, as my students noted, that wasn’t a lot of fun. Now that it’s in type, though, it’s real and I can start to deal with it. Hawthorne’s novel asserts that only by facing our shortcomings publicly can we own them and work to overcome them. I don’t know if it’s the only way, but it’s way, and I’m willing to give it a shot.

If you see me grinding my teeth in frustration, grousing about my salary, or being unnecessarily cheap, remind me that you read this post and that I’m supposed to be working on those things. It will help me.

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