By Teachers, For Teachers
You’ve probably never really thought about your weaknesses until you were getting ready for your first teaching interview. The standard interview question of, “What are your weaknesses and how did you overcome them?” may have gotten you thinking about what you lack as an educator. Being aware of your weaknesses and having the ability to self-reflect is the first step in professional development toward overcoming them. Doing away with your weaknesses and learning how to focus on your strengths is a sign of a great teacher. However, before you can focus on your strengths, you must first take a look at what you’re weak in, especially if you want to grow as an educator.
There are a few different ways to use professional development to find your weaknesses. Here are a few suggestions to get started.
The first step when using professional development to recognize what you’re weak at is to ask someone. Now, this can be quite difficult for some people because you are going to have to hear criticism, so you had better be ready for it. Invite a colleague, or better yet a mentor, into your classroom to observe you with your students. Make sure that this individual will be honest with you and not hold anything back. The more time they spend watching you, the more feedback they’ll be able to give you. When I was a student teacher, my mentor and my college professor both observed me regularly, and the feedback that they gave me brought me to tears a lot of the time. However, I was young and didn’t handle criticism very well back then, but I did end up learning a great deal from their observations.
You’ll learn things about yourself that you most likely were unaware of. Things that I learned about myself that I didn’t realize were that I wasn’t assertive enough and too soft-spoken. I also learned I didn’t command the classroom, and mostly taught to the students in the front of the classroom. These are things that I didn’t realize at the time, but was able to quickly change with the help of my instructor and mentor, as well as with some confidence over time. The amount of information gained from asking someone will help you tremendously.
Sometimes our weaknesses are out of habit, and we are unware that we are even doing them because we do them so much. For example, I didn’t realize that I would compare students to one another until I sat down and took the time to reflect on my behavior as a teacher. We need to keep in the back of our minds that we don’t really know or understand what others are going through when they aren’t in the classroom. Just because one student is lazy, another may be going through something else at home and is not lazy at all. Take some time to sit and think about how you behave as a teacher. Ask yourself, “What is my behavior like when I am in the classroom?” Then jot down anything that you think may be considered a weak habit and how you can go about changing that.
Sometimes all it takes to figure out your weaknesses is simply gaining a different perspective. Besides asking a colleague or mentor to help you, you can also ask your number one fans, your students! They are the ones who know you both inside and out and have to deal with you every day, therefore are the perfect people to ask. The only problem: When you ask them, be prepared to get some very straightforward answers. Children do not hold back, so it may be wise to have students write down their thoughts anonymously. This will help you from holding a grudge or thinking differently toward a student if they say something that you find offensive. You can also try and put yourself in their shoes, which can be a great way to gain a different perspective of yourself.
Just as you may create a list of all of things that you like to do, you can also create a list of all of the things that you don’t like to do in the classroom. When you write down the things that you don’t like, you’re essentially writing down what you’re weak at. If you tend to procrastinate when doing certain things, then you probably aren’t enjoying them and aren’t really good at them either. Once you’ve made a list, then try and be more aware of what you don’t enjoy doing throughout your day. If you notice that you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re procrastinating, or you see others are doing it much better than you are, then that is a signal that it’s something you’re weak at.
Discovering your weaknesses may never be fun, but it’s essential to know them so you can better understand yourself. While they may never become your strengths, they can help you learn and grow. Once you discover your weaknesses, find someone who is better in those areas then you and learn from them. In the end, it’s far better to know your weaknesses and focus on your strengths because those are what you enjoy and do well. They are the ones that you should invest your time on.
What are your teacher weaknesses? How did you use professional development to figure them out? Please share with us in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.