At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Best Defense Is...Well, Uh

Today at school I was bustling around in a rush and entered my colleague Larry Hughes' room as he was in an equal rush trying to get his laptop's DVD drive functioning properly to play a Seinfeld episode (which, trust me, does have something to do with what we're discussing in Ethics). He let me know that the coffee was almost ready and so I was exiting to grab my thermal mug when a voice spoke from the assembled sophomores.

"Hey, Mr. Davis, the Flyers lost last night."

Big mistake. When it comes to hockey, I am a devoted Broad Street Bully, bleeding orange and black nonstop. I respect teams like the St. Louis Blues, the Montreal Canadiens, and even the normally woebegone Winnipeg Jets. But love? That is reserved only for the Philadelphia Flyers.

And to make this burgeoning face-off more combustible, the girl who said it was a Pittsburgh Penguins fan.

Blasphemy. I accept no smack-talk from Penguin fans. The atmosphere at a two-foot radius around me froze to absolute zero. Time for revenge. Time to bring up how the Penguins blew a three-games-to-none lead in 1975 and the New York Islanders captured the series and the Pens snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Only another student asked "What's an Islander?" Which goes to show that sarcasm is wasted on such folks. New tactic.

In the next three minutes, I ran copies of the results of every playoff meeting between the Flyers and Penguins out of my Total Stanley Cup book, conclusively demonstrating the dominance by my beloved Flyers in the 1989, 1997, 2000, and 2012 playoffs (to be fair, I also included when the Pens beat us in '08 and '09). Re-entering the room to grab my second coffee of the day, I sidled up to Lara's desk and tossed the reading material in her direction before leaving the room in triumph.

Triumph? Maybe not. Why did the Flyers need my defense? Why do I get so chapped when someone makes a dig at my team?

As students, as teachers, as leaders in business and industry and the service sector, the chances that we will need correction are very high. In my profession, administrative superiors evaluate my performance each year. If they don't like what I've done, I might not get a contract for next year (which reminds me, I need to sign my contract and turn it in). If my performance as a teacher meets or exceeds their expectations, they ask me to stay on. But throughout the year...throughout each week, actually, people prod me to improve, make suggestions, and push me to be better. Sometimes they might say stuff that isn't warranted. For example, if someone says, "I heard you did this or that in class and I don't see what place that has in the curriculum," I tend to think Well, you weren't there. Hinging your whole argument on hearsay is flimsy. You're the one being unprofessional. But is a defensive posture really helpful? Is that going to be your default mode? You can't keep that going forever! If you can't take criticism or if your students' or colleagues' views conflict with yours and you can't stand it, you shouldn't be a teacher (I can think of several people over the years who fall in this category). In fact, you just can't expect to function or thrive in the professional workplace. To work is to commit to improvement. To improve implies you are not where you should be. And if you are not where you should be, you should be able to take constructive criticism well. The need for improvement is not a mortal sin.

Although being a Penguins fan is a mortal sin. But Lara can sort that one out before the throne of the Almighty and find there is always grace and forgiveness for her wayward deeds. ;)

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