Tolerance of Frustration

So when I began my teaching career, and even as far back as my student teaching experience, the one thing that I knew I needed to work on was my tolerance to frustration. Back then I would get frustrated when a student didn’t understand a concept that I had “taught”, I would get frustrated when a decision didn’t go my way, I would get frustrated when a parent asked questions about my classroom management style or my philosophy on homework, and in a few of these cases I really didn’t do a good job of handling my reactions. It wasn’t just with my professional life though, this issue seeped into my personal life as well and I even remember as a young father getting frustrated over the silliest of things and reacting inappropriately. Over the years I’ve worked extremely hard to change, and one of the things that I’m most proud of as I slowly became a man and leader is how well my tolerance level has dramatically increased…to the point where I now see it as one of my strengths. Anyway, over the years I have made a point of watching how both students and educators react to frustration (probably because I relate to how difficult it is for many people to handle it effectively), and it’s interesting for me to see how it affects not only a person’s job performance, but their overall lives in general.

The important lesson and truth that I’ve come learn while watching and reflecting on people’s reactions to frustration, is that more often than not there is an underlying issue that needs to be explored, which is the real reason for why people react the way the do. For me it was an insecurity (or lack of confidence), and I would usually take things personally instead of looking deeply into why I was getting frustrated, or instead of asking myself what it is that is really causing this negative emotion. Back then my frustration with a student was not because I was angry at them, it was because deep down I knew I wasn’t doing a good enough job of teaching…my frustration with my “administration” was not because I had all the answers, it was because didn’t really understand why they had made a certain decision and I didn’t have the educational courage to ask the clarifying questions, or to push back to a point where I was able to see how a decision played into the overall vision of the school. I also came to realize that there are things in this world that are out of my control and getting frustrated by them is truly a waste of time and a whole lot of wasted energy…but it was hard work and it took many years.

The hardest part for many people, in my opinion, is to develop the introspective and reflective skill set which is necessary figure out what is really behind their frustrations, and then having the wherewithal to do something about it. I often counsel kids in this way, and I tell them that a low tolerance of frustration will hinder their opportunities and limit their chance for success and happiness. The same holds true for adults, and I get concerned when I see an educator get frustrated over things that are either out of their control, or a symptom of a much bigger issue…that’s when I know that it’s time for a chat. The other thing about having a low tolerance of frustration is that it impacts not only how your students see you, but how your colleagues do too. It affects your relationships, your mood, your approach to life, and your happiness. What I’m asking you this week, is that the next time you find yourself getting frustrated about something, look deeply into yourself and try and figure out why…then have the courage to tackle the real issue. Have that hard conversation with a colleague that has been rubbing you the wrong way lately, talk to the student that is getting under your skin, come and talk to me about the frustrations that you might be feeling about our school or your job, and get down to the heart of the matter. Finally, find it somewhere inside you to let go of the things that are out of your control…pick your battles…ask others about why they are frustrated about something…support each other, and let go of the negative energy that it stopping you from being the best person and educator that you can be. It’s hard work I know but it’ll be worth it! Developing a high level of tolerance to frustration has changed my life for the better and it’ll do the same for you.

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.
— Kurt Vonnegut

Amazing and Poignant TV Commercials – please watch (YouTube)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHCuA0KnITY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCH1cAcnlGY

Dealing with Frustration and Frustrating People-
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/dealing-with-frustration
http://www.drjudithorloff.com/Free-Articles/Dealing-With-Frustrating-People.htm

Interesting Articles and Websites on Tolerance of Frustration –
http://toknowinfo.hubpages.com/hub/What-is-Low-Frustration-Tolerance
http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/07/21/increase-your-frustration-tolerance/
http://intentblog.com/strategies-help-you-deal-low-frustration-tolerance/
http://www.physicalarts.com/mind-and-body/mind/352-mental-toughness-and-resilience-high-frustration-tolerance
http://www.kellevision.com/kellevision/2009/05/frustration-tolerance.html

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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