Let Down (?) by the Hard Worker

board-953153_1280Tom was covering a rather difficult lesson.  It was a very small group, about 18 in a bottom set.  As usual for these sets, it was a mixed bag of students who ‘couldn’t’ but wished they could and students who ‘could’ but couldn’t be bothered to!  There was a judicious seating plan in place, and Tom was thankful that the most lively boys were seated on the opposite side of the classroom from the ones who clearly wanted to work.  Tom was particularly impressed by Callum and his partner, who had worked particularly well.

It was nearing the end of the lesson when Callum suddenly jumped up, a big grin on his face, and threw something across the classroom. Tom was taken aback, and exclaimed, “Callum, I would have expected better from you!”  He was unaware of anything having been thrown in Callum’s direction. Callum looked across to Tom with a rueful smile and sat down, but was restless and rather silly until the end of the lesson.

What had gone wrong?  Callum may well be a Type 1 (Perfectionist) personality.  This would explain why he had worked so well.  It could also explain Tom’s reaction to him, as we are unconsciously aware of far more about each other than we generally realise.  Type 1’s tend to be very focused and hardworking.  So-called ‘class clowns’ (of whom there were several on the other side of the classroom) are very often the fun-loving Type 7 (Joyful Enthusiast) personalities.

Nevertheless, the enneagram acknowledges that we can change character according to mood and circumstances.  The direction of the ‘security arrow’ from the Type 1 (Serious Hard Worker) is towards the Type 7 (Joyful Enthusiast).  Type 7 behaviour is actually a ‘good’ place for the Type 1 to go when they need to ‘lighten up’.  Callum may well have felt (with good reason!) that he had worked well and needed a bit of a break as the lesson drew to a close.  He had done well to concentrate despite the antics across the classroom.  The problem from Tom’s point of view is that his behaviour was inappropriate from a classroom management point of view.

Concerned that this might happen again, Tom considered two approaches to this situation:

 Tom could have reprimanded Callum further, telling him firmly that that behaviour is unacceptable under any circumstances.  He could appeal to Callum’s better nature, telling him that he relies upon sensible students like Callum to toe the line and set a good example.

The problem with this approach is that it may push Callum into the Type 1’s stress arrow, which is the Type 4 (Misunderstood Creative).  Tom may find that Callum becomes disengaged, as he feels his hard work has not been recognised.


Tom could have recognised ten minutes before the end of the lesson that Callum had already completed far more work than at least half the class.  He could praise this achievement and then give a small reward like giving him time to read silently, do a small task like cleaning the whiteboard, or even a gentle non-topic activity such as origami or mindfulness colouring.  This affirms Callum’s personality (Type 1, Serious Hard Worker) but does not take advantage of Callum’s acquiescence in order to demand more and more.

Allowing him to read or do something off task is a structured and constructive way of giving him some time in his security arrow place (Type 7).  It also models for him a good strategy which could help save him from burnout in the future:  an occupational hazard for this personality type, which can become trapped in a vicious cycle seeking perfectionism.





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