Being an elementary teacher for the past 17 years has helped me to practice the virtue of patience. Every day in the classroom I’m given multiple opportunities to let go, and let things be. Anyone who is surrounded by children day in and day out knows that to some extent, control is something we’ve got to forfeit in order to truly live in the moment and accept students for who they are. Trying to mold every experience/ activity/ lesson the way we would like it to flow only leads to disappointment or frustration for both the teacher and students.
I pride myself on being able to assess the children in my charge, and proceed with a lesson by taking cues from them. In reflection I know that some of my worst days are those where I tried too hard to manage the outcome, or when the students output didn’t match my desired expectations. In short, when my patience ran short, things went awry. And as you might guess, some of my best teaching has come when I’ve relenquished that control, and allowed learning to unfold naturally. Patience takes practice. I wish I could say it’s something I’ve mastered, but in the end, is it ever something we can fully master all the time? I think as teachers, it’s our duty to be mindful of being patient. Believe me, students of all ages know the difference between a teacher with an agenda – someone who just checks items off a list, from a teacher who truly cares about the learning taking place – someone who isn’t afraid to veer off that agenda. In short, kids learn rather quickly whether a teacher practices patience. The culture of the classroom is different. It’s a place where students feel respected and safe. No agenda should take precedence over student engagement and curiosity – which equates to meaningful learning.
Having patience is certainly one of the hardest things I work on every day with my students. I’m proud of my efforts. I’ve made some extremely great connections with students and parents over the years because of this.
However I write this post today because I seem to have gotten a bit off track. I haven’t been surrounded by students for quite a few months. Recently my life has taken turns I never could have imagined and yes, I’ve been struggling with practicing patience. It seems it’s harder to let go of that agenda, when it’s the checklist of your own life. These past months I’ve wanted more than ever to control events, to manage all the outcomes. I’ve got my checklist, but can’t quite seem to get the results that match my expectations. In short, I’m running out of patience. And just like what happens in the classroom when I’ve tried to control the outcome, I’m left feeling frustrated. So I’ve got to dig deep. I know I have the skills to be patient. I’ve been honing them for the past 17 years. If I can bestow the students I’ve served over the years with patience, surely I owe it to myself to do the same.