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Patience: A 21st Century Teaching Skill

I was at a fabric store a few days ago running an errand for my wife.  She needed some fabric for a quilt she is making for our son.  After having the one yard of fuzzy brown fabric cut, I waited in line to check out.  As it was exactly one week from Christmas at the time, the line was long.  Many people were there making last minute Christmas craft buys.  There was an older woman in front of me.  The entire time we waited in line, she complained.  The complaints only got louder as we got closer to the checkout counter.  She said, “I can’t believe they only have two registers open.  My daughter is waiting for me in the car.”  The complaints grew more rude as time went on.  I’m sure she just didn’t want to wait as she knows she has limited time on this wonderful Earth, but why make the experience for others worse in the process?  Enjoy the time you have.  Greatness happens when you least expect it.  Sometimes amazing things happen while waiting. 

My wife and I were waiting for the right match to manifest itself, when we got a call, out of the blue, about a boy who needed a forever family.  That boy became our wonderful son.  If we had stopped waiting or rushed through the process, we would have missed that opportunity.  The same goes in the classroom.  If we rush through things just to be sure we’re covering the curriculum, do we leave time for teachable moments or genuine learning to take place?

Guns n’ Roses had it right, sometimes it just takes a little patience.  We need to be patient when working and interacting with children.  They will make mistakes, they will be slow at solving problems, things will go wrong, and they will frustrate us.  Through it all though, we need to be patient and guide them through the pinball game of life.

What frustrates me though, are not the students but some of my colleagues.  I don’t know how many times on a regular basis I hear people say, “I don’t know how you do it.  Those sixth graders are crazy.  They are so frustrating and irritating.  How can you deal with them?”  The better question is, how can our school deal with people like that?  We need teachers who want to help and guide all students and not just ones they like.  I don’t understand why adults who are easily frustrated and irritated get into the field of education.  If you don’t have patience, why did you become a teacher?  When they were searching for a career path, what led them astray?  Who said being a teacher was easy and filled with no stress?  Perhaps our life readiness centers are defunct and need an overhaul because clearly the wrong message is being sent to young adults around the globe.  So many people go into teaching for a year or so and then fail out or can’t handle it.  Where’s the perseverance and patience?    And we wonder why so many of our students are failing.  It’s not the students failing.  It’s the teachers who are failing our students.  We need teachers who want to teach because it’s hard and challenging.  We need people who can persevere.  It’s time we overhaul our educational system and find some patient teachers who want to help and guide students.  It just takes a little patience.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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