SIXTY-EIGHT

I AM SO impatient.  I wish I wasn't.  I wish I had the calm, gentle demeaner of a kindergarten teacher.  Those people are PATIENT!!  I've taught every grade except Kinder and first, although I taught both during my student teaching years.  I came to this conclusion early on:  Kinder teachers are saints who should receive hazardous duty pay.  I'm not even kidding.  I was only my to the teacher's lounge the other day, and as I passed by a kinder classroom, I overheard the following:  "No, scissors are NOT for hair.  We use them for pair."  I actually said out loud, "Thank God, I don't tach kinder!"  That is a road fraught with peril.

There are times when I have clarity, and recognize that I aboslutely have to stop and adjust my thinking and BE PATIENT.  The other day, I was teaching a class of 2nd graders and I was attempting to get them ALL logged onto a website.  I had to really take a deep breath as 15 hands immediately shot in the air.  "Teacher, should I click this?"  I recognized that I was in for a challenging moment, so I drew in a breath and began working my way around the room.  I not only changed the way I was thinking about the situation, but I even began to talk out loud - praising students who had successfully logged in and encouraging other students to hang in there.  In all it took about 15 minutes to get everyone logged in, and then I told them, "Let's see if next time we do this, we can get it finished in less than 15 minutes!"

Asking a seven year old to log into a website is asking a lot.  That is a challenging skill that requires so many steps, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to do it perfectly.  They have to type their username which involves finding all those letters on the keyboard, and then they have to remember and type their password!  That is a lot for a small child.  What's more, even if it were something they should be able to do (it isn't), my being angry at their failure to do it won't improve the situation any.  Expressing frustration over their inability to remember their own username won't help them remember it.

It is like that story of the Mom screaming at her child over and over again, "Calm down!"  That is NOT an effective way to help a child calm down, and odds are, they will never understand the meaning of the word "calm" if they are being screamed at.   Our family always laughs about the time my family and I were driving to my wedding rehersal dinner and I started to panic -- no doubt due to exhaustion and anxiety of all that was still left to do for the wedding.  My mom turned around to me in the back seat and said, "Relax!  RELAX!!"  We all started laughing because her use of the word "relax" was anything but relaxed!  It's a pretty funny memory from those insanely busy days of wedding craziness.  We still say it to each other from time to time  when things get stressful.  I love to use it on my sister who finds the whole thing hysterical.  

Everyone loses their patience from time to time -- usually when fatigue, or frustration or illness reaches it's peak.  We have a million other things we are carrying and we finally hit the wall.  I always feel horrible when I respond impatiently to someone; especially if it is a child.  I never want to be the teacher who says, "I just explained that!  I've told it to you THREE times!"  I will never forget my geometry teacher saying those things to me, and I wished I'd been brave enough to resond with, "I know.  And I am really sorry, but I still don't understand it.  I want to understand it, but I don't."  I've always wondered what his response would have been.

Moms everywhere understand the struggle.  Patience is no easy thing.  I imagine it must be the same for fathers, but I've never been a father so I can't say for sure.  My own father appears to be infinitely patient, and I honestly can't remember him losing his temper.  He has a calm nature, and isn't a worrier like the rest of the family.  You need at least one calm person in the family or things could get tense.  He was pretty good at talking us down from panic.  None of that is to say that my Mom isn't also patient -- the day you have a kid you have to develop patience.  How she let us "help" her cook is beyond my comprehension.  It can take the patience of a saint to let a kid measure out a cup of flour, or pour milk into the measuring cup.  

I think about having a calm and patient spirit a lot.  Not just because I'm a mom or because I teach small children, but also because I work with a fairly large number of adult humans.  They need my patience, too.  I am the technology teacher at school, and have learned a lot about the tech world, but not all of my co-workers have.  Sometimes when they ask me questions I need to remind myself that I need to go slowly, and give them time to process; they are learning something new.  Or might not even be a technology related moment, it might just be the ordinary, everyday struggles of being a teacher -- maybe for the moment they need me to be calm, patient and encouraging.  

We demand so much from each other, and yet we are so unbeliveably human.  I hope that when I trip, stumble, fall or fail, those beside me will reach down, lift me up and patiently encourage me in the right direction.  I hope that when your turn comes to need a calm, hopeful presence, I am there, supporting you with a patient spirt and an encouraging word.

--Jen