Patience is Not Permissiveness

Whether a student burps loudly in the middle of our lesson, someone calls out an answer instead of waiting their turn, one student is mean to another, or someone writes with a permanent marker on the dry erase board, there are going to be moments – and sometimes whole days – that try our patience as teachers. Teaching is really difficult work. The ability to be calm, patient and still lead with connected firmness takes practice and lots of tools and strategies. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Always be gentle with yourself. This takes practice and you’ll make mistakes. We (teachers and students) are all doing the best we can in the moment. Recognize there will be lots more opportunities to practice patience.
  • Create systems. Identify the “hot” spots. with your students, make a list of the things that create challenges for your learning community (lining up, transitions, pencils on the floor, students interrupting, chair scraping) and come up with solutions together. Take on one challenge at a time and help the students reflect and figure out if their solution worked or what else they could try.
  • Patience is not permissiveness. You are still responsible for setting clear limits. Connected, calm and firm.
  • Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly. You can invite the class to join you. Taking breaths for a reset will help everyone.
  • Respond instead of react. When we are stressed everything can seem like an emergency but not everything needs to be addressed immediately. Part of your power is waiting for the right moment. It allows you time to think about how best to express yourself.
  • Ask instead of tell. Ask what or how questions, instead of making statements. This encourages students to think about what they’ve said or done and helps them grow both awareness and responsibility. “What were you trying to accomplish?” or, “How can you say that so it is more respectful to your classmate?”
  • Take care of yourself. It is much easier to have patience when we have had sufficient rest, exercise regularly and eat healthy foods.
  • Make repairs after you make a mistake (and after you have calmed down). It is a powerful way to build connection, trust – and yes, to teach. Apologize, problem solve and share how you are working to be more patient. (This is not a time to tell your student what they did wrong.)