I am a better teacher, a better human in general, when I remind myself to practice patience and presence.
I can’t even tell you how many times a day I silently say one or both of these words aloud to snap myself out of quick reactions and getting lost in the minutiae of the day. Both words were on replay in my head all day today.
I needed patience when some of my students reacted negatively to me setting clearer boundaries and expectations about cell phone use in the classroom.
I needed to remind myself that presence was necessary when my to do list was screaming for my attention while my students were doing their independent reading – it would have been so easy to take the ten minutes during each class period to sit at my desk and get some things done. Instead, that reminder to be present pushed me to pick up my clipboard and sit shoulder to shoulder with my readers and talk with them about the books they’re reading. Those 2-3 minute conversations are where some of my best teaching and learning take place. It is in those moments when I am able to give each student what he or she needs.
I needed to practice patience while my 8th graders were working through a brainstorming session for their upcoming writing pieces. Sometimes I really do forget how hard it can be to generate ideas, especially when our students are so rarely tasked with doing so. I even encouraged them to be patient if moments of silence cropped up when the ideas stopped, acknowledging that thinking sometimes needs silence as much as it also can be fed by conversation.
I needed to be fully present for one of my students who had questions about the GED exam. My largest class of the day was pouring in the room and they were end of the week rambunctious, but she had questions that needed answers in that moment. Her mom was taking the exam this morning, and she was frustrated that her mom didn’t tell her she was taking it today. She knew the test sounded important, but had no idea what it might mean for her mom. We let her classmates pour in and get settled, and I answered every one of her questions. She walked away with a “thank you” and I knew she proud of her mom for trying something hard.
I needed both patience and presence in the moment later in my day when I knew it was time to sit down and have a difficult conversation with one of my sophomores about how his behavior, attitude, and work ethic have changed in recent weeks. I needed him to hear me, and I needed to let myself hear him. It could have gone badly, and sometimes conversation like this one do, but today it turned into the talk we both needed. Patience and presence allowed for a much needed reset.
And right now, as I sit here writing this post, I’m working really hard to practice both once again today. I’ve written and erased tonight’s post three times. Finding my way tonight has been really hard, which happens sometimes when I try to rush or when I’m worried about how I (or my work) will be perceived. Clicking “publish” each day is nerve wracking, but I also know it’s necessary. I know this commitment is pushing me and will make me a better teacher and writer.
And tomorrow is Friday. We all know how much both patience and presence matter on Fridays in March when the cold is lingering, the promise of spring is on the horizon, and the weekend is calling our attention away from those to do lists and lesson plans. Take a deep breath, let patience and presence anchor you. Be there for your students. Be there for your colleagues. Be there for your family and friends. Be there for yourself.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.