Patience learned in the classroom

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

While a good friend and I were discussing possible and printable topics for this column, she decided I should write about patience and then left the area because she could see I was about to lose what little patience I had taken to the coffee table.

However, after doing a little calmer thinking, I decided she had a good idea because I would probably be able to lose all patience while trying to write about how to maintain it.

Most people who know me are aware that I tend to have limitless patience under some kinds of duress but am naturally a rather impatient person.

As a teacher, I surely had to learn self-control in one big hurry and had to spend much time acquiring patience when in the classroom and even more when dealing with all foolishness a teacher must cope with outside the classroom.

Actually, I had less trouble in the classroom because I liked most students and was willing to help them reach their goals, no matter how long that might take. Although some students tried to push me to the breaking point over the years, I learned to stand back to listen to them in order to figure out what could be done to encourage them to learn instead of what I could do to get in the way of their learning.

By facing the most obnoxious ones quietly and speaking to them softly, I discovered that we could begin to tolerate each other and could get on with the business of education. By going along with some of their antics, I could take the fun out of causing the rest of the class to lose precious time from their education.

By admiring a scorpion being dangled in front of me, instead of screaming and running, I could defuse a tense situation for both of us. The imp trying to scare me silly really didn’t want to hear a lecture about arachnids and the poisonous venom found at the tip of a scorpion’s tail. Neither was he interested in writing a couple of paragraphs about scorpions to read to the class the next day.

We quickly turned what could have been a major scene into a major learning experience and calmly went on with the lesson of the day.

Mother frequently expressed her amazement at my willingness to spend hours with students after class in order to help them with some of their work. She recalled all too well the impatience I displayed while growing up. I didn’t want to spend time doing my own work unless I could see a real purpose ahead and wasn’t about to spend time helping those who were not even slightly interested in learning something.

I finally let her in on a little secret once when she brought up the subject and told her I had learned about patience from her, even when she was fairly sure I wasn’t paying any attention.

I had watched her face many kinds of adversities and had noted that she coped quietly with whatever came along. When I would want to run, she would stand fast and maintain control. She did not act in haste and was always willing to help others. She set a major example to be followed.

On the other hand, I could lose all sense of patience while tying to deal with the politics of education and being chastised by administrators who couldn’t teach and shouldn’t have been in the profession in the first place.

As a result, I was often on the firing line because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and certainly couldn’t remain calm in the face of adversity.

Unfortunately, I was never able to bring that side of me under control and still want to do battle when I see what is happening today.

I am glad that I was able to practice patience where it counted and probably should feel differently about losing all sight of patience outside the classroom.