Ever taught a class of students who never seemed to understand the simple common knowledge concepts despite your varied methods and a thousand emphatic repetitions? Haven’t we all? In an age, where everything is instant -instant music downloads, instant picture uploads, instant soup, and of course, the instant gratification that comes along with all of that, patience becomes an incredibly hard concept to practice.
That the definition of patience may itself be blurred in a world accelerated by technology is only a fact. Teaching is anything but instantaneous; it requires the patience of a hunter. Don’t get me wrong; no teacher should be expected to have much patience with individuals whose lack of discipline, immaturity, or indolence interrupts the work of other students. Spending a single day in a room full of raucous teenagers is enough to set any human being insane. Patience with students who are trying to learn, however, is part and parcel of the teaching profession. Impatience with sincere students is an indication of the teacher’s own shortcomings.
One advantage teachers have is their extensive knowledge of the subject matter they teach. Some, however, lack the capability of appreciating the fact that each student may display different levels of aptitude for different subjects. A good teacher will possess this understanding, and be willing to take the time to reach those students who don’t display strong aptitudes in certain subjects. Such a level of concern for the students is an attribute only achieved if a teacher is patient.
A patient teacher will also have the willingness to adapt to different classroom situations. Students vary from class to class. Some may be attentive, while others, trouble-makers. Others aren’t disruptive, only because they may be busy texting their friends while sitting in the back of the classroom. Different learning strategies may have to be employed, depending on the students in each class. Some students excel in role-playing, while others prefer to quietly write notes and listen. A good teacher knows how to engage students in the learning process.
What else leads to long-term retention of curriculum but takes patience to incorporate in our instruction? The wait time! Increasing our wait time after posing a question to the class and before calling on a student to answer and allowing wait time for a student to provide a thoughtful response once called upon to do so is a very effective aspect in teaching. Most of the time, teachers become impatient when a student delays to provide an answer and just go ahead to answer it if they don’t pass it on to the next student. A good teacher patiently waits and may even give clues to prompt the stuck student to encourage a free and fair classroom environment.
It’s easy to brush these highly effective, but patience-testing practices to one side, claiming there is no time to offer them. Yet when we look back at our own education, we find mentors who somehow found a way to be patient with us, even when every indicator told them to move on to the next thing or give up. Give the learners a little credit; Rome wasn’t built in a day. The sooner we and those mandating policy upon us recognize these non-negotiable elements, the better we can serve our mission.
The writer is a Language Consultant