The polite, perfect phrases have echoed in and out of our ears all too many times before. I don’t know about you, but too much unrealistic idealism is leaving an unpleasant ringing in my ears.
Honesty is the best policy. Patience is a virtue. These age-old adages are just one age too old for our day, especially if we place them in the classroom. In my experience in the classroom, honesty only took ten points off my math test. I once told good ole Ms. Stedeford that she’d incorrectly marked a question in my benefit…so she took the points back. So much for the truth will prevail. Honesty is not always the best policy. It’s simply the most true policy. A white lie or unspoken truth never really hurt anyone…
As for patience, teaching this past year has truly taught me that even the most patient, understanding, honest, and caring of people only have so much patience. I like to think of myself as a pretty patient person. Just last week in my Period 5 class, I stopped the overly chatty class to lecture my students on what I’d learned from them.
“Patience. You’ve all taught me patience. I know it’s easy to get distracted when I’m up here talking…you may be writing a note in your assignment book, thinking about your last class…but I have something important to say up here if I’m speaking. That being said, you learn things from me, but I also learn things from you.”
The students are silent and staring at me.
“So thank you for teaching me patience this year.”
A student raises his hand hesitantly. “Is that supposed to be a compliment…?”
I smile, and say yes, though I’m fairly certain this is the most back-handed compliment these students have ever received. After this, class moves on as usual…But the truth is, even I have my limits of patience. Today, my Period 5 students stampeded in the doorway, only to begin barraging me with questions. WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY? DO WE HAVE HOMEWORK DUE TODAY? CAN WE PLEASE NOT HAVE THAT QUIZ? WAIT, THE QUIZ ISN’T TODAY, IS IT? Lull in questions. WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY?
Most days I take this with a deep breath and a smile. Today was not Most days. Today was Monday.
After many Hang-on’s and Wait-til-we-get-started-‘s and fun-stuff’s, I got class started with an edge in my voice. I’m sure I was not perceived as sounding icy, but oh, in my mind I know I was speaking arctic air with every breath. After the rough start though, class went on, we finished To Kill A Mockingbird, the play, and my students uttered bright “Oh!”‘s at discovering the meaning of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
My students were ecstatic to shoot hands up in the air and share the discovery that of Boo Radley being just like a mockingbird. Boo killed Bob Ewell to protect children. He was a hero. Letting people know he was a hero would be a sin, a back-row student explained. All he really did was sing pleasant music for the town…and he gave two children soap dolls, indian pennies, and their lives. He gave me a moment to cherish in Period 5 today, a moment to realize that all is not lost.
You see, it’s the Aha Moments, the bright “Oh!”‘s that I teach for and live for each day. It’s not the honesty, and it’s not the patience that keeps me going. Sometimes it’s hope…hope that with each lesson and with each day, it will be the little victories that make the difference. Maybe this is a little what patience really looks like.
Then again, some days patience looks a little like a deep breath now and a chunk of chocolate indulgence later.