Sometimes I feel the virtue of patience is not addressed enough during the learning process within the (american) classrooms. I am saying this, as I had one more experience of a stressed teacher. Here’s the story:
During one of my drama-science sessions, some of the students chose not to participate and stay out of some activities that we were doing. As an instructor, I saw and recognised straight away their need for time-out, their choice not to get engaged.
As the first student expressed her wish, I had to act fast: I knew that if I was going to let this happen, soon enough, more students would follow and choose to stay out -I would lose more of them. This alone, for the authority and the status of a teacher, is a heartbreaking situation and if you are a teacher you know exactly how it feels. You get me. It hurts.
But is this happening for and about me? Or is the “now” for the students? It is their “now and here”.
As I predicted, a couple more students chose to stay out. I tried to explain to them that it is totally fine -if they want to stay out, they can as long as they are quiet- but at any point, if they will feel that they want to join us again, they are more than welcome to do so. I saw the surprise in their eyes from what I said and I knew that the first battle had started.
Hours later, as I was talking with the teacher that was a TA in the classroom, she asked me how and why did I let this happen. Why didn’t I change the activity since I saw that some of the students weren’t engaged? She was stressed and she needed an explanation.
A more nuanced look in the day of an american may easily end up in the customer - provider relationship. We are in a country with an excellent service whether we are speaking for a restaurant, a museum or even education. We -most of the times- see our students as customers, and we want them to be happy.*
Well, here’s the thing.
It is ok if the students are getting bored sometimes. It is ok if they feel they don’t like an activity. It is ok if they can stay out for a while, evaluate their choice, make another decision -who knows. Learning is not a linear process and certainly does not exist in a vacuum -it has an iterative back and forth dynamic. It is a unique journey that each one of the students has to take, shape and reform again and again.
If they are bored it’s ok. They can stay out for a while if they want to, and if they see that the rest of the students participate and have fun, they might take the responsibility and the step to take action.
We, educators, all agree that we want responsible, mindful students. And all I am saying is that this is one way to get there.
Tip for the educator: Be persistent. Set baundaries. Explain what you expect and what it is aloud. Give options. Be persistent. Be patient. It’s gonna be ok.
*I am aware that this is a huge topic with many sides and voices but this is another post.