School is out and I've been thinking about the past year -- saw a lot, did a lot, learned a lot... and while I would like to be able to summarize my experience in one short (or very long) post, it's taking me a while to process.
Last Spring, I took an education course on diversity with a very interesting professor. One of our books (written by my professor) Becoming a Student of Teaching has frequently entered my mind throughout this first year of teaching that I just wrapped up. Or maybe I should just say that the title of the book is what I've been thinking about. My first year as a teacher was filled with countless ups and downs. Unfortunately, there were fewer peaks than valleys. But positively, in a lot of ways, those low points put me back in the "classroom" on an almost-daily basis. Professionally, a lot was thrown my way this year, I had gaps to fill, lessons to learn, other lessons to earn (more on that in a future post) and I am, no doubt, going to be a "student of teaching" for a long time to come if the classroom is where I stay. So... in celebration of making it out of my first year alive I'm allowing myself to process all of these mini-lessons and compile them into several little "jewels of wisdom," if you will, that will make up this series, "student of teaching" (using that phrase in honor of my diversity professor, of course). None of these are revelations... thousands of people have learned these lessons before me, I am sure. But that doesn't in any way downplay the major effect they've had on my professional (and sometimes personal) life.
Without a doubt my hardest lesson earned and perhaps the longest lesson to learn was... patience. Just...... patience. Or, really, practicing patience. How many times have I heard that "Patience is a virtue." Or believed that it was just something characteristic to someone's personality? A trait to be inherited. I never really thought much about it being a practice instead. Of course there were all those church lessons and devotions over the years given completely to learning patience but all of that never could have prepared me for the kind of patience I would need last school year. The patience I needed, and that I gained a little of, was not something I could inherit or learn about in a youth devotional. It took practice.
If any of you do (or have ever) practice yoga or pilates, then you know what I'm talking about. Yea, you can use yoga every now and then to break up your workout routine or flex those little-used muscles, but unless you stick with it and turn it into a practice, it does you little good over the long-term. It's effects aren't meant to be strictly physical; its benefits go a little deeper than that. Just like patience isn't meant to strictly get you through the day; its purpose is greater than that. Initially, I used calming "techniques" (or a shallow version of patience) to simply get me through the day and when the day was over it was total meltdown and frustration.
Next day... wake-up, get ready, brace myself for what was coming, go through the motions, get through the day, sigh and silently fume on the way home, dinner, wind down, sleep, and repeat. It was like a beginner's sun salutation over... and over....... and over again. No substance or rooted strength; just doing it and scraping by. I was feeling the burnout and finally just surrendered myself to patience. It was the only other option (well... the only other options besides melting down publicly or becoming a hateful, unhappy person most of the time). And, just like yoga, it took practice. I was sore at first, too stubborn to really let it take me through, but it didn't take long to reap the benefits.
Before I started teaching, patience was not one of my virtues. I don't think I actually believe it is a virtue at all anymore. A practice? Yea, I think so.