I’m sitting in my office with a student’s records scattered over my desk. These papers tell a sad story that offers not so much as a glimmer of hope for academic success. I’ve never met this student, so I have no idea what events led to the grim facts before me. She’s now fifteen minutes late for her scheduled appointment. I’ve checked my email twice for a message of cancellation…nothing. The phone hasn’t rung. I’m feeling miffed about the time I’ve spent gathering her information and visiting other offices to clarify her situation.
Patience…certainly not my cardinal virtue. In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he lists the “fruits of the Spirit,” one of which is “patience” in most modern translations. The older King James Version uses “longsuffering,” a choice that somehow seems closer to the truth of the matter. Some of the other named “fruits”—love, joy, peace, goodness—sound absolutely delicious. Sign me up for a double helping. But longsuffering? Not so much.
Still, if I’m really committed to the idea that learning should be pleasurable, patience on my part must be a prerequisite. Surprises should be unexpected flashes of understanding, not traps that snap shut with a “gotcha.” Humor should be self-deprecating, not sarcastic or belittling. Steps on the path toward achievable challenges must be added carefully, deliberately, supportively. Ah, patience.
Let’s not forget the joys of autonomy. Good instructors understand that there will always be a tug-of-war between accountability and enabling. What is coddling for one student may be the support that another student needs. The best teachers learn how to make the right call. The rest of us steady our aim and hope for the best.
Nineteenth century theologian and scholar E.B Pusey offered these thoughts on the subject:
“We have need of patience with ourselves and with others: with those below, and those above us, and with our own equals; with those who love us and those who love us not; for the greatest things and for the least; against sudden inroads of trouble and under our daily burdens; disappointments as to weather, or the breaking of the heart; in the weariness of the body, or the wearing of the soul; in our own failure of duty, or others’ failure toward us….”
Too long to write on my wall, I suppose, but worthy of daily re-reading.
She never did show up.