One of the things students in my classes always said they appreciated about me was my patience, my willingness and ability to explain something many ways and many times and to never get irritated or snippy about it. I prided myself on that patience, too. It was my job to be as clear as possible, to open a many doors as I could to make sure students had room to think their way through to an understanding of whatever we were working on.
Whenever students remarked on it, I would joke that my patience was reserved for them alone, that they should see me outside the classroom, see me on the street. And that was a joke, but it was also true — I was definitely far more giving with them than with strangers, more than with my co-workers … and more, of course, than with myself.
Since this month of writing seems to be primarily about soul searching and baring all my wounds, scabs and scars, it should shock no one that even my seeming virtues are coming under scrutiny. I’ve been thinking a lot about my fabled patience, about how I would work with a student who was afraid to try a new assignment, who was struggling with a particular subject, about my compassion and patience in those situations.
It certainly isn’t true that I have neither patience with nor compassion for myself. Hardly. I am infinitely patient with myself when trying out a new recipe, for example. I was incredibly kind with myself through the whole mistake-riddled process that was me learning how to sew signatures and bind the book I made for Fox last Christmas. But that deeper level of patience, that’s the one that interests me, the one that seems held in reserve only for students.
I’d like to know where it comes from. I am pretty much the only person in my immediate family who has it — one more way in which I’m odd-girl-out. It isn’t a teacher thing — I’ve had many too many teachers who didn’t have it — and it’s obviously quite fallible. If not, I’d extend it more easily and often to more people, to myself.
Patience. I think it’s the destination a lot of my round-and-round thoughts have been trying to reach. It’s not some alien land. I’ve been there many times, know what it looks and feels and tastes like. I just need to remember to go there more often, to stay longer when I go … and leave the front gate open so more people can come in.
Find all of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.