Patience While Teaching… “Whatever”

Eric Branner

Oct 22, 2016

I always try to teach from a patient, positive perspective… “You can do it.” “That’s the way.” “Keep trying.”

All teachers deal with occasional, and sometimes often unpreparedness and apathy from students. Have you ever presented an awesome lesson plan to a student, only to receive a “whatever” in return? If you haven’t, you’re a more engaging teacher than I am. This happens to me at least once a week! Why isn’t my student buying what I’m selling? When is it okay or helpful to lose your patience? How do we as teachers differentiate between disrespect, lack of confidence, and boredom? What do we do as instructors when we’re frustrated. Should we fire these students?

I understand that not every student will have the love and desire that I have for my craft. Most teachers teach because they have spent the greater part of their life mastering something that began(and hopefully remains) a passion. They feel compelled and responsible for sharing and furthering their knowledge.

In contrast, many students often learn an art, sport, or topic as part of a complex folio of things to be learned on the road to becoming a well-rounded person. Lessons can be yet another expectation laid upon a child by a well-meaning caregiver. We all read the articles about the effects of studying music, language, or movement in the developing brain. We certainly don’t want our youngsters to miss out on that! I try to remember all students are different, all students can change in a moment.

Keep Your Cool… Always.

Students can push you to edges of yourself. After 20 years of teaching, I’ve come to the conclusion that losing your patience is never the right thing. If a student is struggling, or even being disrespectful, remaining calm is the way. I’ve learned to take deep breaths, and sometimes I’ll leave the room for a moment if I’m losing it. You are a mentor of a topic. This is your job. You’re also setting an example for how a human being should act. I’ve lost my patience before with students, and I always regret it. I’ve remained patient when wanting to yell, and I’m always thankful for it later.

Full disclosure, I occasionally pretend that I’m Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights… raising my chest voice, trying to be seriously inspiring. It usually ends in laughter all around. I can never pull that one off…

How to deal with respect issues

Patience doesn’t mean you have to be dishonest, or disrespected. You should always set clear boundaries for what you’re willing to put up with. You can always issue warnings regarding practice, commitment, and studio behavior. Sometimes you will have to let a student go. If you’re being paid to teach, and you’re not providing any real value… you’re morally in the right to say “it’s time to find another instructor.” Just saying it will often turn things around.

Don’t Give Up!

The reason I wanted to write this article is…. Don’t Give Up! I’ve had some pretty intense examples of disrespect, lack of practice, unwillingness to try new things, and just plain horror in my studio over the years. Many of my best students went through phases where I was nearly desperate to terminate our lessons. Perhaps they were getting bullied at school, going through a hard time with family, learning how to navigate middle school…(7th grade is the worst) Nearly every student I’ve hung in there with has turned out to be a great student, and many have grown up to become close friends.

Your students will test your patience in the safe environment you’ve created for them to learn. Remind yourself that the teacher/student relationship is an awesome and truly beautiful responsibility. When you look back at a career of teaching, you’ll observe how those little rapscallions grew up into amazing adults. Just maybe the patience you exhibited during lessons was a part of that metamorphosis.

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