How to Be a Patient Teacher

A teacher's measure of patience might vary from student to student.

In a world accelerated by technology, the definition of patience may itself be blurred. The book "The Elements of Teaching" offers one definition, describing patience as an element that, unlike learning or imagination, requires restraint rather than release. If ever in doubt about what that means or if ever discouraged by an apparent lack of progress with a student, the book also refers to one famous example that can inspire and strengthen a determination to continue -- that of Anne Sullivan Macy, the woman who taught Helen Keller. Her example shows that patience naturally springs form unremitting devotion.

Understand your students. Nancy Weber, a nationally recognized educational consultant, says that teachers need to do more than just show patience with students. They must understand them, too. Essentially, patience without understanding isn't patience at all, but an empty form of waiting.

Individualize your students. This will help you understand each one and contribute to patience. Kathy Mayfield, a special education teacher who works with emotionally disturbed children in Kansas, says part of the work is reading moods.

Adjust according to each student's needs. A student with a rough mood shouldn't be pushed as hard to complete work. The next day might be the better day. Mayfield further asserts that a student's bad mood or lashing out shouldn't be taken personally, and shouldn't reflect on a teacher's face. Use all knowledge you have of that student to deal with the situation.

Prepare well. With an understanding of each student, prepare what you will teach with each student in mind. This preparation allows you to anticipate each student's needs and avoid running into unnecessary frustration, an antonym of patience.

Be positive. Isolating the good qualities in each student and recognizing her strengths will further aid patience. This is especially important when correcting a student. By putting a positive spin on correction, a student will more readily accept it and incline herself toward progress.

  • Be careful not to confuse patience with complacency. The book "The Art of Teaching" mentions that sometimes patience should end in order for the teacher to make a change, not in the student, but in himself and in his approach.
  • 1 "The Elements of Teaching"; James M. Banner, Harold C. Cannon; 1999
  • 2 "What Kindergarten Teachers Know: Practical and Playful Ways to Help Children"; Lisa Holewa, Joan Rice; 2008
  • 3 "The Art of Teaching Music"; Estelle Ruth Jorgensen; 2008

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including and "The Portland Upside."