Category Archives: patience

Staying Power?

After two weeks away from the remote school where I teach, I returned to frozen and burst water pipes in the trailer where I “camp out.” My first night back, the trailer was waterless, except for two three-gallon jugs I cadged from a neighbor.

One of the maintenance guys spent all day Monday repairing the damage. After school, I found him packing his tools and getting ready to leave.

“So, how long are you going to stay here?” he asked as he headed for the front door.

“Oh, about 20 years,” I said.

“That means May,” he said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Oh, a lot of teachers say they’re going to stay for five years, then they leave in May.”

“Well, how about if I fool you and I don’t leave in May?”

“That’d be all right.”

When I shared this conversation with a long-time friend, I received this reply:

ahhh don’t you think twenty will be just right my Buddy…

i certainly do…by then you will still be a young elder

and can you imagine all of the hearts which will hold you
because they could trust you to “stay.”

Always i have found the hardest part of the journey…is to
stay…

My friend is right: The hardest part of the journey is to stay. Leaving for what I think might be greener pastures is always a temptation. Other schools in other states pay much more than I am earning here. Living conditions would be better farther south of this cold, barren land. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to worry about frozen water pipes! Sometimes this place tries my patience.

Patience [writes theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen in Bread for the Journey] is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

I wonder if I have what it takes to “stand” on this ground for the next twenty years—or even the next five. Only time will tell…

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Second Friday in Advent: Patience?

“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.’”
Revelation 2:19

Patient endurance? I’m afraid my patience with my sixth-graders ended long before the final bell rang today. At the beginning of sixth period I told them that we had a lot of work to do and that we would all have to keep on task to get it done.

“There are two very important things we need to do before 3:30,” I said. “We need to finish making Christmas cards for our pen pals and we need to finish decorating the board.” My students cheered. Then they grabbed scissors, colored construction paper, glue and crayons and went to work.

For about fifteen minutes, it seemed as though things might actually go according to my plan. Everywhere I looked, students were cutting, coloring and decorating.

Then things started to deteriorate. B-Boy got up from his desk to wander aimlessly around the room. Two boys got into a “sword fight” with scissors. A threesome huddled around the one student computer that’s hooked to a printer. They said they were just taking a quick look for Christmas tree art to print, but the “quick look” quickly became forty minutes—at which point I shut down the computer. M-Boy decided that using the stapler was so much fun he started tacking staples all over the bulletin board as fast as he could. J-Boy began verbally harassing some of the girls and wouldn’t stop.

Finally, I’d had enough. I ordered the students to clean up immediately and return to their desks. “Do not get out of your seats until after the bell rings,” I said. (They never did finish the holiday cards to their pen pals.) I couldn’t wait to escort them out of the building to the waiting buses. As soon as I turned off the lights in my classroom, I left the school, muttering to myself, “I hate this time of year.”

I don’t really hate the days leading up to Christmas, of course, but all of the stresses of the week finally caught up with me and words of discouragement flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. I’m human. I get tired. I complain.

Fortunately, there’s One who knows me better than I know myself. He also knows the better self that sometimes gets buried deep within me. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance,” he says. “I know the real you, and that this was ‘just one of those days.’ If you will rest in My love over the weekend, you’ll be refreshed, restored and ready to return to your classroom Monday morning.”

What a gracious offer! And it comes to me not only during the days of Advent, but every day of the year.

A Twelfth Chance

Once upon a time (which is where all good—and even bad—stories begin) in a district far away, I failed a CPR course. Don’t ask. It was ugly. Even though the instructor gave me a second chance, I failed again.

So when our special ed director mandated that every special ed teacher in our district take first aid and CPR training, I was mortified. The memory of my previous failure still haunted me.

Today’s training, however, was far different from the one that left me feeling shamed and humiliated. The instructors were kind and patient. Their goal was to make sure that no one failed. After watching an informative video, they gave us lots of time to practice what we had learned. At the end of the day, everyone—including me—passed.

As a teacher, I need to remember the most important lesson I learned today: A second chance may not be enough. Sometimes it takes a third, a fourth or even a twelfth chance for a student to succeed.

Patience, Magical Mystical Teacher. Kindness.

Then stand back and watch your students blossom.