Why do I show more patience to my students, than I do to my husband? That’s today’s big question.
We all show degrees of patience every day. Life requires us to be patient. In shops, waiting for service, waiting for the bus, when we’re speaking to children who don’t have the same language abilities as adults, making complaints about bad food in a restaurant, and many other life situations require us to show patience when dealing with others.
Also, we’re required to be patient in our jobs. With customers, colleagues, and other people we’re required to interact with during our working day. If we get impatient at work, it could mean an end to our employment. So, we’re patient.
Teaching English is no different. I have to be patient with my students because for them it’s a slow learning process. Learning a language takes time. Students make mistakes. They ask questions all the time. They repeat the same questions over and over.
After 12 years of teaching, it can get a bit monotonous. I mean, I’m still teaching the same things I was teaching when I started doing it in 2007. Grammar, vocabulary, listening, writing etc.
The topics may change, the students change, the locations of my lessons change. But the students are still learning the same things and asking me the same questions that I’ve been asked 100 times before.
When I was training to be an ESL teacher, we were encouraged to explore the qualities of a good teacher. There were so many suggestions – kindness, responsibility, punctuality, good organisational skills, good listening skills, caring personality, and the list went on and on.
And this list of suggestions of what makes a good teacher also included patience. As I mentioned earlier, we’re all patient in various degrees in different situations, and teaching is no different. But, I really feel it when I’m being patient while I’m with students. I realise when I’m slowing down my speech, repeating things over and over, or just trying to understand what a student is telling me in imperfect English. I’m patient with them.
So, what prompted this post about patience?
A few weeks ago, I was teaching a group the difference between ‘remember to do something’ and ‘remember doing something’. If you’re an English teacher you’ll know what I’m teaching – gerund vs to + inf. If you’re a native English speaker you’ve probably never even noticed that there’s a difference!
And if you’re a non-native speaker, you’ve probably had the pleasure of learning this difference, not only with the verb ‘remember’ but with other verbs too (the most difficult for me, as a teacher, is ‘try to do something’ and ‘try doing something’ – I’m not very good at providing perfect examples for my students for them to easily understand the difference).
So, in this group of 5 men, who aren’t the strongest students I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching, we have one guy who’s quite vocal and amusing. He’s always ready to tell us what he did at the weekend, or share stories about himself related, or not, to the topic of the lesson. Without him, honestly, the lessons wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or as pleasant as they are.
We’d done the grammar introduction, looked at some examples, talked a bit about it and generally prepared for the written exercises.
Sergey needed to ask one more time before starting the exercises if I could explain the difference between ‘remember to do something’ and ‘remember doing something’. Which one is which?
Not a problem at all. It’s my job. With pleasure, Sergey.
Ok, that done, all eyes were down and the students were doing the exercises quietly. About half way through, Sergey cleared his throat and asked me again, “Can you please explain again the difference between ‘remember to do something’ and ‘remember doing something’?”
Of course, no problem.
Even though something may be evident to me or you, it can take some students a bit longer to absorb and understand new information, so, as we agreed above, patience is key here. And I have an enormous amount of patience for my students.
Well, most of them, anyway.
We got to the end of the exercise, checked answers, discussed problems, and moved on to using the new grammar in a more interactive way – speaking to each other. These guys don’t like working in pairs, so we usually have a big speaking party altogether.
It’s good this way, I don’t have to get up out of my chair to walk around the table to hear what everybody’s saying (lazy teacher!). They usually all take turns talking during the speaking activities, even if some of them are more active than the others.
Anyway, we finished the speaking activities successfully – or as successfully as one can be with this group – and then I gave them homework, which was consolidation of the grammar we’d just learnt in the lesson. Then it was time to say goodbye.
The guys stood up, started walking out the door, and, yes, you probably guessed it. Sergey stopped at the door, and asked, “Can you tell me one more time the difference between ‘remember to do something’ and ‘remember doing something’?”
His colleagues laughed at him, I smiled, and patiently explained again the difference and wished him a good week and said goodbye.
As I left the building, I suddenly had an awful feeling. I realised that I’m never that patient with my husband. If I have to explain something to him twice I’m already huffing and puffing to show my annoyance. I do a big sigh so he hears it. Like a mother with a disobedient child.
Olivier’s French, as you may know. We have to explain things to each other all the time because of the language barrier. Also, Olivier’s less into technology than I am, so I sometimes have to explain computer stuff to him. More than once because over time it’s easily forgotten, so he often has to ask me the same thing again later.
And I’m impatient with him.
I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed at how impatient I am when Olivier asks me something for the second, third, or more, time. Why can’t I be with him, like I am with my students? Why do I expect him to learn something new, to absorb information, immediately? I would never expect that of my students, so why do I expect that of him?
Since that day with my group and Sergey’s questions, I’ve been trying to be more patient with Olivier. It’s hard, but I’m trying. I hope one day he’ll be able to say that patience is one of my strong qualities, but I’m afraid that right now it’s not.
Why do we always show our bad side to our most loved people and our good side to strangers? I don’t mean that we should show our bad side to strangers, but we should at least make an effort to show some patience to the ones we love.
Have you assessed your ability to be patient recently? Are you showing enough patience to your loved ones? Let me know in the comments.