Practicing Professional Patience
We can become better teachers, colleagues, writers, and teacher entrepreneurs—better people—by practicing professional patience!
Patience is a virtue. I can’t tell you how many times my mother told me that when I was a kid. As an adult, I’ve long been working on becoming more patient in my personal life. For example, I’ve gotten better about road rage, and if I’m stuck in a long line at the grocery store, I try to have a friendly conversation with the person standing next to me.
But recently I’ve come to realize that I can be impatient in my professional life, as well. Here are some examples:
- as a teacher: wishing a student would progress faster;
- as a colleague: feeling annoyed at a colleague who disagrees with me or talks too much at a faculty meeting;
- as a writer: publishing a product online without fully proofreading it;
- as a teacher entrepreneur: complaining that it is taking so long for me to become known on the Teachers Pay Teachers online marketplace, in part because the new search algorithm favors established sellers.
Professional impatience can have negative results, making us:
- shut down learning (in our students or ourselves);
- prevent the development of trust;
- be part of the problem, not the solution;
- create less than our best writing;
- hinder relationship-building;
- feel dissatisfied, frustrated;
- suffer the health consequences of stress.
Good news! Patience can be cultivated in the professional realm, as well as the personal. I want to share with you some ways I’m trying to practice professional patience.
1: Change my expectations.
When I am impatient, I have unrealistic expectations. Why should I expect that, after one year on Teachers Pay Teachers, I should jump ahead of sellers who have been working hard at creating and marketing their products for years?
And, regarding my impatience with a student’s progress, how often do children—or any of us, for that matter—suddenly master a new skill? Almost never. Real learning—real change—takes time.
That’s why Reading Recovery training lasts as long as you are a RR teacher. Substantial change in our teaching takes practice over time. Why would I expect it to be any different for my students?
Letting go of my expectations means accepting and adjusting to things as they are.
2: Look within.
Speaking of Reading Recovery, we were taught that if the child wasn’t making progress, we should look at our own teaching for the solution. Look within.
I can’t change my students, my colleagues, or the search algorithm on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I can change myself. I can work on creating better lessons. I can post to my blog. I can write quality products and market them on social media. That brings me to the next way to practice professional patience.
3: Put quality over quantity.
Anyone creating materials for an online marketplace is familiar with the urge to upload new digital products A.S.A.P. ($$$) It’s tempting to skimp on proofreading, only to discover later that you have to correct errors in a hastily-uploaded product.
Let’s face it: good writing can’t be rushed. My best writing goes through numerous revisions. In fact, sometimes it feels as though I have to watch, wait, and listen for the writing piece to emerge from my earlier drafts. I have to remind myself to focus on creating quality products, rather than worry about how many products I have or how fast I can upload them.
4: Remember that I am not the center of the universe.
When I put my agenda first and foremost, when I think everything should happen on my schedule, I am putting myself at the center of the universe.
I must keep in mind that my colleagues have their own hopes, wishes, and needs. Their plans may differ or even run counter to mine. How do I feel when someone is impatient with me? I certainly can’t do my best. I’ve got to try to see the world as the other person sees it, put myself in their shoes. Be empathetic, tolerant of differences.
5: Ask myself what’s really important.
What detail am I feeling impatient about? Will I remember it in a year, in a month, or even a week from now?
What really matters—this problem I am focusing on, or the big picture? What’s really important? Am I letting my ego to get in the way? Think about why I went into teaching in the first place: to help others. That’s what’s really important.
6: Listen. Connect. Appreciate.
Often when I’m impatient about something, I am operating under the illusion that I can do it all myself, if other people would just get out of my way.
I’m forgetting all the help I have received from colleagues, professors, mentors, editors, friends, or just other teacher entrepreneurs. I can’t do it alone.
Instead of being impatient, I can look and listen—get outside of myself. If I stay open to others, I will find that there is someone out there I can help.
7: Look for the positive. Practice gratitude.
It’s easy for all of us to focus on the negative. Our brains are wired that way to protect us from danger. How many times have you woken up in the middle of the night worried about a student, or about something you said to a colleague?
When you find yourself drowning in negative thinking, pause to look at what is going well in your professional life. Make a gratitude list. You have a teaching job. You have colleagues. You have a writing career. You are progressing as a teacher entrepreneur.
Concentrate on your student’s strengths. Use the child’s strengths to address his or her weaknesses. Praise small improvements and positive behavior. And how about your own teaching strengths? Focus on your good qualities, as well. Think about the positive traits of the colleague who is annoying you.
No matter what is going on in our professional lives, there is always something to be thankful for. Looking for the positive will help us to be grateful.
8: Stay in the moment. Enjoy the ride.
When we are feeling impatient, we are focusing on the future, on the end product, on what we want or think we want. We are worrying about the outcome, not operating in the present.
Take a breath or two, and appreciate the here and now. Focus on what is around you, who is around you, right now. Be at peace. Be mindful. Stay in the moment. Enjoy the ride!
I hope these ideas help you practice professional patience. Do you have any other thoughts on the subject? I would be very grateful if you share them in the Comments section below. We can become more patience together!