“How do you do it?”
“How do you not respond to all of our comments? You just smile.”
Unconsciously, I smile as I consider my response.
“See. Like that!” she says to me.
“Sometimes,” I say, “that is the best response.”
“Really? You are supposed to just smile?”
“Well, sometimes smiling is the best response for me. I’m not always certain what I would say would be good. You guys definitely make me grow in patience.”
That is entirely true. Teaching forces me to grown in patience in a way I never really considered. My first year of teaching found me horrified at myself as I realized that I had picked up a behavior from my students I didn’t want: rolling my eyes. I guess I had seen so many eye rolls that I just began to mirror their behavior back to them.
My students probably view me as quiet, gentle, and “nice.” They have experienced little of my sarcasm and sharp tongue. Perhaps they would be surprised if they had a glimpse into my mind, a taste of the quick retorts my mind can come up with when faced with their behavior. I like to think of myself as “long-suffering” and attempt to wade through their comments, ignoring many and responding to a few. My goal is to have the best response for the given situation. Sometimes it is acting like I never heard their groans. Other times I confront the student and then send them to the office when their behavior becomes too much. I probably get it wrong 80% of the time.
Patience. I’m slow to learn it. Driving across town I’ll get cut off in traffic and I am amazed how quickly my temper can flare. It is as though the greatest injustice has been done to me. On good days, I will quickly remind myself that it isn’t that big of a deal and will try to regain my peace. In a similar way, by 8th period my patience can wear thin and what wouldn’t have bothered me earlier in the day is nearly unbearable at that moment. I’m weary and ready for the day to end and instead I find myself justifying a ten minute assignment to an eighteen year old child who thinks they are an adult. Perhaps the Lord placed me here to acquire this virtue and my deficiency in patience will be overcome by teaching.
However, until my stubborn little heart learns to respond with tact and grace to complaints and criticisms, my best response may be a smile.
“Peace begins with a smile.” -Bl. Teresa of Calcutta