Skip navigation
All Places > Explore > Teacher Blogs > Blog > 2019 > November
2019

"If we want to live wider and deeper lives, not just faster ones, we have to practice patience -- patience with ourselves, with other people, and with the big and small circumstances of life itself."

M. J. Ryan

    

Have you ever felt frustrated? Exasperated? I think those are pretty natural feelings to experience occasionally but have you felt like you're in a mode where it happens all the time? I have. A challenging class, too many commitments, illness, or other stressors compound to take us to our wit's end. The result? We lose our patience, maybe have a cry, and ultimately feel defeated. At least that's what happens to me.

 

Patience is something that I'm usually pretty good at. A lot of people would say it's a requirement in the job of teaching. But, every once in a while, I lose patience. And, once the cycle has begun, it is like a crazy roller coaster ride you can't get off of and you seem to lose patience with every dip, drop, and screeching turn.

 

Happily, we don't reside on roller coasters and are therefore not trapped on a crazy ride. For me, remembering that is step one in self-help because feeling trapped turns us into non-thinking, tunnel-visioned, instinctual animals - think fight or flight response - and that kind of thinking isn't conducive to the sort of calm and balanced thought process linked to patience.

 

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.

Arnold Glasow, American humorist

 

I teach my students about the fight or flight response in relation to the fear of public speaking, but it encompasses any kind of fear and should really also include freeze along with fight or flight. I thought it was interesting that the fear response was an active part, for me anyway, of my losing patience cycle (my trapped feeling). Given that I also teach my students techniques and tips to help reduce the fear response in public speaking and that we talk about how practicing helps alleviate fear, I thought that there must be active strategies to help me improve my patience when I am on the downward slide.

 

With all this contemplation about patience and realizing how acutely patience and lack of patience affects my mindset and well-being, I wondered how big an impact patience has in general. I discovered that patience is a pretty important characteristic. In fact, according to Kira Newman in her article, Good things really do come to those who wait, it is linked to improved physical and mental health, helps us achieve our goals, and makes us a better friend. Newman goes on to offer practical advice for improving patience and outlines three things we can do:

 

  1. Re-frame the situation. Feeling impatient is not just an automatic emotional response; it involves conscious thoughts and beliefs, too. If a colleague is late to a meeting, you can fume about their lack of respect, or see those extra 15 minutes as an opportunity to get some reading done. Patience is linked to self-control, and consciously trying to regulate our emotions can help us train our self-control muscles.
  2. Practice mindfulness. In one study, kids who did a six-month mindfulness program in school became less impulsive and more willing to wait for a reward. The GGSC’s Christine Carter also recommends mindfulness practice for parents: Taking a deep breath and noticing your feelings of anger or overwhelm (for example, when your kids start yet another argument right before bedtime) can help you respond with more patience.
  3. Practice gratitude. In another study, adults who were feeling grateful were also better at patiently delaying gratification. When given the choice between getting an immediate cash reward or waiting a year for a larger ($100) windfall, less grateful people caved in once the immediate payment offer climbed to $18. Grateful people, however, could hold out until the amount reached $30. If we’re thankful for what we have today, we’re not desperate for more stuff or better circumstances immediately.

 

Self-control and delayed gratification are not the only things linked to patience. Patient people are often better liked by their peers and co-workers, while impatient people are seen as arrogant and insensitive. No wonder patient people end up in the lead for promotions and leadership positions.

 

Learning to be patient involves knowing your own body. If you are prone to losing patience, take notice of the typical signs like shallow breathing, muscle tension, hand clenching, jiggling feet, irritability, anxiety, rushing, and making quick decisions.

 

Catching ourselves as we begin to fall into the impatience cycle is important to help in stopping it. Many of us have typical triggers. For example, do you get more impatient if you are hungry or tired? What typically causes your impatience? Is there a root cause? Again, knowing yourself goes a long way in cutting down on our impatience and the toxic feelings that often go with it.

 

Remedying impatience can be done in a variety of ways and some techniques work well for some and not others. Again, know thyself! A few that go a long way for me are breathing exercises, positive self-talk, purposeful muscle relaxation (i.e. head and shoulder rolls, visualization to aid in regaining/attaining calmness, and finally practicing active and empathetic listening. The last one is my most difficult to do when I am really impatient, but it is also the most successful in immediately re-framing my mindset.

 

Patience does really come to those who wait ... but it also comes to those who actively seek to be patient.

 

Sources:

 

Mind Tools Content Team. “How to Be Patient: Staying Calm Under Pressure.” Stress Management Training from MindTools.com, https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_78.htm.

 

Newman, Kira M. “Four Reasons to Cultivate Patience.” Greater Good, UC Berkeley, 4 Apr. 2016, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_reasons_to_cultivate_patience.

lthomas

P is for Patience

Posted by lthomas Nov 28, 2019

"If we want to live wider and deeper lives, not just faster ones, we have to practice patience -- patience with ourselves, with other people, and with the big and small circumstances of life itself."

M. J. Ryan

    

Have you ever felt frustrated? Exasperated? I think those are pretty natural feelings to experience occasionally but have you felt like you're in a mode where it happens all the time? I have. A challenging class, too many commitments, illness, or other stressors compound to take us to our wit's end. The result? We lose our patience, maybe have a cry, and ultimately feel defeated. At least that's what happens to me.

 

Patience is something that I'm usually pretty good at. A lot of people would say it's a requirement in the job of teaching. But, every once in a while, I lose patience. And, once the cycle has begun, it is like a crazy roller coaster ride you can't get off of and you seem to lose patience with every dip, drop, and screeching turn.

 

Happily, we don't reside on roller coasters and are therefore not trapped on a crazy ride. For me, remembering that is step one in self-help because feeling trapped turns us into non-thinking, tunnel-visioned, instinctual animals - think fight or flight response - and that kind of thinking isn't conducive to the sort of calm and balanced thought process linked to patience.

 

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.

Arnold Glasow, American humorist

 

I teach my students about the fight or flight response in relation to the fear of public speaking, but it encompasses any kind of fear and should really also include freeze along with fight or flight. I thought it was interesting that the fear response was an active part, for me anyway, of my losing patience cycle (my trapped feeling). Given that I also teach my students techniques and tips to help reduce the fear response in public speaking and that we talk about how practicing helps alleviate fear, I thought that there must be active strategies to help me improve my patience when I am on the downward slide.

 

With all this contemplation about patience and realizing how acutely patience and lack of patience affects my mindset and well-being, I wondered how big an impact patience has in general. I discovered that patience is a pretty important characteristic. In fact, according to Kira Newman in her article, Good things really do come to those who wait, it is linked to improved physical and mental health, helps us achieve our goals, and makes us a better friend. Newman goes on to offer practical advice for improving patience and outlines three things we can do:

 

  1. Re-frame the situation. Feeling impatient is not just an automatic emotional response; it involves conscious thoughts and beliefs, too. If a colleague is late to a meeting, you can fume about their lack of respect, or see those extra 15 minutes as an opportunity to get some reading done. Patience is linked to self-control, and consciously trying to regulate our emotions can help us train our self-control muscles.
  2. Practice mindfulness. In one study, kids who did a six-month mindfulness program in school became less impulsive and more willing to wait for a reward. The GGSC’s Christine Carter also recommends mindfulness practice for parents: Taking a deep breath and noticing your feelings of anger or overwhelm (for example, when your kids start yet another argument right before bedtime) can help you respond with more patience.
  3. Practice gratitude. In another study, adults who were feeling grateful were also better at patiently delaying gratification. When given the choice between getting an immediate cash reward or waiting a year for a larger ($100) windfall, less grateful people caved in once the immediate payment offer climbed to $18. Grateful people, however, could hold out until the amount reached $30. If we’re thankful for what we have today, we’re not desperate for more stuff or better circumstances immediately.

 

Self-control and delayed gratification are not the only things linked to patience. Patient people are often better liked by their peers and co-workers, while impatient people are seen as arrogant and insensitive. No wonder patient people end up in the lead for promotions and leadership positions.

 

Learning to be patient involves knowing your own body. If you are prone to losing patience, take notice of the typical signs like shallow breathing, muscle tension, hand clenching, jiggling feet, irritability, anxiety, rushing, and making quick decisions.

 

Catching ourselves as we begin to fall into the impatience cycle is important to help in stopping it. Many of us have typical triggers. For example, do you get more impatient if you are hungry or tired? What typically causes your impatience? Is there a root cause? Again, knowing yourself goes a long way in cutting down on our impatience and the toxic feelings that often go with it.

 

Remedying impatience can be done in a variety of ways and some techniques work well for some and not others. Again, know thyself! A few that go a long way for me are breathing exercises, positive self-talk, purposeful muscle relaxation (i.e. head and shoulder rolls, visualization to aid in regaining/attaining calmness, and finally practicing active and empathetic listening. The last one is my most difficult to do when I am really impatient, but it is also the most successful in immediately re-framing my mindset.

 

Patience does really come to those who wait ... but it also comes to those who actively seek to be patient.

 

Sources:

 

Mind Tools Content Team. “How to Be Patient: Staying Calm Under Pressure.” Stress Management Training from MindTools.com, https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_78.htm.

 

Newman, Kira M. “Four Reasons to Cultivate Patience.” Greater Good, UC Berkeley, 4 Apr. 2016, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_reasons_to_cultivate_patience.

lthomas

N is for Navigation

Posted by lthomas Nov 28, 2019

I love old maps. They speak to me of adventure, exploration, new worlds. Ultimately, they tell stories, and being an English teacher, I love stories!


Sea map of Portugal
Gedaente en ... vant Landt van Portugal;
from: Mariner’s Mirror,
Lucas Jansz Waghenaer, 1584

A cool thing that occurred to me is how maps show the big picture, not just point A to point B like GPS gadgets do. I think that is really important, because who wants to walk around with the equivalent of blinders on? As a teacher, it made me think how sometimes we forget to look at the journey, the story, because we're so caught up with the end assessment. It also made me think about how we often have blinders on ourselves and see only one or a couple of ways to do things. Picture, for instance, two people could use the same map, take utterly different routes, write astoundingly different stories, yet still reach the same goal. That is powerful because if the goal is getting from point A to point B, does it matter how you get there, what mode of transportation you use, or even how long it takes, as long as you get there? This is what equity, inclusion, accessibility are fighting for. The chance to get to the goal without being penalized for using different supports or alternate paths to get there.

This is why giving students lots of choices to display what they've learned is so vitally necessary. And I need to remind myself to look at the journey too - it's the life of the story and so much more telling than the endpoint. In my classes, I am often reminded of this when students are working on independent projects like our blogging project. Each student comes at the project from a different place and with vastly different visions of what they want to produce. I coach and give individual feedback to help them garner more success by way of clearer communication and the like. Students write three posts in all and always show marked improvement from the first post to last. That improvement story and seeing a fine-tuned blog come to fruition are the heart of the product and what lends real satisfaction to the project as a whole and I have gained far more insight into my students' capabilities and their thinking by paying more attention to the process than the product.

 

We owe it to students to teach them navigation skills - realistically and metaphorically. Reading a topographical map becomes akin to reading the ups and downs of any given situation. Planning a road trip reminds us that it's important to have goals and figure out the steps needed to get there. What more important transferrable skill can we teach than how to navigate successfully through life?

lthomas

M is for Mindset

Posted by lthomas Nov 28, 2019

There is a lot of talk about mindset in education today, and I agree, it is important; I just think that we put too much emphasis on only one type of mindset and we need to broaden our scope. I see mindset on three levels that are interdependent, picture three concentric circles if you will. In the centre is have, surrounding that is encourage, and surrounding that is support.

 

 

This may seem redundant, but it helps me really flesh out how I see mindset.

 

HAVE

 

What mindset do we have as a teacher? As a person? What is our prime focus, our motivation? How deeply do we truly explore our own mindset? Our mindset can't be merely surface-level nods to the appropriate response of "I believe in growth mindset" or whatever the latest trend may be because what we believe deeply will always reveal itself and be reflected no matter how much we like to think we can cover it up. This came to light for me recently when I had the opportunity to co-host with Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley on the VoicEd podcast This Week in Ontario Edublogs. The program features discussion of various blogs by educators in Ontario. One of the posts was particularly poignant to me. In fact, it was quite disturbing. A Guy Walks into a Bar, from The Beast, a blog co-authored Kelly MacKay and Andrea Kerr, relays the conversation of two people on a date at a bar. This may sound rather mundane, but it is anything but when the conversation dives into the exploration of privilege. The importance of deep self-reflection becomes apparent as seemingly innocuous comments and attitudes reveal an ugliness beneath. A further example of how apparently harmless quips become insidious indoctrination into extremist ideologies is shown in this Twitter feed from Joanna Schroeder about how social media is used to promote white supremacist and racist ideologies by undermining the idea that privilege exists. This post drove home the idea of how easily our personal beliefs, our mindset, is reflected positively or negatively in everything we do and there is no way NOT to have it affect our teaching and our students so we better have a very clear and realistic grasp of our own attitudes, biases, and beliefs.

 

ENCOURAGE

 

What mindset we encourage happens in a number of ways. Part of it goes back to HAVE and what we silently reflect, what we model every day. The other part is more explicit in how we teach. What methods are we using? If we teach to the test, the mindset will be one that sees failure as negative and that learning doesn't matter, the mark does. The methodologies we incorporate in our classrooms speak volumes in encouraging a positive student mindset. Kathleen Carroll, in her article from Edsurge, Teenage Brains Are Elastic. That’s a Big Opportunity for Social-Emotional Learning, outlines the importance of mindset and how using methods that encompass social-emotional learning develop a mindset ripe for life-long learning. She says:

 

"Social-emotional learning, or SEL, encompasses the broad spectrum of skills, attitudes and values that promote success in school and in life, things like managing emotions, setting and achieving goals, persevering through adversity and working in a team. It explicitly acknowledges the importance of mindset and the fundamentally interpersonal project of education, in which knowledge is developed through a series of trusting relationships between teachers, students and peers."

Kathleen Carroll

 

One technique described in Carroll's article that encourage this type of learning is referenced as "maze moments". Looking at learning as navigating through a maze

 

"[gives] teenagers a new way to understand and articulate their roles as not-yet-perfect masters in school and in life. Instead of a frustrated “I don’t get it,” students can visualize their position in the maze: what they’ve learned so far, what they don’t yet know, and how they might persist past this current challenge to chart a different path and solve the problem."

Kathleen Carroll

 

Do the techniques we use every day, whether that be in how we deliver a lesson, or our assessment methods, promote this kind of social-emotional learning? Again, we need to deeply examine what messages are being sent silently in our classrooms that can encourage or discourage positive student mindset.

 

SUPPORT

 

You may think HAVE and ENCOURAGE covers it, but I think SUPPORT is vital. Examining and adjusting our own mindset and the methods and assessments we utilize in class go a long way in supporting student mindset regarding learning, but we all know that mindset goes much deeper than one area of life. Our daily practice also needs to support the whole child including their personal mindset, in other words, their mental health and wellness. I have talked about mental health and wellness in my blog posts before (see The Long Dark Days of November and H is for Happy), but it is paramount in my opinion that we focus a great deal more on it throughout our curriculum, not just in health class. A person whose mindset is affected by stress, grief, depression, anxiety, etc cannot learn to their full potential. Thus, the first step in being supportive is understanding, in which case people need to be more educated, myths and misconceptions need to be revealed for what they are and the stigma needs to be reduced. Addressing mental health and wellness - because we ALL have mental health - should rank first in supporting healthy, positive mindsets.