This blog post was contributed by Marta Kotarba (Maria Grzegorzewska University).
Patience is necessary for teachers not only to provide high quality provision but also to protect their own mental health. Empathy, the ability to take care of oneself and to take different perspectives into account when deciding how to react to a frustrating situation helps to exercise patience.
To be a good enough teacher…
As the child’s brain is constantly developing, he or she can have great difficulty with the so-called executive functions, which include: planning, flexibility of thinking, organization, focus, control of impulses, switching between tasks, generating new ideas . It is hard to imagine a two-year-old who is meticulously planning the day, who reacts to changes flexibly, quickly comes up with new strategies to behave in unusual situations, is focused and calm… The truth is that we usually lose patience with children when our own executive functions fail. This usually happens because of the nervous system overload. Therefore, the basic principle of patience is that the teacher should take care of his or her own emotional regulation and not let his/her nervous system become overloaded.
So it’s worth freeing yourself from the need to be the perfect teacher, and thus cutting yourself off from the constant control of everything (sometimes just let go of things!). It’s OK if we are… good enough.
The concept of a good enough mother/carer refers to the fact that we respond to a child’s needs often enough and well enough. If a child sometimes has to wait for us to approach him or her or we misinterpret his or her needs, it does not mean that we will immediately disrupt his or her development . The high demands of tight schedules, the pressure to “do everything” and achieve goals can lead to us being so busy that we forget… just to be with children.
How to exercise the patience “muscle” ?
You can think of patience as a muscle. So when you feel you’re losing patience, think about what activity you can use to immediately dispel your frustration. Count backwards, recite a poem, breathe deeper, jump in place, start repeating ha ha ha ha to the melody of Brother John – anything that works for you. Then solve the problem that has already appeared with a calmer mind. The more consciously you exercise patience, the more of it will appear! Don’t expect to change from day to day – neither with children nor with yourself. Be aware that a teacher’s impatience is as much a problem as a child’s difficult behaviour. So have patience with yourself! It is worth asking yourself what “button” – emotional trigger was pressed by the child that we reacted with impatience or irritation. It’s good to be honest with yourself, because it will help you to determine how you can help yourself.
Three simple rules
1. Do one thing at a time.
Try to focus on one thing at a time. When you play with the children, play with the children and do not try to prepare tables for the art activity at the same time. If your resources are exhausted, there is a chance that you will react to children around you with much more impatience.
2. Switch from the “working” mode to the “being” mode.
The being mode simply means being with children – being aware of what you are doing and truly noticing children. The being mode helps to shift our attention from the task at hand to the process you are in. And so we can be fully present in small everyday moments.
3. Support yourself.
Don’t be tormented when a moment of impatience happens to you! The reality is that we make mistakes because we are human. When your patience evaporates, you have the opportunity to fix it. This can mean taking responsibility and apologizing to the children. Not only does this reduce stress, but it also models good behaviour to the children.
- Grossmann T. (2015). The development of social brain functions in infancy, Psychological Bulletin, 141(6).
- Winnicott, D.W. (2010). Dom jest punktem wyjścia. Eseje psychoanalityczne. Wyd. Imago, Gdańsk.