Having the Patience to Teach

This morning, I was discussing the power of the web with my Intermediate students.


One of my students mentioned that I must be so frustrated with them, because they don’t listen to my instruction. I was surprised, and asked the student if they felt I was frustrated. Their answer was an emphatic, NO. I laughed and told them that as a teacher, I feel it is my responsibility to respect their opinions and beliefs. One of my other students chimed in, adding that they felt my students need to listen to what I am saying.

Rather than agreeing with that student, I brought up another point.

I mentioned that as a teacher, my personal feeling is to listen to my students before I consider seeking out another path for them. Set me give two examples of learning from students as a teacher.

My first example was a student that I had as a Gateway instructor.

My student was 93 years young.


Her memory was still sharp, as she could look at a face and place a name with that face. Apparently, she was the one person in the family who remembered names to faces, all the way back to the Civil War. She wanted to learn how to use her computer to scan old family photos (some of which were fading to white), that were disintegrating from age in her garage. She was going to be my sole student for the day, her family dropped her off in my classroom while I was preparing my presentation board for the class. They told me that she had never seen a computer. I reassured them that she would be fine and went back to finish up my work.

I remember glancing up to see her peer at the computer, get up and look at the rear of the computer. My last glance was seeing her return to her seat. Not a moment later, I heard a faint tapping from her area. Tap, tap, tap. I looked over for a moment to see her sitting quietly at her desk, so I went back to work. Tap, tap, tap. I looked around, my curiosity piqued, when I noticed movement going on from underneath her desk. There, to my surprise was the mouse which had been “stationed” on a mouse pad on her desk now on the floor, her foot pressing on the mouse was the sound of the tapping.

“No, wait,” I said, as I motioned for her to rise up, so that I could return the mouse back to its position on the desk. Later, as I told the story to my manager, he laughed, telling me that she must have thought the computer worked like a sewing machine. My lesson? We are comfortable with the technology that we grow up with. When technology changes, it makes no difference to us…we expect the new technology to work just like the old technology used to. Therefore, if the new technology does not work like what we are comfortable with, we become uncomfortable using the new technology.

young hands

My second lesson was with another student, an 8 year-old girl. She was with a large group that day, so I remember becoming a bit flustered. She would do what I asked everyone to do, but then would take off with the mouse on her own, (as if she were thinking, “Ooh! What’s this?”) I would cover something else and her mouse would move somewhere else again, as if to say, “ooh! What’s that?” In my eyes then, I felt she was my worst student, but she seemed to learn more than anyone else in the room. I realized then, that the best way to learn is to have fun. If a teacher is good enough to impart passion about what they are teaching, it makes learning fun. It also makes it easier to remember what you have learned.

So, I have related what I have learned from my teachers. I have had countless great teachers as a teacher.

What I tell my students is that I look forward to every class. Every student is unique, possessing their own set of problems for me to resolve.

There is no patience for me to lose, since I expect to learn from them.

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