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February 6, 2024

The Dark Side of Patience

There is not just one way to think about a moment with a child. When we linger with the play and listen to its many resonances, a kaleidoscope of possible understandings reveals itself. —Misa Okayama, Making Adjustments: Meditations on Learning with Children

Do you delight in ideas that turn your default thinking on its head? As a new-to-me idea takes root, the unthinking becomes impossible. I also love discovering older gems within our field—insights worth resurfacing and holding onto. So it was listening to That Early Childhood Nerd Heather Bernt-Santy talk with podcast guest Lisa Murphy about a 1987 Young Children article by Nancy Weber-Schwartz entitled, “Patience or Understanding?

Weber-Schwartz writes, “My discomfort with the concept of patience as an attribute of good teaching was explained when I looked up the term in Webster’s Dictionary. Patient is defined as “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.”

She continues, “Because I find teaching the young very pleasant, I now believe that patience is an undesirable teacher attribute; its presence (in large amounts, at least) indicates a teacher who finds teaching unpleasant. I see myself as a successful teacher with very little patience.

“Visitors to my classroom had mistakenly believed that I exhibited patience with young children, when in reality they were witnessing the behavior that results from understanding…The teacher who understands the developmental level of the child does not need to ‘bear pains calmly.’ This teacher will accept behavior as developmentally appropriate and will not see the child as an adversary, because the child will be viewed as innately good, though inexperienced. Teachers who understand young children will see themselves as children’s partners in learning.”

Bernt-Santy asks, “Which teacher would you rather be? The one who is put upon by the opposition all the time and then praised for being able to put up with it, or the one who understands what’s going on and is able to articulate that for people and able to provide what children need?” Share your thoughts on social media and tag us #ExchangeEveryDay and #PatienceOrUndertanding.

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