Friday, September 10, 2010

Help! I'm Losing My Patience!

I used to be the school secretary.  My office was across from a second grade classroom.  Every great now and then, the teacher would step out of her room, crazed grin on her face, and ask if I had seen her patience.  She’d look down the hall one way, then back the other, sigh, chuckle, and return to her room.  It always got a good laugh.  She had a wonderful attitude.

Those days happen to the best of us.  The students erupt in chatter at the slightest provocation.  You explain something 5 times, only to have a student immediately raise his/her hand to ask the very thing you just explained… again.  You ask another student if he/she understands why it was wrong to spend 15 minutes chatting in the restroom… and he/she looks you right in the face to inform you, “No, I don’t see a problem with it.”  Those are the days.   You can feel your patience slipping.  Ebbing away like the tide on a moonless night.   Or perhaps even sliding away like a car on an icy hill careening toward a brick mailbox… the mailbox with the Lexus parked in front of it… the Lexus owned by that lawyer… You know, THOSE days!  What to do?

I discovered early on that the only way to survive is to have a sense of humor.  Now, I’m the teacher stepping out in the hall to announce (to anyone unlucky enough to be in the vicinity)…”HAS ANYONE SEEN MY PATIENCE?  I SEEM TO HAVE LOST IT!”  I step back into my classroom to the giggles of students.  They get the point.   The charade breaks things up enough that we’re able to refocus. 


Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  He meant it as firefighting advice, but it applies to the classroom as well.  Prevention can take many forms.  Breaking up instruction with humorous quips can be effective.   Move students to another location in the classroom.  Stop instruction for a round of Word Wall Aerobics. (Raise arms straight up for tall letters, put arms straight out for regular letters, squat down for letters with ‘tails.’  You get to practice frequently used words AND exercise.)  Use a Thumball! (Do a google or amazon search.)  There are endless possibilities, but you get the picture.  Each of these suggestions will only take about two minutes and gives students the mental break they need so your patience won’t break.

However, for those days when you are sliding down the icy hill… step out of the room, but not out of ear-shot, and ask if anyone has seen your patience.   Maybe even look out of the window for your patience.  The mood will lighten and students will appreciate the effort.  I’ve had parents tell me how much their child appreciates it that I don’t raise my voice… then they ask about me chasing my patience down the hall… they’re never 100% sure if their kids are serious about it! 


Try chasing your patience, your class will love it, and so will your secretary!


  1. I love the idea of humor in the classroom. I like to put a tongue twister on the board during transition times. Before we start the new subject I get several students to try and say the tongue twister. It always gets some laughs.

  2. I agree completely. As a student, I believe that bringing humor into the classroom is a great idea. Giving students of all ages and their brains a chance to relax even if only for a couple of minutes will definitely help improve their focus in the long run. Though this type of humor would mostly be used with elementary aged children, any type of humor is always appreciated because sometimes we just need a second to breathe and process all the information learned.

  3. Behavior, and teacher, management is an ongoing process and humor is a key element. Used at the appropriate moments, it could break up the monotony, get the point across, and save the sanity of all involved! I used it the other day during a discussion of division, specifically when remainders are a must. I could see they weren't quite getting it until I divided our odd numbered class into equal groups. The "Aha!" moment arrived when that last odd student was left. I asked her if she'd rather be cut up into equal pieces and one piece of her placed into each of the groups, or if she'd rather stay whole and be a remainder. Humor, and a concrete example, saved the lesson, and the girl!

  4. You're right Jillian, that is more 'elementary' humor. I can see that possibly taking a different turn in a high school classroom! :)
    I love your Aha moment Lori! I'm going to have to steal that to use in my class. :D

  5. Thank you for this post! Just what I needed... it's June and I'm losing it!