Saturday, 12 October 2013

'Patience is a virtue ...'

I have been doing a bit of teaching this term, after a 'career gap' of a few years. I trained as a primary school teacher back in 1992, and always said I didn't want to teach anyone who was bigger than me - which is 5 ' 1 1/2'' . I like creative subjects, art and music, nature study and writing poetry. I like calm and mutual respect, I like humour and a story before hometime. On an ideal day, when all is going well, it can be a very rewarding, if intensive thing to do, in my mind a little like the satisfaction of a sailing dinghy set well to skim across a sunny lake.

I've always found there are a lot of things on a day to day basis and on a wider scale, which impact on that idyll. I don't want to go into all those many things right now, not the government directives or the conflicts and other issues children bring in from their 'outside' lives, not the complicated dynamics among the work team, not the pressure to raise standards, meet targets, cope with nose bleeds, provide drinking water, address the needs of 30 emerging individuals who are each the most precious of people in their parents' eyes, forever sensitive to their uniqueness but guiding them towards the collective ... some of these things are natural and understandable, they make the journey more interesting and add momentum and meaning to the day. Other things occur less helpfully, initiated by children, adults, events, even the weather, like the wake of a speed boat zooming past and churning up the waters, setting the sails and ropes flapping and the crew working flat out to steady the boat. Experience often helps us see trouble coming and change tack - but even so, not everything can be anticipated.
It occured to me the other day, heading home after a bit of a choppy lake experience, that it is telling me a recurring 'something' about myself. It's easy to just blame the metaphorical speed boat, but if it's gone, why am I'm still irritated? This feeling of inner turbulence is not new.

There's a saying attributed to St Francis, writing to his friars:

How much interior patience and humility a servant of God may have cannot be known so long as he is contented.  But when the time comes that those who ought to please him go against him, as much patience and humility as he then shows, so much has he and no more.
Admonitions: On Patience

I find myself challenged because my day, my response, shows me exactly how far I have advanced along the spiritual practise I have set myself, of patience-learning: not very far! I see how I go out as teacher yet find the whole environment, the pressures, the people, including the children, to be my teachers in a different way, and I, a rather slow learner.

I used to reflect on the same quote from St Francis, when Nelly the dog was alive. I'd never looked after a dog before, I'm more a cat person really, and working at home, I found her attention-seeking intrusion into my quietness, barking at the door, asking to go out, fussing for me to come down from my study to be with her ... sometimes tried my patience too. I used to say she was my patience-teacher, and I knew I often failed. The thing about Nelly was that she was very forgiving. She's not around any more and I have to remember to forgive myself becuse that's what she would have done - but oh for the gift to be able to re-set my sails and delight in the big waves, and go home energised!

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