Waiting is an activity (or non-activity) that a good teacher must cheerfully take part in on a daily, sometimes hourly basis – and it can be a fulfilling and uplifting activity. We usually think of waiting as a strain and discomfort, something we do because we can’t yet do what we want to do. We say things like, “Can you believe that I had to wait that long?”, or, with a frown, “I guess I’ll just have to be patient and wait.” Indeed, for some people, waiting is one of the worst possible punishments, an activity appropriate for a place like hell. However, I try to think of waiting in a different way, as an activity that, for a teacher, could be beneficial and even illuminating. The teacher and his students are like a gardener and his flowers. Surely the gardener understands the rewards and pleasures of patient waiting. The days and weeks pass, and the good gardener often does little more than peacefully pass the time. He knows that great forces are working underground as the seed and its surroundings silently make their miracles. His most important act, in some ways, is to wait. And so it is for the good teacher. Like the gardener, he knows that vast, sweeping forces are at work in this marvel called “education”, and that he must respectfully accept them and allow them to work. In this sense, waiting has a lot to do with humility. The teacher understands that what happens in his classroom is not about him. It’s about the students and understanding and epiphanies and wisdom, and often the best thing the good teacher can do is stand out of the way and simply wait. Flowers blossom in their own special time, and so do students.
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