Slice of Life: Patience


“I don’t want to,” she said.

A familiar petulant look, downcast eyes and protruding lower lip, came over her face. She began pulling her hair over her forehead, trying to hide.

I sighed, trying to retain my patience. I’ve been working with this student since the fall when she was diagnosed with dyslexia. In an effort to expedite her progress, she has two intervention sessions on most days. She sees the special education teacher every day and I see her at least three times a week to practice and reinforce what she is learning in special ed. She reads poems and books on topics that interest her. She’s written poems and short paragraphs about  ballet, her passion. She’s been making nice progress.

Yesterday she was working on an acrostic poem for the word “ballet.” She didn’t have any trouble coming up with single words for each letter. But then I reminded her that poets use descriptive words to express their feelings and create images. “Let’s think of ways to describe the barre,” I suggested.

“I like it the way it is.”

I counted to ten. I knew I wouldn’t accomplish anything by engaging in a power struggle with this student, but one of our objectives is to help her learn to be more open-minded and persistent.

I tried one more time. “Let’s look at a poem in your folder and see how Irene Latham describes the “Farm Fresh Eggs.”

Tears began to well up in her eyes. That was my cue that we were finished. As I walked her back to her classroom, I was calm and said we’d take another look at the poem tomorrow. She shrugged, but said goodbye as she went back to her class.

She isn’t this uncooperative too often, but it has happened often enough to know that we might not achieve the goals we set for her at her PPT in October. Her parents and their advocate were insistent that we say what reading level she would achieve by her annual review next fall. We tried to explain that our goal was to have her catch up to grade level expectations as quickly as possible, but there were too many variables to make any kind of prediction about how long it would take to get her there. They were skeptical, but gave us the benefit of the doubt.

As a parent, I understand their worry and desire to have her performing at grade level sooner rather than later. But I also understand that pushing her too hard won’t help her reach this goal. It could undermine our efforts. Everyone is doing everything they can to support this student, providing her with appropriate instruction, modifications, and accommodations. We should be celebrating her every accomplishment, no matter how insignificant it may seem. She will get there in the end. It may just take a little longer for her. Things take the time they take.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

18 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Patience

  1. “Things take the time they take.” So true. Expectations are important, but these words are also important. Dates and deadlines are arbitrary, and can even be wishful thinking. Things will take the time they need to, and no amount of wishing, hoping, or pushing can change that truth.


  2. This line: We should be celebrating her every accomplishment, no matter how insignificant it may seem. really resonated with me. Grit includes celebration. The book Rise does such a nice job of talking about the importance of celebrating the near win and to be open to changing course. This student is more than a level or a target. I completely agree that her motivation and connection need to be a part of the equation. You do have patience and she is very lucky to have a knowledgable team that is thinking about all her needs. Thanks for the reminder to us all today!


  3. I think you’re right! It’s important to celebrate her every accomplishment. I have a severely dyslexic student and she really is the hardest worker I have. She gives it her all, but sometimes there’s no more for her to give. I have to remind myself what a complete struggle every moment of school is for her, and then celebrate what she has done. Good luck to you! I know your student is so lucky to be working with someone who cares so much about her and is ready to celebrate her.


  4. Yes they do. Things take the time they take. ❤️ I remember this struggle very well. In the moment, parents cannot see the importance of being patient, consistent and believing in the power of concerted effort. Parents of my former students remark that they cannot believe they worried so much when their child has overcome and is fine. I think often they need support from other parents to step into the bigger picture. Here’s to you and all of the love you provide her with.


  5. Coincidentally, we are writing about Holly Mueller’s word, Wait, for Spiritual Thursday. Sometimes we have to take the cues from the student and wait. It’s hard to know when we are pushing too hard. Your patience is golden for this child. Tomorrow she may be ready to take off and soar, but not today.


  6. Catherine,
    There is no “straight path” to learning. All around us are students who encounter hairpin turns, mountains, lakes, streams, plateaus, rockslides, etc. How we respond is up to us. Patience was a great word for you yesterday!


  7. It’s so hard for students who see others do “it” so easily. You were wise to stop, try again next time, maybe a new poem? And I agree with others, there are so many paths learners take in different times.


  8. This is such good insight into the situations and demands that teachers – and students – are up against every day. Who made childhood and learning a race? Maybe those “numbers people” who study test scores and scrutinize value-added growth like to use stopwatches too. Thank goodness for teachers like you.


  9. I think your observations mark her a real person with feelings that come first. You have the insight to help unlock the key to her mysteries. Here’s to caring, insightful teachers!!!!


  10. “She will get there in the end. It may just take a little longer for her. Things take the time they take.” – this is what it’s all about – and this is also what makes it all so hard. Kids have their own timetable – we can help them along, but that’s about it.


  11. When I finished your piece, I sat back and remembered … the day my eyes saw the world of print as my struggling student did. That was the day I realized how hard he really worked and how every step he made was big, though in the eyes of most it was small. You are so right, “pushing her too hard won’t help her reach this goal.” And, yes, I agree, CELEBRATE! Thanks for sharing.


  12. I love how you said “things take the time they take”. It’s a very wise perspective. I worked with a very similar student through private tutoring years ago, and her dyslexia also made everything a mammoth struggle. There were tears in her eyes many times, just like your student. Have faith! My little friend grew up to get her masters’ degree and is now teaching high school special ed students who struggle just like she did. She battled all the way, but never gave up. You are nurturing your own little friend in the same way–and she will also find her way through the battle! I’m going to share your post with my grown-up “little friend”.


  13. It does take patience, teaching. I don’t think anyone realizes how important it is to have patience, understanding and willingness to keep trying different inroads. Often we want to shout the same strategies we’ve delivered before rather than trying a new one. Your understanding of this child is key. Yes…it takes what it takes.


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