Last week I had the privilege to sub in a kindergarten classroom.  I walked into my school, thinking my day was going to go one way and within a minute, the principal asked me, “Wanna sub in kindergarten?” And without missing a beat, I was, once again, teacher to little people.

Now there’s something different when it’s not ‘your’ class and the kids don’t know how you do things. I told my new charges, more than once, “I’m not your regular teacher and I may do things a little differently, and that’s ok.”  Most of them seemed fine with this, but there was one little girl who needed to tell me every single time I did something different.  She probably told me what I was doing ‘wrong’ two hundred times. You might think this was annoying or frustrating or made my left eye twitch… you’d be wrong.

The number of people who stopped me during the day and asked, in a worried tone, “How’s it going?” Or “How are you doing?” Like teaching a group of sweet, loved, fed, clothed, all-their-basic-needs-met kids would throttle me somehow.  The reality is, the little girl telling me over and over what I was doing wrong was the biggest glitch I experienced… and my reaction reminded me of probably the most important trait teachers need.  Patience.

Patience in spades.  Patience to wait out the creation of a river… or mountains.  What I realized is patience, like any other skill in life, is something you can cultivate.  Over my years as a teacher, specifically working in kindergarten, I’ve become a Patience Zen Master.

There have been times when little boys or girls have literally stood in front of me and tapped my stomach to get my attention.  When I ignored the behavior in hopes of making it stop, they’d simply tap more… and faster and harder.  When you can keep your calm when more than one child is doing this, you know you’ve hit a Patience Milestone.

What I realized then and now is that these children aren’t trying to be ridiculously annoying or make my head pop off, they’re simply trying to connect and feel safe.  They’re looking for attention and don’t know any other way.  The little girl reminding me of everything I was doing ‘wrong’ felt safe in her routines and I was rocking the boat.

When you come from a place of understanding, you become a little more patient.  The more you practice empathy, the more you cultivate patience.  Breathe in, breathe out, and smile.