I was probably told it a hundred times on my teacher training course. I would have thought that my mentors on my teaching practices would have mentioned it, but something has recently become abundantly clear to me, that the worst thing you can ever say to a student is: you should know that already.
As a teacher though, it so easily slips out. Too easily. You would never open your mouth and say: you’re shit! Yet the words: you should know that already, amount to the same thing. As we say them, they sound innocent enough. Perhaps a student has been working on a particular thing for many, many months. You have gone through it and over it and explained it hundreds of times. You have seen in the past, perhaps, that they have been able to do it. Then you allow your patience to wear thin.
Patience and teaching of course go hand in hand. Parents frequently say to me: I don’t know how you are so patient. I always reply that it doesn’t reflect how I am as a parent! It is quite easy to have patience with the youngest students. Your expectations of what they can achieve are obviously different to the older students. However, actually the student’s age should bear no relation to your ability to show patience.
Patience must surpass driving a student forward and wanting them to excel. Drive is important, but ultimately in order for this to happen, patience is always required. We don’t necessarily know what is going on in a student’s life. We don’t know their insecurities and fears, nor why they may have them.
I was reminded of how demoralising and demotivating it is to be told that you should know something already, when a Taekwon-do Master made that comment to me a little while ago. It immediately made me feel completely shit. The thought behind the words is so final. You want to look the person in the eye and scream at them: well, I don’t and you know what, you know nothing about me and my life so fuck off! But instead, you just look them in the eye with a forlorn look. You feel that in that split second you have let that person down, despite the fact that it is your personal journey, not theirs. Regardless of the fact that actually, it is their job to teach you again and again, until you understand what they are saying and can get it absolutely right. They are the teacher.
So if your child ever comes home from school or from a club with their head down, quietly dejected and forlorn, there is every possibility that someone has said to them, without realising the extreme impact it can have: you should know that already. Unfortunately, the damage can have a lasting effect. As teachers, we must constantly be aware of this, so as not to undermine a student’s confidence. Patience has a lasting effect too.
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