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Patience is Not A Virtue

 

In social settings where individuals meet and greet each other as a first time encounter it is likely that someone asks “What do you do for a living?” When I have answered that question I have often heard the reply “you must be a very patient person” to do what you do.  But in my work I do not consider myself as a patient person at all.  And I certainly do not agree with the old saying that patience is a virtue.  Indeed, in my work I believe that patience is no virtue at all.  Let me explain.

 

My first job in the developmental disabilities field was as a special education teacher in Wilson County.  This was in the early 70’s when special education students were isolated within their schools.  Their classrooms were often set away from the other students. In my case my students  were not allowed to attend school assembly programs.  My students had a separate lunch period from the other students.  This was the first time students like mine were assigned to this particular school so I was told this would be the rule.  I knew I had to change these rules.

 

I was only a first year teacher facing an established and authoritative principal so I had to find a way to change the mind of my principal that would not result in my firing. I told him that I would abide by his decision but asked him to show respect for my students by agreeing to spend time in my classroom so that he could learn who they were and what kind of students they were.  I asked him to begin scheduled time in my classroom immediately and to agree to meet with me at the end of the month to reconsider the rules he had set forth.  I was respectful but resolute.  And, he agreed to the classroom visits.

 

He began visiting immediately and I recognized that he enjoyed being with my students.  They told him how important it was to be “just one of his students” like everyone else and that they were tired of being put aside. My students were their own ambassadors.  This principal was a man who spoke very directly, so when he summoned me to his office at the end of the month he preempted my comments by bluntly stating that my class would immediately attend all school assemblies and my class lunch period would be integrated with other students.  He actually thanked me for challenging his rules! 

 

My students then had two advocates within our school.  They became publically recognized for their appropriate behavior and for their right to be included in all school activities.  Mr. John Jones, Principal of Darden High School, became a valuable advocate for inclusion and if you knew him you would know that he would not be patient with rules that restricted the rights of students.  As rights go, patience is not a virtue.

 

 

Rick Chappell

July 1, 2011

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