Casting a perfect line and presenting the fly on the water can be accomplished pretty much time after time. I feel confident in those skills, but my success is not always determined by the level of perfection but by the level of hunger of the fish. This is where I have learned the skill of patience.
In our society today, in the age of cell phones where answers to questions are texted, tweeted, emailed, messaged, etc., instant gratification has become the norm. But when one goes fly fishing, that instant gratification is left to the mercy of nature. Not all days spent on the river produces landed fish, but gained knowledge about the area, such as the insects that come out at a certain time of day, the rocks that produce small pools behind them where a possible brown may be hiding, and flies other fisherman have used. This knowledge is stored and then pulled out in some future time when I visit this area another time.
So how does this relate to teaching? For the past 12 years my career has been that of a Special Education teacher. For ten of those years I taught Math and Science at a junior high. I came to the job with knowledge in those areas, but through the years I learned different skills in presenting that knowledge to the students. Some days I would be successful in getting a concept taught and understood by a student or students and those days I celebrated. A lot of days though, using my skills and knowledge together not always produced a successful “catch”. I felt my lessons were at the mercy of nature, as these students had outside forces of nature working against them, such as raging hormones, social acceptance by their friends, one parent families or parenting by an aunt or grandparent because mom or dad was in prison for doing drugs, homelessness, lack of food, A.D.D, A.D.H.D, anxiety, depression, anger, and so on and so on and so on. That skill of patience I learned in fly fishing was used in teaching students with special education needs. Now, as I work with students with severe cognitive disabilities, my success is not always on the “catch”. But, as in fly fishing on slow days, I gain a lot of knowledge about each student along the way, such as learning what brings a smile to one or an outburst from another. My definition of success has changed from working the classroom as it has changed from time on the water.
Nature is my teacher and the more I observe these children and their styles of learning, the better teacher I become. My level of frustration has also decreased in teaching, just like in fly fishing, because I take time to observe and I practice the skill of patience and allow nature to teach me. My time teaching is now more fulfilling just like my time fly fishing is more fulfilling.