Working with adults will make me more patient with children

As PYP Coordinator, I have worked with adult learners for two years and I have loved every minute of it. The amazing conversations we’ve had about teaching and learning have blown my educational-mind and have played a huge part in my decision to go back into the classroom.

I have to admit though, when I took the job as PYP Coordinator I had no idea what to expect! (To be honest I was a little intimidated to work with adults!) Now, after two years of working with adults I look back and value the strong relationships I’ve built and the great learning experience I have had!

However, there were some things that surprised me about adult learners – the very same things that used to frustrate me as a classroom teacher. I have started to wonder if  these similarities might have more to do with being a human, than being a child.

So here is my list of 10 things that I’ve noticed we do as adult-learners that will hopefully make me more patient when working with child-learners:

  1. We talk while someone is talking – I can’t recall one staff meeting or professional development session where side conversations weren’t going on while someone else was speaking.
  2. We forget to clean up after ourselves – After most 45-minute collaboration sessions or 3-hour unit planning sessions I find myself throwing out wrappers, left over food, empty water bottles, used tissues – not to mention putting communal pencils back in their cups and clearing away scrap papers.
  3. We opt to not participate – A few months ago we did a “Sentence, Phrase, Word” Visible Thinking Routine to help our staff unpack the IB’s expectations for Three-Way Conferences. We made a chart paper for each grade and subject team where each staff member could place their post-its with their sentence, phrase and word. It was interesting that many of posters had significantly fewer sentences, phrases and words than members of their team who were present.
  4. We forget to bring things – Sometimes a request is made to bring something specific to a staff meeting or collaborative planning session, for example a device, a PYP binder, day plans etc.. And sometimes people have shown up without them.
  5. We need more time – Many times tasks are planned to take one hour… one session… one afternoon to complete, but often certain teams and individuals need more time.
  6. We take a long time to wrap up a conversation – With our large staff of 125 adult-learners we raise our hand to re-collect everyone’s attention after a group discussion. Most times this takes at least 2 minutes of holding up my hand. It makes me think of all the times as a classroom teacher I counted down from 5 (from 5!) and expected my students to have wrapped up their conversation and re-focused their attention!
  7. We take a long time to transition – We try to have a lot of movement in our professional development sessions, where staff move from place to place and activity to activity. Even if the transition is something small like go post your post-it on the chart, we are often looking at transitions of 5 minutes plus and lots of invitations (and reminders) to head back to our seats.
  8. We don’t follow instructions – At the beginning of the year we did a Chalk Talk as a staff where we explained that during a Chalk Talk you communicate with others through your marker, not by using your voice… we lasted 45 seconds without talking to each other.
  9. We get “off task” – I’m not sure there has been one grade or subject collaborative planning session when teams are working on their PYP planners, where random tangents of conversations have not erupted – …. travel stories, new restaurant discoveries, tales of weird childhood injuries etc.
  10. We choose to work with our friends – As much as possible we try to mix and mingle our very large staff in a variety of ways – instructions to sit with people you don’t know, turn and share with someone who is not on your team, name cards on tables – and yet somehow, the majority of the time,  friends end up sitting with and working with friends.

I’m not saying as adult learners we are bad or misbehaving. Quite the opposite! I’m saying that if  we as grown-up, responsible, mature, professionals do all of these things… how can we possibly get upset at children for doing them? As I head back into the classroom next year, I hope that when I am faced with children who take a long time to wrap up their conversation, forget to bring their device, talk while someone is talking or don’t follow instructions that I treat them with the same level of patience, respect and dignity that I would treat a group of adults in that same situation.

Ask yourself…

Have you ever whispered to a friend during a staff meeting?

Have you ever left behind a pencil, water bottle, coffee mug?

Have you ever showed up to PD without a device or writing utensil?

Have you ever had a quick conversation with a friend on the way back to your seat?

Have you ever sat beside or worked with one of your friends?

I know I have…

14 thoughts on “Working with adults will make me more patient with children

  1. Adam Hill May 20, 2016 / 8:25 am

    What an interesting article! You’re so right about all ten of these! With utmost sincerity, your blog is fantastic! Every post strikes a chord with me! Well done, and keep up the good work! As a newbie blogger, this is the standard that I aspire to.


    • tbondclegg May 20, 2016 / 9:38 am

      Thanks so much Adam! That’s so kind of you to say. I was a newbie blogger last year and now it has become one of my favourite hobbies and the best way I reflect on my own understanding of the PYP. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.


      • Adam Hill May 20, 2016 / 9:40 am

        You have reached a very high standard in such a short space of time! I’m new, but I agree with you fully. It’s such a worthwhile hobby! Nobody will ever benefit from my blog more than I do. Your support is most appreciated. Please check it out. It’s early days though! Adam


  2. Vivian May 20, 2016 / 12:49 pm

    Hey Taryn…I’ve been following your blog and have told many teacher colleagues about it. I always look forward to your posts. This particular one resonated with me. I remember teaching beside you (grade 2) a few years ago. You were one of the most innovative teachers I have ever met. I was always inspired by the sincere look of love and appreciation that you gave your young students every morning. I am now teaching JK (thank goodness I am allowed to facilitate learning through play and not drown in sheet work). I try to soften my heart to my students (as I know you will do with your new class) and forgive them for not being perfect. Remember to leave their shoes imperfectly aligned! The students in your future classes, whether they be adults or children, are SO lucky to have you. Best wishes. Vivian


    • tbondclegg May 21, 2016 / 9:44 am

      Vivian! It is so great to hear from you and it is such an honour to find out you read my blog! Thank you for the kind words and support – you always have been and always will be a role model for me. The more my own understanding of teaching and learning grows the more I realize how much of a shining example you were and are of what it means to be a student-centered educator who values and protects children’s right to play, discover, explore, think and create. Thank for you teaching me early on that there are more important things to focus on as a teacher than a row of perfectly lined up shoes!


  3. Alex May 28, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    Loved the post – and I am not running staff or team meetings but only participate! #11 Checking emails/working on the computer during a discussion or presentation.


    • tbondclegg May 30, 2016 / 5:24 am

      I know I’ve done that before during a staff meeting/PD sessions and I wonder how I would react if the facilitator took my device away, shut my screen, flipped my device over, called me out publicly or “moved my clip” down the colour chart…


  4. Sailaja September 7, 2016 / 1:41 am

    Thank you so much for creating this platform and sharing the valuable thoughts. I have taken teaching profession just 5 years ago as a pyp teacher and currently I am working as a PYP coordinator. Your blogs provide fuel to my thinking and it allows me to reflect and learn. I follow all your blogs and share it with my colleagues. I aspire to be a blogger in future and the quality of thoughts you provide in the blog is what I ASPIRE to…


    • tbondclegg September 7, 2016 / 2:40 am

      My pleasure! I’m so happy you find it helpful. And you definitely should blog! It is a great way to reflect and the education blogging community is so supportive. Let me know when you and I’ll be sure to follow it. 🙂


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