February 22, 2009

Teaching Patience?

To teach patience we must provide opportunities to BE patient. Kids today are so used to immediate gratification, that they struggle with waiting for anything (Ok, we all do.) Working time into our lessons forces students to work through their assignments, and by doing so learning to focus more keenly on each individual step required to reach their goals. I’ve already written about how I believe patience and respect are the keys to teaching. Here are three suggestions of how you can incorporate more time into your classroom schedule that will ultimately help teach the students how to be patient.

Teaching patience requires a patient teacher. Some people tell me that I am a patient person. I don’t feel patient. However I can say that I spend so much time around people (students) less patient than I am that it makes me appear very patient. I am blessed with a relatively long fuse, and I am continually given opportunities to practice patience; it seems like I have to wait for EVERYTHING. As we all know, practice makes perfect. So the first step is the teacher recognizing the importance of patience and being open to acting with patience in the classroom.

Teaching patience requires a patient presentation. Every classroom has a pace. For some, the pace is fast and furious, for others, the pace is slow and steady. Both are fine so long as the teacher and students are comfortable. Within the daily routine of all classes there are activities and assignments. These assignments are often complex and include a deadline. To help teach students patience, try breaking down the complex into smaller, perhaps daily doable chunks. Much like spoon feeding a baby, introduce the curriculum a little at a time. Smaller chunks of information are easier for students to digest.

Teaching patience requires a patient process. When setting deadlines for student work a set of staggered due dates can be useful to help encourage all students to turn in their assignments. Allowing for early submission helps to motivate the students who like to work more quickly without penalizing those who work more slowly. I offer additional extra credit for any student who, once their work is completed, assists another student to finish their work on time. I also allow for resubmission of work to students who meet the deadline, but may have overlooked a particular aspect of an assigned project.

Perhaps I am too patient, too liberal in my approach to teaching the pupils to be patient. I believe that high school should be a safe place to make mistakes. Therefore, it is important that the teachers, coaches, and administrators who work with students be willing to reach down and help up our kids when they stumble. In our world of “I want it all and I want it now” I feel that it is necessary that educators not only model patient behavior, but also act as the agents of patience in the lives of students. Teach them to wait.


  1. What a wonderful post! Having patience creates a trusting, supportive environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and learning from their mistakes.

  2. I love what you say about teaching patience. I might need a lesson from you myself. :) But seriously, students need lessons for life modeled to them by people they respect. Great point.

  3. These days, it seems impossible to teach patience. Everything, as far as a high school student is concerned, is instantaneous. Need to make a phone call? Grab a cell phone. Need to look something up? No need to travel to a library, just pull up Google. This is why I like my students to do a science fair project.

    By doing this project over an extended period of time, they can see that results are not immediate. You have to plan ahead and wait for things to happen.

    As usual, excellent post!

  4. Great post! I find that chunking it out is ultimately what helps students. However, I sometimes wonder if I do that too much and if students need to experience the feeling of not grasping the concept for awhile to appreciate it later.

  5. This is a great post! I enjoyed every step of "Teaching Patience." I was able to grasp a better understanding how the teaching world will be like once I graduate from college. Having the patience will build good relationships with the students, trust, and helping students learn their mistakes.

  6. Great Post
    The other day I had a student ask me the reason behind the church celebration of Ash Wednesday. I said for them to wait for their study of religion class the next day for the answer. They said they'd just look it up on the internet tonight.
    Kids these days have no patience, they want answers and they want them now. They can't be bothered with delayed gratification at all. The Internet has made so much information available to them they don't know how to be patient.
    The bell goes for lunch and I always make my younger classes wait to leave if they all get up to go. I tell them they cannot leave until they are sitting down silently. This teaches patience.
    Good post!

  7. I"m confused. How does "breaking down the complex into smaller, perhaps daily doable chunks" teach students to wait? I want some actual activities where the student has to wait. Have you come across anything like that for middle schoolers?