The age-old adage “patience is a virtue” is becoming harder and harder for students to grasp, according to Jessica Lahey. In her article “Relearning the Lost Skill of Patience,” Lahey discusses the lack of patience among today’s youth and the need for teachers to instill this traditional quality in their students in order to strengthen their learning abilities. Today’s students are surrounded by computers, tablets and smartphones that allow them instantaneous access to information. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that teachers are finding less instances of patience in their classrooms. Patience, however, is far more than just a virtue when one examines its role in education.

Another form of patience is delayed gratification. We are all faced with the challenge of having to wait for an unknown outcome at some point in our educational journeys. I can remember waiting every summer to find out whose classroom I was going to be in for upcoming the school year, hoping that my friends would be in the same room. Or waiting for an admissions decision to come from one of the many colleges and universities I had applied to. Regardless of the circumstances, these situations require us to practice a skill that many find hard to endure: waiting.

Patience as seen in the process of learning is indispensable when practicing skills such as critical thinking or reading comprehension. Students need to take time to internalize the information they are receiving in order to successfully analyze it later. While it is indisputable that patience needs to be practiced in classrooms, how this should and can be done is up for interpretation.

The current pedagogic shift away from the traditional teacher-centered approach and toward a learner-centered or student-centered approach could be one way to address this issue. A student-centered approach to education allows students to collaborate with one another about a topic. This generally provides students with the opportunity to focus more on given topics because they have the chance to discuss it with their peers. In addition, students are allowed to direct their own learning and take active roles in group projects. Both discussion of topics and being involved with peers require patience.

Educationalist Paulo Friere would likely agree with Lahey’s statement that students need to be taught patience. He believed that education relies too much on “depositing” knowledge onto students. Education, according to Friere, should instead consist of an interactive form of education, in which it is more important to begin a dialogue with students during the learning process. In Friere’s idea of a modern classroom, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer because education is more about the process of discovery.

Another helpful article with plenty of ideas on how to teach delayed gratification for both teachers and parents alike is Julie DeNeen’s “16 Ways to Promote ‘Grit’ and Delayed Gratification in the Classroom.” DeNeen’s recommendations for teaching patience include using educational computer games, breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and giving assignments that aren’t meant to have perfect endings where only one answer or set of answers is correct. Perhaps the most important piece of her article, however, is a reminder for adults to introduce these activities slowly so as not to overwhelm students. After all, patience, like most qualities worth having, is achieved through practice over time.

Did You Know?

A number of schools are starting to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into their curricula in order to reduce stress and anxiety, and to increase the attention spans of their students. Organizations such as Yoga 4 Classrooms provide professional workshops for educators to learn how to incorporate mindfulness practices into their everyday routines. The Mindful Schools Program based in California has given mindfulness training to thousands of children during a five-week course that is incorporated into school curricula. According to co-founder Megan Cowan, their program is “extremely cost-effective and uses short, interactive exercises that are tailored for children.”

Some teachers have also claimed that using mindfulness in the classroom has reduced test anxiety and given students skills to cope with subjects that are difficult for them. Renee Harris, a Kindergarten Teacher who practices mindfulness exercises in her classroom, claims that “mindfulness opens the mind to noticing, without judgment, how you feel, think, and interact with the world. My students have become grounded in a way I have never seen before.” While more research is needed in terms of how beneficial these programs could be on a national level, initial studies have shown that students and teachers alike can benefit from using these practices in the classroom.