Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Teaching Patience

fishing As I drove to work today, I heard a conversation on the radio between two DJs. One asked the other if it was the dog days of summer and the other one said that she didn’t know but would look it up immediately and tell the answer.

That made me realize how often we expect the answer to our questions immediately. If we don’t know the answer, we want someone to tell it to us or we need to be able to find the answer immediately. Before I got my smart phone, I would carry around a notepad to write down things that I wanted to look up when I got on the internet.

I worry about this instant demand for information. I think it is great that we encourage our students to crave knowledge and want more but is having information instantly accessible a good thing? Are they also being trained to have a bad habit?

Shouldn’t we be also teaching patience? I remember hearing that “Good things come to those who wait” or “Patience is a virtue.”

Sometimes I need to look at the information and prioritize. Is getting that information the most important thing I need at the moment or can that be put to the side for a later time? Will finding this information help me continue working to finish my assignment or will it distract me and keep me from finishing what I need to do. Is this information what I really need or just something I want to know. We need to teach our students to ask the same kind of questions. Many times I procrastinate from doing what I should be doing and find myself looking for other information that I find more interesting. This is not a good habit to feed into.

Sometimes our impulsive students need to learn patience over many years and in fact, the teacher must have patience in teaching this type of student. I see this in a classroom where students seem to need help and want teachers to stop whatever they are doing and leave the person they are helping in order to help this student demanding attention. My students almost forget that they need to wait their turn.

One way that I have tried to combat this instant demand for help is by giving all of the students “help blocks.” These are small squares of foam – red on one side and green on the other. All of the students turn it to green on the corner of their desk at the beginning of the class. When they need help, they turn it over to red. The teacher may be helping someone else and when it is time to help the next person, the teacher will look for the red blocks. This is a good way for the student to know that he won’t be forgotten and that he can go on and do something else while he is waiting. After the teacher helps the student, the block is turned back over to green. This has worked wonderfully in my classroom and has kept students more engaged in their work and less distracted by seeking attention.

What are some of the things you have done to help your students learn to be patient? Do you think that we have trained them to be impatient? If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Casting into the Blue' by: John Ryan


Susan Nations said...

NO question that people want instant answers in our society! Shoot, sometimes I hate it when Google is "slow"! A great reflective post, for sure!

:-) Susan

Unknown said...

Wonderful point! Patience seems to be a rarity now. In my classroom I use the "ask 3 before me" rule. I don't remember the source for that, but if you are patient, I'm sure I can find it for you. As a high school teacher, I try to make my students a bit more independent so that the transition to college is easier. Sometimes I am so successful with this that students will raise their hand for help and when I respond, they say, "oh, not you, him/her", meaning they want one of my other students to help them; it's a powerful feeling!

south university said...

Patience is a virtue. I appreciate this statement because it is really correct. But to be honest, this statement may sound simple but it’s hard to teach. There are impatient people and discipline is not in their vocabulary. Nevertheless, it’s possible.