Don’t Watch the Pot Too Closely

All right, let’s get it over with. Here are all the aphorisms that apply to this blog: “Patience is a virtue,” “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “a watched pot never boils,” and “all things are difficult before they are easy.” Kind of a giveaway? Yes! Today’s topic is patience. 

The longer I work in schools, and it has been a very long time, the more patience I have for shortcomings, mistakes, and the “this and that” that come with growing up. Don’t get me wrong, in each instance, we as educators and parents need to respond with the right measure of wisdom, judgment, and courage, but we must do so with the mindset of a geologist: Everest is rising two centimeters a year; that’s not much in 365 days, but over a million years, it adds up! I truly believe that students are best served when we encourage them and look carefully for the “two centimeters” a year of growth, not momentous, overnight change.

Everything today is “right now” and “at your fingertips.” It is measured in nanosecond search times. We can get frustrated when the customer in line ahead of us chooses to pay with a check rather than credit card. This hurry-up discourages the kind of bedrock patience and heartfelt understanding young people need to be nurtured from naïve to knowledgeable. Moreover, no one actually gives parents (or teachers) a road map; we simply don’t know whether what we are doing now will lead to the outcomes we are hoping for in the future. It’s truly a trial-and-error matter. We bring our finest judgment and our best selves to the endeavor and cross our fingers.  Who knew that this is what our lives would be?!

Still, it helps to remember that childhood is truly a rehearsal, not the performance. This allows latitude for myriad missteps and pratfalls—sometimes dramatic ones—that with few exceptions can lead to positive future outcomes. While this is happening, it is often hard for us to cling to the long-term view that balances deep-seated belief in the child, while allowing them time to be guided by these necessary missteps and disappointments. 

One of the things I most enjoy about teaching at a Pre-K–12 school is having the chance to see our former Middle Schoolers walk proudly across the stage at graduation. I get to listen to the description Dr. Davis reads about each young person’s interests and accomplishments. I also get to remember the student during their “dress rehearsal”—the three years spent as a Middle Schooler. Let’s just say it makes me smile and refreshes my belief in young people and the virtue of patience.

If I can be helpful in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me.