Learning patience

Patience is a lost skill in the digital age, writes Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic. And it’s a virtue, she argues.

Many English teachers no longer ask students to read novels, she writes. To “ease homework loads” and make time for “problem- or project-based learning,” they assign short stories and essays. A story can’t replicate the journey of a novel, Lahey writes.

The experience of reading Great Expectations is fulfilling in part because of the wait for answers. My students clamor to know who Pip’s benefactor is and whether or not he will end up with Estella, but when we find out together, after weeks of travel along Pip’s journey, the answers are just that much more delicious.

At Hanover High School (New Hampshire), ninth-grade science teachers spend a month on a forensics unit created by teachers John Phipps and Casey Milender. Students analyze a crime scene, collect data and analyze the information for weeks.

As Milender describes it, “The combination of the quick answers they find in a day, such as in a luminol lab and a blood typing lab, and the more complex answers that take weeks, such as the blood spatter analysis based on geometry, give the kids gratification during the project, but they really can’t draw the larger conclusions until the end, when they put all these pieces together.”

My older son has been wrestling with the challenges of this unit, and the sustained patience, engagement and curiosity I’ve overheard in my carpool have been a wonder to behold.

Learning to wait for the full story before reaching a conclusion based on all the evidence builds “confident and brave thinkers,” Lahey writes.

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