Patient Teaching

What is the single most important quality a teacher should possess?

Humour perhaps? That’s got to be up there.

Passion? You simply got to have this.

Confidence? Yep, that’s definitely in the mix.

Organisation? A must-have.

Subject expertise? It helps!

There will be qualities galore you could say rank as the most important but I think ‘patience’ takes the number one spot. Patience is a way of being, a state of mindfulness that teachers simply must have to succeed.

Being a patient teacher is not easy for some. In fact, there are plenty of teachers who seem to be permanently running on empty and spend a large part of their week losing their temper, shouting and being miserable in the process.

Snappy teachers aren’t pleasant to be around. You can’t really expect children to have self-restraint and self-discipline if we are unable to demonstrate these ourselves.

Some teachers seem to have bags of patience, almost an unreal amount, but they are in effective teachers because they are in control. They also, generally, have plenty of respect. Shouty teachers seldom do.

A patient teacher has the willingness and ability to adapt to different classroom situations and this requires plenty of gentleness, perseverance and empathy.

It means that you are ambitious and have high aspirations for all children but cultivate a growth mindset culture where mistake-making isn’t frowned upon but welcomed. We cannot expect children to grasp things or make logical decisions like we would.

Patience and understanding in dealing with a diverse group of children means never giving up on them and always trying out new ways to help them succeed in school. Every class will have children all at different levels with different developmental skills so responding to these differences requires skill and keeping cool under many pressures.

It’s also a quality that we need to teach children so that they can use it in their own lives. This involves modelling patience, teaching reflective listening, keeping expectations reasonable, teaching visualisation and mindfulness, teaching forward-looking behaviour and helping children develop strategies for waiting.

Teaching children is immensely enjoyable but it can also be very stressful and our patience is repeatedly put to test. If we become upset every time something happens you will burn out fast.

Losing patience is a normal human trait but as professionals we have to be responsive and pro-active and ensure that knee-jerk reactions don’t overwhelm us as trust and respect can rapdily evaporate.

Patience is inspiring and empowering. It is also a virtue in leaders too as Ritch Eich points out in his blog:


Patient leaders understand that having a purpose – and sticking to it – is essential if you want meaningful change.


Patient leaders are open to change and understand the value in being accessible.


Tolerant leaders know that intolerance stunts growth, while tolerance powers it.


Patient leaders are independent and straightforward, and in some cases even defiant.


Being empathetic is a sign of maturity and confidence

Nurturing Nature

Compassionate leaders know how to lead and nurture, developing others.


Patient leaders are cool and self-assured – without being cocky and conceited.


Thriving takes time, tenacity and endurance.

If senior leadership teams are short on patience then they will find they are short on staff too. It’s an essential ingredient throughout the whole school community and a personal quality that needs nurturing and developing in us all.

Margaret Deland once said, “You cannot have genius without patience” and do you know what, she’s absolutely hit the nail.

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