Saturday, April 2, 2011

Talent and Patience


“Good things come to those who wait.”

All of us have likely heard that phrase used a few times.  To me, this implies that exhibiting a little patience is a condition from which positive outcomes emerge.  On the other hand, I do NOT believe that this phrase implies the opposite to be true – that by not waiting, bad things will happen.

As a father of two children under 6, I imagine the origin of the phrase has something to do with a parent desperately trying to address the “I wants” or the “Can I’s” of raising kids.

Of course a more adult version of this phrase is “patience is a virtue.”  I say adult version because I’m not sure why anyone would want to explain what a virtue is to a small child under the circumstances in which you find yourself needing the use the phrase!


Recently, I wrote a blog post in which I discuss untapped talent.  In schools, we are mindful of helping students (and teachers) discover and share their special gifts with the larger community.  While there are instances in which talent is immediately noticeable, most of us have to spend time and work hard to truly discover our passions and refine our skills to the point of being comfortable referring to these skills as talents.

There is also, it would appear, a greater motivation to discover and display talent than patience.  Schools hold talent shows, science fairs, history projects, art shows, theatre productions, athletic contests, etc.  All of which are essential to the health and development of your school’s identity.  What is often lost is the time and patience it takes to get to that point.

Patience is also a virtue when trying to handle challenging and/or nearly impossible situations.  These situations can be academic difficulties, social issues, disciplinary problems, classroom management, etc.  I have found that when I mention patience in schools, this is the type of patience most teachers are referring to, not the patience needed to refine talented students.  One type of patience is easy to display, the other, not so easy.  Either way, patience requires time.

Time is a finite resource.  Schools only have a limited number of hours each day to find, cultivate, refine, and display student talent.  As a matter of fact, in the course of a person’s life, the amount of time actually spent in school is so small that it is amazing that schools are able to do as much as they do with students (read Robert Evans’ book, Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving to find out more about the actual time spent in school).

As school leaders, can we discover anything about our organizational health by examining how much time our schools use to exhibit talent vs. how much time we exhaust on showing the “more difficult” type of patience.  Can an investment in cultivating and showing off our talents correlate to a decrease in time needed to handle difficult issues?

It is generally accepted that children who are able to delay gratification (exhibit patience) are more likely to be more positive, persistent, and self-motivated later in life than those less patient.  The benefits of both talent and patience are numerous and worthy of attention.  Are we doing enough to recognize and celebrate both in schools?

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