I’m getting old. I’ve started to choose clothes for their comfort levels, not their style. I love an evening in with a glass of wine and a book. I have a Beatles playlist on loop at home. I can’t work my TV remote. And last week, I was overtaken by young lad in a supermarket aisle, because I was moving too slowly past the biscuits.
Most of these I can come to terms with, but this latter scenario, the one where the boy racer got impatient, has really got my goat. The reason? I think there is a tendency nowadays to be just too impatient about everything.
We see it everywhere. The internet, for example: the holy grail is lightning broadband speeds, so we can download stuff faster. Or TV, where you no longer have to wait til the following week for the next episode of your favourite show: you just binge the box set. Or food, where you can now grab a coffee or a burger to go on almost every street corner. Or online shopping, where anything more than a 24-hour delivery time is seen as ridiculous. Or politics, where the idea of waiting until an idea or scheme is ready is outrageous – it must be implemented now, no matter what the consequences are.
So what is the relevance of this to education? Well, I think it has a deep and resounding impact on the way young people view learning. They are used to seeing events happen quickly, and the majority of education doesn’t work like that. They start their GCSEs in year nine or ten, knowing that it will be two or three years before they will see any hard work pay off. How can they have the patience for that? Everything else in their lives is served up immediately.
The knock-on effect for teaching is disastrous. Because, not only do you have to prepare students for exams in the dim and distant future, but you also have to engage them on a lesson-by-lesson basis. And sometimes, you have to impart information which isn’t that thrilling. Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and go through ten minutes of tedium to get to the good part. But where’s the incentive for the student? They don’t have to wait for anything else – why should they wait here? And so they don’t. Instead, they disengage.
Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon, but I believe this lack of forbearance is dangerous. Some things need time. They need time to grow, to develop, to flourish. But in today’s fast-paced culture, we’re forgetting that. We’re forgetting the art of having a little patience.