Patience by Mrs. Smith

Posted on: 05/03/2021

I would have loved to have written a blog about our value of Patience this week, but I have been rather caught up in the crucial work of updating the school's comprehensive Covid risk assessment. I therefore invited Mrs. Smith to write on the theme of Patience for us this week. Enjoy!

Mrs. Drummond


Our value of the week this week is ‘Patience’, and we discussed this in our assemblies today. At Lower School and Ducklings, Mrs. Hunt showed the children this very short video as a prompt to discuss what patience is and how to practise it. At Upper School, we watched a video of some children telling us, in their own words, what they thought patience meant. They came up with some very good ideas, like ‘waiting for something’ and ‘holding back your anger or frustration’.

The dictionary definition of patience is actually this: ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’.

I find these words beautiful, because they neatly encapsulate what we all probably instinctively know: that being patient is a capacity, not a genetic quality. While it is true that some people naturally have more patience, for others (myself included) this quality does not come easily. The good news is that, like our capacity for love, for empathy, or for resilience, our capacity for patience can be increased through self-awareness, determination and practice. So, how do we cultivate patience and why is this quality – or value – so very important in our lives?

The simple answer is that we cultivate our capacity for patience through practising being patient. To do this, we need to exercise our self-control and push away feelings of annoyance or anxiety that arise when we are experiencing a prolonged delay in waiting for something. We need to remind ourselves that the thing we are waiting for will eventually come – and sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that, even if it doesn’t eventually come, we will nevertheless be ok. We all practise patience on a daily basis: the parent who feels frustrated waiting for a child to get dressed; the child who longs for break time when they can get out into the playground with their friends; the adult who is thirsty during a meeting and has to wait until they can have a drink; the teacher who is ready for lunch at 11.00 o’clock and must wait until lunch time! These are small, manageable, daily examples. Exercising patience can be done in these situations partly because it has to be done, and partly because it has been done before.

However, there are also times - this year in particular – when we can practise patience on a larger level. Since last March, we have lived with more uncertainty than ever before, and we have had to manage our anxiety and learn to accept and tolerate delay, problems and suffering in a whole new way. We have waited to find out what the latest government advice will be, waited to hear the latest data on the spread of the virus, waited to give our loved ones a hug, to go to the gym again, to go shopping, to get our hair cut and to go back to school. Many, many people across the world have waited anxiously and unhappily to find out whether a sick friend or relative will make a recovery. There has been a lot of talk about the resilience we have all developed during this pandemic, and patience is at the root of that resilience. I think that we all understand now, more than ever, that there are things outside of our control, and things inside of our control. If we can keep our focus on those things we can control – our capacity to keep ourselves positive and to be patient in the face of uncertainty and adversity – we can better support ourselves and those around us.

At St. Helen’s College, children of every age have practised patience in waiting for school to re-open, waiting to be re-connected with friends and teachers and waiting for clubs and sports to resume. For such young pupils, this cannot have been easy. No doubt, as parents, you have found yourselves providing a lot of support and perspective for the younger generation during this time. You, and your children, should feel very proud of your newly expanded capacity for patience and controlling your anxieties and frustrations. Mrs. Drummond has asked me to mention, in particular, our Year 6 children who, this year, have had to cope with uncertainties over whether and when 11+ exams and entry procedures would go ahead. They (and their parents) have then also had to exercise great patience while waiting for results that, in many cases, decided their future paths. We are enormously proud, of course, of their amazing academic achievements and of their success in securing places at the senior schools of their choice. However, we are all equally proud of the patience they have shown, both in persisting in their endeavours in the face of uncertainties, and in managing the inevitable anxieties while waiting for their results. These are truly brave, resilient and patient young men and women, whose personal qualities, as well as their excellent knowledge and skills, make them very well placed for future success at their senior schools and beyond.

We have always lived in an uncertain world, and we always will. Other illnesses, natural disasters, economic problems and accidents will no doubt beset us during our lifetimes. It is our inner qualities that are our biggest defence and protection against these unforeseen difficulties. The main one is no doubt our human capacity for love and kindness, and for building families and communities that support us in troubling times. But second, I think, even above resilience, is our astonishing and ever-developing capacity for patience.

Parents do often know best, so I will give my wonderful mum the last word here. One of her favourite sayings as I was growing up was, ‘Patience is a virtue’.  Another was, ‘Virtue is its own reward’.  Added together, these proverbs are saying that, if we can cultivate patience, we will be better people and that, in becoming better people, we will improve our own lives as we reap the benefits of our own goodness. That seems to me to be a very good thing.

Mrs. Smith