Teachable Moments

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Teachable Moments

Recognizing and using those breathless moments that occur between people in which learning happens; taking unplanned journeys into the slip stream of new understandings, stepping off the cliff of familiarity in the innocent manner of the Fool of the Tarot deck, observing the dignity in unexpected instances which are so often disguised as negative events, and opening oneself to the blessing of one’s own ignorance or folly, these are the unanticipated flashes which teachers call “learning moments," or "teachable moments."

You won’t find “teachable moments” in the Scope and Sequence of the Curriculum Essentials Framework, or in a textbook either. You cannot write a lesson plan for them, and you cannot test for them. Experts will not agree on the nature or outcome of these experiences. You cannot teach them, you can only have them. One person cannot have one alone. Not only is it a shared experience, but it is never clear who is the teacher and who is the student. That is part of the deal. And they do not just happen in the classroom either.

One of these moments may be so simple you wonder about its significance. Maybe no measurable learning has taken place, (at least not that any two thoughtful observers would agree upon). Perhaps it will not be remembered by anyone at all. And yet, there it is for anyone who has eyes to see. Maybe one can only draw from the beauty of the act itself.

Teachable moments ride into town on the same sort of horse as déjà vu rides, and they arrive in an instant with an invitation for you. They may be disguised as stupid questions, disruptive comments, irrelevant responses, or self-deprecatory statements. They are unexpected, unplanned, and unbidden. Unfortunately, they are also often unappreciated and unwelcome. The messenger is frequently a trusting child, but it can also be an angry, irascible grouch of any age.

Instead of accepting the invitation, you may choose to kill the messengers. You may blow them away with sarcasm, dismiss them with indifference, or stamp them out with (and I need orchestral fanfare here) AUTHORITY.

Actually, the invitation to a teachable moment could come from almost anyone at almost any time. You just never know. And there is no time to RSVP. You accept on the spot, or the moment passes. Then you have to wait for the next one, because you will not get the first one back. Recreating the moment is like trying to plan your own surprise party.

So, what will you miss by not accepting the moment? The party favors are adventure, growth, learning, clarity, healing, self-respect, joy, and satisfaction, (and that’s not to mention the possibility of wonder, magic, and awe). Jeez, you would give all that up just to be right?

-Jim Hare

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 06, 2002

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