Education, as seen by most parents and students, is an activity that happens in the classroom from 7:45 AM to 1:55 PM, Monday through Friday, from the middle of August to the end of May. It is well planned by the administration and teachers, catering to the individual needs of the students and the goals of the state of Ohio. Like a recipe from a gourmet chef, it is crafted to deliver the right information to the student for future success. That is how we prefer to experience it. How we actually experience comes closer to what military strategist Helmuth von Moltke states: No educational plan withstands contact with the student. We paraphrased a little, but the sentiment is accurate. Education happens everywhere, from the classroom to the ride to school to the dinner table. There are always opportunities to teach children, and we have come to calling those teachable moments.
The phrase “teachable moment” has been around since the 1950’s popularized by Robert Havighurst. His theory was that students were more apt to learn when the environment and timing was appropriate for the lesson. The lessons need to be repeated multiple times to make sure that each student is in the proper frame of mind to receive the information. The lesson on thermodynamics may be well crafted by the teacher, but it may not sink in until the car overheats in the summer. Or you are cooking dinner that night. Stuck on the side of the road may also offer up other lessons, like changing a tire, keeping calm in an emergency, how to contact the police, and so on. Parents and teachers both should be on the lookout for these opportunities.
Teachable moments are not just about lessons that would be comfortable in a classroom. They are about any subject that a student needs to understand. How do you react when a person cuts you off while driving to school? What do you do when the cashier gives you too much change at the store? When their team loses, how is it handled? Children are greatly influenced by the ways the adults around them act. If you keep your calm and make sure everyone is okay after someone cuts you off, it influences a child as much as swearing, honking, and shaking your fist. Our food drive at Thanksgiving is not anything we can teach in a class. But it is a way to teach our students about how to help those less fortunate.
Many of the social cues and mores we know came from teachable moments we did not even know were happening. How did you learn what to wear to an interview? Or how to act on a date? Those were all things that were taught to us over time by our parents and friends, not in a classroom by a teacher. Drugs and alcohol are also topics that we teach our children by example. They see how people act at parties and in public around alcohol, and how it is portrayed in the media. It is up to parents and friends to make sure children know the proper age that alcohol is acceptable at, and how to use it responsibly. It should also be pointed out when people are using it irresponsibly, and what the consequences are.
From learning about when to say “Please” and “Thank You” to learning about how tomatoes grow in a garden, teachable moments are all around us. They are unplanned and mercurial, but they are essential to helping our students learn the skills they need for college and the workforce. Being prepared, and seizing those opportunities help to round out a student’s knowledge. They can see that the lessons they are getting in the classroom have applications outside our walls. Teachable moments help enhance the well laid out plans we have created at Miami Valley Academies. Thank you for all of your help!
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