“I used to love those teachable moments. I was so good at those,” he said to me, sitting across the table, sipping his margarita.
It’s true, I had strong-armed my boyfriend into yet another discussion about education. I’m not sure how I manage it, but I tend to direct the conversation in this direction frequently. He kindly obliges, though, as he went to college to be an high school teacher.
I looked across at him, thinking how much of a shame it was that someone who was “so good” at those teachable moments was not, in fact, a teacher. In my opinion, the best teachers are the ones that can “run with it”–the ones that can, without hesitation, capitalize on those teachable moments.
But then I began to think about it some more–not about whether good teachers can capitalize on teachable moments–but about teachable moments themselves. They are, by all means, revered by educators. In fat, it’s hard to get through a course in college without a former teacher referring to their teachable moments, ones where the situation was so ripe for a life lesson or tangential study. What I began to think about was the concept of a “teachable moment” itself, and how it came to be such a commodity in schools, how we let authentic, inquiry-driven learning slip away from us, and how the moments that are actually “teachable,” per se, are so few and far between that we now have a special name for them.
“Imagine a world, though,” I replied, sipping my margarita, “where every moment in school is a teachable moment.”
And suddenly, moments from the past four months–moments from teaching the smallest, most curious children I’ve ever met–flooded into my mind.
I remembered when one of my students came in, sharing information about the floods in Chennai, India, sharing their devastation with our class, igniting our curiosities about extreme weather, and allowing me to tie in lessons on measurement and data collection. I recalled the moment earlier this year where my students collected acorns at the park and we brought them back into the classroom, dissected them, and created observational drawings (although it ended in me cutting a part of my finger off when dissecting them). I reflected on the moment when my six-year-old student told me he wanted to make a QR code–and we did it.
For whatever reason, my thoughts serendipitously converged in that moment over margaritas, reminding me that teachable moments shouldn’t be such a commodity, and that in the inquiry-based, high-interest, and student-driven classroom, moments should not be the only things that should be teachable; instead, the world around us should be teachable, and learning within our classrooms real, relevant, and readily applicable to the interests, affinities, and values of our children.