The best teaching, that “aha moment”, often comes from in that serendipitous instance when teacher and student simultaneously and precisely communicate on the same wavelength. Think back to Henry Higgins proudly saying proudly of Eliza Doolittle, “I think she’s got it!” A flash of insight provides a moment for the teacher to help construct a meaningful concept for the learner. A seemingly unrelated query (Mr. C, this has nothing to do with this topic.) elicits a pointed response from another student that propels a class period-long discussion on the unrelated but thought provoking topic. Something thought, heard or seen ignites the launching point for learning.
Case in point: Paddington. My wife and I had taken two of our grandsons to see this movie. The audience was greatly varied: parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, AND couples of different demographic groups scattered throughout the theater. It was thoroughly entertaining. But my reason for citing the movie as a teachable moment rests on the following sequence: Paddington is standing on a London train platform with the sign: Someone please take care of this bear, around his neck. The father of a family notices him and says to his children, Stranger danger! He proceeds to quickly rattle off why he believes his family should distrust this bear.
What a great instance to be used to bring home the importance of being alert and wary of strangers to our families! Consider all the ways the meeting with this stranger could go: he can be totally ignored; he can be approached and studied as something out of the ordinary; he may say he is in need of assistance; he may say he needs money; he may reach out to touch their hands; he may be engaged in conversation. How would you want your children to handle the situation? A whimsical story provides the teachable moment. Why not use it?
Patrick O’Malley, a psychologist from Fort Worth, Texas, wrote Getting Grief Right, for the New York Times Sunday Review on January 11, 2015. He states we should not give credence to ideas of closure and stages of grieving. The author describes three chapters to the story of loss: the first pertains to a person’s closeness to the one lost; the second concerns the particulars of the “death event”, especially if the event is premature and traumatic; and third, what you do when the world moves on and you are left to grieve alone.
Why am I relating these points? February 1 marks the eleventh anniversary of eleven-year old Carlie’s passing. The grip of sadness around some hearts remains as intense as it ever was; it is unrelenting. For others, intensity of loss is replaced with an empty spot in the heart/soul.
For those who never met her, never heard her voice, her laughter, or saw her smile, she remains a cogent reason to continue to do what we do. She is the reason we look for those teachable moments.
Teach your children well, now and always.