Never waste a teachable moment

Teachable moments arise when children take an interest in a subject, providing teachers and parents with an opening to enhance learning.

Before I became a teacher, a vocation I entered in my mid-forties, I had never heard the phrase “teachable moment.” I like the explanation of the term given by “A teachable moment is an opportunity for a teacher or parent to provide special insights on a topic that has captured the attention of their classroom or children. Teachable moments are unplanned and must be sensed and seized by the teacher or parent…Teachable moments are easier for children to digest and remember because they are inherently more interested in the topic at hand and can feel its applications to the world around them.” 

Now that you all have that straight, let’s think back to teachable moments our parents may have fumbled over the years.

I’ll go first.

When I was about 12, I decided to dig a hole in the garage wall of my home. What precipitated my deliberate destruction? Pure amazement following a TV show that documented a fabulous archeological discovery. The artwork was located in a network of caves in Lascaux, France. Fantastical paintings of animals—magnificent horses, antlered animals resembling elk and deer, bison, aurochs—and the people who hunted them. Six thousand figures in all.

This is a replica of one of the panels in a cave in Lascaux, France. The originals were damaged when too many people flocked to see the ancient paintings.

The narrator explained that little was known about the humans who painted their caves with such reverence 17,000 years ago. Still, I was enthralled by these ancient artists and wondered how they spent their days, and how they made their paints, and why they created the vast herds of creatures that decorated their walls.

Then, a light bulb went off. I wondered who might have lived in my own home all those years ago. (No, it did not register in my wee brain that my house in suburban New Jersey was only about ten years old.) I was convinced that, if I looked hard enough, I could discover ancient artifacts that might tell me about the people who lived in my home before my family arrived.

Now, in a perfect “teachable moment” the following would have occurred when my mother pulled into the driveway while I was attempting to pry lose a wall in the garage.

Mom: “Hi, honey!” She smiles from behind cat-eye glasses. “What are you doing with that hammer and screwdriver? Wow! I see there’s a hole in the wall.”

Me: “I’m looking for the ancient people that lived here before us.” I smile enthusiastically. “Maybe they left some paintings inside the wall.”

Mom: Well, aren’t you a clever girl! Perhaps someday you’ll be an archeologist. Want me to help you?”

Anyone who knows my mother is now laughing hysterically. When my mom did pull into the driveway that day and caught me attacking the wall, she marched toward me in her pointy-toed high heels. “What the hell are you doing!”

Digging in my home’s garage wall to search for ancient artifacts made perfect sense in my 12-year-old brain, but my parents didn’t see it that way.

Up until that moment, I had no qualms about exploring inside the wall for ancient artifacts, but the look on my mother’s face changed my attitude instantly. So, I did what came naturally. I dropped my tools and ran. Mom didn’t have a chance of catching me in her heels, but I could hear her yelling as I bolted through the neighborhood.

Later, my father squinted at me. As part of my punishment, I had to watch as he spent his weekend reconstructing the wall, patching the hole with wire and spackling, all the while muttering under his breath.

Today, I feel my parents failed in the “teachable moment” department. Honestly, I think as a 12-year-old–alight with ancient history fervor–I was damned gifted, though I didn’t hear my parents bragging to anyone about my brilliance and the possibility that I might one day become a world renowned archeologist.

Mom and Dad could have encouraged me, don’t you think? Perhaps you’ll do better when faced with a “teachable moment” of your own.

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Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

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