Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Teachable Moments

There are times and opportunities that cross our path everyday when we all can become teachers. I call these opportunities "teachable moments." These are times when we see children acting in a certain way, maybe exhibiting some poor decision-making, and we can intervene to help them see a wider perspective of what they are doing. They might also be moments when we can highlight them for doing something positive or where we can give them a chance to use something they have learned in school in the real world. We cannot afford to pass up these teachable moments with our children. In 2011, 57 years after “Brown vs. Board of Education” and 70 years after “Separate But Equal” in urban school districts, we struggle to graduate an average of 60% of our African-American students.
As I reflect on my childhood, I can recall many teachable moments that
adults, even those other than my parents, provided for me. Today teachable moments are more important than ever before. In America only 37% African-American children live in two-parent homes. That leaves over 60% of children lacking some portion of positive guidance, encouragement, and correction which must then come from extended family, schools, churches, mentors and other community outreach.

Children are exposed to many images that show them the fantasies of life (the lavish lifestyles of celebrities, athletes, actors, rappers, etc.) and not the preparation, effort, opportunity, and hard work it took to get there. In his book “A Letter to a Young Brother” actor Hill Harper writes about the F.E.A.R Factor (False Evidence Appearing Real). Many of our children are caught up in superficial things that only a few people with extreme talent and rare opportunities can afford. I am certain that teachable moments used by successful people in life will allow children to see that effort and preparation will yield opportunities. More importantly, it will expand their motivation for learning.

Many times adults will shy away from teachable moments because they fear being ignored, cursed or sometimes attacked. However, in my 37 years in education, I have always taken advantage of guiding children wherever the opportunity arises. You must approach them from a place of respect and in a manner that they will listen to. Children must hear from us every time an opportunity for encouragement, motivation and correction is available. Hearing praise for success will cause them to seek more success. As adults, we should share our experiences that relate to their situation and about our own good and poor decisions.

Children must see that we care about them and that we take ownership of the responsibilities of teaching that will provide them hope, skills and understanding to rise above their circumstances, whatever those may be.

James Q. Bacchus

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