Teachable Moments


A “teachable moment” is of great value for the student(s) and the teacher. A “teachable moment” is never planned for or anticipated, just an offering that may or may not be used by the teacher. An honest teacher or parent or supervisor will admit to having missed some of those golden moments, but also to using them when the opportunity arises. These moments are rare and usually occur in a small setting—with a student or a few students or a class or a club or a team always present themselves after a student has mis-stepped. Perhaps for the one teaching, it is so special because it is an opportunity unplanned or studied for, but of value for the one or ones who receive the golden of the moment.

I was reminded of my experience with “teachable moments” when I read about an occurrence at North Surry High School in Mt. Airy, NC. last week. During an improv performance on White House jobs for about 45 students, a performer made an “inappropriate” comment about President Trump. Mr. James Moore, the teacher present explains what happened next: “We immediately called freeze, which is the signal to stop the improv,” said James Moore, one of the sponsors of the improv club. “When we call freeze, it is our way of avoiding a possibly inappropriate scene. I coach these students about how to be comedic but also engage in appropriate comedy…At no time did I engage in disrespect for the Office of the President. I take the Office of the President very seriously…As a school counselor and sponsor of the club, it is important to me that we use this performance as a teachable moment for all.”

Mr. Moore hears words he does not think appropriate and stops the improv performance. I give him, the educator, the benefit of the doubt, and trust that he explained to his charges why the remark was disrespectful to the office of the  President of the United States and why he yelled “Freeze”. I get that. However, what I don’t get is why a parent (present/not present to hear what was said) would complain to the police? And why would the police get involved? With all that authority, Mr. Moore’s “teachable moment” is thrown out, and the didactic forces of authority take over. Nothing learned here but resentment.

Once again, the chance for teaching a great lesson is removed by forces not in the classroom. I suspect that if Mr. Moore and the other teachers involved with the performance were allowed to do what they  do, they and the students would have had some dialogue, which is what makes a “teachable moment” so special, and reached some agreement concerning what is and what is not appropriate for such an un-rehearsed performance. Not knowing the comment makes forming more of an opinion difficult, if not impossible. But I think  it important to give Mr. Moore all benefit and trust his judgement.

The one iron-clad characteristic of any “teachable moment” is that the opportunity must be taken immediately. To return  to it later, even in the same day or hour, reduces the impact of the lesson. No principal, supervisor, sheriff, or parent can do what all the Mr. Moore’s could do with such a moment. And, if he be allowed to do it, his students will benefit greatly.

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