The Teachable Moment Is A Myth

Classroom view

on the first day of school the students arrive early
everyone is quiet and attentive
except for that one who can’t stop talking
and the other one who seems to have a motor inside
and the two who have been best friends since first grade
and the one who last year’s teacher warned you about
it is the first day you say to yourself
a beginning for each one
a beginning for me

 
as the bell rings 30 sets of eyes look at you
you think of the huge task
sitting in front of you
looking
listening
waiting
you feel anxious
you ask yourself if you belong here
you question the decisions that brought you to be standing there
now
in this room
you don’t feel ready      

you are completely unprepared

you survey the class and give them directions to start
you notice a few who are hiding
several who are excited
some you can see just want to be somewhere else
anywhere else
you wonder how you will reach them all

the one you were warned about blurts out something
to the girl near him
everyone hears
some laugh
you see her shrink into her seat
all the eyes look to you
the one you were warned about watches too
gauging you

you ask yourself
do all teachers go through this
do all teachers have to fight for control
do all teachers need to push students in this way

you meet each student’s eyes for an hour in a moment
your eyes rest on the one you were warned about
you look not quite inside
you hold his gaze
a long time
forever
the class squirms as if to say enough
someone coughs and your hand silently says stop
the one you were warned about looks away
see me after class you say gently
you send an email to his guidance counselor
you wonder why he is so angry

you feel your heart
a familiar rhythm
hands loosen the tension you feel- open close open close
your body has reacted
it knows
you smile inside because you know
respect is earned through hard work
and caring
you just started the work again
you have always cared

your lessons are queued end to end waiting
papers and grades and planning and classes
you know it’s part of a process
at the end they will be ready for the next step
if you teach them
if you reach them
it’s a question still

on the third day of school the athlete complains
loudly
about an assignment
every other student jumps in
on the bandwagon

you wonder again
do all teachers go through this
do all teachers have to fight for control
do all teachers need to push students in this way

when class is over you call the athlete’s coach
you contact his parents
you pull him aside and let him know what the complaining earned him

 
the teachable moment is a myth
every moment is an opportunity
to teach
to learn
to learn to teach

 
the next day students are working in groups
the girl with special needs has her head bowed
eyes down
afraid
she struggles with language
with social skills
you notice she is sitting with her group but alone
you note her group
kids you thought were decent
laughing
your jaw tightens
what to do
your mind invents revenge
karma please
you still the rage
you know this is real for the girl

the popular boy has a special ed brother
you think
a stealth lesson about acceptance
tolerance
differing abilities
you make a mental note to talk to him privately
you talk to the special needs girl quietly on the way out
she can sense your intent

you collect homework the next day
except for the one you were warned of
you hear I didn’t want to do it
you feel the malice in the words
you reply join me at lunchtime
and after school too if you need the time

you call his home
grandmother answers
you hear she hasn’t had kids for years
she’s tired
she cares
you see her care is not enough
you see he is a child
alone
in a young man’s body

you see his anger through new eyes
you get permission to keep him every day
at lunch
after school
if needed
you apply gentle pressure
you support him even though he thinks he doesn’t want support
see if it makes a difference
you refer him to the counselor
you wish life was easier for him
you wish life was easier for all children in grown up bodies

Friday late
you reflect on successes
you face the failures
you look at the headway
one student hates you
another is thankful for help
hopeful
the kid with an autistic brother looks at you with a smile

you think about the ones who are still hiding
you smile about the ones who are excited
you think about those who just want to be somewhere else
you wonder how you can make this place somewhere else
you wonder how you will reach them all
how will you teach them

you know

one by one

The original post that prompted me to write this can be seen at…           

http://muumuuhouse.com/mw.04feb2014.html

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One Response to “The Teachable Moment Is A Myth”

  1. anne bakhmeteff Says:

    c’est magnifique!
    très beau et très juste!!
    j’adore

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