A Teachable Moment to Last a Lifetime


This blog is for parents and it is about parenting. Hopefully it will also let parents into the strange world teachers inhabit and how we think, for good or for bad about things such as rewarding behaviors, grades, expectations, etc.

A huge shoutout and thank you to the teacher who years ago shared the book (I have now forgotten the name of teacher and book and passed book on to an English Teacher colleague years ago…) with me regarding activities for getting students to use items such as a dictionary, thesaurus and other ‘researchy’ types of materials.  I know at the time you could not understand what a science teacher had in mind, but the ideas have been great tools in the war chest over the years.

One of the activities I appropriated was about a thesaurus:  What are all the words BETWEEN hot and cold and how would ‘you’ and your group put them in order? Example: warm, tepid, lukewarm, ice-cold, cold, freezing, exactly 33 degrees F and so forth.  This became a way to start to identify qualitative measurement, how to derive a scale and ultimately how to evaluate qualitative data and explore interpretations.   This activity, and some similar explorations helped many a middle schooler get through the quandaries of data collection.   Over the years, I found this example exemplary for life skills type issues in the classroom such as, “What are the words between deserve and earn?” or “What are the words between want and need?”.  This also worked great with parents in conference.

Over time, my students developed all manner of scales for ‘measuring’ the most outrageous data – kind of like Wired Magazine (the holy grail of how to ‘show’ data along the lines of Edward Tufte Envisioning Information).  Alone, this made science a great deal more fun, in combination with thinking through behaviors, this very simple task opened many a mind.

So, as I read the blog noted above and contemplated the various comments in The San Francisco Chronicle (often comments are better than actual blogs/articles!) I realized this is a task parents could do at home with children.  Not so much to do school work, more so to gain some insight and logic about the world, appreciate the how and why of religion – observing, practicing, believing in/having faith (it does not matter the particular religion) and applying religion to living a meaningful life.

Whether you claim to be the 99% or the 1%, all of us need to better understand in our hearts the difference between deserving and earning something – even a Blackberry for Christmas or the capacity for an inanimate object, Best Buy, to ruin our Christmas.  In addition to the distinct differences of deserve and earn (which has a great deal to do with studying, completing homework and obtaining grades….), want and need could not be more clear after the last five years where the whole world has been assailed by a few people who wanted too much.

As I think back over my experiences (I will post the URL’s to some blogs I have written about these concepts), I can not help but thank my parents for making sure I had the experiences to know the difference of want and need and deserve and earn. Some of these experiences came about via the observation of a minor holiday in Judaism called Chanukah which was raised up to a major holiday via marketing to compete with Christmas in the money sphere, some came about from traveling. Many of these experiences came about from leaving my comfort zone and having to contemplate how I would handle a variety of situations.  Most of my experiences caught me right between the heart and mind, which is never easy, nor can there necessarily be one right, correct, best answer.

If you wish to raise a child with compassion and appreciation, give them the opportunity to experience these words. Neither a dictionary or thesaurus could ever do the words justice merely by being on a page.