Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WWW: Teachable Moments

Weds Weekly Writing is a weekly writing topic that is designed for bloggers to consider a topic and then share their own experience, insight, opinions. There are no write or wrong answers. The purpose is to explore, to better understand, to share, to grow.
Teachable Moments
In parenting and in educating, the phrase "teachable moments" is used very frequently. Adults are encouraged to be aware of these moments with children when there is an opportunity to help the child explore, discover, grow beyond a current boundary. Sometimes these moments are obvious- a child asking a question or facing a new experience. Sometimes these moments are unexpected and subtle. I've certainly encountered many teachable moments with my children. But what about my own? What about the moment when I have unexpectedly learned something or broadened my own experience? My adult life is full of teachable moments. Full of moments when I have been taught. I used to be a social worker. I worked as a therapeutic foster care case worker for a private agency. I worked with many families, many children. Some from rural areas, inner city kids, suburban families. White and black, young and old. There are several kids who taught me some really important life lessons. I am changing names for the sake of privacy. One boy, Sam, taught me that we choose our behavior. Sam had a temper. Sam was full of rage. On his best day, he was angry. He glowered, he frowned. Behind his eyes, there was constant self-hate at the things that had been done to him in his short 12 years of life. Thankfully, he was with a solid family. They had been his foster family for 4 years and had no intention of giving him up. He was always in trouble at school- a day didn't go by that he wasn't fighting, talking back, bullying. Until one day... I had a meeting with Sam before his regularly scheduled court date (ongoing family court case review). He showed up with his foster mom and he was SMILING. He kept trying to make it go away. He kept trying to paste the familiar scowl on his face. But this smile... this most perfect smile that took over his entire person kept creeping back out. It ended up being something simple. Simple to most people, anyway. But something that was a first, a milestone, a teachable moment for anyone this young man's life touched. He had gotten into a confrontation with another boy at school. Actually, this other boy had come up to him and started picking a fight. Said hateful things. Maybe shoved him. I don't remember the details. But the sorts of things that Sam normally would have exploded over. He walked away. A teacher saw it happen. A teacher saw the other kid approach Sam. The teacher knew what was going to happen... knew what always happened. The teacher started towards the boys and then... Sam walked away. At the time, I didn't realize just how blessed I was by his story. I was far too caught up in the excitement of this fantastic moment. I was far too enamored with this boy's new face, smiling, proud, happy. I didn't realize the lesson I was being taught. That how we respond is a choice. How we feel happens- he was definitely angry that this other kid got up in his face. But how we respond to those feelings... that is where we choose. Sometimes, those choices are really, really challenging. But we can still be in control of them. It's something that life had tried teaching me time and again, really. In my own life, I've made decisions in regards to my own healing, my own growth. I've chosen how I would behave- sometimes I made my choices very deliberately, sometimes I followed my gut, and sometimes I didn't recognize that I was making choices. Life kept pounding this idea of choice into my experiences. After my divorce, when I was, for the umpteenth time, reviewing how I had gotten to where I was... how I had this failed marriage... how I had made such horrible choices. Choices. And I remembered Sam. And how life had handed him a really crappy hand. And how he was struggling and struggling in the game. And how he made that one choice and that one choice opened the door for more choices, more happiness. A 12 year old angry foster child taught me that life is about the choices you make and that even when life is hard and unfair and everything seems to be stacked completely against you... there are still opportunities to make the right choice. What teachable moments have you experienced in your life? When have you been the teacher? When have you been taught?


Karen M. Peterson said...

Such a great post!

I have quite a few moments where I learn things. And they usually involve kids. I volunteer for a group where I work with teenage girls. They teach me a lot about optimism and adaptability. Love it!

Eternal Lizdom said...

The cool thing about writing this was that it went in a totally different direction than I had intended. As I've been thinking about the topic for the past week, I've had lots of little moments in my head- some funny, some serious. But when I sat down and started writing, Sam's story is what needed to be told. Sam's story and how it impacted my life later on. Funny how writing can do that!

Kori said...

Sometimes I think all of life is choices. And often, too often, things happen over which we have not control-like in Sam's young life-but if we have people around us to help us, we still get to choose how those things affect our lives. This is a hard lesson to learn, and I love how eloquently you wrote about it.

Claudya Martinez said...

That is an inspiring story. What really touches me is that we all have lessons to learn and sometimes they are taught to us by those we least expect. It is true that we choose.