Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What is a "Teachable Moment"

 As an adult with responsibility for a child, it is inevitable that from time to time you will find yourself in a position where you need to educate them. This can take the form of a more or less formal lesson, depending on the situation, but what matters most is that you make the most of the opportunity. Children are inherently curious, which is a positive and important characteristic at their age, but means that as an adult you will need to direct that curiosity in the right direction.

Whether it is as part of formal educational work or not, a chance to educate a child is what we often refer to as a “teachable moment”. These moments arise when a child is showing curiosity and an interest in learning, and it is important to be able to both identify them when they arise, and to know how to deliver that learning in a way which will be absorbed positively. Hopefully, the advice below will make this easier.

Is your child a little Socrates?

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The Greek philosopher Socrates frustrated those around him by asking one question more than any other. He would ask, simply, “Why?”. This is a question that might be familiar to any parent or guardian of a young child. It’s possible that, as an adult, you may not know the answer. However, asking “Why” is an essential element of how a child learns, so never simply tell them “that’s just the way things are”. Work with them to answer the question, because as long as they are asking you can be pleased to see that they are motivated to learn - and that’s so valuable.

Is your child frustrated by school and education?

We’ve all been the child who sits looking at their workbooks and asks the question, maybe in frustration and maybe in simple innocence: “When will I need to know any of this?”. At the age of 7, or even 17, it can be hard to envisage a time when certain aspects of the curriculum will ever matter to you in real life. If you peruse Teach for America reviews, you’ll commonly see that kids can become cynical about education when they don’t see a value to it. But all knowledge has value, and it’s better to learn something and not need it than to look back wistfully. One seemingly random lesson could be the seed of a future fulfilling career.

Does your child seem to find ways to make mess?

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The ideal picture of an intelligent, hard-working child is one which features tidy desks and methodically-filed notes. This may not be what you see when you look at your child’s bedroom - but don’t assume that they’re lacking in diligence because things are messy. The signs are that disorganized people are actually often more likely to be bright students. Take the opportunity to ask what they’re learning about, and encourage their interests - and maybe ask that they tidy a bit more often for the sake of your nerves! - because the reason they are messy may well be that their minds are on higher things.

Spotting the moments where you can encourage your child to learn may take practice - let’s face it, most of us were less than enthusiastic about education at one time or another - but as we get better at recognizing teachable moments, we can help our kids so much more.

This is a contributed post.

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