Judge each day not by the harvest, but by the seeds you plant… [anonymous]
As I’m trying to collect stories about The Teachable Moment*, I have noticed a trend. First, the teachers I know say, “What a great idea!” and then, “Um, I don’t have any teachable moments.” “Sure you do!” I exclaim, and then they say, “I’ll think about it,” morph into the teacher-version of Eeyeore, trudge away, possibly racking their brains for a time when they made a huge difference in a kid’s life. So maybe “The Teachable Moment” sounds a bit too Hollywood, like all, “Carpe Diem! Stand on your chair and salute me in the name of literacy!” I am just looking for stories in which teachers connect with students, and teachers know they made a difference.
Turns out, that’s hard to come by, especially for new teachers. Most of my stories have been from veteran teachers who had a kid come back 20 years later and thank them. TWENTY YEARS?!? We have to wait twenty years for positive feedback? No wonder there’s a teacher shortage! That is some delayed gratification. One teacher put it to me this way: “Some days I feel like I’m pouring all my energy into sand.” I said, hopefully, “Maybe you’re pouring it into soil, and you have to wait for it to grow?” I was sort of trying to convince myself, I think.
With these new ideas rattling around in my head, I spent some of this Thanksgiving thinking of when I had given thanks to my teachers. Sheepishly, I admit, I have only explicitly thanked one of them. Shame on me! So, after my pumpkin pie-fest, I scoured Facebook, People Finders, Google, etc, for my favorite teacher from 2nd grade, Ms. Laurie Baumunk, so I could thank her.**
Ms. Baumunk was probably all of age 21 when she taught 8 year old me, fresh from Australia with a funny little accent and all. I think back to the most memorable times, and have few moments when I can think of things she taught me explicitly, but my memories are mostly an an amorphous feeling of love--Love for learning, love for my school, love for my classmates. As my blog title states, I. Loved. School. I love everything down to the the little zippers on my Kangaroo shoes that could hold my lunch ticket. I loved sorting my work into little folders. I loved writing. I loved it all.
But most of all, I loved being around Ms. Baumunk. She was warm and kind, and in my memory, angelic and softspoken. She made me want to be a teacher. I’m sure she had her bad days, and state standards and curriculum to follow, but I don’t remember any of that. I only have the visceral appreciation of her kindness. The one thing that does stand out was probably not in a state standard you could measure, but I remember her taking us all to the National Western Stock Show, which for non-Midwesterners, is like a rodeo and a place to view (or buy?) livestock. We had our own little mock-Stock Show in the class in which my drawing of a pig roped in 3rd place. Oh how I wish that were a state standard for that lesson:
Standard 27.2. Students will understand that the world’s premier livestock will be at the Denver Coliseum this weekend! Yeeeeee Haw!
I digress. What I remember about the show was that I bought a little Rabbit’s Foot and then cried on the bus home when I found out they had to kill the rabbit to get it’s foot. Ms. Baumunk comforted me and I survived my first “circle of life” discussion. I’m certain that they didn’t teach that in preservice teaching classes, and I’m certain Ms. Baumunk has no idea that I still remember her kindness decades later.
So for those teachers who don’t think they have any teachable moments, think back on your own teachers who made a difference for you in some small way, and think again.
*It’s not too late! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to submit a story. It’s paid!
**I didn’t find her. I can only hope she googles her name someday and finds this. I’ll try to help it along in case I spelled her name wrong: Laurie Baumunk, Lori Baumunk, Laurie Baumonk, Lori Baumonk! Google, don’t fail me now.