Wednesday, February 16, 2011
"Don't Wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize normal moments and make them great"
The inspiration for this post comes from the Grade 8 Boys Basketball team that I'm currently coaching with Steve Cowan (@stvcwn) and Brandon Chancey. The boys came together for the first time back in the fall and over the course of the past four months have shown great desire, dedication, perseverance and resilience. Similar to any athletic season, there have been high points, low points, moments of triumph and moments of adversity. Through a lot of hard work, the boys have earned the opportunity to play in the Delta District Final on Thursday evening. Despite belonging to a relatively small district composed of seven secondary schools, the accomplishment of making it this far remains significant. Thursday's game also presents a tremendous opportunity for the team. The players have never been more motivated and engaged in games and practices. We have stressed to the boys the importance of performing to the best of their ability because there is no guarantee that they will have this opportunity in the future.
Even though I don't particularly like the term, everyone knows what I'm referring to when I speak of 'teachable moments'. These moments usually arise spontaneously when a student asks an interesting question or makes an interesting comment and it takes the conversation on a tangent away from our initial plan. As teachers, we often wrestle with what to do in these situations. On one hand we want to continue along the tangent, capitalizing on our students' peaked interest. On the other hand, we hesitate to stray too far from our plan, feeling the pressure to cover the extensive prescribed curriculum.
So, how should we handle these situations?
I suggest that when these opportunities arise and our students are most engaged, we should follow the tangent and turn it into a great moment of learning. If our students' curiosity is peaked, why would we do anything to squash it? This is when the most relevant and deepest learning is likely to occur. Rather than kill our students' interest in a topic by cutting short a discussion and forcing ourselves back to the prescribed curriculum, we should be looking to tie our discussions back to important aspects of the curriculum.
I'm not advocating that we ignore the prescribed curriculum, nor am I suggesting that a set curriculum need not exist. However, I am suggesting that we consciously choose to teach less, allow for and seize the spontaneous opportunities to pursue the relevant, meaningful tangents that engage our students. After all, similar to a basketball team's opportunity to participate in a district final, these meaningful opportunities in the classroom don't happen all the time. I encourage you to seize the moment!