Judge each day not by the harvest, but by the seeds you plant…
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.