Teachable Moments

by Mary Johnson, Director of Children's Ministries & All Things Bright & Beautiful

At this point in the school year it is very obvious that our teachable moments with the children in All Things Bright and Beautiful and in our Sunday Children's Chapel have had a profound impact. Without question, the specific facts and functions of various components of the learning environments have been realized as a result of their routines. ATB&B children have a set sequence by which they enter the building, go to their cubbies, and then to the classrooms. Our Sunday Chapel is a familiar routine as well and the children come ready to participate. The routines foster confidence for the children so that they are able to participate and respond to the challenges and questions posed by the teachers. The teachers are ready to teach and the children are ready to learn. There is no doubt that the children here on Sunday have a beautiful relationship with God. And we are quite confident that the ATB&B Junior Kindergarteners have the acquired "Top Six Readiness Skills" for entering kindergarten. As stated by the Winnetka School District they are:

  1. Listen to each other
  2. Demonstrate a comfort level when engaging in problem solving experiences, learning experiences, and unstructured play
  3. Self-regulate and control one's impulses in age appropriate ways
  4. Communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally
  5. Take turns and share
  6. Demonstrate enthusiasm and curiosity in approaching new activities and experiences

I am also very much aware of the subtle teachable moments that have taken place. In the beginning of the year, the children in need of help with one task or another will give a shout out declaring their need: "HELP ME!" As the teachers have responded throughout the year with "how would you like to ask for that help?" they now say "will you help me, please?" Maybe not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but the gentle politeness with which children now communicate makes for a very pleasant environment for all. It continues with the teachable moments during conflict resolution when feelings are hurt, tempers are elevated and no one seems happy. The teachers are amazing at helping children calm the rough waters by taking the time to acknowledge each child's anxiety. This makes me wonder how much more enjoyable our adult work environments could be if we only took the time and patience to facilitate teachable moments. When an opportunity arises, do we worry about perhaps offending someone? Do we communicate our true feelings in such a way that the person with whom we are having a conversation really understands our feelings? Or do we just figure it's not worth time, effort, and energy to speak up? I wonder what would happen if the six readiness skills for kindergarten were posted on an office bulletin board. When a co-worker's attitude or behavior is a bit offensive, do you have the courage to - in a calm "Teachable Moment" voice - let the other person know how you are feeling?

I tend to be the one to speak up (no surprises there!). For example, when a parent tells me the long list of activities in which their child is enrolled, I tend to ask when they take time to play with them - real unstructured, open ended play. Or when they take the time to be together as a family. Could you refrain from scheduled activities on Sunday that conflict with coming to church as a family? This is skill # 4 - communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally. If it gives even one parent pause and the incentive to create the special bonding times with their child, then it's worth it to me to speak up.