Seeking Teachable Moments
As the director of a childcare center that serves children up to sixth grade, I am always looking for those teachable moments. One came my way during that last week of school. The word petition was given on a spelling list for several of the students coming to the Center for Children after school. A tradition at the center is that when kids come off the vans from the various elementary schools, they come into my office and pick out two jelly bellies from the jar on my desk before going to class. This way they are greeted each day, asked how their day was or engaged in other polite conversation.
I had heard through the grapevine that the children were going to petition, inspired from the spelling list, that I change the type of candy on my desk. As the week went on, the idea of a petition was enhanced to a protest that I change the candy. The organizers of the protest – very bright kids – wanted to warn me that the protest was coming. This is the teachable moment: I told them that a protest was held when people felt they had been treated badly or when they didn’t get something that they had earned. Nobody at the center was being treated badly because the candy on my desk was not something they deserved nor had they earned the candy but rather it was a kind gesture on behalf of the office staff. I went on to say that perhaps the first step might have been a nice letter of request. I explained that they didn’t need to jump to a more aggressive form of communication before they knew if I was willing to change things up or not.
I familiarized them with another word and that word was civility. It is something that adults are practicing less and less so I wasn’t all that surprised that children had forgotten that step before moving on to petition and protest. I sent them on their way to think about our conversation.
About 20 minutes later, I had three charming, well-written letters on my desk requesting a change from jelly bellies to gummy bears. Guess what was on my desk the next week?
I hope that civility makes next year’s spelling list.
Pat Chambers, director
Center for Children