Teachable Moments

We had one of “those” moments recently.  One of those moments when we had to stop and deviate a little bit and take a different path.  It was one of those moments when I knew that the lesson I was supposed to teach was bigger than the writing lesson I had planned for the morning.

Let me tell a little bit of a back story.  We had just finished Readers’ Workshop, and were heading towards the rainbow rug to start our Writers’ Workshop mini-lesson.  I had met with three groups, done at least 4 individual conferences and assessments, and the room had been quiet and productive.  At least it looked and sounded productive.

And then it all kind of went downhill.  Evidently, there was a group of kiddos who were not, in fact, making an acceptable reading or writing choice during our work time.  They were playing a game.  Oh, and a game that was not appropriate for school, for that matter. 😦

We stopped what we were doing right then and there and talked through all the many layers of what was going on.  First of all, the group of kiddos who had been playing were do so in such a way that NO ONE was the wiser that it wasn’t what they were actually supposed to be doing.  Many kiddos in the room were baffled (ok, as was I!) how that was possible.  Many said they had been sitting right there and didn’t even know.  That’s just it–they were quiet, they were busy and they seemed like they were doing the right thing.  We talked about how and why that could have happened and what we could all do to help ensure that every learner in our room was using their work time in the most useful way at all times.  We agreed that this had been a bad call and everyone should do better to do the right thing next time.

Secondly, there was a layer of “I-saw-it-and-didn’t-join-in-but-also-didn’t-stop-it.”  We had a really heartfelt conversation about why it was important NOT just to NOT join in, but also to be strong enough to say something when they see someone doing something they know isn’t ok.  While I know they don’t truly understand the gravity of this, I have to begin to teach them this skill now, because they will need it for much bigger decisions in their future.  Imagine what middle school would look like for them without being confident enough to stand up for what’s right.  Or high school. Or LIFE for that matter.  Yep, it begins now with these small lessons when they’re 7- and 8-years-old.

Then, there were a couple of friends who actually did wander over and join the fun because it looked really interesting.  They took the “it’s-not-my-fault-because-it-was-my-idea” stance.  Again, we had a great conversation about how this explanation doesn’t make sense because they actually participated in what was going on.  Yeah, I know as adults this is clear, but for these 2nd grade friends, it was really hard for them to understand (or at least accept) that not being the originator of the idea doesn’t make them exempt from the consequence or responsibility.  It wasn’t their idea to start it, but it was their idea and their choice to continue it and join in.

While this was obviously not one of our proudest moments as a group of learners (as far as choices and wise time usage goes), we definitely used the moment to our advantage and had some really important conversations.  I am sure that by the end of the class meeting, everyone walked away learning something, ready to make a different decision next time–even the ones who didn’t really have any part in the trouble of the morning.  Some will be stronger and stand up when they see something go awry, some will be wiser and use their time in a more appropriate way, some will choose to not go along with the crowd, and some will continue to do the right thing as an example to the rest of us.  The best part is that everyone has the choice to do each of those things in whatever situation they find themselves in.  And the even better part is that because of the community of friends and learners we have, we will do well to encourage each other to make the right choice as we go forward.  What better lesson could we have had that day?  Sometimes the best lessons are not the ones you plan for but the ones that just happen instead. 🙂


Life Lessons I Learned on my Treadmill

I am a thinker.  If you know me, you probably know that I ask a LOT of questions, and that I am always chewing on something.  It’s great to know that if you’re ever in a meeting with me, too, because I will often not have any answers for you on what I think about the topic right then–but if you get back with me the next day, I’ll have a big, long list of things I want to talk to you about!

I’ve shared some of that thinking here before, related to me as a reader and a writer.  I’ve even wrote about things you should know about me as a runner.

And so that brings me to this post here today: Life Lessons I Learned on My Treadmill.  Surprisingly, even when I’m running and sweating on my treadmill at night, my brain is working.  I’m thinking.  And usually I’m thinking about what I’m going to write about next, or what I will write at my next Facebook status (weird, I know. 🙂 ).

Hope you’ll enjoy what I was thinking about during my run tonight:

1. Just do it.  Even if you don’t want to.  There are times in each of our lives when we don’t want to do something, but know it’s good for us, or maybe that we have to do it because someone’s told us to, or is expecting us to.  Tonight was one of those nights when I just wanted to sit on my couch and veg out–to check my email and Facebook, hang out on Twitter and blog.  But what I needed to do was run.  It was a running day (every other day is), and it shouldn’t matter if I’m tired.  And so I had to ignore those voices screaming in my head for me to be lazy and just. Do. It.  And you know what?  Once I got started, I was SO glad I had made that decision.  And just like with running, sometimes you just have to stop thinking about how much you DON’T want to do it (a project, homework, the laundry, whatever) and DO it.  Usually that takes less time than the whining part anyway.

2. Take someone with you.  In this case my “someone” is not a real “someone,” but is instead a music playlist.  Many times when I run, I watch TV–shows that no one else in my house cares about, that I can watch while I’m alone and exercising.  Tonight, though, I took my friends from Pandora with me instead, and it made the time pass much more quickly.  Instead of paying attention to the clock or the time I had left in my workout, I was singing along (yes, at the top of my lungs!) and not even noticing the time.  Many things are like that–having a friend (real or on the radio) there to chat with, laugh with, learn with makes the whole thing much more enjoyable.  You might even learn something new without knowing it.

3. You just feel better when you’re moving. This one might be a personal opinion rather than something I’ve learned, but I can definitely say I feel loads better when I’m moving than when I’m not.  There were some weeks months when I wasn’t doing anything in terms of exercise.  I had started running a year or so ago, and was loving it and what it had done to me and for me physically.  And then school started again.  And I started my Masters program.  And I had a little one start kindergarten.  You get the idea.  Suddenly I looked up and it was JANUARY and I hadn’t run a single step since August.  And I didn’t feel very well.  I was sluggish, run down and just felt plain icky.  And yes, I had gotten a little larger than where I was at the end of the summer.  And so just after the first of the year I started over and relaced my running shoes.  And am feeling so amazing again.  Now it’s hard NOT to run because of the fabulous way it makes me feel when I do it. (I’m not really sure how this one relates to learning specifically, except for I guess that your brain works better when you’re active than when you’re a couch potato.  It’s a muscle, right?)

4. You will make time for what’s important to you. This one is true about whatever it is in your life that you want to do, but for me it’s running and writing.  People often ask me how I find time to keep up with this blog, do what I need to do as a wife, mother and teacher, running, etc. and the short answer is that I make it.  Ok, really I tell them that I don’t sleep.  But that’s not at all true because I love me a good nap!  We all have the same number of hours in the day; it’s about how you use them.  Instead of watching TV or playing a game, I choose to write on my blog or read a book I want to share with my 5th graders.  Instead of watching TV (or WHILE I’m watching TV) I run.  And so I guess another part of the answer is that I am a master at multi-tasking.  I don’t do much sitting.  I do many things all at the same time, because I want to make sure I have time to do them all.  Doing the things that are important to you first is another strategy I choose to employ, too, and then I make sure there’s time for them.  If you want to, you will.

5. Think before.  I was going to make that title say “Think before you speak,” but then I thought about it (ha!), and really I’d say it’s a great thing to do before you do LOTS of things: think before you speak, think before you write, think before you act, think before you eat, think before (and while!) you read, etc…thinking is just a good thing in general, and there are many people who just don’t do it!  They move and do and go, without really knowing where they’re going or why, what they’ll do when they get there, or the process they’re going to use while they’re there.  I mentioned already that I am always thinking.  The whole time I was running, I was drafting what this blog post would sound like!  See? Multi-tasking.

6. Smile. Smiling just makes everything better, and can even fool you into liking something you didn’t think you would.  Plus it makes your face look nicer. 🙂

7. Don’t listen to Adele Radio.  That Pandora station doesn’t play enough Adele.  Pick the Sara Bareilles station instead.  Much better stuff.

Your turn: what life lessons have you learned lately?  Where or when did you learn them?  Share your ideas with me and my students!  We’d love to learn from you!