(Teachable) Moments #sol18
October 15, 2018
Most mornings I have the opportunity to greet the first graders as they arrive at school and wait with them in the hallway until it is time for class to begin. These moments with them-fifteen at the most- are ripe with opportunity for observation, idea generation, relationship building, and teaching in the moment.
One day last week, it was terribly humid inside and out. The floor began to collect condensation. We cautioned the students to wipe their feet and exercise caution as they walked around the large corridor. As six year olds will be just that, some began to skate around on their shoes as if we had created a large rink just for them. Peels of first grade laughter accompanied slips, cheers, and slides around the hall and the minutes flew by until it was time to enter class. Another day, an ambulance came before school and there was much discussion about the fire truck escort, how the person (adult) was bundled for the ride, who would go with her, what was wrong, and so many other inquiries. I am able to listen in on conversations, note who is talking to others and who is observing. Who has a comfort item in their backpack. Who is seeking out friends. Who is seeking out me. So much to learn and see in such a little time.
While we are in narrative writing in first grade, we focus on small moment. Sometime moments are upon us, like Friday. Friday a small spider was navigating along the wall near where the students were waiting in their class lines. Mrs. Kennedy! There’s a spider. What should we do about it? Save it or smush it. SAVE IT! Can you carry it outside? What should we use? Let’s try your paper. (Close watching. Several attempts. Spiders desperate tries to escape me, the paper, and them. Spider curls up.) This seems like a good story. I pick up the spider in my two fingers and gently carrying it outside. His status among the living unknown to me.
Sometimes it’s merely oral rehearsal of their own stories relayed from that morning or the afternoon before of soccer games and playdates, television watching or cookie baking. All of these are ripe for partner talk with mediation, rehearsal, oral story telling, and of course, encouragement. I’m not sure how many show up on a page, but we have the opportunity to talk over stories practicing the cadence and organization of problem/solution, beginning, middle, end, and character development.
That’s seems obvious. The gentle greeting at the door, good morning. The noticing of a interesting shirt. The use of a student’s name. Triangulating between students until their conversation takes off like wood from kindling. Every day a few more initiate talk with me. Conversation that is practice for working together. Conversation that is the beginning of stories. Conversation that cements that we are here in the same place, with similar interests, to do this school thing together.
Finally considering the teachable moment of conversation, observation, and interest, we come to consider who is actually being taught here. I’m going to the open classroom of the first grade, learning how one puts together a sentence, considers a possibility, and tries out a new idea. I’m schooled on Pokemon, cartoons, and the best place to buy t-shirts. I’m afforded the gentle confidence that come just at a magical moment in the hush of the beginning, the hilarity of idea intersected with action, and the noticing of those aware of so much. While I do work our daily work into the conversations with those first graders, it is they, they themselves, who are teaching me so much about being six and seven. How fortunate I am to receive these lessons.