There are examples of teaching in the moment all around us. I’ve noticed so many of them lately -from a friend teaching his son to drive (Scary!) to shopping for a good book or even building something new.
Recently, my husband and brother built a much needed wall in our home. I stood on the sidelines and listened to these two men teach five children -mostly teenagers -some basics of construction. First, they told them what they were doing and how the wall would be constructed from beginning to end. Then, they told them the next step in detail before showing them how it should be done. Handing the power tools over to the apprentice, they stepped away and let them try.
At one point, my nephew was desperately trying to get a screw into a 2×4. It would not take. My brother says -loudly over the noise of the power tools, “If it’s not grippin’, it’s not stickin’.” My nephew was soon reciting this phrase. Later, when one of his cousins was having the same problem, he swiftly shared the phrase: If it’s not grippin’, it’s not stickin’.
There were many powerful learning (and teaching) lessons for me from this day. Teaching by example. Learning from failure. Providing helps and quick items for recall. Having a rhyming phrase. Most of all was letting each one work hard and take ownership. As we called it a day, all had sweat pouring down them, but I loved hearing a comment from one of the kids: “That’s awesome. And I did it!”
I’ve reinforced what they learned that day in other situations. When my son was distressed over an activity that was not going well, I reminded him of the screw in the wall. It was hard work, but he learned something. What did he take from that day that he could apply in this new situation? He smiled and replied, “Lots of patience and being grateful that I don’t have sweat rolling down my face!”
For the rest of their lives (while I own this house), my nephews and children will look at that wall and know they had a part in it.
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.