What are “teachable moments” and why are they so important? (Part 1)

D's first laundry lesson 5-2-13

Delaney’s first laundry lesson  🙂

Robert Havighurst discussed teachable moments in his 1952 book, Human Development and Education. In the context of education theory, he explained,

“A developmental task is a task which is learned at a specific point and which makes achievement of succeeding tasks possible. When the timing is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible. This is referred to as a ‘teachable moment.’ It is important to keep in mind that unless the time is right, learning will not occur. Hence, it is important to repeat important points whenever possible so that when a student’s teachable moment occurs, s/he can benefit from the knowledge.”[1]

After graduating with my Master’s degree, I began my career in education for the deaf/hard of hearing as an Auditory Verbal Therapist. This meant that I worked with families of young children who were deaf or hard of hearing. We would meet for only 1 or 2 hours a week, but my ultimate responsibility was to help the family get their child ready for a mainstream education setting as soon as possible.

As you could imagine, this was a huge task. It would have been impossible to directly teach the family everything that their child was going to need to know. I had to find a way to educate and coach the family to carryover the activities and ideas from therapy to their “real-life.” I tried many different techniques and strategies over the years…some more successful than others.

And then I had children of my own…talk about an eye-opening experience!

A-HA Moment #1 – When Delaney was about 4 months old, she was diagnosed with torticollis, and she needed to see a physical therapist. We went to a physical therapist for 1 or 2 hours a week to help Delaney stretch her neck, learn to crawl properly, etc. When the therapist showed me how to work on certain stretches, I would practice them at home with Delaney. Sometimes she gave me reading material to take home with additional information about the technique or other stretch ideas. I would take the paperwork with every intention of reading and implementing it. But guess what happened? Life.

Inevitably at our next session, the therapist would ask me if I’d read it or tried any new stretches. Completely embarrassed, I would admit that the paperwork never made it out of the diaper bag. I hadn’t even thought about the paperwork until she mentioned it. The proverbial shoe was on the other foot. How many times had I done that exact same thing to a parent during an auditory verbal therapy session?

A-HA Moment #2 – Delaney has always been interested in “helping” me doing things around the house. One day, she wanted to get the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer. She wanted to do it all by herself, so I was left to either watch quietly…or I could comment on what she was doing. We talked about how the clothes in the washer were wet and heavy. She had to really pull to get some of them out. Then she had to throw or toss them in the dryer. The whole exchange was so natural…and she was completely into it. I can remember thinking, “I need to video this and show it to some of the families that I work with at school!” It felt like this was the missing piece…seeing it in action.

In my professional opinion and experience, the most beneficial approach to educating families has been teaching them to focus on and embrace “teachable moments.” Having my own little ones at home, I see these wonderful opportunities every day. I guess that you could say that it has become somewhat of a passion of mine.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences with “teachable moments”?

Melissa 🙂

*Since this post is getting a little lengthy, I’m going to break it up into two separate posts. In Part 2, I will talk more objectively about the benefits of embracing teachable moments.

[1] Havinghurst, Robert James, (1952). Human Development and Education, p. 7 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teachable_moment)

2 thoughts on “What are “teachable moments” and why are they so important? (Part 1)

  1. I enjoyed your teachable moment post very much. You are on to something great for children. I am a retired elementary school counselor and reading teacher and I am definitely interested in following your blog. I met you through the weekend meet and greet with Janice.

    Liked by 1 person

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