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Superintendent's Report - Teachable Moments

By Evans, Todd

August 30, 2017

“I know that Dad. I knew it when you gave me the same exact lecture last week!”

I usually don’t get that kind of feedback from either of my children, but I did the other day. Maybe the problem was that I was on a roll. It was early in the morning and I had advice to share and I was willing to share it – even if my audience was tired and grumpy. Brings back memories – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Sorry, Dad!

Many times when life events happen we need to take advantage of these as teachable moments. Much of how we handle major life events in schools is built around this foundation.

PBIS, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, is the model that our district is using to provide students structure for behaviors. We are teaching students appropriate behaviors as opposed to assuming that they know how to behave correctly. In the future, if students violate procedures they will be retaught appropriate behaviors – it is a teachable moment and is proven to reduce behavior problems.

One of basic principles I was taught during crisis training was the need to use life events to teach students. When a death has touched our lives, our first responsibility is to help our students through the tragedy. Many times, in addition to grief, young people have heightened anxiety because of a lack of experience in dealing with these events. It is important to recognize that not all children have been taught how to behave at a funeral, at a visitation, or in a cemetery. How do you talk to a friend who has experienced a loss? These are all teachable moments.

When the topic of a school closing because of the eclipse was brought up, consideration naturally turned to the eclipse as a teachable moment. What better opportunity to teach students about our solar system, sun and moon? I heard concerns of student safety. Many of our families struggle to find supervision for children when school is not in session. A concern was that students would be less safe at home without supervision than at school. 

The decision was made to use the eclipse as a teachable moment. To teach as much science as possible, teach safety, and protect our children. We attempted to set up a situation that provided parents with a number of choices. Parents could keep their children at home to experience the eclipse together, or they could be sent to school. Parents had a choice to not sign the agreement for their children to be outside to experience the eclipse. We determined this was to be an Opt-In activity to respect parental choice.

The Mission of USD 113 is “Preparing Students and Shaping the Future.” We stayed true to this mission throughout our preparations and activities for the eclipse.

We are surrounded by teachable moments. It is important that we identify and capitalize on those moments. As parents and as educators, we have a short amount of time to impact the lives of the children that we serve. We need to value each teachable moment, even when our children are tired and grumpy!

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