A Teachable Moment


Jill submitted her story through the website form. Lucky for me, she lives nearby; so I was able to hear more about Mr. Christie, the high school government teacher who forever changed the way Jill thinks, advocates and teaches. Set in the colorful Miami area in the early 1980s, her story had me mesmerized from the beginning.

As the groovy seventies gave way to the glam (and heavily hair sprayed) eighties, Mr. Christie seemed to hold on to the radical, activist, hippie vibe. I quickly realized that Mr. Christie was a rebel with a cause. Armed with facts, statistics and informed opinions, he loved to debate his students on issues of policy.

One night, I became aware of the starvation in Cambodia through Walter Cronkite’s reporting on The Nightly News. I was anxious to hear what Mr. Christie would say. The next day in class, I raised my hand to ask why it was happening and why our country wasn’t doing more to help. I watched Mr. Christie pause for a moment, stroke his beard and consider how to respond. Then he put down his lesson plan and textbook, pulled down all of the maps, and began to explain the history of the region and America’s involvement in it. He had a masterful way of explaining the context and history related to government policies and the unintended consequences that often accompany those policies.

Although the specifics of that day’s lesson have faded, the memory remains. There was an energy in the classroom created by Mr. Christie’s passion for his subject and his desire to capture the hearts and minds of his students. As a teacher myself, I think about the courage it took to abandon a plan and follow the students’ interest in this controversial and messy topic. I try to bring that same courage and responsiveness to my classroom.

Jill’s story made me think about powerful lessons. Lessons that students remember are not born of a teacher’s need to cover the content or prepare for a test. Memorable moments in a classroom arise from a teacher’s passion, courage and willingness to go on a learning journey alongside students. When did a teacher make you feel like a companion on a path of discovery? Share in the comments below.

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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