A Teachable Moment

With Hurricane Sandy approaching Monday morning during my advisory class, I decided to go off script and use the teachable moment. How often does a science teacher get to talk about the power of a hurricane and have live pictures to show? I had no lesson planned, but I know the geography of the east coast well having attend high school in Connecticut. Weather is one of the content areas I enjoy the most, and hey it is advisory class we could take the discussion anywhere. Using CNN’s and TWC’s live internet feeds to highlight the story, I only needed 2 minutes during announcement to pull up the need audio/visual aids.

Announcements end, cue up the video feed, starts by highlighting forecast for the day and when the storm will hit. Next up: closures and curfews for the NYC metro area. The broadcaster was talking about the need for people to be off streets so the emergency crews could get where they needed to be and the closing down of all of the public transportation. In my mind this was great teachable moment. The students heard about the weather threat and the need to get off the streets to a safe location. I pause the video feed to start the discussion. At first the class was concerned about what happen in New York City and the need for safety. Students were asking if this had ever happened before and many were surprised to learn that Manhattan is an island surrounded by water. Then the discussion took an unexpected turn.

A normally quiet student asked a question. I was happy since he rarely seemed interested in advisory conversations. He asked “So, if all the people are supposed to be home, wouldn’t that be a good time to break in a business?” First thought in my head was yes, so you are a budding young crook. Then I thought maybe I wasn’t hearing the question correctly. He repeated questions adding,”nobody is around, that is what happens, people get robbed.” I wanted to avoid the question but knew I had to take it on, I countered with “Well, you are right no civilians are supposed to be around since the police and national guard will be on the streets rescuing those in need.” I made sure I added, “They would be stopping all people they see, since nobody is supposed to be out and about.”

The class took my answers well and the discussion continued about hurricane and emergency preparations.

I felt I could not leave a question about theft unturned. Was my student a budding young thief or was something more at play? Later when the students were discussing items with partners. I pulled the student aside and asked about the question. Little did I know that a students family member been a victim of a robbery and he had overheard a discussion about the crime. The discussion was about how no one was around to witness the crime.

Some days a teachable moment turns into a learning opportunity for the teacher as well.