They are learning

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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By Nathan Rice

He aimed the blade toward the top of the pumpkin. I said, “Remember to cut the top at a slight angle, so the part you cut doesn’t fall into the pumpkin.” “I know,” he replied. “You told me last year.” His answer surprised me, because I didn’t think he listened to most of what I said, and I didn’t think what he did hear actually stayed with him.

This one moment let me know that he heard one thing I said and that this insignificant piece of advice had stayed with him for a year. It made me wonder if other things I told him still had a place in his brain. It made me also think about what we had talked about throughout the years and the lessons that I hoped he was learning. Perhaps there was hope yet in getting through some things I wanted him to learn, and maybe some of my advice was lingering somewhere in his cranium.

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I tell you this today because I know there are times when it seems like every word you speak falls on deaf ears, and conversations you craft carefully appear to have no impact. Hang in there, keep teaching, and keep working.

We must continue to utilize each opportunity that we are given to teach and train the children who have been entrusted to our care. This involves keeping an eye open for moments we can use to share some facts about life or teach them something new. It may mean slowing down in some of our own tasks, allowing them to assist or to watch us while we complete something with an explanation of why we do things in a certain way. Other times, it takes a scheduled time to have a conversation or to teach something in a more structured way. Opportunities abound for us to teach them, but we must be willing to spend the time to do so.

We also need to realize that the way we do things, how we behave, and what we say when we aren’t explicitly trying to teach them will impact them in a more significant way than any of the words we share. Children observe much more than we realize, and they are watching what we do and the way we live our lives. The lessons we try to teach will be voided if our actions contradict what we say.

This means that our lessons are not always verbal. We must demonstrate the lessons we want our children to learn and display the character we want them to build. Most things they will learn do not come from a “teachable moment.” Rather, they come from a lifetime of watching how you act.

This does not mean that our words are not important or that we never teach them things verbally. It means our words must match our actions for any lesson to be effective.

It’s our job to teach. It’s our job to train. There will be times when it all seems pointless, and there will be times when we question if anything we say enters their ears. They are listening, and they are watching. Let’s not fail them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at