“You did what?!?” As a parent and an educator, I have often found myself asking this question. I have also heard individuals in leadership express the same question. However, what we choose to say after this question can either uplift, teach, and grow, or it can break, discourage, and dismantle an individual. We must be careful to choose our words wisely, so that we don’t miss teachable moments.
I heard a story of a child who was grounded for a month for “burning their sister with a hot pan.” Granted, I don’t know all the details; but a month? What happened to making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. What has this child learned? If I make a mistake, I will be punished. Instead, this could have been a great teachable moment for this child. He could have learned the importance of being aware of his surroundings, taking his time and being careful, the importance of using his words to let people know what is happening, and so many others. Instead, this child has learned that his mistakes lead to punishments.
I will admit, I have gone from zero to sixty with my children or my students, but I will always go back and express my regret on that decision and try to turn it into a teachable moment for myself and my children or students. If the goal in life is to help, serve, and encourage others, then we must refrain from emotionally charged reactions. We must control our emotions, or we will miss a teachable moment. This is not easy by any means, but it is needed to help the individual at fault to become more aware of the consequences of their actions and guided to make better choices.
In the education world, a teacher who does not perform up to their duties is not fired. Rather, they are placed on a professional learning plan. This plan directly reflects the areas that need to be corrected or strengthened. The teacher on the professional learning plan is also given a mentor to guide them through the process of becoming better. In the end, however, the teacher on the professional learning plan must make the choice to do what is needed to show growth in their areas of weakness. A learning opportunity is presented to the teacher, and it is up to the teacher to take the opportunity to grow. Support is given to the teacher, but it is up to the teacher to listen to and collaborate with their mentor. Ultimately, it is the teacher who will choose their natural consequence and either learn to become better, or choose to ignore the help and guidance that is provided, ultimately ending their career.
Punishments teach nothing except, “if you make a mistake you will have punitive actions brought against you.” There is a big difference between consequences and punishments. Punishments do not help someone learn from their actions or teach them to understand why their actions were not considered appropriate. Consequences are natural, and should be used to teach lessons. However, for someone to learn, they must be guided to understanding. Consequences can be used as teachable moments to help someone learn and gain a better understanding. Don’t miss teachable moments because of emotional responses.
We must use the mistakes that others make and turn them into teachable moments. Let us not neglect our duties and responsibilities to others and to serve, help, and encourage. Refrain from choosing punishment over consequence. Let us be people who help others learn from their mistakes and guide them in the process of becoming better. Lets not miss teachable moments.
As always, stay humble and serve well!