They call it a teachable moment. One of the arts of teaching is recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities that happen spontaneously. Opportunities where a combination of what you said, how you said it, which class you’re in, and how they reacted to what you said, combines for that golden moment where you can get them to get it. When it happens it’s a beautiful thing. Even if the kid that provided that moment for the rest of the class doesn’t realize it.

One of the warm up questions today was:

discreet : rash :: oblivious : _________
a) subordinate  b) breach  c) sardonic  d) rash  e) vigilant

I couldn’t remember whether oblivious was ever an official vocabulary word, so I said, “Now everyone’s clear on what oblivious means, right? Discreet was a vocab. word, and we worked it. This one is different from discrete, which means separate. And rash is on this week’s list; I’m not helping.  So, we all know what oblivious means – out to lunch, not aware of what’s going on around you; sort of like this class is a lot of the time…” General laughter all ’round at the usual gag. They all go back to copying and clicking. Then one of our blog regulars, Milk, raises his hand and says – wait for it, you know it’s coming…

“What’s oblivious mean?”

The class is dying with laughter.

“Now see, Milk has given us an excellent example of exactly what we mean when we say oblivious.”

“I did?”  More laughter.

Later in the period, we’re talking about last night’s reading in Charlotte Doyle (Oh yeah, we started another novel this week…more on Charlotte soon), and Milk has a question about the end of chapter 6, where Charlotte is down below looking for her stuff, and gets freaked out by the “nut-head.”

“At the end of the chapter, is she like being watched or something?”

“That’s what she thinks anyway. In tonight’s reading, you’ll find out more.”

So then they’re taking the reading quiz, and to try to help out a bit, I point out to them that Milk has already helped us out a lot with the last question:

“What feeling is Charlotte getting at the end of chapter 6?  a) That she’s in danger from the crew.  b) That she can’t really trust Jaggery like she thought.  c) That she feels sorry for Zachariah.  d) That someone is watching her. e) NOTA ”

(Milk) “Wait a minute. I did? What did I say?”

“When you asked your question about the chapter? Remember? Do you listen even to yourself? We’re getting a fine demo of oblivious now.”

“Wait. What? When did I give the answer?”

Laughter all around.

Then later in the day, we were talking about the head in the ship, you know, the privy as it was called in The Midwife’s Apprentice. I told them it most likely just a bench with a hole and a bucket under it, that had to be emptied overboard periodically.


And another oblivious one has this bright idea:

“Why didn’t they just make the hole go all the way down and out the bottom of the ship?’

Ah, seventh grade logic.