A few days ago I was reminded of an important lesson about working with kids. As I closed down a presentation featuring pictures of my students during recent lessons, a voice cried out from the crowd of 5 year old fans. "Show us that picture! " "That Picture" was a family picture of my visit to my Dad's house at Christmas. I hadn't planned on taking a 5 minute diversion into "my life story" because that wasn't on my lesson plan. But what happened next was indeed, a vivid example of the "teachable moment" and the importance of relationship.
As they giggled at the silver haired man I called, "my dad", questions flew. "Who's that next to him?" "Is that your mom?" Oh great, I thought. Now I have to explain that my mom died 10 years ago and that the woman next to my dad is my stepmom. There was a moment of silence and then more questions. " Do you miss her?" "How did she die?" Then came the spontaneous sharing of empathetic little souls," My grandma died too, and I miss her too." I heard and saw students comforting each other with hugs and kind comments.
The scene reminded me of those moments in the car when my children were small and they asked much braver questions than when we sat face to face, eye to eye. In the dark room, illuminated by the light of the projector, I took the time to ease the curious minds and share with them just a little more about me. I think we all grew a step closer to understanding each other that day. And, of course, I learned more about the nature of relationship: we want to know about each other and we yearn to care.