We hear about all the great teachers in the counseling office. The one who set the times tables to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” ensuring kids will remember them forever, even if it will take a while to get to eight times nine. Mr. Jones, the history teacher who dressed up like Benjamin Franklin for an entire week and never once broke character. The tenth grade English teacher who finally explained “I after e” in a way that made sense. When you put that much thought into a lesson, it’s makes for memorable teaching.
Of course, that’s not the only way teachers become memorable. The teacher who said just the right words at just the right time to the bully who had incredible art talent, making the student more comfortable with who they really were, and less of a bully. The teacher who wore the cut-rate perfume a special needs student gave her at Christmas, every time that student had a spelling test—the same perfume she’d wear when attending that student’s graduation from medical school. The teacher who shows up at the Saturday soccer league and cheers loudly for all of her students on the sidelines, even though her students are spread throughout both teams, and it’s forty degrees out.
You can’t analyze a test score to determine what these teachable moments do to the learning and learning habits of students, but everyone seems to understand what they do to students’ learning, and students’ lives. Like recess, these teachable moments inspire in ways we can’t quite measure, but we still know their worth is beyond measure.
These aren’t just discrete, feel-good stories. Most of my counseling work for the last thirteen years has involved working with students in college placement. In that time, every student—every single one—has had the chance to go to college; most have earned at least one merit scholarship, and for those who have been out for four years or more, nearly all of them have finished college on time.