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Miss Green lets a teachable moment slip by

Ten-year-old Mark was excited to bring the cocoon that he had found in his backyard to school.  He wanted to share it with his class and hoped that they would be able to watch the butterfly emerge. Mark’s teacher had mixed feelings when Mark shared his exciting news with her. Miss Green wanted to take advantage of the students’ enthusiasm, but she knew that they were already behind the other fourth-grade classes in many subjects. In the end, Miss Green decided to forge ahead with the lessons that she had planned. She knew that Mark was disappointed and assured him that they could stay in for recess to look up information about butterflies.

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Beginning teachers often face these types of dilemmas, wondering whether standards-based education and teachable moments are incompatible. As they feel pressured to cover a wide breadth of content, teachers elect to let engaged moments pass them by. In actuality, when teachers have a firm understanding of the required content, they are usually able to take advantage of spontaneous situations.