Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a trick of light

A few weeks ago Clara came running into the office, eyes wide, shouting, "A rainbow! A rainbow, daddy!" She pointed back in the direction of the living room. I kind of halfheartedly answered, "Oh yeah? You saw a rainbow outside?" even though it hadn't been raining. "No," she said. "On the floor!" Intrigued, I followed her to her rainbow, an effect of the light hitting the window just right, prism-like. "Oh wow," I said. "Look what you found!"

Delighted, she sat down on the floor like she was at school - I sat opposite her with the rainbow between us. Teachers are trained to look for "teachable moments," opportunities outside of regular classroom instruction where we can pass on some nuggets of wisdom. I couldn't help but think this was a perfect teachable moment, a chance to talk about light and colors. Instead, I just sat there and watched as she listed the colors she knew and asked me about the colors she didn't. I kept silent as she caused shadows by twiddling her fingers over the effect. Occasionally Kate stepped in front of the rainbow, causing it to disappear.

I could see the gears turning in Clara's head as Kate took the rainbow away and made it appear again. Clara held her hand over the rainbow and saw her shadow, then stood up and headed for the window, still holding her hand out. She waved her hand back and forth in front of the window and saw the shadow across the rainbow. She laughed.

"What did you find?" I asked.

Shyly, "My shadow."

We must have spent ten minutes sitting there before the rainbow faded away - and I didn't say more than ten words. I did what I do when Clara is putting together one of her puzzles: nothing. All I could think was anything I wanted to show her would only stop her from learning something on her own.

There's a lesson in here somewhere, and it's not for the kids. Sometimes the best thing we can do to help our kids learn is to shut the heck up and let the world unfold in front of their eyes.


Michelle said...

See... now it's stuff like this that makes me not want to blog anymore. :) That was such a sweet story. You are a great dad Joel. And a great teacher.

Joel Bittle said...

Why wouldn't you want to blog, Michelle? I love your stories!

Anonymous said...

This is sooo true. Clara loves puzzles. The only thing I love more than watching her do a puzzle is to watch other adults watching her do a puzzle. They can't help themselves. They must "help" her. I don't know if she is going too slow and the adult is bored. All adults can't resist the urge to give her advice or set the next piece strategically in her line of sight. Except her grandmother. Gina is a teacher. I noticed that Gina gets great enjoyment from just watching Clara and her problem solving skills- and I enjoy watching Gina watch Clara:)

Anonymous said...

OK, if you are going to talk about me I have to put in my two cents worth. My Granddaughter is brilliant!!! My Son's not too bad either.

J. said...

Love the blog, great stuff! As a new dad, I've gotten a lot of great parenting tips and ideas from http://dadlabs.com. It's a great resource; I highly recommend it.