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Embracing Teachable Moments: A Love-Hate Relationship with Paperwork in Education


Let's talk about those magical moments in teaching – the kind that fill your heart with joy and remind you why you chose this noble profession. You know, the moments where you witness a child's eyes light up with understanding, or when a group of students collaboratively solves a problem, each bringing their unique perspective to the table. These are the teachable moments, the gems of education that make all the hard work worthwhile.

Bernie a Beyond the Beanstalk STEM presenter presenting our Pulse-tastic workshop. Courtesy of Beyond the Beanstalk.

As educators, we understand that each child learns differently, at their own pace, and through various modalities. It's a fundamental truth we embrace and celebrate in our classrooms every day. What's even more incredible is the opportunity we have to facilitate these moments of discovery and growth.

In our increasingly standardised educational landscape, where paperwork seems to multiply exponentially, it's easy to lose sight of why we entered this profession in the first place. The administrative burdens can be overwhelming, often overshadowing the joy of teaching and learning. But amidst the paperwork and bureaucracy, there's a glimmer of hope – those precious minutes we have with our students.

One teachable moment that resonates deeply with me occurred during my time teaching in an in-home care setting. This unique environment catered to a family with children spanning primary age, preschool age, and an infant, who faced significant medical challenges within the family. My role was to provide educational experiences for these children, given their inability to access traditional childcare services. Among the siblings, the preschool-aged child and I often engaged in playful learning activities, focusing on maths skills and reading comprehension through interactive storytelling and imaginative songs. One unforgettable day, after reading the beloved book "Giraffes Can't Dance" by Giles Andreae for what seemed like the umpteenth time that week, the preschooler made a profound observation. With a thoughtful expression, they remarked, "That's like our baby; [they] can't walk and has to see the doctor a lot because [they are] different, but that's because [they] just dances to a different song." This heartfelt insight caught me off guard, and I couldn't help but feel moved. In that moment, the story we had been immersed in for months transcended its narrative to offer a poignant life lesson. It reminded me that teaching isn't always about solving complex puzzles; sometimes, the most valuable lessons arise from simple, yet profound, reflections on the human experience.

Beyond the Beanstalk STEM presenters working with children in top left-right. Courtesy of Beyond the Beanstalk.

While working as a Beyond the Beanstalk STEM presenter, I've found that having 60-90 minutes to teach a group of children presents a vastly different setting compared to my days teaching children in their own homes. Yet, the impact is no less profound. It's during these sessions that we have the opportunity to delve into STEM concepts, igniting curiosity, nurturing critical thinking, and fostering creativity. Whether we're uncovering the mysteries of physics, untangling the complexities of chemistry, or delving into the intricacies of engineering, each lesson becomes a voyage of discovery. What's truly remarkable is the ability to connect with and engage a group of children who may have never met me before, yet still experience those teachable moments. In this 60-90 minute window, I often learn about many children's lives, likes, best friends, siblings, and even get invited to birthday parties. Receiving a hug at the end of a session or hearing them cheer when we meet again lets me know that those teachable moments have been important, impactful, and meaningful.

Beyond the Beanstalk Owner Jennie was given lots of toys to cuddle goodbye after her workshop. Courtesy of Beyond the Beanstalk.

One of the highlights of my teaching journey has been the Beyond the Beanstalk STEM workshops. These workshops transcend age and ability, bringing together learners of all ages to explore the marvels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Whether it's preschoolers marvelling at the magic of magnets, primary school students constructing elaborate engineering marvels, or high schoolers unravelling complex mathematical puzzles, or even operating an inter-generational workshop-the essence remains the same – the joy of learning.

What makes these workshops truly special is the way they ignite curiosity and foster collaboration. Regardless of age or background, everyone is engaged in those teachable moments – moments where understanding dawns, questions arise, and connections are made. It's a testament to the power of hands-on, experiential learning, where theory meets practice, and learning becomes an adventure. I do admit though when facilitating an intergenerational workshop, sometimes I'm often the one doing the learning!

I've witnessed these moments in various educational settings – from long day care to preschool, from out-of-school hours care (OSHC) to primary school, and even in home care. Across all these environments, the magic of teaching and learning persists, reminding us of the profound impact we have on young minds.

So yes, while the paperwork may weigh us down at times, let's not lose sight of the magic happening in our classrooms every day. Let's cherish those teachable moments, celebrate the diversity of learning styles, and continue to inspire the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and problem solvers.

Together, let's redefine education, one teachable moment at a time.

Beyond the Beanstalk Owner Liz showing off some insects

from The Insectarium workshop. Courtesy of Beyond the Beanstalk.


Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, with over 15 years of invaluable education experience, is the co-founder of Beyond the Beanstalk. Her rich background in education, coupled with a passion for innovative learning environments propels Beyond the Beanstalk's mission of inspiring educators and students alike. With a wealth of expertise, Elizabeth is dedicated to revolutionising education and making STEM accessible for all.

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