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The Unteachable Moment
July 5, 2018
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
-Helen Keller

In her article that is part of the new Exchange Essentials article collection on Conflict and Behavioral Challenges in the Classroom, Kirsten Haugen writes about the wisdom of knowing when to wait to address challenging behavior:

“Excellent, effective educators often notice and tap into the teachable moment — that magical time when something unexpected happens and an unplanned, but fabulous opportunity arises to share a new insight or to guide children in exploration or discovery. A second path to effective teaching — and parenting — especially of young children, lies in honing our ability to also recognize the unteachable moment, when tempers and emotions run hot and things seem to erupt out of control.”

She explains that “when aroused by fear, anger, or other strong emotion, we are neurochemically blocked from applying reason to the situation and instead get fired up into a highly-impulsive protective, reactive state. If the trigger persists, continued cortisol production maintains this heightened reactivity. Only when the stressor is gone can the cortisol slowly drain away, and our brains and bodies revert to a calm state. Until then, we remain on high alert, urged to act, but not able to learn or process. Thus, moments of stress are truly, biochemically unteachable moments, and yes, they will pass.”

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