Monday, January 10, 2011

One Teachable Moment

The otherwise-dry-but-very-helpful phonics book I have used with each of my children is host to a cute, large-eyed, wormish sort of character. He pops his head in on virtually every page of exercises in order to offer us reading hints and motivational quotes. Each child has been fascinated by him, and has in turn demanded to know what he is “saying.” Oldest, especially, insisted that I read the contents of each and every balloon. I dutifully catered to his desires, hoping that besides learning to read he would absorb all sorts of wonderful truths about hard work, leadership, and good behavior. (Heh—I know!) So one day, our little friend made this pronouncement:

There are THREE KINDS of people in this world… 1-those who MAKE things happen, 2-those who WATCH things happen, 3-and those who WONDER what’s happening!

“Well,” I thought, “this is a helpful lesson in leadership,” and I decided it was a perfect teachable moment. So I asked him which kind of person he wanted to be. He thought for a bit, and informed me that he wanted to be one of those who wondered what was happening. “Great,” I thought, “my otherwise brilliant son has no ambition whatsoever.” I admit it, I wheedled a little: “Don’t you want to be a doer? A mover? A shaker?” No. He wanted none of that. He wanted to be a wonderer.

I admit, that bothered me. Most of the day. Why would he answer that way? There was so clearly a right answer to my question.

But no, there really wasn’t, once I thought about it. Because wondering what’s going on around you doesn’t necessarily mean you’re clueless. There have always been those who wonder—those who have eyes to see and ears to hear—those who ask questions and think deeply and share what they learn with others. The ones who look to shed or reflect light: the poets, philosophers, storytellers, musicians, artists, and scientists.

Maybe my son will be a doer. Maybe he will be a leader. Maybe he will be a wonderer. Maybe he will be all of those things. And maybe I will learn not to discount the things I value for the sake of having the right answer. Even if there are only three kinds of people—and really I think there are as many kinds as there are people—don’t be tricked into thinking that the list in the phonics book is a hierarchy. We need leaders, followers, and wonderers. Can you imagine a world with one of those types left out?


  1. Had to chuckle at this as when my blog was on xanga it was titled "wonderinone". :D I think and wonder and examine and analyze. . .I think leaders need to have these characteristics! ;)

    But seriously, it IS always funny when we ask a 'leading' question and our kids respond with anything but what we expected! I love the way they have the self-confidence to give their own answer rather than what is 'expected'.

  2. I keep having to ask myself, "Who is really getting the education here?" (And who is most in need of it?)

    Of course leaders DO need to have those characteristics--I should have recognized right away that the whole statement was overly-simplistic and not tried to make it a teaching point!


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