Written by David Everett
There are many teachable moments in life and even more learning moments.
Big or small, hard or gentle, these moments are all around us. They can come out of the blue, crashing down on you in a moment where everything becomes different. Other times there are lessons that comes upon you gently until the moment of realisation. Much like a friend creeping up you and sticking their wet finger in your ear. I remember that being called a ‘wet willy’ though I don’t know if that term is still in use.
The reaction from both victim and perpetrator is no doubt still the same as it was way back when but yeah, calling out “wet willy” while your friend screams and madly rubs the side of their head may get you in a bit of trouble.
Teachable moments are less common and more likely to be buggered up than learning moments. Teachable moments aren’t always actually teachable moments though, especially when it’s “mansplaining”. Refer to the bottom of the column for the explanation.
You can’t teach someone something if they don’t want to learn, and that’s speaking from experience on both sides of the fence. That doesn’t mean give up on teaching a lesson, absolutely keep recognising those moments and use them positively but perhaps bide your time or find another way to show the lesson.
Over my years with the Queensland Ambulance Service I’ve had the privilege of mentoring many student Paramedics, both formally and informally, and been mentored by many others.
Some of the best lessons though came from observing a practice or behaviour and thinking ‘no way in hell am I doing it like that’. Also lessons from my mistakes, and oh there have been some doozies! Nothing that has caused harm thankfully but by damn there was some embarrassment and humbling from them.
My all time favourite out of the blue teaching moment came when working with a 3rd year Student Paramedic and responding to a 56-year-old who was 40 weeks pregnant and in imminent delivery.
The lesson was ’observation before action’. What he saw when we walked in the front door was a women in labour laying on the couch with legs spread about to deliver a baby and his immediate response was to kneel between her legs ready to catch while asking pertinent questions.
What I saw though was a rather dishevelled older lady nakedly straddling the couch who appeared quite relaxed and exposing a relatively flat belly. The look on his face once I managed to catch his eye and signal that perhaps he may want to stop and assess the actual situation was priceless and still makes me giggle to this day.
For myself, I still hold massive gratitude for a women whose name I don’t recall but gave me two lessons I’ll never forget. There I was, a 20-year-old in my new car turning left at an intersection. I thought I heard the car in front to take off so with my head turned to the right looking for oncoming traffic, I accelerated away only to rear end the car in front which hadn’t actually moved off as I thought.
That was the first lesson learnt: always look in the direction you are driving in. I looked forward and saw a shiny silver sports car with the word PORSCHE emblazoned across the now crumpled rear end. I sat there in horror and watched the women get out of the now less than pristine luxury car with her face contorted in rage.
Then came the second lesson: how to respond to an accident. This woman who’s expensive car, I had just caused significant damage to was able to pause, swallow her anger and then demonstrate genuine concern for my wellbeing.
This now nameless woman’s rage was understandable but she didn’t care that I had damaged her car, that I had insurance or not, only that I was ok. I have never forgotten the lesson that lovely woman and have followed it when the roles have been reversed.
For that, I am grateful!
*Mansplaining is a very real phenomena. It’s like teaching someone to suck eggs but adding in a generous splash of misogyny and arrogant stupidity through failing to recognise that the woman you are ‘helpfully educating’ actually knows a hell of a lot more on the subject than you do and sure as hell doesn’t need your comparative ignorance pushed onto her. Eg: Sit down, shut up and listen to someone who actually really knows the subject.