Have you ever had one of those moments when you hear yourself talking and before you know it you realize it's an amazing teachable moment? Have you ever missed that moment and had someone else point it out to you later? That's what happened to me during our last Cadette troop meeting of the school year.
I had planned to do String Art for a fun little project for the girls. They still love crafts and I like to find things that will at least challenge them a little. They are all on different levels with their crafty skills, so at times it's difficult.
I explained to the girls how to do their string art project. We talked about safety, because they were using hammers and nails. We talked about following instructions and remembering to do the steps in order to make sure the result was a good one.
I asked the girls if they had hammered a nail before, because a few are new to our group this year. They all responded they had. So, I showed them how I held the nails and hammer and told them if they weren't comfortable holding the nails with their fingers, then they could use the pliers I had brought. I began to hammer the first nail as a demonstration and one of the girls says "How did you get so good at that?" I shared the story with them and then later when talking to my husband he says "Just like any skill in life... practice!" But, this is the story I shared with them:
"I have always been a Daddy’s girl. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to help my Dad build a fence. I kept asking if there was anything I could do and thankfully my Dad is a patient and caring man who loves his little girl. He gave me a hammer and a coffee can of nails and told me he needed all those nails hammered into a fencepost he was going to use. I’m sure I thought it was a very important task. I remember sitting there and hammering away. They were crooked, bent over, half in, and not a very good tradesman quality of work. But, with time, I got better at it. At the end of the day, he helped me get the ones that weren’t flat to the post hammered in and then he did use it as a gate post.
Now, if you ask my Dad about this day he will smile and tell you he couldn’t believe I hammered over 100 nails into that post. He really thought I would get bored with it. He knows how many were in there because many years later, he took down that fence and pulled all the nails from the post before burning it. It took him a whole day to get all those nails out from so long ago."
Just like hammering in those nails, it takes time and practice to learn a new skill. Dad showed me how he held the hammer and how to line up the nail with your fingers for the first hit. While it’s important to watch and learn from others, there is a point where you have to just devote yourself to practice and keep going until you know how to do it. Dad understood the importance of just letting me find my own way. He was always good at showing me and then walking away to allow me to practice and figure it out. I don’t swing the hammer just like my Dad and I typically need 2 hits, instead of his 1, before I remove my fingers. But, we can both drive a nail.
Don't forget as a Troop Leader there will be many teachable moments and sometimes you are teaching them life skills that you don't even realize. They hear and absorb more than you know.