What Teaching Can Be

Inspired by the Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! What makes a teacher great?

Two boys, aged nine and four, are visiting their grandfather with their mother, Catherine. Catherine’s father, a widower, lives out in the forested countryside, in a log cabin. The cabin is rustic and Catherine often wonders how he manages out here, all alone. She often complains that it barely even has electricity or running water. She has tried in the past to convince him to move at least closer to town, but has given up the cause as he has been very clear he has no intention of doing so.

This afternoon, they are sitting on the deck, the last rays of golden sun grazing the tops of the trees, illuminating the early autumn colours. They have only just arrived and will be staying at the cabin for the next day and a half.

The boys circle around the two adults, bored, seeking entertainment.

“Grandpa, don’t you have a TV?” Asks Jack, the nine year old, incredulously.

“Yeah Grandpa, why can’t we watch TV?” Echoes Billy.

Their mother, Catherine, dips her hand into the large bag of toys she has brought for this exact reason and offers them a soccer ball. They shake their scruffy blonde heads and lean over her arms to peer inside themselves, trying to see what she has brought.

Their grandfather watches silently for a few minutes as his daughter tries to suggest various diversions for them. Finally, without saying a word, he gets up and, walking past them, goes down the steps and around the corner of the house.

When he comes back a few minutes later, he is carrying a two by four, two hammers and has a rolled up paper bag clenched between his teeth. The bag makes a metallic rattling sound as he wordlessly sets everything down on the ground a few feet from the bottom of the stairs.

He opens the bag and shakes out a handful of nails into one hand, then places them all down on the ground on top of the flattened paper bag.

“There,” he says with finality. A man of few words.

The boys look at each other and then look to Catherine for guidance.

“What is that for?” Catherine looks askance at her father.

“It’s for the boys,” he says simply, “so they can entertain themselves.”

“But what should we do with all this?” Asks Jack.

“Dad, you don’t really think they’re old enough to use a hammer, do you?”

“Well, a course they are, Cat. There are children all over the world doing more complicated tasks than this. Boys, each of you take a hammer and some nails. Hammer the nails into the piece of wood, leaving a bit of space between each nail.”

The boys look at each other again and then at Catherine. She only smiles and shrugs, and so they each pick up a hammer and a nail and face opposite ends of the wood, ready to begin.

It takes them a few minutes of fiddling about, moving the nails up and down and across, positioning them just right, but after about half an hour, they each begin to hit them tentatively with their hammers. Jack starts his first, while Billy stands to one side, but the younger boy follows suit shortly thereafter.

Catherine and her father watch for a bit, returning finally to their conversation.

“What do we do when we’ve got all the nails in the wood, Grandpa?” Asks Jack curiously some time later. His cheeks are rosy and he is concentrating on the task at hand.

Their grandfather eyes the two boys, noting their progress.

“Next, you can pull them out,” he answers finally. “But by the looks of things, you will be busy for a while.”

Satisfied with this next project, the boys continue their work in silence.

“That’s impressive, Dad,” muses Catherine, smiling wryly.

“It’s nothing,” he replies. “A simple diversion. It’s good for them to do something like that. It should keep them entertained for much of the day tomorrow too. We used to do this sort of thing all the time. And so did you and your brothers. Don’t you remember? City kids!” This last comment is said more to himself than to his daughter.

Indeed, Jack and Billy spend much of the weekend happily hammering, removing nails and then hammering again, eventually looking around for things to nail to the two by four. It is one of the best weekends they have ever had.

Teaching is sometimes at its most valuable when it involves providing a child the ingredients and then letting them make something on their own.

More bloggers’ thoughts on teachers and greatness:

  1. The Boy Who Had No Ears | Godrick Gnomish
  2. Daily Prompt: Greatness | Books, Music, Photography & Movies : my best friends
  3. To Mrs. Gray, one great teacher « RPMAS
  4. S. Thomas Summers | I, As Your Teacher…
  5. ••Check-Mate!!•• | mët•aRVhëë•n✪ia
  6. A Daily Prompt Poem: Greatness « Vicariously Poetic
  7. Duncan the Sushi Roll #13 | Neva Samaki
  8. Happy Teacher’s Day | મન ની વાત
  9. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! « Mama Bear Musings
  10. Becoming A Great Teacher Is Like Pulling Teeth | The Jittery Goat
  11. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! – GREATNESS | SERENDIPITY
  12. A great teacher | Sue’s Trifles
  13. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | A Mixed Bag
  14. Daily Prompts: We can be taught | Lux
  15. My Teachers | Kate Murray
  16. We Can Be Taught! | The Nameless One
  17. “Greatness” | Relax
  18. Daily Prompt: We can be taught! | Life as a country bumpkin…not a city girl
  19. what a teacher shouldn’t be | like a fleeting wind…
  20. A Role Model To Follow | Flowers and Breezes
  21. My Real-Life Feeny(s) | Inkbelle
  22. We Can Be Taught! | Kansa Muse on Micro Farming and More
  23. Daily Prompt: Greatness – US Naval Aircraft Carriers in World War II | USS Hornet (CV-12)-A Father’s Untold War Story
  24. Grace is a Teacher | A Teacher’s Blog from Land’s End
  25. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  26. Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown: We can be taught! | lifebeinggirly
  27. Dearest Teachers… | Imagineer @ Work
  28. I Can Learn | Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  29. Inspiration and Education! | alienorajt
  30. Daily Prompt: Great Teachers/Staying in Focus: Passion Plays a Part | Staying in Focus
  31. Perfect Teacher. | ayimas
  32. The One with the Monk | Jackie Cangro
  33. We Can Be Taught, Most You Should Do Is Try! | amateurxpress
  34. Daily Prompt; We Can Be Taught | terry1954
  35. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | BulgingButtons
  36. This one’s mine, get your own! | Take your Chances; Make it Happen
  37. Oh Captain, My Captain! | meanderedwanderings
  38. Dr.Sheppard, Thank You For Teaching Me About Philosophy | KeepItDeen
  39. Greatness | Mara Eastern’s Personal Blog
  40. Still, In Motion | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  41. Daily Observations
  42. Why I Believe Teachers are the Backbone of Civilization | wdbwp
  43. One Starving Activist
  44. Show and Tell | CurTales
  45. What makes a teacher great; an experiment… | Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Exactly? I don’t know.
  46. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | The Blogging Path
  47. Strutting My Stuff… | Haiku By Ku
  48. Can Greatness Be Taught?: Mulan Case Study | Musical Chairs
  49. Weekly photo challenge crochet patterns | 2013 Weekly Photo Challenge Blog
  50. To Be a Teacher | Nerdy Woman
  51. Because I’m Brilliant | JC Bride ~
  52. The Giant Electronic Frog With Pink Lips. Alan’s Story. | Janey Macken Street!
  53. What Makes a Teacher? | loveletterstoaghost
  54. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | The Laughing Nanny
  55. Daily Post: the elements which make a great teacher… | storyofmylife1993
  56. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! 21|9 | Family, Photos, Food & Craft
  57. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | Life is great
  58. A great teacher | Rock it classy
  59. At home | From Five to Fifty
  61. reciprocation | Her Broken Nibs
  62. Daily Prompt Challenge – We Can Be Taught | soletusknow
  63. Your Teacher Heart | Wiley’s Wisdom
  64. Ms. Vegan Manners | mycookinglifebypatty
  65. We Can Be Taught | theclocktowersunset
  66. Daily post: Education | helen meikle’s scribblefest
  67. Pinay New Yorker | You have taught me well
  68. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | life n me!
  69. They Can Be Taught … If – Part One of a response to daily prompt | Lynne McAennyl
  70. Daily Prompt Challenge | Great Is A Teacher | Bullets and Hearts
  71. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | Moments Thru Lens
  72. They Can Be taught – If… Part Two of a response to Daily Prompt | Lynne McAennyl
  73. Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught! | The Daily Chronicles of a University Student
  74. What Makes a Teacher Great? | Life with Tess
  75. Greatness | There is no wisdom like frankness
  76. An exceptional teacher | alienorajt
  77. I was taught a lesson | Tell Tale Therapy
  78. What a Great Teacher | tuckedintoacorner
  79. Daily Prompt: What if I Wud’ a Teacher? | Nerissa Moonshine
  80. 180. The Socratic Method | Barely Right of Center

14 thoughts on “What Teaching Can Be

    • Thank you! A friend of mine told me about her father doing something similar with her kids and I thought about it immediately when the teacher prompt came up. Glad you liked it.

  1. I like this. Love the form of teaching. Just as long as they don’t start nailing each other to the 2×4 hehe

    Thanks for the mention

    • Glad you liked it; thank you for the comment.
      Things are definitely done differently now, for the most part. Unless you have a grandfather like the one in this story.
      I enjoyed your post – thank you for the link.

  2. […] a response to daily prompt life n me!We Can Be Taught! You have taught me wellPinay New Yorker The Silver Leaf JournalWhat Teaching Can Be helen meikle’s scribblefestDaily post: Education theclocktowersunsetWe Can Be Taught […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s