Monday, June 15, 2015

Teachable Moments

My Dad Locker is full of important, occasionally inscrutable, sayings that I have collected over the years to roll out for the education of my children.  Time tested, they are invaluable in silencing moaning and complaining, trumping the child’s argument when mere facts aren't winning and occasionally reinforcing a teaching point.

When the offspring are reluctant to arise and prefer to remain slumbering in the arms of Morpheus, I have been known to quote my, at the time, 3 year old Son.  With a cheery “Sun’s UP, Daddy!” and simultaneously ripping open the curtains, the quotation is known to get a rise out of my now 30 something Son.  This is a family friendly blog, so I won’t go into details of what is actually said.  I am looking forward to someday being able to instruct HIS son on the proper application of the technique.

Sun's UP!
Public Domain

Another quote I have used on occasion with my Social Butterfly Daughter after a long night of hanging out with her friends is “You can’t soar with the Eagles, if you hoot with the Owls.”  I know this to be effective, because I can’t even get the first couple of words out without her taking over and finishing the statement, punctuating it with a Texas Twang and Old Age warble in her voice further demonstrating her understanding of the Elder Wisdom in the saying.

Soaring with Eagles
By US Air Force Photo (National Museum of the USAF) [Public domain]

Then there’s the old trite tried and true: “Not everyone who smiles at you is your friend, nor everyone who yells at you, your enemy.”  Were this not true, I’d never have made it through pilot training.  Suffice it to say there was a fair bit of yelling assertive discourse being delivered by my IPs on a frequent basis. 

Not everyone who yells at you is your enemy (it may feel that way sometimes though) W

Which brings us to the story for today.

So,  There I was… *

T’was the day before School let out this past school year.  (I know, a recent event, not something that occurred back when the Pterodactyls were flying, who’da thunk?)

While I provide IT support for the entire local school district, my office is in the elementary school.  Other members of the department have offices at the other schools, mine happens to be the elementary school.  Surprisingly, there are 5 male teachers on the elementary staff, but none in first grade. Accordingly, I find myself down that hallway providing “guidance” when the boys, well, act like little boys.  My fighter pilot background assures that I can relate.

Yes, well….

One of the new fashion trends for elementary children these days apparently is gym shoes with ultra-long laces, completely untied.  I believe this to be part of a retirement program enhancement by orthopedic doctors, and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to defeat this program, usually to no avail.

So, I will usually stop the kid in the hall and ask them to tie their shoes.  If they say they don’t know how, I’ll demonstrate by tying it for them, the untying it and having them do it.  That usually generates the comment “Mr. Juvat, you’re mean!"


"My shoe was tied and you untied it.”  Which, of course, is returned with “Not everyone who smiles at you is your friend, nor everyone who yells at you, your enemy.”

That statement is, at best, met with a confused look of “WTH?”

So, as I say, it’s the day before school lets out.  The kids are lined up to go to recess after lunch.  I see a kid with his laces untied and ask him to tie them.  He responds with a “No, that's not cool!”  I respond with “Well, here’s what I think is going to happen.  You’re going to be walking along talking with your friend and he’s going to step on your shoelace, before you know it, you’re going to be face down on the floor.  At that point, you’re going to feel like crying, but you’re not going to, because I warned you this was going to happen and you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.”

“You’re mean, Mr. Juvat!”

So, the line starts moving, and pretty soon I hear a smacking sound and I turn around….
My young friend is about 15’ down the hall, face down on the floor.  I hurry over to him and sit him up.  Blood is flowing from his nose and he is struggling, mightily, not to cry.  I ask him if he’s ok and he sniffles a bit and says yes.  I say, “Let’s get you up and down to the Nurse’s Office.”

He says “No Sir, not just yet, I need to tie my shoes.”

And who says the Utes of today can’t be taught.



  1. Heh! My technique was to play "Reville" on the Euphonium at close range. This recapitulated what my father did to me--the difference being that I can play the Euphonium, and my father couldn't. Son has similar techniques mutatis mutandis. I am already plotting to make sure the grandchildren are similarly indoctrinated.

    1. I had to look up Euphonium, but when I saw it the light came on.

      Yes, that would get my attention.

    2. When we deployed to Chitose for the JASDF support exercise, I awoke the gang with the William Tell Overture. That got their hearts going!

  2. When I had the last fire guard shift in Basic Training (I want to say 0400 to 0600 but it was a long time ago) I really enjoyed bellowing "Aufwachen! Jeder aufstehen! Raus! Raus! Raus!.". The troops actually seemed to get a kick out of it.

    Years later, when the progeny were in those interesting adolescent years, I used the same technique with them. They were not amused.

    1. I'm pretty sure your progeny's amusement was not the effect you were caring about. But your technique was probably effective.

  3. Bravo!

    Kids have a tough deal these days. I suppose that's always been the case, but the more they are immersed in the fantasy doctrines of today's edmacation system and society, the farther they get from reality. That's a bad thing imo. Putting off the seemingly hard knocks of childhood with a bunch of cuddly-wuddly baloney sammiches only sets the utes up to experience a much more vicious set of knocks which can be literally crushing.

    Which leads me to a corollary to your "not everyone who smiles" point. Not everyone who "cares" about you actually CARES about YOU.

    Again, Bravo. Great post and thanks!

    1. Excellent Corollary. I think I'll append that, properly attributed of course.

  4. Sounds like the name of your school is "Hard Knocks" :-)

    (I am also an alumnus from there)

    1. Was for that kid at least!

      It was hard not to laugh, not at the kid, but at the set of circumstances. I'm sure the kid thought I was something out of a Harry Potter movie or something.

  5. My technique was dumping their mattress on the floor with them in it much like a drill instructor.

    "I hate you"!

    "Yeah, what else is new"?

  6. Pride goeth before a fall... :-) And well done sir!

  7. The best lessons are those learned hard. Especially if "mean Mr. Juvat" just told you it would happen! Great story.

  8. Heh, one of my old commanders reversed the saying: "Just remember this, if you're gonna go out and hoot with the Owls, you STILL have to get up bright and early the next day and scream with the Eagles!"

    1. I may have borrowed that one from one of my F-4 commanders (and cleaned it up a bit).


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