We all hear about them;, rumors,whispers, hushed conversation in the hallway, “Did you hear so and so had that moment.” Shock, joy, jubilant outbursts often follow. That moment being, of course, the evasive “Aha” moment. This moment is something I chase every day, hoping that my students will experience the sheer joy when everything clicks into place and a concept becomes clearer. As I grow professionally, my desire to create more of these gets even more insatiable and thankfully so.
Think back to your own childhood, though. What was your biggest Aha moment? What, all of a sudden, clicked into place and your future molded in front of you; now you had a direction, a course to steer from, a goal to reach.
Mine was about 6 years ago. I was 2 years into my teaching degree. Mind you, this was the second time I had entered college, the first time electing to be undecided, and undecidedly uninspired. So there I was, my 23 year old self, thinking that maybe this whole teaching thing could be kind of interesting. After all, I come from a long line of educators and they seem to really enjoy it. Yet, my heart was not in it. I had no inspirational stories about my favorite teacher, or how I could not wait to get with the kids. In fact, I was reaching a rather critical point in where I though the whole degree was kind of a joke since all we were being taught was how to teach fictitious students. College and teaching just did not seem to be worth it.
Then, I was assigned a practicum. A teacher, that for some reason really liked me, set it up for me. It was convenient, close to my house, and it was in special education, something that I had to learn about anyway. With no delusions of anything grand, I arrived at the school and walked into Melanie’s classroom. Well, hold on, it wasn’t quite a classroom but rather the old book room where she had been placed for convenience. The room was full of kids, all sitting around a table writing. Not a small feat, come to find out, since they all had varying degrees of special needs and they were all being serviced by this one teacher. I introduced myself and immediately she put me to work making me listen to a child read aloud. As I sat there listening to this young girl, so eager to share the basic book she was reading, I looked around the room. This kids loved their teacher and she loved them back. The praise, the admiration for their effort, and the respect that emanated throughout this room was tangible. Melanie knew what it meant to be a teacher of all children and they basked in her genuine caring for all of their aspirations.
The 2 hours flew by and I had to go to work. I thanked her profusely and promised I would be back. As I got in my car, it happened; my “Aha” moment. So this is what being a teacher can look like, feel like, be like. Melanie’s teaching skills and person skills changed my entire outlook on teaching and what teaching meant for me. During this practicum I developed this high sense of urgency in reaching these students and fell in love with really, truly, believing that all children can be reached, that all children have a chance at learning, and that you have to believe. Melanie is the reason I became a teacher.
This story has a fairy tale ending if you would like. I came back to this school for a year, always making up excuses and twisting my practicum placements so that I could continue to be in Melanie’s room. When it came time to say goodbye, I cried as the students gave me their handmade cards and pictures. I promised to stay in touch, which I did, and over a year later, Melanie set me up in my student teaching experience in a 5th grade room in the same school. Through that I got a long-term sub position that ultimately led to my regular position as a 4th grade teacher at the same school. Melanie and I are still great friends, and I will be the first to yell the loudest about just how phenomenal of a teacher she is. She was the conductor of my “Aha” moment, the reason why I am so happy with my life now. She continues to inspire me in how she teaches her children, how she reaches out and how she touches a community. I owe her more than she will ever know and every day I hope that some day, somehow I will be the provider of such an “Aha” moment.