aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher

Don’t Be a Worthless Ball of Goo – Jeremy’s Aha Moment

This week’s Aha moment is shared by Jeremy Macdonald, a 5th grade teacher in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Besides opening minds of 5th graders he is also in charge of professional development at his school in regards to technology integration and can be found on twitter under @MrMacnology.  He has a fabulous wife and 3 wonderfully crazy kids.  A fellow grade slayer, deep thinker, and just one of the boys, his blog always inspires me to do better, strive for more, and just overall think about why I do what I do.


I’ve never looked back since that day.  I remember the rush that I felt.  There was no doubt in my mind.  It was my epiphany; my “Aha!” moment.  I finally knew what I was going to do for (essentially) the rest of my life…

(Camera fades out, flashback a la Wayne’s World.)

Since I was eight I wanted to be an F.B.I. agent.  My dad did it.  My uncle did it.  Several of my dad’s cousins did it.  I had a family heritage to uphold.  Shortly after graduating high school, I was getting ready to enroll for my first semester of college.  I was going to study psychology.  I wanted to “understand” the perps I would soon be investigating and apprehending.  I dreamt of closets full of dark suits and guns.  I was ready for shootouts and car chases.  I clicked the final “Submit” button and I was enrolled.  A few introductory psych classes along with a few other generals.

Jumping ahead a few months, I found myself sitting in front of that same computer screen, but this time in my dorm room.  I had about seven minutes before my first class started, but my room was at least a fifteen minute walk away.  What was I doing?  Why was my hand ready to click “Clear All” below my class schedule?  I really didn’t know WHAT I wanted to do.  Had I deceived myself with countless hours of the X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries?  I believe I had.  So I clicked.

Here I was, no classes, tuition paid, books bought, on the first day of school, and I was clueless.  Not exactly the best feeling.  Something led me to my university’s school of Fine Arts and Communications.  After a few minutes (and I mean this literally) of consideration, I was now a Communications Major, with a focus in Advertising and copy writing.  I was always day dreaming, doodling, and coming up with silly stories while growing up.  I thought that Advertising would be a great way for me to use this creativity for the greater good…(especially since I wouldn’t have to shoot anybody now.)

(Cue soft piano music and chimes)

(Camera fades out, and through a light fog, camera fades back in.)

So here I am after a two-year hiatus after my freshman year, newly married, and looking to explore a bit of Business and Finance before I commit to Advertising.  I loved being able to create, write, and laugh at most everything I did, but I was also a numbers guy and money had always interested me.  I enrolled in some basic business classes like Econ 110 and Accounting 101, in addition to my continued pursuit of Advertising.

It was the middle of the semester and Norm Nemrow was giving his famous “Sixth Lecture.”  He had nine required lectures during the semester–the rest of the learning was done on the computer and in the lab.  The “Sixth” was the one every Accounting major remembered.  It had nothing to do with accounting, actually.  It was a life-lessons lecture.  Norm talked to us about making life decisions based on our passions and what made us happy and not based on money or the endless pursuit of it.  Now this came from a man that was easily worth nine figures before he was 40!  Easy for him to say, right?  But in reality it was, and he meant every bit of it.

Norm, too, had an “Aha” moment.  He realized one day during retirement (remember, this was before he was even 40 years old) that he was a “worthless ball of goo”–his words, honest.  He had done nothing with his life since retiring and felt that he had more of a purpose to fulfill.  Long story short, he started teaching at the university.  For free.  And it was during that fabled “Sixth Lecture” that I learned all this, but it was what he was about to say that struck a chord.

“If I could go back and start over, I would have started right here, in the classroom.  I should have started as a teacher.”

(Cue light bulb.  Student “A”–that’s me–gazes towards ceiling with thoughtful expression)

Big words from a man that could fund a stimulus bill all on his own.  I knew he meant it though, and that’s when I said, “Aha!”  I literally had to keep myself from standing up and leaving.  I was ready to change majors and step into a classroom of my own.  Why had it taken so long for me to see this?  Psychology?  Advertising?  Business?  Who was I kidding?  What better place for a hyperactive daydreamer with a love for pencil fights than an elementary classroom?  I was a shoe-in.

(Cue sentimental piano/violin music a la the end of an After-school Special)

So here I am.  Over seven years since that day and I’ve never looked back; never second guessed; never regretted that decision.  It’s strange how life leads you down the most obscure paths before you “find your way.”

I will soon be starting my fifth year in the classroom and I think I’m more excited now than I have ever been.  Much of this anticipation is due to the marvelous PLN that I’ve been able to build over the last several months.  From Twitter to Blogs to #rscon10, I have been able to experience growth as an educator, and a learner, than I have at any other point in my career.  I am grateful for friends and colleagues like Pernille who drive me to think differently about learning and encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing.

(Fade to black)

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