What Keeps Me Coming Back for More

Friday, March 25, 2011.
Day 48 in a 7th grade classroom.
Maria’s last day of full-time teaching.
Mere hours before spring break begins.
In the middle of a final review for our sentence structure test.

And it happened.

I’ve often heard teachers talk about how exciting it is to watch the lightbulb come on in a student’s head.  Usually I’ve heard it discussed in reference to teaching a child to read.  Suddenly, often seemingly out of the blue, it all clicks in a child’s head.  It all makes sense.  Teachers usually describe these events with stars in their own eyes, marveling in the wonder of watching a child grasp something new.

Mine ears have heard, but now mine eyes have seen.

I was attempting to lead my students through the heavy world of sentence identification last week.  A weighty topic for the week before spring break, I know.  My previous grammar unit could be described as a flop.  Fail.  And I was determined to avoid making the same mistake twice.  So, I tried to use various techniques I’ve learned in school to make sure that I wasn’t missing anyone, which is a difficult task when you have eighty-five students to reach in a days time.

But every day one of my students would give me the look. The I-don’t-understand-one-little-bit look.  I’d try to help, but it didn’t seem to register.  And every day, this student walked out of the room and I knew I wasn’t giving the help I needed to give.  This student wasn’t getting it.  At all.

Friday rolled around, and we were doing the final review before I passed out the tests.  The students were writing their answers on individual whiteboards.  I kept my eye on the one I knew was struggling, and saw most of the answers were incorrect.  I stopped and explained one sentence, just like I had done countless times throughout the week.  I looked back at the aforementioned student.

And suddenly, I saw it.  I saw the lightbulb.  I think I even heard the click.  Somehow, something had shifted the pieces of the mind and suddenly it all made sense.

The next answer was written with confidence.  It was correct.  So was the next one, and the next.  Each one was written more confidently than had the previous one.  And they were all correct.

A few minutes later, I served the test.  It was timidly given back when it was finished.  I had never been so anxious to grade a test.  I made it through the first section without having to mark any wrong.  Every answer was correct in section two.  Nothing was incorrect in section three.  Before I was done, I marked a big, fat 100% on the top.

I don’t know if this student possibly could have been more excited than I was.  I had watched the lightbulb come on.  And boy, was it invigorating.

Some people get adrenaline rushes from jumping out of airplanes; others get it from scaling mountain peeks, or jumping from ridiculous heights into bodies of water.  I discovered on Friday that I can get an adrenaline rush in the classroom.  Watching that lightbulb moment made my heat beat a bit faster, made my blood pump rapidly.

I hope there are plenty more of those moments awaiting me.  I can tell that each one will keep me coming back for more.

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