There are many joys in teaching. I believe some of the best and most enduring come from those “lightbulb moments” when you see that “I get it!” flash on a student’s face. Suddenly your heart is warmed, and the rest of your day is energized too!
One of my best lightbulb moments occurred several years ago when I was teaching junior high social studies. “Peter” could be a bit of a rascal but he always meant well. However, on this particular day he was not paying full attention to my lesson on the explorers of northern Alberta and the subarctic. To him, it was just a map with lines of latitude and longitude that some people had walked through a long time ago.
So I tried a different tack.
At the time, North of 60 was a popular TV show, as it showcased the lands and cultures where many of my students — Peter included — had visited relatives during the summer. As I began talking about the show and how some of the explorers we’d discussed had mapped those very areas, Peter perked up a bit, but was not yet fully engaged. That changed when I mentioned how they’d derived the program’s name: North of 60 means north of the 60th parallel of latitude. I pointed to the line, traced it and then motioned upwards.
At that moment Peter stiffened, his eyes grew wide, and he rocked back in his chair and shouted, “I get it! That’s why they call it North of 60!” Suddenly, it wasn’t just a map anymore. In that magical moment, it all clicked. A social studies concept suddenly had a place, a TV show with characters he cared about became even more relevant, and the places he’d visited in the summer all fit wonderfully together.
Peter bounced through the rest of the day, and so did I. Of all the lightbulb moments I’ve been privileged to witness, that remains one of the best. For in those moments lie the tangible reward of what we do — as we teach, inspire and illuminate the remarkable young lives around us. I treasure each of those moments and can’t wait until the next lightbulb goes off! ❚
Ray Suchow teaches computers, religious studies and information processing at Christ the King School in Leduc.
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