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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Turning Point

The Turning Point

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Edutopia magazine plans to launch a new section called Turning Point, which will feature a brief interview with an educator about the moment or day or other period when, for that person, something, or everything, just clicked.

Perhaps you had an epiphany about teaching, learning, creating, or connecting. Maybe you realized that some aspect of the teaching experience had gotten easier or more manageable for you. Or, it might be that you merely celebrated a little victory in a difficult relationship with another person or a class.

If you have such a story you'd like to share, please respond here. If your turning point is selected, we'll contact you for an interview. If not, it will at least appear here, where others in the Edutopia Groups community can read and respond to it.

What has been your most transformative teaching moment? We're looking forward to reading some interesting stories!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

My first year of teaching, I met a young man named, Rene. We had a bumpy start; he barely spoke to me the whole year. I thought he hated me. I asked him one day why he barely participated. He replied, "Why should I; you won't be here." I told him I was here not and didn't plan on going anywhere.

Our relationship improved. Over time, he began talking to me and participating more. He was still a very quite young man but things were better. His was the first class to graduate from the 8th grade at our school. I was so proud of him. He received an art away; I gave him a hug. I thought that was that. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The next year, his father came to the school with a Christmas present. "Wow!" I thought. "Wasn't that nice that they remembered." Then I got a Valentine's Day gift and an Easter present. Since then, every holiday of every year, Rene's father has brought me a gift.

Now it's Rene's senior year in high school. I saw him one day on his way home. He told me he wanted me to attend his graduation. I was honored. We exchanged cell phone numbers. Now we text each other to keep in touch. Our relationship has evolved from just "student and teacher" to more like family. He once sent me a text thanking me for caring so much about him - it meant so much to him.

This was a major turning point for me. You never know the impact you will have on a child's life. I said it before: As educators, we plant seeds in our students' souls. Just because we don't see the fruits of our labor, doesn't mean that the ground wasn't fertile.

Thank you, Rene, for teaching me what a true connection can be.

Mark Nichol's picture
Mark Nichol
Editor / Writer


Thanks for sharing your touching story! We're reviewing responses like yours from several sources and will be selecting our first Turning Point teacher from among them.

Kelly Wickham's picture

During my first few years of teaching I was doing the same thing every other new teacher did: I was just surviving. I wanted to make sure I got through the textbook and novels they handed me. Then, I did the unthinkable: I looked back on my own work as a student from high school and college. I wasn't a great student because I didn't know how to organize and do the work assigned.

I began to watch how the students learned things that I hadn't taught them. Things like learning to play soccer and how girls figured out how to do their hair and how the boys played in p.e. class. They needed to see things demonstrated multiple times, they needed practice, and they needed to WANT to do it.

My teaching changed from that moment. I no longer wanted to stand there and lecture. I began the gradual release of responsibility and gave over the learning to them. As scary as it was, it worked. Sometimes my classroom seemed chaotic, but when I assessed their learning they were getting it. I didn't have to be in control. Letting my students tell ME how THEY wanted to learn became the way I approached all my units. I didn't have to "get through the book", I had to instruct them after I sparked their interest.

Andrew Pass's picture

I had an interesting beginning to my education career. I had worked at a Jewish camp, called Ramah, during college, as a counselor. After graduating from a joint program between the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Columbia University, I began teaching Jewish studies at a Jewish day school in Dallas, Texas. (I had never taken an education class.) I was in Dallas for three years teaching and improved steadily but my teaching was certainly nothing impressive. After teaching in Dallas, I moved back to Chicago, my home-town, lived with my parents and tried to figure out what I was going to do long term. I needed a job and got a position teaching elective courses at a Jewish day school, in Chicago. My classes were relatively large, 35 students per each class. Considering that these classes only met once or twice a week and the typical class had only 15 students in it, the students recognized that these were not serious classes. It was a very difficult year, but I tried my best.

That summer I went back to Camp Ramah as a teacher. (Students took two classes a day in addition to a regular summer camp program.) One day one of the camp social workers did the director of education a favor and observed each of the classes. She reported back to the director that my class was something special, something that she had never seen before in a camp class. She told the director that she thought I was an incredible teacher.

This particular experience, external affirmation, changed my entire conception of my own teaching abilities. I decided that I wanted to work in education for my career. It was to say the least a very special turning moment, for me.

Andrew Pass
My Current Events Blog

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