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Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Turning Points: One Teacher's Timeline

I thought it would be interesting to trace back turning points in my teaching career--times when I had a breakthrough in teaching, met influential people, experienced intense, meaningful events or occurrences. defines a turning point as “a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.”

Reflecting on turning points, in my opinion, can help connect the dots, to see how events are connected, and what molded and shaped our teaching beliefs. Having taught k-8 and undergraduate classes for about 13 years now, I think the time is right for this type of reflection.

Turning Point (T.P) 1

I think the first turning point in regards to teaching was when I worked as an education journalist in Ocala, Florida. I spent much time in schools, talking to students, teachers, and principals. As I learned more about education, I felt an urge or nudge (some might even call it calling) to enter the classroom and try to make a difference.

T.P. 2

The second turning point was when I was offered a chance to work as a long-term substitute in an eight-grade classroom. While difficult coming into the position in March, with just a few months of the school year left, it provided me an opportunity to begin the profession and led to a full-time position at that school.

T.P. 3

About half-way through my first year of teaching, I wanted to quit. I remember thinking the job was too hard, and I wasn’t feeling successful. I heard a teacher on N.P.R. radio promoting his book about teaching, and I e-mailed him. He wrote back, asking for my number. He called me that night and spent an hour encouraging me to keep teaching. That changed everything. From there, he mentored me via telephone for several years.

T.P. 4

The third turning point was when as a new teacher, I received poor evaluations from administrators, particularly in the area of classroom management. As the advice of the principal, I began observing high-performing teachers and learned how to manage a classroom of students. 

T.P. 5

This came when I took a job teaching gifted, fifth-grade students. Again, it was difficult since I didn't know the curriculum and had no experience working with the gifted, but I grew to love teaching this population. I later spent the next seven years working with gifted children and earning a master’s degree in gifted education.

T.P. 6

While working as a gifted resource teacher at k-8 magnet school, I started a schoolwide enrichment program for all students. I also started an enrichment committee as well as began helping the school district train other gifted teachers in enrichment programs. I realized I could have a greater influence as an educator beyond my classroom.

T.P. 7

Enrolling in a Ph.D. program in elementary education, I began to see education and teaching from a deeper, more concentrated lens. I learned so much about pedagogy and researching education topics. However, I also began to coach and supervise teacher candidates. I transitioned from a teacher to a teacher of teachers or teacher educator.

When I look across these seven turning points, I see a commonality: the path was not easy or always smooth. I experienced a learning curve and difficulty whenever I assumed a new role or position but this caused me to grow and expand professionally.  I wonder what turning points you experienced in your career as an educator? What changed your thinking forever and expanded your skills? Please share.