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Those Simple Moments That Make It All Worth It

We work hard. And if we’re being honest, sometimes it feels like too much. Although, whenever teachers are feeling particularly de-motivated...their coworkers, students, and craft always seem to be there to pick them up and dust them off again. Today, Education World has collected all the moments from your day—from your harshest defeats to greatest victories—that make it all worth it.

1. The Classic Aha

It’s nearly cliché, but this list would be remiss without it. When an idea finally connects. When a student starts to “get it”. When they piece together the larger significance to your lesson. But it’s also often overly-romanticized. Pay close attention. Sometimes the “aha” moment comes in a time of struggle, when things look hopeless. When a student is frustrated, angry, and even resentful. In those vulnerable moments when students must dig themselves out of the trenches, there’s space, too, for serious growth. And a true “aha” moment for any student is always paired with the teacher’s own “aha” around the importance of our work.


CTPBoston aha epiphany aha moment slow on the uptake

Image courtesy of Disney.

2. The Big Try

You know the moment. That one student. Smart. But timid. You’ve been encouraging them all year. Their written assignments show some real potential. But they worry what everyone else will think. And then it happens: Boom. Hand up. They look nervous, but they’re doing it. You’re trying not to seem overly excited—play it cool! But you know that today just opened up their academic horizons, and you can’t help being completely ecstatic.

Image courtesy of NBC.

3. Lesson Satori

The moment of complete pedagogical enlightenment. The Universe is aligned. Time has stopped. You have crafted the perfect lesson. You know it. You can feel it in your very bones: this is going to work. Teaching comes with a lot of humility and insecurity, but not this time.... The elation you feel when you’ve struck that perfect balance between differentiation, interest, and rigor is like striking oil in your living room.

4. The Retry

Oof. That lesson went…not fantastic. These days can be disheartening, but more often than not, they light a fire in the belly of educators. Set us to action. We are reflective creatures: What went wrong? What needs to happen tomorrow? How should this go next year? These are the ultimate Sudoku puzzles for the inquiring mind of a teacher. We love being back in our workshop: crafting activities, fine-tuning lessons, sprinkling in engagement, a dash of humor. Today was rough, but tomorrow? We’re going to nail it.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

5. The New Trick

Maybe you just hit a sweet PD. Maybe you observed another teacher or saw something online. No matter where it came from, you have a new strategy to try in the classroom. The excitement builds. A hint of nervousness. You’re trying to imagine how it will go. Finding a new tool or tactic to bring into the classroom is better than Christmas morning for teachers. 

Image courtesy of 20th Television.

6. That First Cup

The alarm goes off. You swat at the pillow, the wall, the nightstand. Why…why do you wake up so early? Why does life happen at this hour? It’s still dark! And then you remember: you teach. You chose this. A noise from the kitchen: the pop and simmer of your automatic drip coffee machine. Your legs begin to move of their own accord. Zombie-ing your way across the floorboards, you fumble a mug out of the cabinet…and fill. And suddenly it’s all okay. It’s all going to be okay. You remember your name. Your address. And that you get to spend the day doing the greatest job in the world. 

7. The Community of Practice

It’s been “one of those” days: Rough. From data team to an observation to putting out fires left and right, you’re not sure when you last exhaled! You slump into the teacher prep room to recoup, and just then someone there drops a fantastically-timed and completely unexpected teaching pun. You lose it. You can’t help it. It’s ridiculous, but also, somehow, incredibly encouraging. You’re reminded that you’re all in this together. That close-knit community of teachers in your building that you can be yourself around: They get you out of your head, and back into the present.

dance dancing excited best friends boy meets world

Image courtesy of Buena Vista Television.

8. The Alum

Visiting alumni often remind us why we do what we do. They are the product we often never see, yet spend our lives working toward. An ever-evolving work of art that we, at very least, contributed to. Hearing about their experiences in school, the workplace, and beyond shows us that every struggle, every frustration, every data review, mediation, parent meeting, and every minute after school support—was well worth it.

Image courtesy of Disney.

9. Fun'd It

“That was cool” or “today was fun”.… It certainly doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, boy, it sure is magic! Especially when the lesson wasn’t even supposed to be fun! We try our best to keep students engaged, but we all have that piece of content that is simply necessary to master in order to get to the good stuff! And when we’re somehow able to keep that student interesteven through the tough stuffwe pretty much want to dance through the hallways.

dance fun party happy dance jam

Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

10. The Look

Certainly, there are many “looks” we get from students, both encouraging and critical. But THE look can make even the darkest day a ray of sunshine. THE look is the very elusive “thank you”.  More often than not, our students are not inclined to thank a teacher for a homework assignment or a post-test, but when something from class nurtures their sprit, students will let you know. And that look is better than a thousand snow days.



Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.