The Light Bulb Effect

We all have a teacher that we look back to and say that was the moment that changed me in school — my first one would probably be back in 5th grade but the one that left the greatest impact would be one from high school. Now this story may not end up being anything like that but it is worth noting that it is from the perspective of a teacher and how teaching something to students gives them reward as well. I rarely read stuff from this perspective and found it really interesting.

Give this a read, a little on the longer side but worth it. Let me know what you think or if you have a story like this.


So for the most part, this student is pretty immature.  He makes inappropriate jokes, crawls on the floor, and does this thing where he sticks he tongue out at me and wiggles it…he says it looks like something a devil would do, lovely.Today during math, we were learning about angles, and measuring angles, and drawing angles, and estimating the measurement of an angle by looking at it.  I helped him a lot because his motor skills aren’t
really all there, so drawing a straight line is tough for him.  He also struggled with the concept of angles greater than 180 degrees. He got confused a lot, so I showed him a few things to clear everything up for him, and it seemed to work.

After the kids had finished working on their workbook page, the teacher asked the kids to think of 2 tips they would give someone if they had to draw or measure an angle.  It’s important to understand that this student does not really participate.  Unless there is something in it for him—like a sticker–or some kind of reward.  The teacher doesn’t do anything like this, so the student just sits there–and most of the time I can tell he is zoning out, thinking about football, or bay blades, or how long until gym class.  Sometimes I make him admit to it too, haha.  And if he does have something to say, he rarely raises his hand.  Sometimes he will, but if he is not called on first, he gives up, and says it is not worth it to sit there and wait to be called on.

Today he raised his hand…and not in a lame way.  His hand was straight in the air.  And kept it raised while 2 people explained their tips. Thankfully, he got called on.  He wiggled in his seat, sat up straight, cleared his throat, and began to eloquently explain some of the things that I worked on with him.

When he normally speaks in class, he tries to be funny.  Sometimes he will do an accent to make everyone laugh, and distract everyone.  Not this time.  He was a professor.

He demonstrated angles by using his hands…and talked about how right angles look like the letter L. “If you put your hands together like this (wrist to wrist, palms facing each other), and bring them closer, that is an acute angle. And if you open them up wide, that is an “abuse” angle.  UGHHH, I cannot pronounce that word!!!!    And straight lines, are, well, straight.  So you put your hands like this.  And then if you make an angle bigger, your hands kind of have to go backwards.  Let’s say I look at angle like this *draws an acute angle, not realizing no one could see it but him*.  Well, I can see that it is SMALLER than a right angle, so you know, that makes it easier for me to guess how much it is, because at least I know it is less than 90 degrees….” (I was teary by this time.)

The teacher attempted to respond…”Very good!  Boys and girls, he is saying tha—-”

But he cuts in to go into further detail, not letting the teacher talk.   (Thatta boy!)  (I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point.)

I helped him finalize his words, and he explains that the right angle can be used as a guide to determine whether an angle is acute or obtuse and then the approximate angle.  “And if you know these things, and that an acute angle is smaller than 90 degrees and an obtuse angle is bigger than 90 degrees, basically, you know, you will get an A on the test!”

And then he put his hand down, and sat there, like everything he said was just no big deal, except it was, because he was 110% accurate.

And he had the attention on every single kid in the room.  Because when he speaks for real–and isn’t trying to be the funny guy—he commands the room in a natural way.And after this, I just stared at the kid, in shock.  And it didn’t matter how he behaved for the rest of the day, because in my opinion, that moment was worth every time I have had to tell him to raise his hand, sit up straight, hold his pencil the right way, pay attention, write this down, write that down, writer neater, stop writing ‘poop’ in your notebook, stand still, sit still, make a better choice, show respect, no we cannot play 52 card pickup, no we cannot talk about football right now, stop calling me by my first name, give your friends some space, I don’t care if you don’t feel like doing this right now, and yes you have to listen to me, etc.  Because he had just done everything perfectly, and maturely, and like a 4th grader.

And that is why I teach.  Because nothing beats the feeling of one of your kids having a ‘light bulb moment’…where for just one moment, everything seems to click, and success is achieved…and the kids may not even notice it…but I do, because that is what we have been working towards for the past five and a half months.  And it is just enough to make you want to tackle the next obstacle the next day.  And for me, apparently it is enough to make me want to cry, because I am emotional like that.  I call it the light bulb effect.