Let me begin by saying this is an ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY! Epiphany After Epiphany: Everything Is Connected…
I have been an educator for 25+ years in a variety of settings (geographic, urban/rural, socioeconomic) and grades (middle school, high school). By default, I also taught manners, common sense and wonder, using Science as my vehicle of communication.
After all, Science, out of all the disciplines, is hands-down the most fun.
I stumbled onto the path of teaching my fourth year of college when a coincidence in my coursework led me to an epiphany. Three of my professors were teaching how nerve cells work from three completely different orientations. The Physiology class described the nerve and its functions. Chemistry class analyzed the chemical balance that allowed the impulse to be transmitted from one nerve to another. Physics explained the electrical side of the nerve impulse—three seemingly unrelated fields covering the same topic during the same random week in the semester.
Everything is connected.
This definitely needed to be shared; and what better way to share an epiphany than to become a teacher and teach it!
I began substitute teaching in Hartford during the four week overlap between the end of the college semester, and when high schools got out for the summer. Subbing in a variety of Hartford schools seemed as good a place as any to practice for my first teaching assignment in Atlanta for the upcoming autumn. The staff was supportive of a fresh, young face determined to make the day productive, and as expected, the students were friendly and pleasant.
August, and my trip to Georgia for my first official Science teaching position, took forever to come. Once there, the flurry of tasks outside school (find an apartment, buy my first car, navigate new surroundings, make friends) eventually gave way to the New Teacher flurry of school tasks (create lesson plans, design seating charts, set up experiments, learn how to use a computer). The beginning of the school year was very smooth. As expected, students were friendly and pleasant, and the staff was supportive of the fresh, young face determined to make the day productive.
Because it was. The faces were different, but the game was the same.
By the third day, my students and I were beginning to establish our routines. On this day, after attendance had been taken, after students with schedule changes had been settled in, and after my fabulous lesson had begun, a boy entered the room. I had not yet matched everyone’s name to their faces, but he looked familiar, so I waved him in and continued teaching.
He settled in the back of the room and took out a notebook. Moments later he was whispering to his neighbor. In a time-honored fashion, I directed my gaze at him, raising one eyebrow. He subsided. ……………………………
Used properly, an eyebrow can be a powerful tool for a new teacher.
A few minutes later the whispering resumed. Time for another classroom management strategy. I began casually strolling around the room as I spoke. The attention of the class shifted, following my changing position. The whispering young man was now quiet and attentive. Success!
However, as I oh so casually strolled back to the front of the room, I could hear the whispering behind me once again. Turning around, I was surprised to hear some long-forgotten teacher’s words coming out of my mouth:
“Do you have something that you would like to share with the class?” I challenged.
Big mistake. You don’t hand the control of your classroom over to a student with a question like that. You’re just asking for trouble.
He sat forward, obviously getting ready to speak. I braced myself for whatever was going to come out of his mouth, anticipating anything from the innocent to the sarcastic.
“Miss,” he began hesitantly, “Did you used to teach in Hartford? I think you substituted for my teacher last year . . .”
To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart’s famous line, out of the fifty states, out of all the school systems in Georgia, out of all of the 18 high schools in DeKalb County alone, out of all of the classes in my building, he walked into mine first. This student had left me in Hartford on the last day of school in June, and the very next class he took was mine in Georgia that August.
Did I already say Amazing? It was.
I was experiencing the epiphany again. (Can you have the same epiphany twice?) Everything is connected! What better way to experience an epiphany than to become a teacher and live it!
So began my teaching career. Almost three decades later, I still have my eyebrow, and I am not afraid to use it. I am still amazed at how often the epiphany repeats itself, and I enjoy it so much, my students affably come along for the ride.
I’m just saying…