I was driving back from school today as we enter our winter break, and began to think a bit over the past twelve months. As my mind tends to do, I began to think in terms of lists :).

So I decided to compile a list of My Most Memorable Teaching Moments for this year, and invite others to share their own in the comments section. You can use my categories, or come up with your own. I’ll probably put together a post sharing everybody’s later this month.

Here are My Most Memorable Teaching Moments in 2009:

COOLEST MOMENT: Having my Theory of Knowledge students watch the Ted Talk “The Raspyni Brothers juggle and jest” and have them first identify how the jugglers made what they did and the objects they used look “new” to viewers  and, secondly, discuss how mathematicians, historians, artists and scientists use those same techniques to study the world. Students shared some brilliant stuff — I love that class!

FUNNIEST MOMENT: In June, students presenting me with the “Zapatos Locos Award” (Crazy Shoes) because earlier in the year I got dressed in the dark at home and didn’t realize I had one brown and one blue shoe until I was at school and a colleague pointed it out to me. It was too late to go back, and I had students coming into my room all day just to see if it was true.

DUMBEST MOMENT: See “Funniest Moment”

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: I almost always teach until the bell rings. One day, however, I was really getting frustrated by trying to figure out how to get a PowerPoint presentation to go automatically. So, one minute before the bell was to ring for lunch, I told my students they could sit quietly and chat with a neighbor. I went to my computer and, seconds later, our new District Superintendent  and our principal walked into the room.

MOST TOUCHING MOMENT: At the end of a school year, I often have students write letters to the following year’s class. One student wrote, “Mr. Ferlazzo will never, ever let you fail.”

MOMENT WHEN I FELT MOST PROUD OF MY STUDENTS: Last school year, I had a very challenging mainstream ninth-grade English class (see Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?). As I shared in that post, I instituted an extremely effective strategy to get a handle on what was going on. I used a system that had been an anathema to me — behavioral points. After an intensive six weeks, I began to wean the class off of it. Then, as I share in that post, when one student began acting out, I told him, “John, do I need to put you back on the point system?” He immediately replied, “No, I can control myself.” What had at first been an effective tool of positive reinforcement — giving behavioral points — was now seen by the same students as a sign that they could not control themselves, which they were embarrassed by. They went from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation in six weeks!

SADDEST MOMENT: I did a series of lessons on helping students see their brain as a muscle that could get stronger with “exercise,” instead of it being fixed (see “Now I Know My Brain Is Growing When I Read Every Night”). At the beginning of the lesson, practically all my students agreed with the statement that “Yes, I think the brain is like a muscle and the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.” It was very sad, however, when I saw that the only students who, instead, felt that “You are born with being however smart or dumb you are and that’s the way it is” were students who clearly had cognitive and academic challenges. It made me very sad to imagine how many times these students had been labeled “dumb” in overt and not-so-overt ways during their lives.

MOST POETIC MOMENT: Each year, as part of our Latin Studies unit, we learn about odes.  As part of that unit, students write their own.  Each year, as a model, students help me write an ode to “My Hair” (as you can see by the photo on my blog, I am definitely follically-challenged).  It’s amazing what they come up with.  In some future post, I may share some of the best lines from over the years.

MOST SURPRISING MOMENT: Jan, my extraordinary wife,  decided to color-code my extensive classroom library over the summer.  It was an experiment, and I figured it would either  end up being a complete waste of time or  a “time-suck” having to keep them in order.  Much to my surprise,  I soon realized it was neither — students have kept it all quite organized, and I’ve probably spent a total of fifteen minutes over the past four months keeping it tidy.  It looks great and it’s a lot easier for students to find books they want to read.

HAPPIEST MOMENT: The day in August when I received my Document Camera and Computer Projector, and realized that I would never, ever, have to make or clean a transparency again…

Feel free to share your own — one or two is fine, or more if you want.  If you write a post on your own blog using this idea, please leave a link to it in the comments section.