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Dimmer Switch, Not a Lightbulb


by Alex Dixon, 1-2 Teacher

In my experience working with kids, like most educators, I am always searching for that “Aha!” moment, or what I like to refer to as the “lightbulb” moment. We’ve all seen this exhibited in some TV show or movie, where the character has a sudden awareness of the situation or idea and everything just clicks (in cartoons you may even get the actual lightbulb over the head!). 

While this certainly happens in education, I tend to think that learning is a dimmer switch, not a lightbulb. Learning is not simply a linear progression where the understanding of a concept just happens all in an instant. It can be slow and steady, moving forward and backward in varying measures, and can be affected by a number of factors. A lack of sleep, personal issues, nervousness, fear of failure, or even just a bad day can affect how we learn and process information. 

As educators and parents, it’s important for us to keep in mind that deep, lasting knowledge takes time and investment and may look different for every child. This means that just when we think a student has learned a concept, they may still need more time to fully master it – and even then, there will be times where they take a few steps backward for some reason. The light will come on, but not always in a flash.