We’ve all had them.  Moments where there seems to be pure clarity of vision and an instant understanding of something we hadn’t seen before, an a-ha moment.   There was a time that I thought I had no gifts.  Then a small insignificant event happened that changed all of that.

Here, is my story about an a-ha moment.

I was in 3rd grade.  I had the feeling that I was not meant to be special in any way. My parents were always telling me how special I was, but they were supposed to say that, right?

An A-Ha Moment, findingourwaynow.com

I was a quiet child that struggled mightily with my lessons, especially reading.   I seemed to understand math pretty well, but the reading thing was my bane.  Reading was a jumble to me, but somehow I was able to find a way to make it work.  It didn’t matter, my skill in that area was not up to par for my teacher.  As a result, my teacher seemed to find me a bit frustrating and expressed her feeling in subtle and not so subtle ways.

I loved art, what kid didn’t.  It was a time I could do something without being judged.  Coloring between the lines was fun and therapeutic. But let’s face it; an A in art didn’t exactly win me the best student award. My math skills seemed above average, but that was dismissed because I couldn’t read as well as I was expected too. It was all chalked up to lack of intelligence, as well as being lazy and unfocused.

As the year progressed I learned to plow thru my lessons.  My teacher would give me some extra help, but I could tell her heart wasn’t in it.

An A-Ha Moment, findingourwaynow.com

About midyear, part of our studies included animals from Africa.  All the exotic animals enthralled me. The one that captured my attention the most was the Cheetah.  I thought they were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. I worked really hard to read all I could about them but it was very difficult for me.

Part of our lesson included writing a short essay and then drawing pictures of our favorite African animal.   I wanted to do the very best possible, but it proved more challenging than I thought.  My Mom helped me with my story as much as she could.  I was pretty proud of my effort, but the teacher felt it was not up to par.

Then came the day that we were to illustrate our stories.  I had never really done much free hand drawing before because I felt a strong lack of confidence.  I knew that it was not an area I wouldn’t do well because I didn’t seem to do well in any area the teacher deemed important.

An A-Ha Moment, findingourwaynow.com

The time had come. I took up my pencil to start my drawing, but I couldn’t remember what the Cheetah looked like. I asked my teacher if I could use a picture as a reference.  The teacher sighed and handed over the book with the Cheetah picture.  The other students seemed to be drawing their picture with great intensity.  I worried; would I fail at this too?  I stared at the picture of that beautiful cat and wondered; can I really do this?  I picked up my pencil and began drawing.  It was wonderful, and I completely zoned.  I chose every line with great care. I referred back to the picture many times to make sure that I was doing it right.

In the meantime, the teacher had crossed the room and stood by me watching.  I was totally unaware of her presence.  I finally finished it and had colored in the details including the spots.  It was an ok drawing but, to me, it didn’t quite look like the picture of the Cheetah.

As I stared at the picture, I knew I had failed again, and a huge feeling of sadness came over me.  Then I heard my teacher’s voice ask; Did you draw this?  I couldn’t answer and just shook my head indicating yes.  I was waiting for her to tell me all the things I had done wrong.  Then she said; You drew this!, and picked it up and stared at it.  I cringed, and felt like crawling in to a whole.  I braced myself for her next response.  Then she said; This is really, really good.  At first I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly.  But then she repeated it, and I knew I hadn’t been mistaken.  I thought; She said it was really, really good.  What happened next shocked me and it still resonates with me.  She went to the front of the room and showed the class my picture and said; I want to show you what Susan just drew. Isn’t this great?  Don’t you think she has some talent?

An A-Ha Moment, findingourwaynow.com

My drawing was displayed in the school art gallery (of sorts) for many weeks for all the world (school) to see.   That was the time that I realized I was good at something and that I had something special.  It changed everything for me.  I still struggled with my lessons but continued to work really hard, and the teacher seemed to recognize that for the very first time.

Fast forward to today. I now know that I had been struggling with dyslexia.  Somehow I was able to maintain an inner strength and belief in myself that eventually propelled me to an amazing career and to where I am today. All because of a simple 8 year old drawing.  It was my a-ha moment.

We all have something special we have to offer the world.  Sometimes it takes an a-ha moment to wake us up to what that may be.

What are some of your a-ha moments? What did they teach you about yourself?  What are your special gifts?

Life’s journey continues…

If you enjoyed this check out Judge A Book By Its Cover?Answer To A PrayerOf This I Know and Road Trip, Cat, A Little Faith.

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  • Julie

    What a great story. It’s sad that some teachers will treat a child like that without getting to know them and finding our if there is a problem that they can help with.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Julie, Thank you. Dyslexia was not as well known at the time and was often misunderstood. I was lucky. I had great parents who never bought into the common beliefs of the time. :-)

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Hi Susan: Love your story. I’m so glad that teacher encouraged your drawing. Your illustrations are delightful and I’m sure she’d be proud that she influenced you in a very positive way.

    I guess my most recent aha! moment came in 2010 when I was in Italy researching my chocolate book. I met with a chocolate maker who really took the time to share with me his interpretation of the world of chocolate. It made me realize that the story of each one of these passionate individuals would be the premise of my book and make it stand out from the rest.

    So a common thread between my story and yours in that it took someone else to take the time and notice what we were doing and give us the encouragement to pursue our own individual style that now sets us apart from the rest. Cheers!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Thanks Doreen, Many times we can see the forest for the trees. I couldn’t be happier for you regarding your a-ha moment. I know your book will be amazing as a result. :-)

  • ccassara

    An Inspirational anecdote that points out how self worth is determined so young. Heart his!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi ccassara, Thank you so much. It really is, isn’t it? :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/merle.gibbins.1 Merle Gibbins

    This is a great story Susan and loved reading it. I suppose my only a ha moment that stands out for me is that I started school when I was 4 years old and a couple of weeks, and when I was 5 years old they had to give me maths for the seven year olds. I was always good at reading and spelling but I hated when I had to write an essay !! and was always told I could do better. Same with a class discussion I was always too shy to speak out and say what I wanted to say and was always asked if I had a tongue !!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Merle, it pleases me you enjoyed my story. Why is it that some (not all) teachers feel a need to negatively push a child like that. We/they would all benefit from a more positive reinforcement approach, don’t you think? :-)

  • http://twitter.com/geekgirlusa Cheryl Therrien

    I love this story! I guess my ‘aha’ moment would be when I was taking a college course and the instructor went out of her way several times to remark about how much she enjoyed reading my assignments because of how good the writing was. She even asked to use some of my work in a presentation to her colleagues. That was when I gained the confidence that I could write well enough for other people to enjoy. Thanks for bringing this back to my memory. I needed this right now. :)

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Cheryl, Aw… thanks, What a cool a-ha moment and boy and I glad for it. Your writing is so you, and many enjoy what you have to say… so keep writing my friend. :-)

  • Jon Jefferson

    Some of my school issues came at a time when add and ADHD were barely recognized. It troubles me now that it is so over diagnosed. Prescribing drugs instead of teaching people how to survive has never been a good plan.

    I am glad that you have found a way to grow with your “disability.”

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Jon, Boy howdy, do I ever agree with you. Thankfully for me, dyslexia is not one of those disabilities that one can use a pill for. :-)

  • wendy mccance

    I loved this story. What a great teacher. By the way, I enjoyed the artwork, especially of the classroom. :)

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Wendy, Thank you. it was an interesting and rewarding experience for me at the time. It pleases me that you enjoy my art work. :-)

  • Along Came Mary

    Great story, especially love your drawings! How wonderful you’re such an avid reader and writer now, despite the dyslexia. Go you!!:)

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Mary, Thank you so much. It has been a hard fought battle. That said, I am still ever vigilant. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/JeriWB Jeri Walker-Bickett

    This brings back my so-called early trauma about learning to read and write. I had a HORRIBLE kindergarten teacher who tried to force me to write with my right hand when I was clearly inclined to be left-handed. Needless to say, my road to becoming a confident student was somewhat impeded by that teacher.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Jeri, That is terrible. Why that was done is beyond my understanding. You have survived to become an amazing teacher, writer and editor. So, i’d say you won the battle my friend. :-)

  • Laura Sherman

    Wow, what an amazing story!

    We need to all remember to encourage children, tell them what they are doing right, more than what they are doing wrong. I’m a mother of three and must always remember that. It means so much to children and adults alike when you shower them with well-deserved praise.

    I remember the moment I realized I had a writing voice. It happened very suddenly for me (I’d been writing all my life), but one day I woke up and felt that Ah-ha moment and knew I was a writer for real! :-)

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Laura, I agree with you. Sadly, it’s so easy to be critical and forget to praise when it’s warranted.

      I love your A-Ha moment and I so grateful that it happened for you, as we all have benefited from it. :-)

      • Laura Sherman

        You are so very kind! Thank you for your sweet words.

        • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

          You are so very welcome Laura. :-)

  • http://www.patricia-weber.com Patricia Weber

    Certainly an aha moment I bet you carried forward with you. And now because of that early moment of encouragement WE get to enjoy your illustrations. Thanks Susan.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Patricia, That moment did stay with with me. Thank you for the nicest of compliments. I do try to entertain. :)

  • Darlene Nemeth

    Thank you Susan for sharing your story. It is amazing how profoundly someone’s opinion can influence you. And children are so sensitive to criticism – making them feel like failures.This is an excellent demonstration of how something so simple can affect the rest of your life.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Darlene, Nice to see you here. How true that is. I used that example (and others) to help me to be mindful of what I communicated to my first grade student and then staff member who reported to me. I believe it made me a better teacher and supervisor. :-)

  • http://joannerambling.wordpress.com/ Jo-Anne

    Reading this I knew you were dyslexic and also knew that back in the day it was often mistaken for being lazy or not trying………..that said I am so bloody glad you found your talent, my youngest is very creative and she loves to read my oldest has always loved history and loves to read but has struggled to understand what it is she reads my middle daughter struggles to read short and sweet………….lol

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Jo-Anne, Yep that right and I can see that you watch over your little chicks very carefully. They are so lucky to have you. :-)

  • Claire Cappetta

    This reminds me of my teacher, Mrs Toomsaloo, yes, her real name! lol I was 5 years old. She told us to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. The girls drew nurses and the boys, firemen… Me? I drew an astronaut of course!! She told me that a woman would never be an astronaut, let alone a British one! I had to throw it away and draw a nurse… like everyone else. Years past and Helen Sharmen .. who was a teacher, won a lottery, went into space with NASA… She was British…

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Claire, That is too funny. How sad that she put that kind of limits on our thinking it reflected how she see’s her own limitation in herself. It pleases me that you didn’t let that stop you from reaching for your dream. :-)

  • Karen Koblan

    This is a great story. I always hated when teachers weren’t encouraging and made me feel bad for not “getting” something fast enough. I was like that with math. It’s like a foreign language to me. I struggled all through college. I barely passed the pre-requisite Math 101. It’s so great that you found art. Loved reading about this a-ha moment!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Karen, Thank you. I was lucky. Math was easy for me. it was the reading thing that was my nemeses and I still to this day struggle with it. So I understand how you must have felt with Math. But, for me, at least I now know why I had challenging with reading etc. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Craftyandbeast Patrick Huff

    Hmmmmm, what a story. Looking forward to witnessing my girls ah ha moment.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Patrick, Some of those A-Ha moments will be truly fun to witness, some not so much… LOL

  • http://biz.leoraw.com/about/ Leora Wenger

    Oh, I picked out so many problems with education from within your story! But I’m glad it ended up well. I do know some children that despised art – they happened to be quite good at math! I’m trying to get my daughter to work on her math skills, but she just shrugs it off, saying the other girls in her class are not good at math, either. Hoping there is better training these days for dyslexic children.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Leora, It did. I also have some amzing teachers along the way. Dyslexia is now an very understood and easily diagnosed disability with a great deal available to aid a child you struggles with it. Good luck with your girls. They will see the value of that skill soon enough. :-)))

  • A.K. Andrew

    You have obviously had talent from an early age then Susan. How fantastic to be ‘discovered’ by your teacher. I could feel your little heart pounding when she asked you the question the first time. Not having a teachers support has very long lasting effects.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi A.K. It was pretty intense for me as a kid but then again all things education related where intense for me… LOL. I agree, the impact of a teacher regardless of how good they are is way beyond what we give them credit for. :-)

  • Catarina Alexon

    Wonderful story. The teacher was right, yout drawings are great and you should make more of them. That’s where your true talent lies. Have you thought about for instance becoming a professional illustrator?

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Catarina, Thank you for your very kind words. Yes, I have. I just not sure how to best pursue ti. I have done some private commissions and will to work on working on that. :-)

  • Freda Gore

    Hi Susan, Isn’t it amazing that sometimes we have all of these hidden gifts just waiting to be developed and all we need is a little push or sometimes a big push like loosing our jobs :) to unearth those gifts. You are lucky some people never get to use theirs gifts. Thanks you so much for your great inspirations. I just love reading your posts. When I grow up I want to be just like you Lol

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Freda, Thanks so much. :-). As an 8 year old, It surprised the heck out of me that my teacher thought I had some talent. I do feel lucky, because it spurred me on to many other successful life adventures.

  • http://profiles.google.com/margaretduarte Margaret Duarte

    Hi Susan. What a wonderful story. Teachers have so much influence – and power – over young lives. Thank goodness most of them realize it and try to give each student some of the attention they so desperately need early on. Your story touched my heart, showing how one seemingly small act can have such a dramatic and lasting effect on someone’s life.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Margaret, A good teach is golden in my eyes. Thankfully, there are a great many. Their impact on a child cannot be truly measured, because the effects of what they say and do are no realized until many years later. :-)

  • Morgan Decker

    There is nothing more discouraging than a teacher who isn’t encouraging. I am in college, and nothing is more annoying/awful than a professor who doesn’t care and shows that they don’t care about the course or your work. Having a nourishing educator and support system is key to feeling and achieving success. I have my “ah-ha” moments whenever I succeed on a difficult test or get on the Dean’s List every semester, it is great to know that hard work pays off!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Morgan I so sympathize with any student at any level that has that kind of experience. When that does occur, its up to the student to find a way through to gain a measure of success. It takes strength and a core belief in one’s self to do that. It please me that you have that. It will hold you in good stead, now, and into the future. :-)

  • Debra Yearwood

    What a wonderful story. That made me a little teary. My daughter is a young artist and I can’t wait to share it with her. Thank you.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Debra, Thank you and I can’t wait to hear about you daughter’s art. :-)

  • Mary Slagel

    this is an amazing and inspirational story about never giving up. It’s a shame teacher’s exist that don’t have their heart in it. It is easily seen how students fall between the cracks with this going on but you were lucky enough to have ambition and to have an ah-ha moment. And clearly all your hard work and perseverance paid off as you write beautiful posts now.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Mary, Thanks, you humble me with your very kind words. I was lucky, and have never taken that for granted. The good news is I had way more really good teachers then bad. Through their help, and having great parents, I muddled thru… LOL. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/TakeChargeBecc Rebecca Thompson

    I would dearly love to have that ah-ha moment. I am sadly still looking for mine.
    I do find it sad that the teacher treated you like this for so long. It upsets me that it took something like this for her to see value in you – that is so wrong on so many levels. At least she finally came through :)

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Rebecca, Aw, I feel very lucky that this happen to me at an early age.

      I agree. The good news is most teachers are really in to giving their students their all. :-)

  • Scott Hammond

    My first 2 A-Ha moments were both in 8th grade, around the same time. We had a writing assignment, non fiction, a purely educational type project and I decided to go off on all kinds of little tangents with it and turn my report into a story. The teacher was a bit nonplussed but the whole class really liked it, I got a lot of positive feedback which was a pretty strange experience for a kid going through a shy awkward stage. Around the same time I made up a sort of Weird Al type song about science class and sang it to my science class before the bell one day, it was a big hit (well, a big hit with science class). I didn’t think of myself as creative at all, but I learned that by being creative I could really engage people.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Scott, I love your a-ha moments. They obviously changed your perception of yourself. Your creative side has certainly has certainly benefited from that. In turn so have we. :-)

  • Jeannette Santino

    Great article – I didn’t have an ah-ha moment until I was an adult. It would be wonderful if all children had these moments. I don’t even remember third grade ;o).

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Jeannette, Regardless of when they happen, they can have a profound effect on us and how we perceive ourselves going forward. . :-)

  • HomeJobsbyMOM

    You are an amazing artist. I don’t think I have had an Ah Ha moment about myself but I am glad you did. You are just great.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Krystle, What a nice thing to say… I doing a happy dance. I do try and hope that I can continue to improve. BTW: I think YOU”RE great too. :-)

      • HomeJobsbyMOM

        I have no doubt that you will improve. I think we all do with time.

  • Johnny Crosskey

    My aha moment started with a playwriting glass in college. It was like I started creating, I couldn’t stop. I felt compelled to keep telling the story (in this case of a story from high school) and I knew then that writing had to be part of my life’s work in some capacity. I still feel compelled to tell stories.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      That is awesome Johnny, Obviously I love to tell stories, and I also love to hear when others do the same. Keep on doing it. Its good for us/you and our souls. :-)

  • Rynessa Cutting

    This is so touching, and it’s absolutely amazing to see that you are now a writer, of all things. It is so easy to get into your own head- the mind is indeed very powerful. Congrats to you. (and yes, the drawing is EPIC). I never struggled at academics, but I still had problems in school because I was judged on where I came from. I continued to excel, not to prove anything to anyone, but to do well for myself. But i guess in the end it was like ‘a-ha. take that!’ :D

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Rynessa, I hate it when a child is treat differentially because of factors out of their control. The fact that you have been able to rise above is a testament to your personal strength and character. You rock. :-)

  • Kelly Wade

    Great story! Now that I’m older I realize how unfair it is to base “success” on such close-minded standards for children who are all incredibly different. The one “ah-hah” moment that pops into my head is when my grandmother passed away my senior year of college. I had always been so resistant to change, and it was then I realized that there are so many things in life that you can’t control, and change is inevitable. It has helped me grow as a person and become more accepting and positive.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Kelly, no matter the form these a-ha moments can move us to some amazing things, can’t they? Like is has been for you, the effects of these moments can be life long. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/anecdotalgoat Kimberly Porter

    What a great story! Every kid struggles to find what they are talented in. (Some of us are still trying to figure that out as adults!) This is a wonderful account of you find yours. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Kimberly, Thank you so much. It’s my hope that everyone has that great a-ha moment sometime in their life. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/YLTL Dan Meyers

    Susan – that is such an awesome story! It just highlights how we all have different talents and the importance of trying new things.

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Dan, Thanks and I so agree with you on, oh so many levels. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/noahsark10 John Barton

    Hi Susan

    Believe it or not but I have an ‘a-ha’ almost almost every time I read your stories!
    Many are relevant to me and it would seem to many others. Their comments bear
    witness to that!

    I am so busy these days that I only read blogs from those who are important to
    me and you are definitely one of those!

    Time is of the essence and this blog like others has inspired me to write
    something about my ‘a-ha’ moments in a future blog – it is on my ‘to do’ list.

    Just for reference one of my greatest ‘a-ha’ moments was when I was at one of
    my lowest points in my life about a year and a half ago. (October 2011). Our
    son had visited us from Japan for about three weeks having not seen him for two
    years – the visit was great but after he returned to Japan I was at my lowest ebb.
    “When will I (we) see you again” we said! It was precisely at that moment
    that for some reason I was drawn to our local Baptist Church in Westward Ho! on
    the following Sunday.

    Cutting a long story short I heard the preacher talking about “re-finding” God and it had a profound effect on me. I talked to him afterwards and he inspired me to seek forgiveness and to re-confirm myself as a Christian. How powerful was that and that changed my way of looking at the world forever and inspired me to really move forward in my life.

    Even at my time of life I am still able to achieve great things! AND that is what I am working towards. AND WHY NOT OTHERS OF A MATURE AGE!

    Susan, another great article which has inspired so many here. Thanks John

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi John, I can believe it. When I really think about it I do also.

      John I am so humble and flattered by your words and your kindness.

      I am so with you, us boomers are not a force to be overlooked. :-)

  • Jacs Henderson

    Susan, This just shows how recognising and encouraging someone for something they have done well can bring about a change – very crucial in a child. Talents are not equal in all people, but shared randomly and wow, how important for a teacher to praise the good more than pointing out the bad. I must say, I don’t remember much praise, more a feeling of striving for the top of the class – but how can everyone be there in all subjects?? – crazy
    I think the practice of praise and recognition is something we should all carry with us through life, just look how it helped you Susan :)

    Jacs

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Jac, I so agree. Praise has such positive and long lastly affects and shouldn’t be held back, instead encouraged. As for me, it was a pivotal moment. :-)

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  • http://www.mktdojo.com/ Tommy Tan

    Hi Susan, this is a really great story. Glad that you figure out what your talent was at such a young age. I am sure a lot of people probably have talents that they are not aware of. A lot of people probably doing something amazing everyday and think it is normal when it is obviously a talent they process without knowing. Love the cheetah you drew!

    • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

      Hi Tommy, Thanks, You just never know what will bring the realization of a certain talent the forefront for you. You certainly have one with all your digital awareness and skill set. Like you, I think I was pretty luck.

      I’m so glad you like my cheetah drawing. :-)