March 5, 2020

Parenting and mentoring a student teacher has a lot in common. It’s a lot more work than you would expect. And sometimes it is REALLY, REALLY hard.

I am mentoring my second student teacher this semester. She is a delightful 22 year old who clearly loves kids and finds such joy in the little things. I did not bring her much joy today though. I am trying so hard to step back and let her learn through experience. Today it made her cry.

She has been teaching science on her own for the past two weeks and doing a really good job. She has well planned lessons, great rapport with the kids, and other than a few expected blips, all has gone well. Today was chaos. It was a perfect storm of some wired 5th graders, one kiddo who was particularly ramped up, the last day of rotations so kids were at varying degrees of work completion, and who knows what was in the air. It is so hard for me not to step in. I know that I can tone them down, get them refocused, and settle the class. But in my heart, I knew that my student teacher needed to feel the chaos. And that felt really awkward. I kept asking myself over and over if I was doing the right thing in stepping back. I don’t like watching someone struggle.

And it finally occurred to me that the real reason I needed to let her struggle was for her to understand and know that she will survive. We all botch a lesson, have a bad day, or lose control of a class and just want to cry. But we all survive. It’s not the end of the world. Just like I teach my students, it is in the struggle that we learn the most. I hope that is the case because it was so hard to watch today. Please tell me that she will be a better prepared teacher in the end.


March 4, 2020

I love finding little life lessons in the lives of my students. One of the reasons I love teaching in elementary school is because kids forgive and forget so quickly. I have a student who can be a challenge at times. When things don’t go his way, he shuts down. Today, he couldn’t find his bookclub book. He made a marginal effort to look for it and then just sat at his desk during reading time. I challenged him to find a solution other than sitting there and that threw him off. As we moved into science, he needed to write a response to an experiment and being frustrated with not having his book, and me not bailing him out, he shut down. You have seen it before – work refusal, the look that says it is all the teacher’s fault, a little pouting, perhaps a little glare.

I found his book shortly after and gently put it next to him without a word. He did not say thank you.

Our library activity after science involved randomizing the class list. Just yesterday we were laughing about how his name always comes up at the end when we randomize for seat choices each week. In the library, his name came up last – again. We looked at each other, laughed, and shared a fist pump. All of the anger at me for holding him accountable for his book disappeared. Ah, if we could all just let go that easily more often.

March 3, 2020

I had two conversations today that are challenging me to change my ways. I struggle to use instructions videos in my classroom. Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear this voice saying that direct instruction from a person in the room is better than a YouTube video. I pulled up a science lesson the other day that was really well taught through a video but I kept thinking about how it was really exactly what I do, but live. And then I went for a walk with a fellow teacher who told me how she had used it with her class and it was great. She was so impressed with the vocabulary that her students were using in the writing post-video.

Then today, a cohort was telling me how she was trying to teach a concept and the kids were just not absorbing it. She came back the next day, showed a video of someone else teaching exactly what she had, and for the most part in the same way as she had, the day before. The kids got it this time.

I am reminded of how we all learn differently and sometimes that different can be just a different voice, a different pace, or a different face. It is okay if that something different is a YouTube video. It isn’t babysitting or taking the easy way out. It is trying a new pathway to reach students and that is okay.


Well, here it is March of 2020. I think I wrote something in early January about how I was going to write once a week. I messed that up and in mid-February decided that I would do the SOL Challenge again this year to make up for it. And apparently, I missed that deadline. So while I won’t be participating in the formal way, I am going to do my best to write every day this month.

I think it is a habit of mine, to get just so far and then not finish it off. I don’t have that problem with a Justin’s Peanut Butter Cup or a chai latte, but there are a few too many places where it does happen. I think about sending birthday cards and then they become belated cards. I think about calling a friend to say “Hi” and then months go by. What is it that keeps me from taking that last step?

As I commit to writing, I am also going to commit to finishing things this month. And right now, I am going to go send that card so it arrives on Wednesday this week, and not next.

January 4, 2020

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  The past two years have flown by and apparently I haven’t written a word!  I got a notification in my inbox the other day that someone ‘liked’ a post on my blog.  I had completely forgotten I even had one.

I always figure that when something comes at you three times from different directions, you should be listening.  #1 – My professional goal for this school year was to write reflections every day in an effort to be more intentional in my planning.  I have yet to write anything and keep swearing I will start tomorrow.  (Which isn’t to say that I don’t think through and analyze EVERYTHING I do and plan.  It just doesn’t get written down.)  #2 – I have a student teacher joining me for the next semester.  I purchased a journal for her to encourage her to write.  #3 – And then that email showed up.  The universe is begging me to start writing again.

So, fortunately my computer remembered my WordPress login and password.  I am back.  Maybe not every day, but at least once a week.  All year.  52 posts.  (I just wrote that, didn’t I?  I am now accountable.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Today I gave my students unit blocks so we could learn about volume.  I gave each table group 20 cubes.  I quickly realized that their little hands wanted to play before their little ears were going to be able to listen.  So I spontaneously gave them the challenge to build something beautiful in under a minute.

Each group made something totally different.  One made a rainbow/reverse rainbow tower.  One made the Eiffel Tower.  There was a ‘messed up’ house, a rainbow bed and a set of stairs.  One minute and they had all made something unique and beautiful.  And they were content to then start learning about volume.

As I told them the challenge, one of the kiddos said, “This is why I love you, Mrs. Kirk.  Because you let us do stuff like this.”

One minute and they all created in a unique way.  That’s exactly why I love each of them.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I may or may not barely have my head above the water enough to take a breath on this Tuesday that is two, or maybe three months from the last Tuesday I wrote.  How can this possibly happen every year that it takes months before I feel like I have a grip on my teaching life?

I have so much to reflect on:
Teaching full time for the first time in 22 years.

Bidding a sweet see you later to the perfect compliment to me of the past 7 years as my job share partner moved to another building.

Welcoming a teacher candidate and learning to be a mentor.

Finding peace and calm in the exceedingly turbulent waters of my current workplace.

Rerouting my energy to my kids to the East coast to the West coast.

But for now, I need to breath and get what sleep I can before another long, long day.



Tuesday July 18, 2017

I am reading Leon Uris’ “Exodus” for my bookclub.  In a conversation about right and wrong between two of the characters, one says, “Foreign policies of this, or any other, country are not based on right and wrong.  IT is not for you and me to argue the right or the wrong of this question.  The only kingdom that runs on righteousness is the kingdom of heaven.  The kingdom of the earth run on oil.”  I had to look up the publication date when I read that.   It was published in 1958.  And here we are over 50 years later.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I am getting the feeling that this will be one of many posts to come that have the same theme.  Something tells me that this is just the first.

It is 4th of July weekend and for the first time in many, many years, we are at home.  We were a little out of our element not knowing what to do so for old time’s sake, we thought we would do a one night backpack up to a favorite spot of ours.  We have been there multiple times over the years, before kids, with both kids, with each kid and now we thought it might be time to bring our 18 month old puppy along.

We left town at 4 and arrived at the trailhead at 5:00 in spitting rain.  Knowing that the forecast was for clear skies overnight, we waited out the worst of it and then started hiking.  It’s a quintessential hike.  It serpentines perfectly along the north side of the valley.  There are open traverses that give views of the mountains and ridges above.  There are dark corridors where the trees have grown thick.  The columbine are in prime, at times full fields of their blue and white faces.

We had to cross a few small snow fields and worried that our favorite tent location might be too wet this early in the year.  But it was waiting for us, flat and rock free.  We set up our tent, laid out dinner supplies, and settled in for a sunset filled evening.

Hallie, our pup, was loving every minute of it.

IMG_8658The trail is a dog on leash trail but we find that she is better if we have her off leash but wearing her shock collar.  She can roam 10 yards ahead or behind without pulling me off balance with my pack.  She knows now that once the collar goes on, she has to stay close.  We have needed the shock only twice since we got the collar, just to get her trained.  She is a pretty good dog.

We also brought along her tether so she would be able to move around at our campsite but not leave it.  She managed to tangle herself up in branches and brush while we pitched the tent, but she was close by and out of trouble.

And then we needed water for our noodles.  My husband volunteered to walk down to the creek, and took the dog.  Off leash.  He figured it wasn’t far, she was well behaved, there were no people or dogs within miles, and she needed to run.  Well, we didn’t anticipate this:


Yes, those would be porcupine quills in her curious nose.  She had run off into the underbrush all of 15 yards away from my husband and found the one porcupine in all of the Indian Peaks Wilderness area.  And she just wanted to play.  Hearing the rustle of an animal my husband jumped into the bushes and  grabbed Hallie as quickly as he could, but not before her snout was fully slammed with quills.

We were able to pull out a few of the less embedded quills ourselves but Hallie quickly caught on that each tug was going to hurt.  We knew they needed to come out and we were not the ones to do it.


So, we put away dinner, packed up the tent, reloaded the backpacks, and headed home.  The sunset was beautiful as we walked down valley.  Hallie didn’t seem bothered at all by the toothpicks in her face as she pranced through the columbine fields and crossed the creeks on the way down.  We passed a few other late evening hikers, all of whom winced for her.  She really didn’t seem to mind her face of whiskers.

IMG_8679It was a short walk back to the car and we arrived just as we needed to pull out our headlamps.  We trundled back into town and showed up at the emergency vet at 10:15pm.  It was 3am before we could take her home – quill free and very, very tired.

And we were worried that we wouldn’t have anything to do if we stayed at home on this 4th of July weekend.  Sleeping in was first on the list.