I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Opportunity Not Taken

I haven't felt like I've had much to share lately that can actually HELP educators. I've got something today that I hope helps those who take the time to read it.

I'll say it again - I work in a well-off district. Not as wealthy as some, but during this school year, we've been provided extra monitors, small cameras for our laptops, and even bluetooth speaker/microphones. I've taken advantage of all of these. I've been fortunate to be able to attend the short training sessions that went along with these tools. I've watched the brief "how to" videos our main office created for us. I'm not saying that anybody but teachers teaching classes all day know what we need, but I am saying that many people in my district are trying. I've benefitted from some of this.

My own administration has also tried to help us in many ways. They've offered Q & A Zoom sessions, and I've taken those opportunities. They recorded a Q & A for our community, and I took the 40 minutes to listen to that one. Two teachers in our building have even offered an exercise routine after school a few times this year. Their own time; no pay. Some are taking that opportunity. I thought of it, but then realized I truly enjoy my walks instead.

Eight weeks in to this school year, the administration at my school offered another opportunity. They mentioned a couple of times to not worry about the cost - it was taken care of. They've partnered with a counseling service. It's a free wellness program with short videos you watch at your own pace. I contemplated it. It was supposed to help with our mindset, heartset, soulset, and healthset. It's to "help educators discover hidden hours in their day, sustain their energy through food and exercise, care for themselves through mindfulness and yoga, and embrace positivity." Sounds like a good goal.

When I first heard of it (during one of our two days provided to help us prepare for hybrid), I thought, "Not another program. Nope." Next, I thought, "It might be helpful if a couple of us did it together. We could support each other further." Then I thought, "It's free to me. It must have cost a lot of money. I should probably do it. I'll get something out of it, even if it's just a little. I'll wait to see if I hear that others are signing up."

An email reminder came. It said there were 16 videos, along with I-don't-remember-how-many pages of a workbook. My gut said, "No way. I'm not going to take a class on top of everything I'm already doing. I don't have time." Yet I still did not delete the email.

One more reminder came (oh, the emails with links embedded in links!) - this time with a time limit to get in our response. My brain said, "Don't delay!" and suddenly I was reminded of one of the lessons in this book that my friend, Rik Rowe, recommended to me.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: McKeown, Greg:  8601407068765: Amazon.com: Books

The author warned that many opportunities will come our way, and many times we feel guilty if we don't take them. This one had all the signs - it's free! It's helpful! It's on my own time! Hurry up - this offer won't last! And it was tugging at me with each reminder that I should probably take this opportunity. Once I realized this, I put myself through a little test. I told my husband about it, and he said what he normally does, "Do it if you think it will help." I left the email reminder in my inbox. This past Friday was the due date. I let it slip by without responding. And today, I feel good about that decision to pass on this opportunity.

The author of Essentialism talked a ton about our TIME. How we use our time is so important. I need to do what I KNOW works for me. I don't have time for what I think MIGHT work for me. This program offered might be outstanding. Oh, well. I needed to take a pass on it. I've gone nine weeks now into the school year taking care of my mind, heart, soul and health. If I hadn't - believe me - I'd already have quit.

What is my priority this year? (According to essentialists, we can only have ONE priority. That word should never have been pluralized.) 

My priority: My health. Mental and physical. Everything else comes after. A benefit of COVID-19 is that I'm so much better at keeping this a priority than ever before in my life. And I've got a good base as to HOW.

I'm sharing my self-care routine once again, with a couple of additions.

  • I rarely leave work after 3:30.
  • I don't look at my email from 3:15 until the next morning.
  • I'm finding time to send good notes home to students.
  • I don't let myself feel guilty for reading an adult book (as opposed to a young adult book).
  • I'm getting outside - sometimes between classes, at lunch (when the weather is okay), and after school.
  • I'm not on a screen a ton when I get home.
  • I read fiction at least an hour before bed.
  • I'm eating regularly, and well.
  • I have a regular sleep schedule (9pm to 5am).
  • I'm using the pens I like. (Yes, even tiny things like not saving the best for later helps my head.)
  • I'm wearing my mask, washing my hands, and staying 6 feet apart from peers.
  • I'm not saying "yes" to any other positions (lunch supervision, clubs) that do not help me.
  • I'm saying "no" to opportunities that come my way that I'm not sure will help me.
  • I'm letting peers and family know how I feel - I'm not covering it up.
  • At home, I'm spending my time with my husband. (See below - Today we prepared apples to be frozen in order to make our first apple pies some day.)
Here's to opportunities NOT taken! And may those who take them get a TON out of them!

P.S. It's Day 219 since I was told to stay home from school in March. I'll have some students in person on Tuesday, so I guess my count will end at 220. Two hundred and twenty days since my students have been in school. Should be a fun week, even if there's not much learning going on... we'll practice more mental health and being safe first.


  1. Hello, Joy, thanks for sharing what you learned about letting that opportunity go by. I'm actually in a position now where I have to ask myself what is my PRIORITY (singular). I'm finding I have extra time this quarter, as I have transitioned out of my grade 5 position and into a volunteer position at my school. (We will be leaving sometime in the next year, so I couldn't commit to the whole year.) I've added Essentialism to my to-read list because I want to focus my extra time on the most important.

    I hope you will post again soon and let us know how the in-person classes are going. Our school went back to person just today, with about 40% of the children coming in person. The rest have opted to stay home.

    1. Hi, Denise! I was wondering what your timeline is. I'm glad you transitioned to a volunteer position so you could still experience this time in our lives in a school. I wrote a bit about hybrid, but I don't know how to really share my experiences just yet. We've got 76% of parents who said they wanted hybrid. Then many of those students are still learning remotely for one reason or another. Some of my in-person classes are full with fifteen students, and some have six. I'm constantly saying "Six feet!" as they're social humans. ... A majority of the students seem to be doing just fine. The teachers - not so much. It'll be a long, tough year. While keeping my priority in mind, I'll do my best. I hope you like Essentialism!