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By Kay Townsend • September 9, 2022

A Day in the Life in a Rural School of 12 Students

Hello! My name is Miss Kay. I teach in a small, very rural community inside the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the north end of Lake Powell. Our little community is called Bullfrog and it is in the state of Utah. I am the principal of our K–12 school, Lake Powell School. I am the teacher of the K–6 classroom. Our total enrollment this year is 12 students. There are four students in our secondary and eight students in my classroom.

In our secondary, we have a 7th grader, an 8th grader, a sophomore and a senior. Having a senior is exciting as we will have a graduation ceremony, which is a big celebration for the entire community. In our elementary class, a kinder, two 1st graders, two 2nd graders, two 4th graders and one 5th grader. Of my eight students, four are on IEP’s. Of our entire school, five Navajo children, three students from the Cayman Island, and three Caucasian students. Our students’ parents either work for the concessionaire here in the National Park or one that is directly outside the park. My staff consists of me, a secretary who is also the mentor in secondary and our cafeteria person, and two paraprofessionals. It is a very unique school.

We are also five hours by vehicle away from our district office. In our elementary class, the day begins with a walk. It is short walk that takes about 10 minutes. The walk's main purpose is to get our wiggles out and to chat. It proves to be very effective. Everyone walks at their own speed, chats with whoever is by them, and gets their brains ready for learning. We then have a morning circle with calendar and how many days we have been in school, the unusual “stuff”. As circle time is ending, I give them a rundown of our day, especially what is going to happen in the morning, during our reading block. It ends with a time of setting our expectations for the day. I have told them that this is a time where you think about what kind of day you want to have, how your brain and body may need to act during the day, if you might need to change your attitude that you came to school with, etc. We close our eyes for a few seconds and decide what our expectations are for the day. Sometimes they want to share their expectations, sometimes not. I found this to be a very effective way to begin our day.

Another huge part of my teaching is life skills. Of course, we do reading and math, all the three “R”, but a lot of my day is modeling kindness, positivity and gratitude. We talk about growing our perseverance spot when learning gets tough, we talk about not being able to do something difficult yet, keeping an open mind about learning and demonstrating a responsible learning attitude and behavior in class. Meltdowns occur and we talk through them. A student gets upset at another and we talk through that. We talk about minding your own business, cooperating—skills that will get them through life.

After our morning ritual, we have reading. Our little ones go to what we call The Learning Garden, where they play and learn together. Our older elementary students rotate through groups where we use a number of computer programs, including eSpark, because of the varying levels and grades in my classroom. I love differentiation!

Our afternoon begins with DEAR time, where students may read or listen to books. The math block is again broken into groups where our littles return to The Learning Garden and the older students break into small groups.

We end our day with PE and Social Studies or Science depending on the day of the week. Our dismissal is short and sweet—parents pick up their children as we have no buses.

About the Author

Kay Townsend is the principal and teacher of a small rural school in southern Utah. Being a teacher was her lifelong dream. She started her teacher education when she graduated from high school, but life happened and she put it on hold. When her boys were both in school, she finished her associate degree and started working as a paraprofessional. She continued through the next 20 years as a special ed para, subbing, and coaching varsity volleyball and soccer. Later on, she finished her schooling and received a teaching degree at the age of 53.


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