Lindsay Kirk on the importance of establishing strong connections with students
Lindsay Kirk is an educator who truly wants the best for all her students. Whether individualizing instruction to meet diverse learning needs or pursuing training to find new ways to better support her students, she strives to provide them with all the tools they need to reach their full potential.
Lindsay Kirk of Farmville Central High always wanted to be a teacher. However, she didn't think that her specialism would be math until one of her teachers really turned things around for her and ignited her passion. From there, she selected math education as her college major and hasn't looked back since.
As an educator, she hopes to build the same kind of connection with her students that her math teacher built with her all those years ago. "Start with connection, and the rest will follow," Lindsay said. She explained the way to go about this is to truly understand the community you're teaching in, strive to create a family environment, and be fair with students. "It's about understanding that there are going to be rough days, you may have to deal with a discipline problem, but I tell them, 'I hope you have a better day, and we'll start fresh tomorrow,' and they all know that when they come in the next day, there's a reset." Lindsay said it's also important to highlight to students that they can make mistakes, but they should learn from them rather than get caught in a continuous rotation of bad behavior.
Lindsay dedicates a lot of time to engaging with students' different learning styles, understanding the variation in their levels, and responding accordingly. "You have to look at the data," she said. She explained that the COVID pandemic and subsequent lockdowns mean that many students are currently struggling with basic math knowledge, so scaffolding has become a central focus in her classroom. Keeping students focused on-task has also been an issue that has arisen from the pandemic, so Lindsay has brought things back to basics and reintroduced whiteboards alongside what she called purposeful movement. However, regardless of the level her students are working at, she supports them in their push to reach a higher level, which she says encourages them to believe in themselves and grow as math learners. Part of this support comes in the form of class bubble maps to organize thoughts, common expectations, and class goals. Students also create their own bubble maps outlining their own personal goals, too.
Lindsay is a National Board-certified teacher and is always on the lookout for ways to evolve and enhance her knowledge. She has been part of the Teacher Leadership Institute and always advocates for professional development courses that will help her and her students. During COVID, for example, Lindsay underwent tech-based PD, while this year, she has pushed for professional development that will help her and her fellow teachers get students back on grade level.
Lindsay said that while teaching is certainly not without its challenges, she lives for the connections she makes with her students and understands that as a teacher, she serves as an important role model in the lives of many children.