Monday, August 26, 2013

Slice of Life August 27, 2013 – Searching for Fireflies

Read other Slices of Life on the Two Writing Teachers blog
hosted by Stacey and Ruth
There are almost no fireflies in Colorado, so when we travelled to the East Coast this summer, I was bound and determined to find some to share with my three year old daughter Clara.  I remember being a child, running around at dusk with my brother and cousins, watching the magical bugs blink on and off, the humidity heavy in the air and a feeling that I was someplace new.  I recall catching one and having it light up in my hands and my amazement of these little creatures.  I wanted to see Clara’s eyes light up brighter than the fireflies and see her face in that moment of surprise and wonder that I have grown to love when she “discovers” one of the joys of the world.

So as dusk fell at my aunt and uncle’s house near Boston, we went out every twenty minutes searching for fireflies.  We’d make a circuit around the house, over the lawns, through the gardens of flowers and along the path that we called “the secret passage” because it was so narrow and the bushes hung overhead almost blotting out the sky.  We found no fireflies, but we discovered frog lawn ornaments, flowers we had never seen before, new smells, pretty rocks and some great sticks that became magic spelling wands.

Two nights later, we were in a state park in Portland, Maine at my cousin’s wedding reception.  As Clara tired of the adult dinner conversation under the large lawn tent, I took her for walks on the grounds, looking for fireflies in the gathering darkness.  Once again, the fireflies were hidden away, but we stalked woodchucks and tossed them apples that had fallen from the trees so we could watch them eat.  A flock of wild turkeys, a mother and six juveniles, strutted out of the underbrush and chased down grasshoppers on the lawn.  The stars emerged from overhead and the reception tent looked like a fairy castle, lit up from across the way.

Tomorrow, twenty-two students will enter my classroom to start another school year.  We just completed two solid days of parent/student/teacher conferences, talking about goals, plans for the year, subjects to be covered and hopes and dreams for this year and beyond.  I know we have goals we may not reach, standards that may not be met, and dreams that may not be completely realized.  We are starting a journey, in search of our own metaphorical fireflies. 

If I were to measure my summer search for fireflies with Clara against the standard most public school teachers are held to, I was an “Unsatisfactory” parent.  We were searching for fireflies and did not find single one.  But was that wasted time?  We discovered and learned so much!  We explored, shared, touched, observed, laughed, played and loved where we were and the moment.  Fireflies were only the excuse for that exploration.  If we had found fireflies that first night, the first time around the house, would we have gone out again?  Think of what we would have missed.  I’m all for having goals in my teaching and my students’ learning, but I must remember to not be so myopically focused on what I hope to find, that I miss what we discover.


  1. Love your thinking on missing the goal but finding so much more. Thanks for sharing your inspiration. I will remind teachers of this when I share your story. Your slice is very timely for those of us beginning the year.

  2. Sounds like your journey got you want you needed in the end - a wonderful, inspirational post for all of us as we all begin a new journey. Sometimes we will miss the short term goal but if we hang on and learn from what we do discover, we will be winners in the end.

  3. I love the connection with the fireflies and teaching! We have to be honest in our reflection of our teaching. Maybe we didn't actually reach our goal but the proof is in the evidence of the learning, as you said. It makes me think of experiments gone wonky...they might not do what you expect, but you can still learn from them and the thinking we share and encourage is what truly matters. Now I want to go hunt fireflies!

  4. One of the highlights of our Costa Rica trip, among all the other amazing animals, were the fireflies. I do miss them here, too, Max. It's a beautiful post, so grounded in what we're really about, being in the moment, learning always. I love the term 'metaphorical fireflies", and those last lines! Hope you have a marvelous first day!

  5. This is such a special post, especially at this time of year, when we stand on the threshold of a brand new school year - everything is before us. I am going to print out these lines and paste them into my lesson planning book:
    "I’m all for having goals in my teaching and my students’ learning, but I must remember to not be so myopically focused on what I hope to find, that I miss what we discover."
    Thankk you...and good luck on your first day!!

  6. Connecting fireflies to teacher effectiveness; so interesting. In Michigan we have tons of fireflies. Does that mean that the teachers here are the most effective then? I am sure it doesn't, but just like you, we are embarking on a new adventure: new school year. I must remember that if I don't find "fireflies" I need to look around to find something else.