REFLECTIONS a column by Tony Smith: “An Elementary Lesson”

“If the shoe fits, buy it in every color”


Colunist, Tony Smith, of Troy, Mont.


A number of years ago at a Troy High School staff meeting, a suggestion was made that high school and elementary instructors exchange job positions for a teaching period in order for each to understand the challenges of the other. Yes, I thought the idea made perfectly good sense, and was anxious to attend the 2nd grade classroom of a superb instructor, and she would assume my Holocaust class position accordingly. At the time, my students, all thirty-nine of them, were immersed in a book entitled, “Auschwitz,” the portrayal of a Sonderkommando survivor, one of many Jews selected to work in Auschwitz’s four crematoriums, and in this case, work closely with the notorious Dr. Mengele, aka the “Angel of Death,” who “selected” and performed horrific experiments on Jewish children, especially twins, on behalf of the Third Reich. The day’s reading assignment given, including questions allowing the instructor to interact with the kids accordingly, I left the high school building and made my way down to the elementary school and entered the 2nd grade classroom, expecting that my high school instruction experience would serve me well. My “high school instruction experience” did NOT serve me well; in fact, it went out the window the minute I entered that classroom! The kids were as cute as they could be, and very well-behaved as I expected. However, while my substitute in the Holocaust class was able to focus exclusively on that subject, and on that one reading in particular, I was expected to transition from grammar to math, then science to social studies, etc. It wasn’t long before the children understood that a discombobulated, incompetent adult was in front of them. Lacking the structure and the excellent, well-prepared transitions from one subject to the next they were used to, the kids began to shuffle restlessly, and I finally resorted to asking them about their favorite pets, movies, sports, siblings, etc., just to keep myself afloat for the next 30 minutes or so. Of course, dad’s elk, their favorite swimming spot, and where they last vacationed became popular topics, none of which had to do with the instructions left to me by their instructor. While praying for a fire drill, one can only imagine the relief I felt when their teacher re-entered her classroom, although the kids seemed thrilled to have avoided the tasks assigned to them. Admittedly, I just didn’t depart- I literally fled, with a whole new perspective and respect for teaching at the elementary level. These instructors were not limited to perhaps a maximum of four preparations per day; they condensed that many within a few hours of teaching instruction, with more to come throughout the day.  One is reminded of the “walk a mile in his/her shoes” in order to gain perspective on the experiences of another. That was my “shoe” reminder, and, admittedly, it didn’t fit!


 “If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

 -Gloria Steinem

Montana FWP wildlife biologists take to the backcountry

mountains to survey bighorn sheep


FWP wildlife biologists headed out on a backcountry trip to survey, ground-dart, and collar bighorn sheep. They are monitoring herd health and condition of habitat. It’s Montana so they of course ran into some winter weather but pushed through. “Our biologists hard work and dedication ensure the health and integrity of Montana’s wildlife.” wrote FWP in a Facebook Post.