Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 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 their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The view in Boston...

Some background...

My district admin. asked me to attend the Building Learning Communities Conference (#BLC12) in Boston this week.  Even though it falls on the same week as the Michigander bike ride, I was not riding it this year. Even though I thought I've learned SO MUCH from Twitter in the past 6 months, I went anyway - it was a priviledge to be asked, for sure.  I live in Illnois.  Never been to Boston.  Not a history buff.  Not a big fan of airport security, or of being away from my husband, either.

A bit more background...
I follow Erin Olson (@eolsonteacher) on Twitter.  I don't know how I found her, but she is a pretty recent (last month?) follow. I love her tweets. She tweets about things that matter, not about the miles she ran today or the weather she's having. (Don't get me wrong - I still follow many of those people!) She's just what I call one of my professional Twitter friends.  I could go on and on about Twitter, but that's a long story.

This week...
I knew I'd meet Erin in the session she was presenting - Reading and Writing Aware. I didn't look too hard at the synopsis, as I knew I wanted to hear her, and I knew it had to do with my subject area.  I had no clue what to expect, but I knew I'd enjoy it. I stood outside the door to the session, and I hear, "Joy?" And I see her - and she's like she looks in her profile picture!!  I immediately thought, "Oh, no. I bet I don't look like my picture anymore - I got my hair chopped, and..." but we hugged, and I was happy to FINALLY meet one of the people from across the globe from whom I learn so much!!  My next thought... do I get her picture?  Everyone at the ISTE conference tweeted out pics of their PLN!  Well, I have a "dumb" phone, so I didn't. I really don't need a picture to remember our hour anyway. Check out her Lino here: Reading & Writing Aware

The picture I've included here is from my hotel room.  I have a CORNER ROOM!  I don't know how that happened, but I'm enjoying reflecting from here. I skipped the session after Erin's, because I wanted to sit here and reflect on all she said, and my mindset as it stands right now.

Teachers have a charge.
Teachers have such power.
Teachers have a limited amount of time in a child's life.

 I love quotes that get people thinking.
      "Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi
      "Attitude is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." - Swindol
A new one I saw today on Erin Olson's laptop cover...
      "Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." - Mohammad Ali

Before she began speaking, I typed out that quote and pondered it. I knew that I had to model this more. I needed to be more active towards things I truly believe. She then began speaking, and she looked like a teacher - she spoke slowly, clearly, and waited us out when she wanted our responses.

She spoke of literacy, of what it means to be a literate person (I remember answering her query on Twitter), and of ACTION.

She spoke of making a difference.
She spoke of the power of words.
She spoke of what we can do with the time we are given in a child's life.

I am a dreamer. Everyone knows it - I'm very transparent. Her words, what her kids are doing in her classes, the brutal honesty she showed us... made me want to change the world once again.

She asked me how the presentation was. Tears welled up, because I knew that what she said was possible in my classes as well. (It's crazy that she thought she might not have done well at presenting! Aren't we all our worst judge?!) So this is what I want from our Genius Hour...  This is what I want in lieu of book projects (and anything else that makes students' eyes gloss over)...

I want...
      ...students who read
      ...students who are inspired by what they read
      ...students who feel empathy when they read
      ...students who want to act, based on what they've read

As Erin pointed out, "When we finish a book, we don't want to run out and make a diorama of it. We want to share it. We want to discuss it."  This is what makes us literate people. This is what changes things that are not right in this world. (Update to this post - Erin wrote about her idea here.)

If this is the only thing I take away from Boston, it's worth it. Thank you, Erin.

I wish school started tomorrow. We could work on changing the world one day sooner...


  1. What an awesome post! I, sadly, couldn't attend BLC this year, but can speak of what a great presenter Erin is. In fact, I can tell you how great of a teacher she is...I teach in the same building! ; ) But better yet, I can tell you how awesome of a person she is. There is no summer break in Erin's world. She is *always* learning, discovering, and striving to be a better teacher for her students. How cool is that?? I taught her daughter this past was very evident that the same kinds of things being taught in Erin's classroom were also being talked about at home. Empathy, respect, hard-working...the list could go on and on. : )

  2. I, like Stacy, have experienced Erin's skillful communication too. I haven't had the privilege of working with Erin, but she is one of the very first people I followed on Twitter. Plus I got to hear her give a similar talk that you heard at the Iowa 1to1 Conference last spring. She is an amazing communicator and world-changing genius. It is a joy to call her a friend!

    Thanks for sharing your learning at the BLC12 conference. I wish I could be there!


    P.S. Stacy presented at BLC11, I believe!

    1. Stacy and Denise (& Erin),
      I wish I could tell you what I feel after seeing Erin. But I guess you already know! She showed us so many things, and asked us all the right questions... Really captured my heart and soul. I've been going over all the ideas in my head all night. I don't know how I'll sleep! You are very lucky to be at the same school and same state!

  3. Ladies,
    There are tears in my eyes right now. Social media has allowed for us all to inspire one another. This is my calling, and I am so fortunate you are part of my learning community supporting my passion through your friendship. We all have power to change the world, and we all can empower our students to do just that. Thank you! Thank you! I am so honored.
    Erin @eolsonteacher

  4. Erin not only inspires students but she also inspires those she teaches with. I am one of those who gets to be inspired by her and her ideas and her students on a daily basis. It was because of Erin that I was at the BLC conference this year. It was a great learning time that filled me with inspiration to begin a new school year.