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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Twitter - My first year...

Twitter. Hah. Justin Bieber is all I could think of. Who wants to know about him or the Kardashians? I don't have time for this. Our principal, Brian Kaye, encouraged us in August to join before the 2011-2012 school year started. I did, because I (usually) do as I'm told. Used it for the opening-day activities, then stopped.

Started up again in February of 2012.


        I don't know why.

         I'm so very glad I did.


Since I started creating a PLN...
* I have been challenged.
* I have become more reflective.
* I have been inspired.
* I have had conversations with educators from around the globe.
* I have read more professional literature than ever before.
* I have fallen back in love with photography.
* I found out about free professional development edcamps & attended on a Saturday in August.
* I began a blog and use it to reflect, and share.
* My classroom is transparent.
* My students now have one day a week to learn whatever they want to learn.
* We've Skyped with and learned from four classes this year.
* Participating in the Global Read Aloud, we shared ideas on a Weebly with students from Canada.
* We are a connected classroom, sharing our blog posts through #comments4kids.
* Our classes now have a student station instead of a teacher desk.
* My teaching has transformed... and I hope to keep growing professionally.

Questions I still ponder...
* Why are the number of followers and people I'm following significant? Or are they? Isn't it the connections you make that count? Isn't it the things you learn from others that count? Isn't it the conversation that counts?? I'm currently following __ and have __ followers. Really?! Does it matter?
* What will be the next big shift I make in my teaching that comes from these connections? This scares me, intrigues me, and makes me anxious and excited all at the same time!
* Who will be the next teacher that inspires me? I have a few that I thanked personally today on Twitter, because I truly think of them as mentors in my life. Why do I feel like I know them? Why can't they come work with me?
* How much more learning can I take? Every day I'm bombarded with blogs to read, statistics to absorb, comments to share, books to devour, conversations in which to partake... When will I learn the balance so I don't feel so overwhelmed with this constant flow of information? How can I learn to not feel bad if I don't read someone's post or comment on his or her question?
* How can I get more teachers at my school on Twitter? How can I show them the value I have gotten out of it? How can I help them see that learning from more people than the 5 they work with everyday is so valuable? Is it okay if I can't do this? Is it okay with ME?

I truly love my life. No, not as a result of Twitter... as a result of people. My husband is the epitome of enjoying the heck out of little things and showing me the value of time. My seventh graders make me laugh every day, and give me multiple reasons to smile. My PLN is the other huge positive force in my life. They challenge me, encourage me, and strengthen me. This is just after 11 months on Twitter... What does the next year hold in store?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Be the person you thought you would become.


It's time to be exactly who I want to be.

As I sit here with an aching back, I know where this post is going. I'll be 40 next month. Time to do what is right - EVERY day, not just when it suits me, or is convenient. Not just in my words, but in my actions.
I'm starting with a simple idea I got from Kris McGuire. I can't find the website she cited, or pinned or tweeted out, so I have to make my own blog post about it. I created two "care packages" a few months ago, but today I went to the store with that in mind - to create more. My husband and I (is this fortunate or unfortunate?) were able to give one of these out in Schaumburg the week before Christmas, and it felt so good, I had to make more. And more...

What is it? A homeless care package. Did you ever hear anyone saying, "Don't give them money. They'll just spend the money on something they don't need"? This solves that problem, and helps you to not ignore what's going on.

How much is it? It costs just $10 a package.

How difficult is it to make? It is very easy. All but one item (the wash rags) on the following list were purchased at Target.

What does it contain? Here's a list of what's in mine...
     Three Microfiber Wash Rags
     Chapstick
     Shampoo
     Soap and Container
     Deodorant
     Toothbrush, Toothpaste, 
            Holder for Toothbrush, Floss
     Hand Sanitizer
     First Aid Kit
     Two Bags of Instant Oatmeal
     A List of Local Phone Numbers 
            & Address with Resources

Put the items in a large Ziplock bag, so the recipient can see exactly what you are giving. Keep the tags or wrappers on each item, so the recipient knows each is new.

The title of this post is from a book I received at Christmas from Mom... 8,789 Words of Wisdom by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I just opened it up and saw them on pg. 279. The book costs as much as one of these care packages. Erin Olson's presentation from Boston (July, 2012) is always on my mind as well. I want to be like her. She lives what she preaches. I need to make an impact on someone, as she has made an impact on me. Step by step... one foot in front of the other. One small step at a time!

So what's next? I need to make more. I need to make one for every car in my family (my mom's, dad's, sister's, etc.). I need to make people aware of this great idea! I'm thinking this will be my gift next year for my friends, as well. Would they scoff at it? Maybe. Will that change my mind? No. I'm going to start doing what I believe is right, every day. I need to be the person I thought I would become, and I'm not her yet. I know I'll never reach my full potential, but I've got to start trying. Like Erin's laptop says, "Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." - Mohammad Ali

What are YOU going to do today to become closer to the person you thought you'd become?
We saw this while walking in Boston, July 2012.