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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lose the Antlers

I live in Elk Grove Village.
That's right.
There are elk... in a grove.

I think the rack of antlers on their heads is magnificent - oh, how heavy they must be! Oh, what a burden! They use them to spar with other males, but did you know... they LOSE them every year?! They're massive! Look at the thickness of the base of those antlers!

We drive by the elk very often, and I often think of their antlers that they drop in the spring... small
animals use them for calcium, potassium, and protein. This is absolutely amazing to me. At the Detroit zoo one spring, my husband and I saw an elk who had lost one side of his antlers - he held his head crookedly. Poor guy - those antlers are heavy. He must've known he'd be getting a new set soon enough. Within days of dropping, new antlers start to grow.

Every summer, I "lose my antlers" when it comes to thinking about school. It happens around this time... mid July. I've thought about all the things I need to change next year, all the things I need to keep the same, and created brand new plans for one part of the curriculum or another! Oh, so much to do - some might think it a heavy burden... Then, I'm on a roll late June! Go! Go! Go!

Reflect! Plan! Purge! Create! I have no life!!
It's summer, for goodness sake - I don't have to work!!
Yet I'm reading research, blogs, young adult books... I can't stop learning MORE!!

Suddenly (it happened yesterday), I hit a wall.
I'm doing too much in the summer. I need some "me" time.
I shed my antlers.

I need to refocus. What do I really want out of this year to come?
Here is when I start to re-grow my antlers - only one day later.

I want my students to love reading and writing.
How can I promote this?
I want to encourage curiosity, which will lead to engagement.

If I can do this - inspire curiosity about all we read and write (in class and out), my hope is that students will become life-long learners, because they will be engaged with the curriculum. They will want to come to school. They will want to continue being curious. And if they are continuously curious, they will read and write even more, learning as they go.
Want to know more about this Geocache in Elk Grove? Be curious!
It's time to regroup. Lose the antlers.
Figure out what's really important for you and your students next year, and go from there.
After you shed the burden, please share here the ideas that are sprouting anew...


  1. THIS. I am approaching that critical mass for the summer as well. I think it's time to grab a notebook and unplug, let the good ideas rise to the surface, and start mapping.

    But first...must read more of UbD, partake in one more Twitter chat, do #edcampHOME this weekend... .... ........

  2. YES! Love this, Joy. Thanks for sharing your reflections so openly and honestly. Great metaphor. :-)

  3. Completely agree, Joy! There is so much new learning out there for me right now that it is difficult at times to take a step back and figure out what will work best in my classroom. It's great to spend my summer learning and growing...reminds me what my students feel like throughout the year. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I absolutely agree. I've got a few other things going on in the background and there have been days I've just been so overwhelmed with...STUFF.

    The other projects I'm working on involve history - which I no longer teacher, so I feel as though my head is in two different places and it's hard to concentrate on any one thing. I love doing history while I'm doing it, but feel like I should be doing language arts. I love learning how to do language arts better, but I also know that right now I'm in a position where I just can't spend all of my time on it.

    And then...there's the break. A break? Hmmm. I haven't had one yet. I'd like one. I know I need one, but I'm just not sure when I'm going to manage one.

  5. Hello Joy! I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award – a way to discover new blogs and learn more about the bloggers. Visit my blog post about it to learn more about the award AND me:

    Keep the learning going!
    Laura Coughlin

  6. I love this metaphor, Joy. My new antlers are looking a little different than my old ones. We have a brand new curriculum this year, and I am moving to 7th grade from 8th. Thanks for the great post!