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.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nashville & A Passion for Music

Our 7th graders read the second chapter of Outliers by Malcom Gladwell this year. A main point he made was that sports stars, gold-record musicians, entrepreneurs, etc. spend at least 10,000 hours on their passion before they become "experts." My husband and I witnessed this phenomenon this spring break...

Nashville Tennessee - Birthplace of country music stars, right? Not exactly. There are many "transplants" that live in Nashville, that want to get noticed. Our first night there, we walked the "district," visiting a couple of venues, and listening to the live music. Oh, to hear live music! At B.B. King's Blues Club, we heard one man start off, with just his guitar and some pre-recorded rhythms. He was a solid performer. We had to keep exploring, though. We then stopped at the Wildhorse Saloon - and there was line dancing! (Oh, it's been too long!) I went out and danced what I could, and soon there was a live band there, as well! This man and his crew were more rock than the singer at B.B. King's, but so talented, and fun to dance to, for sure!

Walking past each venue, we heard more and more live music. There's nothing like a street full of music pouring out of each doorway. We ended our night back at B.B. King's, where we heard a superb rendition of Stevie Wonder. The first singer we saw there was now playing for a band, and they continued to astound us, hammering out the blues.

Less than 24 hours later, we had a date at the Grand Ole Opry. Some big names were on for the night - Ricky Skaggs, Craig Morgan, and Michael W. Smith to name a few. We also saw Little Jimmy Dickens, who is the oldest member of the Opry. The show (live on WSM 650 AM) was amazing. It was so overwhelmingly filled with talent, that I teared up a few times. Some artists were referred to as having "God's gift," and some with "amazing talent," but I know it was a combination of these... and TIME. Ricky Skaggs said he was invited to play with Earl Scruggs when he was only seven. This opportunity, his desire to play the mandolin, and the time he put in all had to do with his ability to join in with any band on the stage this night.

Just to get to the Opry stage, just to have the right to be able to stand on that wooden circle after the legends that had been there before them, they had to be talented. They had to put in the time and the effort. When they did appear on the stage, they performed with all they had. The lead singer and fiddler in the Old Crow Medicine Show was crazed with energy. His bow danced across his fiddle, vibrant words flew from his mouth, and his feet stomped to the fast pace, while his fellow musicians played their hearts out, too. People were bouncing in their seats, and clapping to the beat. His energy transfixed us. We were awestruck at how spectacular he sounded, and the passion he showed.

I wondered about writing this post. I wanted to write about the talent we witnessed. But what for? What does this have to do with Genius Hour? What impacted me so much about this trip to Nashville? It's all about the passion. Since I was little, my dad always told me, "Do what you like in life." One of my mottos now - "Do what you like; like what you do." I want this for my students. I don't want them to settle for less. I want them to start pursuing their passions as soon as they are aware of what they are. The more time they put into it, the more they'll get out of it; the more they'll get out of LIFE itself.

I'm excited to witness these passions come to life.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Genius Hour Manifesto

This month, Denise Krebs, Gallit Zvi, Hugh McDonald and I co-wrote the post Genius Hour Manifesto, which A.J. Juliani posted here: Education Is My Life

Please stop by and read our collective thoughts about Genius Hour!

Afterwards, take a look at the LiveBinder that has resources on it for Genius Hour and 20% Time. Of course, it has the Genius Hour wiki on it to help educators begin. (Soon to include Innovation Days, too!)


Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's the Thought that Counts...

It's March... Getting close to Spring Break... I'm thinking of the two teachers I mentor this year. It's their first year teaching in the district, and they finally look like they are eating right and sleeping (enough??).  However, this time of year, our middle school students and teachers seem to have shorter fuses than normal. Is it the snow? The lack of sunshine? The time kept cooped up inside? It doesn't matter. It happens in February, and keeps going into March, up until Spring Break. I was thinking of these two girls who don't know about this "slump," and might think they'll feel this way for the rest of their careers. Not so, and I wanted them to know that this, too, shall pass.

So I borrowed an idea I saw at a craft show. It's just a decoration for a candy bar. In fact, I bought some  for friends this fall - from Mary Deruz, at That's a Wrap Creations. Mary used thick, good paper, and had her own design on it, along with felt or fleece decorations - Adorable, and great for celebrations or party favors!  I measured her paper, and found it was a square - 5.5 inches squared. Here is a simple one I created on the printer tonight for our two new ELA teachers...
If it's the thought that counts, think of those teachers who may not know that this winter "slump" will, indeed, leave, once we all get a break and time to spend with our family and loved ones.