Recently I have been feeling disheartened at what I see during Genius Hour with my students. I feel that all they want to do is to use their Genius Hour time to socialize with their friends at the same time that they pretend to be doing something important. I have been trying out different tools to help them reflect on their projects and to get them to elevate their purposes for what they're doing. I'm not looking for a cure for cancer. I am looking for some thought and genuine interest in what they're doing.
~comment abstract from Elisa WaingortI've been there.
I'll bet LOTS of us trying Genius Hour have been there. We don't see much of it on the Twitter hashtag, but that may be because most of us don't share our failures (yes, I see us not being able to motivate kids as OUR failures even though there are so many influences...). Most of us share our successes and celebrations.
This "apathy" towards projects happens with an average of one-two students in each of my classes. What factors might contribute to this?
- Never been asked to do anything like this in prior school years
- Driven by grades, and this is not graded
- No authentic audience to share their work with (yet)
- Parents are not very involved
- Can't find that one thing that he/she really wants to pursue
- Isn't really in to any type of activity at home outside of school
- Laziness / Would rather sleep
A few of us had this discussion just last June due to this reflection by one of my students in January of last school year.
|Published with Student Permission|
In fact, I created a new tab on the LiveBinder just because we DO have students who struggle (or should be struggling instead of what I think of as "wasting precious time"). #20time guru Kevin Brookhouser says "mixed success" during 20% Time is "pretty typical" in this impromptu Google Hangout. A.J. Juliani suggests we help students find a new purpose in this blog post about when Genius Hour fails. Karl Lindgren-Streicher writes about those "do nothings" and "The Suck" during your Genius Hour / 20% time. We've been there. I have strong doubts when I hear a teacher say that EVERY single student is engaged during this time.
I have a tendency to think of this type of student as a "slacker." I try not to label my students in any way ("He is ACTING like a slacker right now"), but this word keeps popping up for students who are not motivated to choose something to do/study and stick with it. My brain shouts, "This is supposed to be what YOU WANT TO DO! YOU are the reason we are trying this in class! It's for KIDS LIKE YOU!"
|How I often feel... Photo by Joy Kirr.|
Frustration mounts, and I try various tactics...
- Have the student fill in these sheets to see what you like, and we'll conference afterwards
- Have the student try out these websites, and we'll conference after they've tried a few
- Have the student document what everyone else in class is doing and create a movie/advertisement to share
- Have the student read through other student ideas and choose from there
- Ask the student - what can we do about this?
- Have the student reflect/document each week on what they did during this hour - if this still doesn't work, I attach a GRADE to it (against everything I've learned)
- Have the student research "Why Genius Hour-type learning does NOT work for me"
- When we get to fourth quarter, the threat of presenting in front of peers, teachers, and parents usually spurs on SOME type of project.
I feel that, although I am very calm with these one to two students in each class, they should be able to see the smoke coming out of my ears. I am THAT frustrated.
I agree with Elisa...
I'm having lots of second thoughts about Genius Hour. Phew! There! I said it.I question what I'm doing EVERY SINGLE WEEK. Change which comes from some serious reflection helps make our classes better.
That being said, we've all got some students with great projects. Maybe our students aren't curing cancer, but many - no, I believe MOST - are doing what they LOVE to do, or trying many different projects to see what they think they might like to do. They are using this time to explore, plan, collaborate, create, make decisions, write, read, fail, and share.
Compare your students to adults you know. Some are very motivated self-starters. Others... are not. Some know what they want to do in life, and some are still struggling - big time. Some have the "go get 'em" attitude, and others don't mind sitting on their fannies and letting life come to them.
I will NOT give up on students who, during Genius Hour, act apathetic. These are often students who act the same way in "regular" lessons, but sometimes not. Sometimes these students just don't know what to do, and have a difficult time making decisions. I will not give up, because I believe it is our role to keep encouraging, keep challenging, keep modeling what perseverance looks like, if nothing else. If they learn one lesson from this struggle, it is that when I believe in something, I believe in in whole-heartedly. I believe if young people become self-directed learners and know HOW to learn, they can have the world in the palm of their hands.
|There will also be people who cannot stand the happy mascot, and others who LOVE him (her)!|