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, June 6, 2015

2014-2015 Year in Review

My 20th year of teaching!

- The week after school got out, I instigated a Google Hang Out as a result of this reflection:
     -- Here are our notes - HUGE thank you to Gallit Zvi, Joel Pardalis, Denise Krebs, Hugh McDonald, Charlene Doland, and Elizabeth Monroe!
- Finished the books DRIVE by Daniel Pink & Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman & Kate Roberts
     -- This summer I took notes with other members of my PLN on these books! Thanks Paul Stolt and Jessica Lifshitz for the conversations and insights!
- 7/10 - EdCampHome 3.0! I was able to facilitate a session on Genius Hour. Find all sessions here.
- Genius Hour workshop at my school - 14 enthusiastic participants!
- Tech Academy at my school - I ran a Twitter 2.0 session and one on using Doctopus & Goobric.
- Was nominated for a BAMMY Award
- I can't believe I started my TWENTIETH year of teaching.
- Met sweet, sweet students for this year
- Started sending home "Saturday Sunshine" notes to parents each weekend. This is a win-win-win!
- Nominated for the Global Teacher Prize by a coworker- Turns out Paul Solarz was one of the top 50 finalists!!
- Was told "no" to presenting with Nancy Wahl at ASCD in Houston, TX during Spring Break :( Turns out Don Wettrick presented on Genius Hour, and Nancy was able to get me to Houston to meet one-on-one with teachers and present for her school!! (See February!)
- Survived my first ever jury duty!
- Read Pure Genius by Don Wettrick
- Hosted our third annual Cardboard Challenge!
- Presented "PD in Your PJs" at IATE on October 18, 2014
- Honored to present the Keynote (video) for the Passion-Based Learning strand at the K12Online Conference on October 27, 2014
- Helped out with #EdCampChicago once again at Buffalo Grove High School
- I started "vlogging" about quick tips I don't want to forget - see them here: Quick Tips
- BOSTON IS HAPPENING!! My Genius Hour Workshop is scheduled for July 14, from 8-noon!
- Connected a student with College by Kids - she'll be sending them her DIY blog posts!
- Connected a student with Coach Doug Bruno - she's "going to be in the Olympics for basketball some day, then go on to become a lawyer." -->
- Finished & reviewed Eight Myths of Student Disengagement by Jennifer A. Fredricks
- Our homeroom raised over $600 for Adopt-A-Family, "purchasing" items and putting them on our painted-over windows.
- Our homeroom introduced the "glasses cleaning station," which one of our Spanish teachers helped name "Buena Vista Avenue." This self-serve station is put out on Mondays during homeroom.
- Honored to be one of Edublogs "Best Individual Tweeters" of 2014
- Surpassed my goal of reading 73 books this year - I read 79! This does not include picture books.
- We had our first individual parent visitors, thanks to Sign Up Genius! During January, we had two parents come in for book talks, and two to read us picture books!
- Bought one of the "cool/smart" phones... This led to joining FaceBook (for FAMILY!) and Instagram (learning along with students).
- Students started tweeting questions and observations!
- Students "joined" our class when absent - calling in on FaceTime!
- Able to present and attend my second SAMRi Camp in Downers Grove on 1/17.
- Created Survey Central - where teachers can add their students' surveys, and they can be located all with one link - !
- Attended #EdCamp302 - their first! Great job, Laura Bright & crew!
- Was asked to present at the Summer Spark Symposium in June
- Received an email from Stenhouse Publishers...
- Volunteered at the S.I.T. Conference again
- Received and read The 20time Project by Kevin Brookhouser
- We had three more parent visitors to room 239!
- Southern Baptist School in Houston, Texas had me visit to consult regarding Genius Hour! BEST February EVER! It's so great to meet a long-distance friend you met on that wonderful tool they call Twitter! Thank you to Nancy Wahl and Justin Smith for getting me down to talk with your teachers!

- Parent visitor, Mrs. Mc., read us Goodnight Moon, Goodnight iPad, & "Sick" by Shel Silverstein!
- One parent (Mrs. M.) hooked us up with an AUTHOR for a Skype visit!
- Visited Paul Solarz (yes, he's in my district, but I never see him outside of EdCamps & bowling).
- Received my first rejection email from a woman who contacted me in February... I didn't even want to write a book, but now that I've started...?? This happened the week before I received Paul's new book - Learn Like a Pirate!
- One class was able to Skype with Julie Hayden's 1st graders to explain their genius hour projects!

- Received this email from a student... verifying that we practice the growth mindset!
- We bought robotic fish for class pets! (They died soon after...)

- Jen Vincent and Drew Gollias (from District U46) visited our Genius Hour in April! What I noticed: I have veered from my original goal for Genius Hour, and I think I'm okay with that. I'll review it - again - of course! My co-teacher and I also noticed that the students worked much harder with other teachers walking around interviewing them!

- Grammie came to visit again! She read us The Right Word this time. We love Ben's Grammie. She then decided to come every Genius Hour - to help out - for the rest of the year!

- Mrs. O. made a repeat visit, as well! She read us More Parts, and shared her love of idioms!
- Mr. Kirr made us whisper phones which the students use to revise their writing & practice their Genius Hour presentations!!
- Finished Assessment 3.0 by Mark Barnes, and started to actually plan to pilot a class where students decide their own grades... This led me to begin a new LiveBinder regarding feedback.
- #ELAchat - nominated for a Bammy Award
- Our Poet Tree blossomed once again!

- On the first day of the month, another parent came to read us a picture book - the first parent to visit our first block! (This was also the day prior to our outdoor ed. trip, which was perfect timing!)
- I was fortunate to help plan and be able to attend EdCamp Chicago once again - this time, in Oswego.
- We had our first dad come in to read to our 8/9 block. The kids taught Mr. Z. how to hold the book so everyone could see the pictures. It's something I take for granted that everyone knows, but he learned something today!
- Read Learning by Choice by A.J. Juliani
- Read Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz
- Mrs. M. came in AGAIN - this time to read us a story she and her child had written for us! She included students' names, and their faces lit up! I could just imagine their minds... wondering what their character in the story would do next!

- We read The Outsiders (of course!) - trying the "Whole Novels" style once again. What wonderful discussions we had on the last day! Here's one great "aha" moment from per 5/6... One question students came up with was "Who will be the leader of the Socs now that Dally has died?" They discussed for awhile, listening and waiting their turns... Finally, at the bell, Colin said, "I don't know why they need a leader now when they never really had a leader before. They all help each other out." We also had some Greasers and Socs show up to school!
- Visited Garfield Elementary in Elgin, IL to provide examples of Genius Hour.
- Our 5/6 block gave Grammie a gift for all of her visits and help during Genius Hour.
- Ended the year with a total of 130 "Saturday Sunshine" emails to parents.
- We changed things up for our Genius Hour presentations this year... Used Vimily (thanks to Paul Bogush) to advertise our session, took 3.5 hours to create the schedule (organizing students mostly by topic, making sure to not schedule them during PE class), and then using a Google form to ask students which sessions they'd like to attend. Most of the work for me came after that - at least ten hours of figuring out how many students could / would fit in each session, and creating schedules for them and for the teachers, as well. A big shout out to Paul Bogush for putting the idea in my head last year, and to my team for going with the flow for a day! I've got another post coming - reflecting once more on our year in Genius Hour - the good, bad, and ugly. Always tweaking!!

Overall, this was my most favorite year yet. I have plans to add something different again next year - one class will pilot giving themselves grades at midterm and the end of each quarter... More work for me, but I think it will be more valuable for the students! I'm excited to make next year even BETTER!


  1. Joy,
    This is amazing! I just have to ask, how did you ever keep track of your year in so much detail? Did you write this as you went? Or did you just look back at your calendar?

    Your energy exhausts, yet inspires me! Beautiful. No wonder you had such a great year. I'll look forward to reading your good, bad and ugly reflection of Genius Hour!


    1. Yes, Denise - I write this as the year progresses! I just keep saving it as a draft. It's a great way to remember all that happened, for sure! I've started the post on GH, but I need to get further removed, as my emotions are playing a bit too much into my writing, and I want it to be more objective. Thanks for commenting - it's so great to still be able to hear from you!

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