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.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


I turned down presenting near Cape Cod MA the first week of school.

Massachusetts? September? Oh, how beautiful it was, I'll bet!

Miss the first five days of school? I wouldn't. I couldn't.

Plus, I didn't write Shift This so I could go present. Travel is not my favorite thing (unless it's Hawaii in February - I can pack for that). I like consistency. I had already been presenting "plenty," sharing the benefits of Genius Hour learning, and lately the lessons I've learned from shifting the culture in my classroom. Since school has started, I've been totally immersed in school.

I've been trying to create a community of readers. We've begun our newest pilot, which results in me and my ELA counterpart planning day-to-day. It's tough feeling like a rookie again (and again and again - every year), but it is what it is.

I've been trying to shelter my students from anyone joking, "Just kill me now," teasing from so-called "friends," the stress of a test coming up in another class, and even the fear of getting a "B" in ELA. I've got many students I want to take home and protect from the world.

I've been trying to stay immersed with students in school because of all the pain that comes once I step back into the "real" world. Cars beep at me for not moving (even though I see the ambulance coming behind us), people tweet accusations at each other, perhaps because they feel braver not saying it to their faces, friends in Houston, TX are still battling flood damage, relatives in Naples, FL are helping neighbors clear roads, Puerto Rico is in "apocalyptic" conditions due to Hurricane Maria, and Mexico is coping with earthquakes! All this - only in the Americas. It's as if I can't find enough time to learn of all the other problems in the rest of our world.
Courtesy of Pixabay

My biggest lesson from Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess - be immersed in the moment.

So. What HAVE I been doing?

Well, Wednesday night this past week, I spent creating a new video for parents. We've got a new online gradebook, so I created NEW directions for parents. Hopefully, with this video "how to," they will delve into their child's classes on the new site and spend time looking at feedback and next steps.

My time this Saturday was spent getting ready for midterms in 7th grade. This is tough when you don't give marks/grades throughout the quarter. And how phony this seems! Why am I spending so much effort on this? Why do so many people still obsess about grades? Yet here I am, reinventing the wheel once again - because I don't want to cause waves with parents, and because I want students who want "As" in every class to be comfortable not knowing their grade. Yesterday, I created this midterm for this quarter this school year. (We haven't even gotten to writing yet! That unit is next in the pilot. I am excited for the day when we can mesh both reading and writing workshop... soon, I hope!) How easy it would've been to just look at that electronic grade book and KNOW who should get a midterm report?! Here is what our new midterm in ELA looks like (today - who knows how it will change by the time I decide to copy them tomorrow morning...):
This will be a mix of my information (I'll fill it in tomorrow) and the students' information (I'll pass them out and ask them to fill in the parts with the arrows on Tuesday).

Just thought I'd update readers - I feel like there's nothing I can do to help the rest of the world right now, so I'm focusing on what I can - my tiny corner of the world. I'm immersing myself in my classes, and hope to have some sort of effect on 68 students who join me for ELA class.

1 comment:

  1. I love learning how you've been immersed in your moments! Even the seemingly mundane tasks of teaching have great purpose for our students. You are an inspiration in all you do! My mother used to say that the Cape was lovely in summer as well, so no need to fret the changing colors of fall. You are right where you need to be.