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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kids Deserve It!

I usually ask for teacher books as gifts or donations, but sometimes I WIN them before I can even ask for them! Hence the reason I was able to read Kids Deserve It: Pushing boundaries and challenging conventional thinking by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome before Christmas! David Karnoscak and I won our own copies at ICE17!   ;)

I was going to read one short chapter a day. Kind of like a devotional for a month. You know what happens when books have short chapters, though, right? Yup. I just kept reading. It was kind of like a James Patterson book with teacher ideas instead of mystery and suspense.

What I liked most about this book were the questions after each chapter. I'm a big question girl. One of the lessons I've learned from shifting the culture of my own classroom is to ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. Let them percolate in your brain. The answers - or some semblance of an answer - will come.

Therefore, I share today my favorite questions from Kids Deserve It.

  • What's an idea you've wanted to try, but haven't?
  • How can we encourage more educators to connect outside their four walls?
  • What's the biggest fear holding you back from innovating?
  • What are some ways you've built deeper relationships and connected with kids?
  • Find one thing special about each child and celebrate them. (Not a question, I know!)
  • What needs to change in order for you to be a better leader?
  • When's the last time you chatted with a colleague about "wins" they've experienced lately?
  • How do you fight the feelings of doubt that creep up regarding your abilities?
  • How can we ensure we're making an impact that matters?
  • How can you turn negative comments you hear into positive messages?
  • What is your message?
  • What have you seen someone else do that you've been itching to you yourself? What's stopping you?
  • In what ways can you celebrate others more often?
  • How are you making school the best possible environment for kids?
  • When's the last time you built up someone you work with? Take time today.

I've tweeted them out, and I have a feeling I'll keep sharing them - to keep me and other educators push boundaries. Which questions make you think? Which questions will push you further? Which questions will you share with colleagues? Keep asking them. Our kids deserve it!
Feel free to share - it's encouraged!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seek Support

One of the lessons learned that I shared at the ICE conference the last two days was to seek support. Educators who are trying new things often feel alone.

At your own school...
     Who do you know at your own school who can help you with hardware? Software? Innovative ideas? Editing? Parents? Administration? School morale? Go to them - seek them out. Make the connections.

In your district...
     Who in your district is changing things for the better? Who is an inspiration? Who pushes you? Who supports you? Surround yourself with these educators.

On social media...
     When you stick you toe in, you'll find new ideas around every corner. After you're immersed in the deep end, you'll find that you're questioning others - and yourself. You'll be tired of the echo chamber, and you can now reach out towards people who push you further. These will be the connections that have the possibility to lead to big change in education.

The major benefit of seeking support is that you become more CONNECTED to educators who want to help. And then you get to MEET them in person and learn even MORE from them! This is when you do NOT feel alone - you get to be with your tribe!

I want to thank the following inspirational educators for the thrilling two days of learning and the filling up of my soul at the ICE 17 conference...

Amber Heffner - for the invitation to be a spotlight speaker! (And for all the nerves that came along for the ride!)

Jen Smith - for the nudge to update my profile picture, the eight bottles of water, the first dongle I tried, introductions prior to me speaking on Thursday, and for being my buddy and my "pusher" since 2012! Bonus: thanks for getting a Hokki stool to room 239, as well!

Carrie Baughcum - for the wholesome blossoming as a marigold for all educators. What a trip to hang out with you in what's become your element! How #HotSauceFantastic

Maureen Miller - for helping David Karnoscak and I win Kids Deserve It! (See my next post for lessons learned...)

Jen Vincent - for the second dongle - given at the drop of a hat!! - at the start of my first presentation.

Amy Lamberti - for the third - and final - dongle of the week. I just purchased my own today!

Dana Ladenburger - for being the catalyst to our "aha moment" at dinner (no, not the chili or the carding) and the beautiful sketchnote for my culture shift presentation, too!

Lindsay Zilly & Kristin Beeler - for the sketchnotes for one of my personalized learning presentations!

HS Senior who did not share his name - for coming up to me after one presentation and letting me know he thinks all teachers should hear my message.

John Wawczak for letting me know how much the LiveBinder has helped educators at your school. Just the motivation I need to keep editing it to make it better and easier for teachers and parents to use!

Catching up with so many fabulous educators! I started writing down all the familiar faces (Amanda, Heidi, Shawn, Jim, Traci, Joe, etc.) I was able to actually SIT with and chat, and then I lost the list!! UGH! I have no doubt that the person who found it will be following some stellar people soon. You know who you are! Thank you for making the connections again and swapping stories!

I'm so glad I got a chance to sit and talk a teeny bit with Steve Wick again, as well. His top tweets from ICE17 are here, and even though I didn't get to see his sessions, I know he always shares valuable information you can use TODAY! Next time I need to "relax" before I present, I'm checking out one of his myriad sessions!

My favorite tweets... that keep me inspired and ready to try to improve what's happening in schools!

I've had such support on this journey! Thank you to all the educators that continue to share online and inspire teachers like myself. Thank you to all the presenters I've ever seen in my career so far. I am so very fortunate to be able to learn from you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bad Apples

Why do I always think of what to say once I'm away from the conversation? I hope to some day be able to stand up for ALL students at the moment it would make the most impact. I still have a long way to go. I recently heard someone talk about something that has made my stomach churn, and I wish I'd been able to say what needed to be said.

This person said something to the effect of...
"Sometimes there are bad apples in a class that can ruin the learning for the other children."

I could see what this person was talking about, but it was my position to listen and help, not correct. Next time I hear the phrase "bad apples" used in this context, I hope I have the strength to say the following...

These children you call "bad apples" are this way for a reason, and it's up to us, as their teachers, to find out why. 

Consider actual apples... 

~Some have not had the chance to mature quite yet. We need to allow them time to grow under out guidance and nurturing.

~Some have not had enough water or sunlight. We need to provide them nourishment.

~Some have been attacked by pests. This may leave scars. It is up to us to help those scars heal, and to look beyond them to see what else is inside.

~Some have been bumped and bruised. Why did this happen? It is up to us to find the reasons why, and to try not to let this happen again - at the very least while they're in our charge.

When it comes to the "good apples" in the bunch, consider what they can learn from those not as compliant (or perhaps not as fortunate) as themselves...

~At the very least, they can learn how to work with distractions. They'll most likely need to do this in the workforce.

~Better yet... (and the teacher should facilitate this)... they can learn to ask questions to get to know others better, and thus understand others better. It's called "empathy." Maybe once they reach out, they see what it's like in someone else's shoes, and possibly change a life for the better.

There are no "bad apples" in class. 

There are misunderstood children who have been managed instead of talked to. 

I hope, for everyone's sake, that if the teacher does not reach out, there are children in the class that will

Seek out the lonely children. 
Seek out the children who act out in class. 
Seek out those that "bring the class down." 
TALK with them. 
Discover their story. 
Nourish them by listening and attempting to understand. 
Help them grow. 
It's how we, too, grow.
It's part of being an educator. 
It's what we do.