I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 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 my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Monday, April 8, 2013

This is why...

Today I had one of those days... one of those "THIS is why I teach!" days.

Today was our first full Genius Hour day of fourth quarter. Students are expected to step it up a notch, and have a product at the end of this quarter, along with giving a five-minute presentation to their classmates, other classes, staff members, and parents that can make it. Projects include baking, creating simple machines, teaching lessons, learning an instrument, and many more. The fun in this is that many of these projects I would never have thought of doing myself! These kids give me my gray hairs, but they also keep me young, that's for sure!

I was able to speak one on one with most of my students today. What a great use of our time. Two students, however, stood out.

Nicholas... His original question was, "What makes us human?"
I'd discovered a video online over the weekend that I thought he might be able to use (about a family in a remote country who walks on all fours), and I talked to him after he'd seen the first few minutes of it. He stopped me, and said, "I don't know if I can use this, as my project has changed a bit already." Curious, of course, I asked him how. (Words are approximate, here, as I was not recording him.) "You know what I'm learning? I'm learning that we are surviving here, but it's more than that. I'm learning that we are really living it up. I mean, think about it - we don't have to build shelter anymore; we already have houses. We don't have to hunt and gather our food; we have grocery stores or restaurants, and we can eat whatever we want! We don't have to mine for metals; someone has already done that for us, and others are doing it now." He went on, but I was so flabbergasted that I can't remember all he said. I know how he ended it, however. "My hope is that when people are done listening to my presentation, they will feel lucky about all they have and all they can do."


Ethan... Ethan wants to perform random acts of kindness.
Yes. He wants to send out a survey asking if you've ever experienced someone performing a random act of kindness for you, what it was, how it made you feel, and if it made you want to "pay it forward." He will collect this data and share it in his presentation. He also wants to perform random acts of kindness, and then ask those people how they felt, or why they declined (if they did so). In his proposal, he wrote, "This project would be worthwhile because it would help people and give me experience helping people which could help me later in life." I don't know all the logistics, or how he'll be doing this, but the whole idea... Oh, it makes me smile! My hope is that some day he'll do these so much he won't even recognize them as random acts of kindness - I believe it could easily be instilled in him as "this is just the way to behave."

Seventh grade. In seventh grade, these students have come up with so many amazing ideas. I love the fact that they change them, too, if they don't think they're "good enough." I have high hopes for this quarter and the projects they'll be completing of their own choosing. Trust your students, and let them know you trust them. See what they decide is worthy of learning.


  1. Joy,
    Thanks for sharing the love and genius! I love your last comments, "Trust your students, and let them know you trust them. See what they decide is worthy of learning." Such powerful advice. And until one tries it, it's hard to understand the power.

    Thanks again for inspiring us!

  2. Thank you for sharing your blog with me. It is uplifting to know how much more it can become if we are working within a supportive environment where students can truly demonstrate their abilities through their interests. I am stoked that my admin see the potential within the inquiry model. My grade 6s will be glad to share with you anytime. @chapman6s

  3. Joy these are such wonderful examples and I'm so glad you've shared them. What an incredible group of young people you are working with, and how fortunate they are to have you believing in them.

  4. Hi,

    These are great examples of student genius!!! What I like most about these two examples is that they involve people! When these students share their genius their classmates will be changed in some way by their efforts. I Imagine students looking about for RAC or performing them. I imagine students working hard because they realize that we are 'lucky' to have our basic needs met.

    Great work Joy - Thanks for sharing!