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.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Parent Night

I've changed the way I teach so much in the last 5 years.
It reflects in what I said to the parents tonight at Open House...

I’d like to start with asking you to think about a question:
Who was your favorite teacher in 7th grade?
Now try to come up with WHY this person was your favorite teacher.

I hope to be all those things.
I asked your children to finish this statement on the second day of school - A great teacher is...
Your children hope I am the following:
kind, funny, fun, helpful, peppy, understanding, friendly, respectful...
I let them know I expect the same of them:
kind, helpful, understanding, friendly, respectful…
Without these expectations, we won’t have much learning occurring.

One more question: What CONTENT from 7th grade do you remember?
      (Long pause... Nobody seems to remember!)
Your child won't remember either. What will he or she remember?

I am the most fortunate of all of your child's teachers you'll see tonight.
I get to enjoy your child’s presence for 80 minutes of every day - and I really get to know them.
I’m also the most fortunate because I don’t expect your child to memorize FACTS.

We get to explore great writing, share what we’re reading and writing, and figure out how to read to enjoy and learn, and how to write for an authentic audience - not just for their teacher.

Hopefully, by the end of the year, your children will have learned this in ELA:
Hopefully, by the end of the year, your children will want to continue learning outside of school hours.

We spent the first ten days of school building community, respect, trust, and understanding of why we need to read and write. I will continue to try to reach them through literature, nonfiction, and their own writing.

I will also be giving more choice than I was ever afforded in 7th grade.
One of those big choices - that centers around reading and writing this year - will be something we call “Genius Hour.”

Our mission for Genius Hour is to READ. BE INSPIRED. and ACT ON IT.
I’d like to show you a short video of last year’s students reflections on what THEY perceived Genius Hour to be...

In this class, it’s about the learning.
I will work my hardest to help your child become a life-long learner.
I know I didn't talk about specific curriculum, my teaching history, our homework or grading philosophies, but that is because I've put everything on the class Weebly. (Shown on the screen.)

I'd love for you to now please check out your child’s blog - if he or she has written one (or more), please take the time to comment. If not, please encourage him or her to write one for you. I’ll circulate and answer any questions you may have.

I had great feedback tonight. 
This year will be our best year yet...

Update 12/2016 - Don't have too much time to talk with parents at Parent Night? 
          Check out Catlin Tucker's ideas to flip your back-to-school night!


  1. Oh, Joy! You are truly on a roll! I love this, and I would love to be a student in your class, or have had my 7th grader in your class.

    Believe it or not, I subbed in a 7th grade ELA class yesterday, where it seemed very different than your class. Your students are lucky. You are lucky to learn empathy and enjoy authentic reading and writing experiences with them this year. Have a great one!


    1. Denise,
      I was so very worried to tell parents what I REALLY wanted to tell them. But I kept hearing other teachers saying they'll talk about their curriculum, homework "rules," etc. I just couldn't do it. It's all online because I wanted to have it all written out for them anyway. But I was so filled with good vibes when the night was through, that I thought I'd copy my script (yes, I had a script) and publish it. Why?? I think it's so others can see that it is possible. Thank you for your kind comments, and I'm so glad this is my 19th year and I feel confident enough to go "against the grain."

  2. You continue to be an inspiration Joy! J. Barnes

  3. Beautifully said Joy! I have been thinking a lot about how we make first impressions with our students and their families. I think you made such a beautiful and positive first impression for everyone. So much more to build on than the impression we make when we outline rules & consequences and a list of "what we will cover" the very first time we meet parents, or our students. Powerful indeed.

  4. I LOVE this!!! It's meaningful and from the heart and just what I want to say!! Just found it from your reflection blog post. Hmmm...
    You always make me think. Thank you!