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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Boston, Round Two!

I can't believe I went back to Boston.

Visiting in 2012 for BLC12 seems like yesterday!

Last August, I was asked to submit a proposal for a workshop or small sessions at BLC15 (Building Learning Communities in Boston). I put in for both, figuring one wouldn't be accepted. I was wrong. Here was my schedule this week:
Tuesday 7/14 - 8am to Noon - Genius Hour Master Class 
Wednesday 7/15 - 2:35-3:40
             and again   4:00-5:05 - Let It Go 
        (crowdsourcing to share ideas to let go of control) 
Thursday 7/16 - 1:10-2:15 - Genius Hour
I've been a nervous wreck. For weeks. Just look at these other speakers! And now it's all over.

So many ideas. So little time. Here are my take-aways...

From valuable meetings & presentations I attended...
   Dinner with Lesley Burnap
       We ate at Parish Cafe - Here the lesson to TRY SOMETHING NEW was enforced! The sandwich, that is... Although the food was great, the company was better. It's always sweet meeting people from your Twitter PLN face to face. We talked about Genius Hour and books! What better conversation?! I'm so grateful for the drive she took to meet us in downtown Boston!

   Tech Tool...
       Answer Garden - ask a question, have people answer, and can export to Wordle or other...

   Dylan Wiliam's Keynote
       "He that will be a leader, must be a bridge." Administration needs to give time for teachers to become better. Teachers are working harder than ever.
       Most often with PD - It's easy to change teachers in front of other teachers. It's more difficult to change when we get back in front of children.
       We already know what we're supposed to be doing, but we're not doing it.
       The greatest impact is minute-by-minute feedback. We don't do it because it's hard.
       Break up "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" into bite-sized pieces so they're easy to swallow.
       Start with bright spots - naysayers can't argue with what is working.
       Teachers need to engineer effective learning environments - to create engagement and develop habits of mind.
       If teachers don't think they can become a better teacher tomorrow, they should be fired.
       I need to read Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip & Dan Heath.

   Amy Burvall - "The Cloud is our Campfire"
       I am going to (or rather, ask my husband to) create a box. This box will be open on two sides. It will look much like a photo booth - maybe I can hang a curtain! An iPad will be secured somehow to the back of the box as you're looking at it. It will be positioned up on a wall or tall podium. Amy called hers a "Vox Box." Once students step toward, and put their head in the box, they will see a question posed above the iPad. They can then record their (short) response right on the iPad in the camera app. I can share these quips with parents during open house, and later on our class website. Here's my question now... What question should I ask students? I was thinking of, "What are you most looking forward to this year?" I don't think that's the one. Help?

   Lunch with Rik Rowe
       EdCamp fanatic, Rik Rowe, lives in the Boston area! He met Hubby and I for lunch on Wednesday! Ideas of communication and questioning were reinforced in our discussions. He did not help me relax at lunch - he pushed my thinking further.
   Erin Klein - Sharing the Student Voice and Personalize Learning
       Tell students, "This is going to be your best year ever! Now how can we make is so?"
       Learning needs to happen BY students, not FOR them.
       Every child in your classroom is someone else's whole world.
       I need to read Rafe Esquith's books...
       As for presentations? Add your personal stories - she had us hooked once she shared stories about her own children. Of course, I agreed with everything she said...!

   Lainie Rowell's Keynote
       When sharing great ideas with other teachers, invite them IN to your class. Share with them WHY you're trying something, have them watch it in person, then make sure you take the time to debrief with them. We all need to reflect in order to make things even better the next time.

   Darren Kuropatwa - The Fourth Screen
        I need him to come to our school, or I need to channel him somehow when I share his ideas with students. We need to make the social media experiences REAL for kids. You can tell them "fire is hot" for years, but they don't normally learn until they get burned. He shared stories of bullying, being negative in general, and reactions to bad decisions. He asked us to ask students, "What will you do with the power of the Internet?" He asked us to mention the terrible things, but then stress the positive actions.

   Walk with Dave Meyers to "Make Way for Ducklings" statues.
       Dave was the man who set me up with the iPad pilot I tried in the Fall of 2011... That was probably the start of my "aha" moments as a connected educator...
       My husband and I went for a walk with him after the sessions on this day, and we learned that colleges / universities were now going to have to report out how their educator graduates were doing in education. Because of this, Dave's new company is helping them figure things out AND will be connecting them to teacher mentors. Sounds like an interesting and valuable idea. It was nice to see him again!

   Jennie Magiera's Keynote
        Jennie is a Boston native, but lives in Chicago. I've never met her, and I should've said "Hello" and "Thank you!" in Boston. Her presentation was both hilarious and motivating. While most of the other presentations had me thinking of my students, hers had me thinking of the other teachers at my school and how I choose to interact (or hide) from them.
        Add three words to your conversation - "and... what if?"
        Choose to be bothered.
             Choose to be bothered.
                  Choose to be bothered.
        Don't be afraid to start over - even if you've invested a ton of time already.
        When you choose to be bothered, sometimes you have to do something nuts.
        Be vocal about your crazy. You can recruit friends and change the world together!
        Teacher question: How do we make kids stay in school?
        Student answer: Make school suck less.

From my own presentations...
    EVERYONE presenting is nervous. Know this. Then just do your best.
    I need to learn how to make my presentations on something other than Google Slides. I would love to go from one slide to the next, including videos, with one click of a remote button. Someone help, please?
    I think nine people in the workshop was a nice number. I would love a few more next time, but I think this group was cozy enough, but not too cozy. ;)
    I don't want to try something new in a big venue like this again - my "Let It Go" session went poorly the first time. Luckily I had a chance to try it again, and took the 20 min between the sessions to change things up!
    I will keep finding ways to INVOLVE the audience. I've sat through a few where I just sat and took notes, and looked at links. They were valuable, no doubt, but I saw a lot more sharing from the sessions that asked for audience participation and movement.
    Keep being humble. I don't pretend to know it all, and I hope I come across as making mistakes. I sat through one session where the presenter acted as if he was better than anyone else. I know I'll never know it all, and I hope my audience can see me as a constant learner.
    Time to infuse my presentations with photos and seamless transition of videos of kids.
    Keep the warm-up music prior to the presentation, and the last musical bit that everyone loves.
    Next time I'm nervous about traveling, I'll consider those that came to Boston from Hawaii, Australia, Russia, Taiwan, Istanbul, Finland.......
    Here's the one tweet (from my last presentation) that included a picture... I'm glad it's got Angela Maiers!

Thank you to Alan November and BLC crew for making me feel welcome in Boston.

Thank you to all the "old" friends I was able to hug, and all the new friends I made in Boston.

Thank you to the presenters and attendees, who stressed that it's about the LEARNERS, not the content.

Thank you to my husband, for all of your support, wonderful company, the walk for a cannoli at Maria's (and then again a surprise cannoli from Modern!), the almost crying at the awesome-ness of the Boston Public Library, and for reminding me to put on some pants before I head down to breakfast.

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