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.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Feedback Fix

I have to get my thoughts together for this book, so that meant I needed to write about it.

Joe Hirsch used to be in the classroom, therefore much of this book is teacher-centered. There are also very intriguing business stories in each chapter, however, that reminded me of how schools act so very different from business when it comes to change (that book is on my shelf, ready to go). Check out Joe's book trailer here. When you read on, feel free to substitute "employees" or "people" where I write about "students."

Here's my take-away and "next steps" from this book...

Too much feedback will shut down the learner. (Read the research on pgs. 35-37.)

Relaxing helps the mind's creative juices flow. Why do you think we get so many great ideas in the shower?! Stress (in class & from home) HINDERS learning. (64)

Three favorite quotes regarding student-directed learning:

  • "Managing a differentiated classroom requires agility and discipline, with teachers' roles wedged somewhere between symphony conductor and traffic cop." (66)
  • "In the time of Google, knowledge isn't the differentiator. Social emotional health is."
  • "Kids need to know how to think, not just what to think." (Michelle Kinder, 122)

Chapter 5 focused on teams, and because there was so much information in here, I thought I'd try my first sketchnote! (Are you proud of me, Carrie? I used Explain Everything for one idea on each slide, and then I merged them!)

Perhaps we should ask our students to have some "self-talk" before we provide any peer or teacher feedback.  We all have our own "coaching voice" if we take the time to reflect. Let's let our students practice that step FIRST, not after we've given them ideas for growth/improvement. This is one section I want to share with students. (80-82)

Putting some ideas together, I thought of this as a routine: Relax. Name your strengths (self-talk). With peer or teacher guidance, set a goal. Make/visualize a plan. Execute the plan. Reflect again. Repeat. (84)

Live in the moment. Each moment takes the same amount of time. Do not think negatively for a long time on one moment in the past. You are wasting the moments that are happening right now! Same goes for the future. Big presentation or evaluation meeting coming up? Don't give it the weight you think it deserves. EACH moment deserves the same amount of weight. Live in this one right now. (91-92)

Another favorite quote: "The secret to letting go isn't what you give up. It's what you give." We need to first hold up the mirror so students can see their strengths, then give students tools to grow/improve, and then check in with them to make sure they're doing alright. Our actions are controlled by ourselves - what a way to give ownership of the learning over to our students!! (121)

My first piece of feedback for students will hopefully look something like this... "Where do you feel you did well?" and "On what part would you like advice?" After hearing the student (and taking notes), I'll provide a tool or suggestion or two, and end with, "Have I given you the tools you feel will help you improve?" After reading this book, I realize (again!) it's the LEARNER that gives him or herself the toughest feedback, and the best thing we can do as their teacher is to hold up the mirror and help them by giving them tools to succeed in future endeavors. I want my students to believe "My ability and competence grow with my effort." (129)

As a result of this next step, I'm contemplating using Voxer (I thought of this in the shower - fancy that!) as a tool I can use to keep track of these conversations and add the feedback (feedFORWARD) narrative comments into the online gradebook... I've got to see if/how it will work, however, so you'll have to wait for any follow-up blog post!

Thank you, Mr. Joe Hirsch, for helping me see feedback as a way for students and I moving FORWARD. I'm looking forward to the growth my students and I show this next school year!

*Note: On page 68, Joe mentions our Genius Hour in action. He shares what we do, then added, "The project culminates in a class-wide presentation with members of the school board and city council on hand." Oh, how I wish! We have ended with class-wide presentations, but I haven't had the guts (yet) to invite members of the school board or the city council. One project - a little free library - needed approval from the village, but Tyler and his family did that on their own...


  1. I'm putting this one on my list to read! Sounds like a great book. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about school in the shower or at the kitchen sink washing dishes. ;D

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I struggle picking up the next big educational wave of a book and this one is SO essential. I loved your overview and take-ways (that I will take...away myself to my classroom).

    On another note, this is my first time on your blog and I'm eager to check out your book. My favorite word on the cover is "gradual". We (as educators) try overhaul too much and I'm happy to add this to my Goodreads Want to Read Shelf. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for talking about this book - you've gotten me interested in reading it. I am a Genius Hour newbie, and I realize that the quality feedback as well as self-reflection will be key to the learning process.


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