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, May 27, 2018

Breaking New Ground

I have (at least) five country music stations on my car radio settings.

I heard this brand new song yesterday on errands, and it made me think of the tough work passionate educators do...

My favorite idea from this song:

If you want it bad enough, no you won't back down
But it ain't easy, breakin' new ground

We know it ain't easy - but we're making a difference to SOMEone, SOMEwhere. Keep it up!

Saturday, May 26, 2018


My drive to school takes anywhere from 13-20 minutes, depending on the trains and when I leave. I do not have much time to listen to podcasts. When I'm home and Hubby is home, I try not to listen to them. He's home often - he's retired. Therefore, my favorite podcasts are 10-20 minutes long. That's kind of where my attention span is, too - any longer and I get bored or frustrated and I just want to do something else.

I'm writing this post for ME first and foremost. I need a clearinghouse of podcasts that educators listen to, and I need them in a quick-to-access list that I can update. I've had many on my "notes" list on my Mac, but now it's time to put them online so I can listen when I'm out and about. Feel free to add more in the comments section - what do you LOVE to listen to? These will be listed in alphabetical order.

Short podcasts that I listen to fairly regularly...
10-Minute Teacher Podcast via Vicky Davis, aka @coolcatteacher
     The 5-day a week show for Remarkable Educators Who are Very Busy
Ditch That Textbook via Matt Miller
     Education, Teaching, EdTech
Get Connect-Ed with Cath Williams
     Short podcast episodes about connections!
Teachonomy Talks via Chuck Poole
     A Podcast to Encourage and Inspire You Each Week
Up First via NPR
     The News You Need to Start Your Day
Across the Hall with Cade Somers and Michelle Shelton
     English teachers... funny and relevant to me... not really in the "short" category...
The Zen Teacher Podcast with Dan Tricarico
     Short podcast episodes about teacher wellness!

Podcasts from my PLN...
5 Minutes with the Counselor with Jim Deeken
Advocacy and Inquiry with Svetlana Popovic
Always a Lesson with Gretchen Bridgers
The Art of Jumping In with Stefanie Crawford
#AspireLead with Joshua Stamper
The BeerEDU Podcast with Kyle Anderson & Ben Dickson
Better Leaders, Better Schools with Daniel Bauer
Beyond the Curriculum with Aaron Blackwelder
Books Between
Boosting Achievement (ESL) with Carol Salva
The Brian Mendler Show
Burned-In Teacher with Amber Harper
ChargedUP Education with Adam Llevo
Cause a Scene with Kim Crayton
Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak
Coffee with a Geek with Andrew Wheelock
Control Alt Achieve via Eric Curtis (valuable webinars - not podcasts)
The Creative Classroom via John Spencer
Cult of Pedagogy via Jennifer Gonzalez
Curious Minds: Innovation in Life and Work with Gayle Allen
Dismissed for ExPats
Dr. Will Show with Will Deyamport
Ed - Conversations about the Teaching Life via Shane Lawrence
#EdChat Radio with Tom Whitby and Nancy Blair
EdTech Startup Show with Gerard Dawson
Educate with Stephen Smith
Educational Duct Tape with Jake Miller
Educators Grow with John Wawczak
Educators for Social Justice
EduCreativity with Jennifer Ledford
EduMatch Tweet and Talk with Sarah Thomas
Empowering Modern Learners with Jim Cash & Amit Mehrotra
Flippin' Good Tech with Elizabeth King & Darryl Legaspi
Getting Smart Podcast
Google Teacher Tribe via Matt Miller & Kasey Bell
The Guiding Principals Podcast with Robert Breyer (#TGPP)
Hack Learning with Mark Barnes
Heinemann Podcast
Hidden Brain (NPR)
The House of EdTech with Chris Nesi
The Human Restoration Project
I'll Jump First - with Angel Villarreal
The Innovator's Mindset via George Couros & Katie Martin
Inside Innovation via A.J. Juliani
Instant Relevance with Denis Sheeran
I Wish I Knew EDU with Ramona Meharg
K-12 Greatest Hits
Kids Deserve It (and more) via Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome
LaughED Podcast with Jon Spike
Leader of Learning
Leading Equity with Dr. Sheldon Eakins
Learning Through Leading with Dr. Nick Sutton & Matt Jacobson
Let's K12 Better with Amber Coleman-Mortley and her daughters
Mafost Mashup with Matt Foster
Make Learning Magical with Tisha Richmond
Manager Tools
A Meaningful Mess with Andi McNair
Modern Measures with Eric Patnoudes
My BAD with John Harper
My Middle Level Mind with Ryan Lisek
Note to Self with Manoush Zomorodi
OnEducation Podcast via Mike Washburn & Glen Irvin
One Percent Better with Joe Ferraro
Partially Proficient with Alaina & Colby Sharp
Personal Playlist Podcast with Noa Daniel
The #PhysEd Show with Joey Feith
Pivotal Podcast with Paul Dix and Kevin Mulryne
The Pixel Classroom Podcast with Ryan Read
Planet Money (NPR)
Planning Period with Brad Shreffler
Podcast PD - Anytime Anywhere Learning for Educators
Pondering Education with Ryan McHale & Susan Jachymiak
Principal Center via Justin Baeder
Principal Liner Notes Podcast with Sean Gaillard
Principal Matters with William D. Parker
Quantum Experiences with Michelle Wooten
Radiolab (certain episodes may have some profanity)
Ready, Set, Teach with Jason Manning
Reimagine Schools with Greg Goins
Resonating with Zach Fromm
Rethinking Learning via Barbara Bray
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell
Scholastic Reads
The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
School Psyched
Science Friday
Shift Your Paradigm with Randy Ziegenfuss
Shukes and Giff with Kim Pollishuke & Jen Giffen
Simply Mr. Hayes with Eric Hayes
SocialLEADia with Jennifer Casa-Todd (NEW July '18)
So We've Been Thinking with Greg Kulowiec and Shawn McCusker
Sparks in the Dark with Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder
The Staffroom Podcast with Chey & Pav
StartEdUp Podcast via Don Wettrick
Stories in Edu via Josh Gauthier & Mandy Taylor
StoryCorps (NPR)
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Sub Plans with Mike Stadnycki & Will Melvin
Talking about Practice with AJ Juliani
Talks with Teachers with Brian Sztabnik
Tea for Teachers with John Kane
Teach Better with Rae Hughart & Jeff Gargas
Teach Me Teacher with Jacob Chastain
Teach Thought
Teacher Blogs (with Tim Cavey - blog posts are read by the authors)
Teachers Going Gradeless (My favorite so far was this one on motivation - with Alfie Kohn!)
Teachers on Fire with Tim Cavey
The Teachers' Journey with Brian Costello
A Teacher's Shoes with Eryka Desrosiers
Teaching While White
The Techbrarians
TL Talk Radio with Lynn Fuini-Hetten and Randy Ziegenfuss
TNT Edtech Podcast with Scott Nunes and Matthew Ketchum
Transformative Principal with Jethro Jones
Truth for Teachers from Angela Watson
Voice of Literacy from the Literacy Association
Well PlayED via Michael Matera
Wired Educator via Kelly Croy
The Yarn with Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp

Student-Friendly Podcasts for Kids
4th Grade Innovators with Zachary Rondot
Book Club for Kids
Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids
But Why? - NPR
The Chat with Mrs. Burns's Third Grade
Circle Round
Ear Snacks
Eleanor Amplified
Our Take - Middle Schools share their take on current affairs
Page-Turner - with Don Strum and Izzy
Pants On Fire
The Past and the Curious
Peace Out
Serial (High School)
Short & Curly
Smash Boom Best - Debates for kids
Sparkle Stories Podcast
Stories Podcast - A Free Children's Story Podcast for Bedtimes, Car Rides, and Kids of All Ages
Storynory: Stories for Kids
Story Pirates - Kids write stories, and podcasters acts them out.
Student Podcasts about Immigration (from Mindshift)
The Story Home Children's Audio Stories
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
Wow in the World: NPR
35 MORE HERE - curated by Matthew Winner!

More websites/blogs with even MORE ideas:
EDU Podcasts
Podcasts and Pedometers from Meredith Akers

Thank you to those who suggested some of these I had and some I had no clue were out there! @megan_hacholski, @kmwassmuth, @EuphoriaPilates, @MindfulHealthEd, @MrDsenglasss, @MrRondot, @Jwilliams0804, @catpetersbishir, @kimdarche, @DrZiro, @kevinmulryne and @RamonaMeharg.

Want some resources for HOW to podcast? 
Check out Larry Ferlazzo's resources.
A Teacher's Guide to Podcasts
Add Custom Covers to Podcasts You Make on Anchor - blog post
Two Easy Ways to Publish Podcasts and Ten Topics for Classroom Podcasts from Richard Byrne
Podcasting in the Classroom? Here's a Byte-Sized Option from Synth - Monica Burns
Four Podcasting Tutorials - From Basic to Robust - Richard Byrne
Resources and Ideas for Classroom Podcasting - Richard Byrne
Teaching Podcasting: A Curriculum Guide for Educators - NPR
Three-Step Method for Producing a Podcast - Richard Byrne
Five Apps Students Can Use to Create Podcasts - Diane Adame (Mindshift)
Get Started with Student Podcasting - Anna Pavkov

A Journey into Podcasting - Rayna Freedman
5 Reasons to Pilot Student Podcasting Projects - John Spencer
Podcasts, Explained - Common Craft
Podcasting Can Work in Any Subject - John Spencer
These Students Started Podcasting as a Hobby, Then It Turned Into Serious Journalism - Matt Ozug
Classroom Podcasting 101 - Richard Byrne

2020 NPR Student Podcast Challenge
     WINNER of the 2020 NPR Student Podcast Challenge - "Masked Kids" from The Dragon Kids

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Polar Bears or People

My only niece and nephew turned the age of twelve earlier this month. Bob and I gave them cold hard cash - literally! We froze $50 in a baggie in water in sour cream containers. In order to find out what and where their gift was, they had to solve a riddle. Such is how we give gifts in our family if the receiver has everything he or she already needs...

My nephew Robert pocketed the money right away, and my niece Rosann announced, "I'm giving my money to the polar bears!"


After a time, I was able to ask Rosann, "Where will your money go? What will the organization do with your money for the polar bears?" She mentioned something about them relocating bears that had gotten too far away.

I tried to be a good actress and be happy for her - proud of her. I don't know if I was convincing.

The thing is, she's a giving person. She also sees that for my birthday we put together what some call "blessings bags" - see the post on how to make your own here. I donated money to St. Jude's in her name for her first communion. She volunteers with the Girl Scouts at Feed My Starving Children. What was my problem?! Why did her saying she'd give her money to the polar bears put me off? Why did I think - Maybe her parents will talk her out of giving ALL of her money to the polar bears. (It had totaled $140 by then.) Don't PEOPLE count more?

I saw my problem this morning (while washing dishes).

I was being a hypocrite.

EVERY time I speak or write about Genius Hour, 20% Time, Passion Projects, Personalized Learning... I have in the forefront of my mind that it is about the KIDS. It's about what THEY deem important. Who am I to judge? What if the biggest group of people helping polar bears financially are children? I revisited my post on the value of frozen marbles today. I'll promise to keep my hypocrisy at bay, and yet keep asking questions that keep the conversations going.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


It's May.

The seventh graders tell me there are 14 more days of school.

Our "torturous" plans? Reading The Outsiders at their own pace, bringing six ideas or questions to discuss with their book club groups. The best way to end the school year in ELA - no fabricated worksheets, posters, dioramas, whole-class discussions...

And yet... here is a snippet of my day today... (I'll be using "they/them/their" instead of "he/she.")

I just received an email from a student asking me if I'd looked at their revisions. Hmm... Since I'm not a mind reader, no. I did not know he revised. I never saw his name on the clipboard, and he never told me in person. So... I went to his document to check the revision history. There have been no revisions since May 1st. That revision on May 1st? MINE. I left him video feedback to show him how he could improve his writing. So... I left him more video feedback, basically asking him to not waste time for both of us. I replied to his email with this new link, copying his parent.

I had to give a short lecture today with my last class about how I need to make more decisions to help them learn (I made the seating arrangement), since they are not making good decisions themselves. They were mad at me, but they worked much better today than yesterday.

One student does not work. In any class. This student has the countdown on their assignment notebook and announces it each day. Won't even listen to The Outsiders on audio. Won't give it a chance. Has every excuse in the book to not work.

During our 4-min break in my block class, I have to keep an eye on one student so they don't sneak food or candy to friends and/or throw another pencil into the ceiling. This may mean leaving the classroom where there are other students I don't even know visiting friends. Which can cause more trouble? I'm not sure.

I've been showing book trailers for a week now - right before independent reading. One student today, after watching one for The Final Four by Volponi, asks, "Is this true?" Peers told them that it's a book trailer, and that we've been watching them for a week now.

Yet I keep coming back for more... for these students...

One student left the class a present - sticky notes - and put them on the student station for all to use!

One student happily moved over the magnets for the new "check in" for the day that Mrs. Rehberger set up for our co-taught class.

One student thanked me for creating the seating chart for my last class.

One student said they'll miss me when summer comes.

One student revised their writing and let me know - this student just keeps plugging along!

I learned how to create a password-protected Google form, and one student thought I was a genius!

One student - who struggles so much to understand when they read - is tackling The Outsiders.

One student made our question of the day - last-minute - "Yanny or Laurel?" **

Fourteen more days to make a difference. I'll search for opportunities.

The new lilacs that were planted by the back entrance/exit are blooming, and they smell beautiful.
**Yanny or Laurel debate - I hear "Yanny." Hubby hears "Laurel." Crazy, folks. Just crazy.