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, April 28, 2019


While reading Fewer Things Better by Angela Watson, I came across the chapter of "Aligning Time with Priorities to Build a True Legacy," and I stopped reading. She caught me off guard. I hadn't a clue what I wanted my legacy to be, nor had I ever really stopped to think about it. I've always wanted to "be a good person," but HOW do I want to do this?

Another question I had to consider was, "What do I want to accomplish in my life?" I took out my notepad and jotted down my accomplishments up until this point. Of course, the first things I thought of were all the things I have NOT done. You don't need to see my list - go ahead and stop reading to create your OWN.

Next came the wondering... have I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in my life? Well, not if I don't even know what legacy I want to leave. I checked out Angela's workbook pages that go along with this chapter, and still had a difficult time. I had to think of "legacy" as not something HUGE, but small somethings. What would people say about me when I'm gone? What will they think I stood for?

As I wrote down the ideas that came to me throughout the day, I considered their importance. I feel as if they're all connected, as they all work with each other. As I wrote each one, I considered my school days as of late. Some students are in the mindset that school is already over for the year. It seems as if they're asking, "Why should I care about Mrs. Kirr or her class?" It's been difficult to be patient with the disrespect I've been seeing - towards me and towards classmates. This week, however, when I began to write this information down about who I want to BE, I saw my students differently. I acted a bit more purposeful. I wanted to show them who I wanted to BE. I wanted them to know that I'm not budging from these priorities in my school and home life...

What do I want people to think of me once I'm gone from their lives? I hope they say "Joy (Mrs. Kirr) was...

  • caring, kind
  • inspiring to teachers / a leader
  • a role model for kids and peers
  • herself - and proud of it
  • a reader, a writer, and a constant learner
  • grateful, which made her happy... and
  • present in each moment." *

* I'm currently working on doing this at all times - it's difficult for this multi-tasker, but it will keep me mentally healthier and happier, I believe. I've been working on it since reading Teach Like a Pirate in 2013 when Dave Burgess talked about IMMERSION!

Oh, I want more, for sure. I want to be more giving - of my time and resources - to those outside of my profession. I am not in that season of my life right now, however. I feel that will come more when I'm retired and can focus on others in my community and at large. What do YOU want? What kind of life do you want to lead? I believe we all have our own legacy living in our hearts. Once we get the words straight in our minds, they will affect our actions. And once we know we're doing what we need to do for our heart, we'll be able to take care of ourselves and those young learners in front of us so much better. Things will fall into place. Our profession won't seem as overwhelming. We'll be able to be better teachers of students first, and curriculum next.

I've noticed that since I've written these down, I have already changed a few of my actions. Word choice on my tweets has changed even further, because I'm practicing being more present, I'm less judgmental, I'm more at peace with what is, not thinking of what could be, and I'm calmer. Simply calmer about issues that arise. It's only been a week, but considering what I want others to think once I'm gone has (dare I write it?!) helped me mature.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Resistance - Revisited

I was on my way to visit a group of local teachers who'd gotten together to for a Shift This book study. I had been asked to share stories of the resistance I've come across from our community.

I hadn't prepared anything, and didn't think it was necessary. If someone asks me to do a video chat with their group who read the book, I gladly agree if we can make a time work. No cost - it benefits me just as much as it does them, as I always hear something new or am asked a new question that helps me think and reflect once again. This time I wanted to show up in person since they were from the high school district that my own students will attend when they get to ninth grade. It's so much easier to feel the vibe in the room in person than through a computer screen.

I was driving the ten minutes or so and wondering... what is it about resistance that makes the shifts I've made so difficult? Why is it so hard for me to deal with resistance? Why does any sort of resistance break me down a bit (and often even make me cry)? Am I that unsure of myself and what I'm trying in the classroom?

Thinking back to the huge shifts I'd made (namely genius hour and going gradeless), I realized something that will help me the next time I encounter resistance. I would not be making these (difficult!) shifts without huge reasons for doing so. I made these shifts because I want my students to learn more of the curriculum. I made these shifts because I want to help make the curriculum stick. I made these shifts because I want my students to be lifelong learners. How can that be wrong? If parents or other teachers have a problem with that, I simply need to go back and share my "WHY."

I told this to the group at the high school, and also told them that if it does NOT work for a child, I'm free to backpedal. I'm free to discuss with them what's going on and make a decision with them as to what to do next. I truly want what's best for students, and I'm doing what I can in the limited time I have.

It's been a quiet year this year when it comes to resistance (knock on wood). Maybe it's because I communicate with parents every two weeks and also send good notes home. Maybe it's because I've been "gradeless" for a few years now, and parents have talked about it and figured it won't kill their children. Maybe... just maybe... it's because they, too, think it's a good idea and will help their child focus more on the curriculum and less on a letter or number.

It's time I shift my own thoughts about resistance. It's time I looked at resistance as simply another chance to chat about what we (together) believe is right and good for the children in front of us.

Let me know when you have a Shift This book study and want a virtual (or real) visit! I'd be glad to answer any questions and share any resources I can.