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, June 23, 2019

Teaching with Transparency

I was asked to present at the first ever USQ Conference - practically in my backyard in Schaumburg, IL. USQ stands for "Unhinging the Status Quo." What a great concept! Here's what the website said:


In order to present, however, I needed to present with students. OKAY! First names that popped into my husband's head were Robert and Rosann - our niece and nephew, going into 8th grade. Hmmm... this might actually be a great idea.

I composed and sent an email to them - asking them to answer without talking to the other one until they were finished with their thoughts. I asked this question: How would you change school (reasonably), and why? They both wrote about different things - homework and tests, bullying and isolation... and yet there was a theme that wove through them both. Teachers need to be more transparent. Here's our opening slide that the kids created:



The day prior to the conference, Rosann told Grandma (my mom) that this is going to be the most important thing she's ever done. That's pressure. I hoped and prayed that she felt the same when we were finished.

After the day we had, this may have been the most important thing I, myself, have ever done for these two young learners / leaders. They were on cloud nine that they could share their message. Other students were able to present and share their ideas, as well. There may have been as many as 20 students from various schools (Michigan, Illinois, and Jack McConnell's family came from Georgia - that's a whole 'nother post) attending and presenting. There were multiple times throughout the day that "non voters" were asked for their opinions, and they often took the microphone and added their ideas to the conversation. I don't know if I've ever seen them so empowered. Oh, I hope they keep this feeling with them as they grow further.

Some valuable tweets I'd love to keep here forever...
Next steps?
  • Keep finding ways to open the lines (be more transparent!) of communication among educators and students.
  • Keep providing opportunities for student input when making decisions related to education.
  • Keep providing opportunities for students to share their ideas and teach us.
  • Provide the venue (microphone included!), listen to ideas, follow through using their ideas, and students will learn to trust us and will want to help where they can.

We're working towards providing students with more and more say in school matters. Their voice matters, and their ideas are incredible. Let's keep moving towards providing them with the opportunities to make a difference in their own education.

What are your plans for providing more opportunities for students to provide input and lead?

Many many thanks to Sara WilkeDale Truding, and Nancy Wagner for this chance to help these two students (and so many others!) blossom and lead. Many thanks to Megan Hacholski and Michael Abramczyk - the volunteer social media ambassadors who shared our learning so we the rest of us could be truly present. BONUS: Here is USQ's post about Robert & Rosann's message.

This post is week 3 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators. I went off-prompt for this one. It does relate, as it shows how I can be a leader and follower all in one day - just like at school... đŸ˜‰

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas Joy. How powerful is this-- to invite students to share their ideas at a conference-- an invitation to be part of the design, because, as Robert said, "You don’t understand what we are going through, what we want and what it is like to be a kid in school today!” Without being in their shoes, how can we understand how to engage their learning? You're awesome, Joy. And what a great conference that must have been.

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