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.

Monday, June 17, 2019

What has contributed to the educator you are today?

What has contributed to the educator you are today?
This is this week's question in the "8 Weeks of Summer" blog challenge.

I was actually thinking of this very thing yesterday morning. We (Hubby and I) were headed to Milwaukee for #USMSpark (Hubby golfs there), and the venue and people are familiar to me. I'd be seeing a few new faces, and I was really looking forward to it. I've been fortunate to be a "featured speaker" in the past, and this year I've only got one presentation, so I could relax and enjoy learning more from others instead of talking. Our keynote speaker Monday morning was Angela Maiers. If you don't yet know her, she's all about helping children do what they WANT to do - what matters to them. Knowing I'd learn from her once again, it took me back to when things started really changing in my teaching life.

In the fall of 2011, I was the one chosen to "volunteer" to pilot curriculum with iPads (I'd never even touched one!), and four weeks later, I'd learned a TON. (I believe I wrote about this story in Shift This.) In February of that same school year, someone in my district thought it would be good if I attended a workshop in Michigan where we worked on a problem - "What's a problem in your school?" was the question Ewan McIntosh asked us, and then he gave us the rest of the day to work on this problem. This jaunt got me started on what was to be called "genius hour," although at that time it was "independent reading" - IN class (wha?! - that wasn't even considered in our school in 2012)!

That summer of 2012, leaders in my district sent me to Boston to attend the Building Learning Communities conference put out by Alan November. It was there that I first heard Angela Maiers. She put me out of my comfort zone not five minutes into her presentation when we had to introduce ourselves to the person next to us and state what our "genius" was. What was my genius? I'd never thought of this before, as I'd never been asked. I remember sitting next to JoAnn Jacobs (she'd come all the way from Hawaii!), and she seemed much more confident than I was. I went with "optimistic," as when I wake to see a new day, I see new starts, new chances, and new opportunities to do what's right. The rest of that hour was invigorating and inspiring. (Today's hour was about how teachers need to know that WE matter, too.)

In fact, that entire school year was transformative. Granted, it was my 16th or so year teaching, but it was only my third year with a classroom. Since then, I've been asking, "What's a problem, and what are you going to do about it?" Since then, I've gotten connected to thousands of educators on Twitter. Since then, I've blogged to reflect on my learning. Since then, I've read so many professional books to help with my teaching. Since then, I've been attending and presenting at many conferences - using some of my district's money, and some of my own and on my own time. Since then, I've been offering as much choice as I can (within the parameters I have) to students. Since then, I've been conferring 1:1 with students every day, and THAT has made all the difference.

Tag - you're it. What has contributed to the educator you are today?

By the way, YOU are a genius... and the world NEEDS your contribution! ~Angela Maiers

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators. Check out #8weeksofsummer for more inspiration for YOU to write... #nudgenudge


  1. Joy, your post has inspired me this morning. It's the first post I've read during Week 2 of the #8WeeksofSummer challenge. I've heard your story before, and mine has some of the same sparks as yours. The last decade of my teaching life has been incredible, and now I'll go write about it.

    Congratulations on the book chapter about Literature. I'm going to add that book to my Want to Read list.


  2. Hi Joy!

    What a journey-- and look how long you've known JoAnn, another great connected teacher / learner. Both of you have great experiences to share-- because, as you Angela says, "You are a genius, and the world needs--demands- your contribution!"

    Great post about how you got started with your inspirational teaching! ~ Sheri

  3. Joy, I love the unique familiarity so many of us educators share! Thank you for this special check-in as I head to #ISTE19!


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