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, July 19, 2019

BLC Brave

#BostonStrong and #BostonBrave are hashtags that reek of resilience of Bostonians in the wake of tragedy.

After attending the BLC (Building Learning Communities) Conference for my sixth (and final) time, I'm thinking of bravery - from Bostonians and others from around the world.

So many educators are much braver than I. Every time I attend, I'm amazed at the travelers that make it here. I'm nervous about making a flight, and they're coming from Australia, South America, and Lebanon...! I met a young lady named "Miracle" and an older gentleman named "Rejoice." Of course, everyone speaks English, and many are fluent in at least one more language. I feel surrounded by educators that are so caring and know so much more than I do.

One instance of my own bravery was the healthy grading session I facilitated. I've done this before (thanks to Matt Miller pushing me out of my tech zone when he asked presenters to do something without tech for his Ditch Conference in 2017), and every time the success of it depends on the participants. This time, teachers were very respectful of each other, played "devil's advocate" with excellent points, and brought up concerns many teachers have. I heard from one participant that "things felt a little hijacked" at one point, so that tells me that I could try to limit participants' responses, as some were using more speaking time than others, for sure. Those that participated were brave - others could disagree with their points at any time. I'm so glad we had as much lively discussion as we had!

Due to Stacey Roshan & Bobby Pollicino's session on staff meetings, I started a Flipgrid of "gems" I've learned at BLC this year. I wanted to do one grand one, but did six smaller ones... If you attended, please add your ideas - adding your two cents not only shows your bravery; your take-aways can affect countless students! If you did not attend, please check out what we've learned.

Caitlin Krause reminded me of my own fears when it comes to being brave once again in her session on storytelling. "The reason sharing is brave is because we must be vulnerable and trusting and open to judgment. Remember this - We each have a voice. We each have a story to tell. Our stories - and those of countless others - matter. When you share a part of your story, you're sharing is a gift. Take the risk, and be interested in others' stories, as well." Yes. Yes. Yes.

She shared these fears...
[adapted from Writing for Your Life]
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Good friend and educator in my own district, Carrie Baughcum came to Boston on her own to share her passion for learning mascots and visual thinking.
Seeing her get comfortable reminded me of her bravery. I don't know if I could travel alone to a place I've never been before... My favorite time with her was connecting and sharing stories from our families, yet it's Sylvia Tolisano's quote she brought up that will stay with me for a long time.

It's not simply about running. This quote can be applied to ALL of our learning. It can be applied to our bravery, as well. I'm not sure what chapter I'm on when it comes to bravery; I only know many people will be braver than me, and many people won't be as brave as me. And that's perfectly okay. There's no need to compare where we are on our journeys.

Please keep sharing your stories. Please keep listening to other people's stories. Let's learn together.

If you'd like to see other lessons I've learned from this conference, check out the BLC tag I've used through the years. Thanks for the great times, Alan November and all the passionate, caring educators I've been able to learn alongside these six years. I truly appreciate all your conference has done for me and for my students.

I'm using this as my blog post #7 for the #8weeksofsummer blogging challenge - I'm not sure where I am on my "summer learning journey." I do know that I'm moving forward, and that's all I can ask for.


  1. I so like what you say about bravery. For me, I am brave every time I post something, every time i share an idea I have for school with my principal. I ask my kids to be brave every day, maybe I can share some of my bravery stories with them as I ask them to be brave!

  2. Over the years, I've loved reading about your experiences presenting at the BLC Conference. It sounds like a great experience yet again. I'm curious (read: nosy), why is it your last one? I'm sure they will miss you.

    Thanks for sharing! You are one of my favorite lifelong learners!


    1. Hello, Denise! I had six years there, and he had five, and although we love the town, Bob and I had decided we needed to get somewhere ELSE every July - we'd like to see more of America. I have a feeling this will be the last BLC, as well. If the rumors are true, it will be missed by many.

  3. Joy, Your post gives me hope, even if it's the last BLC-- you speak of the teachers so kind and so filled with the desire to learn to become better for their students in this crazy world today. It's so good to hear about the willingness of teachers to keep learning and working together. Keep going... you are brave.