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, June 26, 2020

Day 105 - Documenting

Friday, June 26 2020

We went camping for two days and two nights at Lowden State Park - not too far from home but "far enough" to provide a respite from the "real world" (except for the gnats and mosquitoes). We didn't talk to hardly anyone, stayed offline for the most part, and didn't go anywhere we'd need a mask. Here are some sights that reminded us we're in a pandemic:

And two from the morning we left, providing hope:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Day 102 - DOING Something

Day 102, Tuesday, June 23 2020

My parents came by today. They came to give Bob and I a golf-type game for our anniversary! Very nice. We talked about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and it got "spirited" as Bob said.  We're in different places. We've read and seen different things in our lives. It's very difficult to have conversations that aren't "spirited."

I do feel like I'm DOING something now, however. The librarian at one of our elementary schools in our district and I are going to facilitate a book study!! We've decided on So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo! I am so very excited! (My sparse notes for it are here.) Another teacher in our district decided to facilitate the How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi!

I am excited to lift the voice Ijeoma Oluo through her book. I'm so fortunate to work in a district that provides so many opportunities to learn and share.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Day 101 - Messes

News from today, Monday, June 22 2020...

          ...and they probably saved lives. Check out the ratio here of masked and unmasked patrons...

My mom is excited to hug me when she stops by tomorrow...

And then this.
What the???

And this.
I don't know about you... but I think this is a mess. I think it's a good mess.

There's also this.

I finished my anti-racist training today. I'm learning. I'm listening. I have guidance.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Day 100 - Hugs

Sunday, June 21 2020 - Father's Day

Since it's Day 100, I've seen lots of photos and videos with people without masks on, my sister and her family have been hugging my parents since Day 1, I miss my parents' hugs and I want to make Mom happy... I hugged Mom and Dad today.

You may think it's no big deal. I'm going to stop guessing at what people think these days. I'm so in the dark.

Then we are not the same in this regard, and that's okay. I am amazed (and yet I know I shouldn't be) at the differences in people lately. The widening gap between people who believe one thing and people who believe the other.


In other news:

Maybe one in twenty people at Trump's indoor rally in OK last night had masks on.
The Confederate flag was banned at Nascar.
I am getting so beat down by this anti-racism training. It's so educational. I'm trying my best to blog about it here, and I feel as if I'm failing. I know it's a huge learning curve.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Day 98 - How are you "acting"?

Friday, June 19 2020

I use Twitter for teaching, Instagram to keep up with my former students, and Facebook for family (and some friends and some teachers).

Family includes cousins from across the nation - I tried to count how many I have... it's nearly impossible. My dad comes from a family with nine children and my mom with six.

Anyway... I normally just "like" or "love" posts here and there. If I don't agree, I just don't click anywhere. No biggie. My sister posted a video the other day - she's been quiet on Facebook for a long time. What she posted was so NOT the issue (in my mind), so I replied with a reaction video to that video. I think we both agreed on two of the points. It doesn't matter. She's been quiet on there since she posted. One of my cousins, however, spoke up, wanting to know which way we "leaned," and how that affected our family conversations.

I replied back that I really never knew how closely race tied in with politics. She replied that even though she may be living in a bubble, she's been learning from her church and "I want Jesus and my surroundings to be the filter through which I see the world." She also added she's never made a decision about another person through anything but their words and actions. ...

I have trouble with conflict. I wanted so so so bad to say, "That's great. I'm glad that works for you," and be done with it. Instead, I replied, "I hope everyone is doing what works for them. I, personally, feel a need to act. I believe Jesus supports my actions to help those less fortunate than me."

I love the next line she replies with, because I, too, have wondered how some people are acting. She writes: 
...how are you "acting"?

I am a gabber. You get me going, and it's hard to get me to stop. This past school year, my goal for myself was to LISTEN more. To NOT boast or brag. To be HUMBLE. These are skills I'm working on. However, when she asked me how I'm "acting" using those quotes, I felt I had to respond, and it's time for me to share with my readers, as you may be wondering the very same thing:

I love that question! 
  • I’ve been educating myself more on race and sharing my own learning / thoughts on one of my blogs since July of 2018 - http://passionpurposeproduct.blogspot.com/search/label/Being%20the%20Change
  • I read, read, read - diverse authors, genres and topics. I listen to podcasts and webinars about equity in education.
  • I read and then purchase classroom library books that cross many cultures and topics, and I share these books with my seventh graders. (I’ve learned a lot through the #DisruptTexts movement and by keeping up with new middle grade and young adult books that come out.)
  • When we’re in school, I make sure to make time for my students to discuss issues that come up. I am only a guide during these, and I try to provide for them a safe space and techniques for respectful discourse.
  • I curate a resource online for educators and others - tinyurl.com/AntiRacistLB
  • I share new resources i find through my Twitter account (which I use for teaching), and at times through Facebook (which really isn’t my favorite).
  • I share “stories” on Instagram for my former students regarding educating themselves and where they can find more information. (Due to being a teacher in a public school, I keep politics and religion out of it.)
  • I donate when I can - Greater Chicagoland Food Depository is where I’m focused now. Donors Choose for teachers in areas with more than half low-income families was where I donated to in 2019.
  • I’ve recently subscribed to “The Flip Side” to read how both the left and right share certain issues facing our nation.
  • I pray.

There is so much more I want to do:
  • I want to continue to curate lessons (with colleagues) for my students regarding how to read all types of media better. (Media literacy is something I need help with, too.)
  • I want to safely stand in protest of something I believe.
  • I want to do more research on candidates for our local elections, so I know if/when they voted for policies that directly or indirectly exclude others.
  • I want to contact my mayor and ask if our police officers have body cameras and if they undergo training about implicit bias.
  • I want to shed my implicit biases that make me hold my purse closer to my body when walking downtown or make me think - even if just for an instant! - that every teen with their pants hanging down or with their head in a hoodie is “looking for trouble.”
  • I want to be eloquent in how I share - meaning I need to educate myself - OH SO MUCH MORE!

Do you have resources for me that I can either read now or add to the resources I curate? I welcome any and all. I’m trying to soak up all I can, so that I can better serve the needs of my students.


This goes for readers on here, as well. Please let me know what else I can do. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Day 96 - Signs of the Times

Wednesday, June 17 2020

Billboards seen on Rt. 53 between Higgins and Palatine Road...

The newspaper on a neighbor's drive:

The park by my house (someone took the "caution" tape off):

The hospital by our house:

I just finished:
Blog post here: http://passionpurposeproduct.blogspot.com/2020/06/when-they-call-you-terrorist.html
I'm reading:

Marquee sign by the waterpark that is closed:
     Football and Cheerleading Registration Now Open.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Days 92 & 93 - Break

Saturday and Sunday, June 13 & 14, 2020

I'm going to stop writing/publishing these every day (weekends count as one day). I need to take a break for my mental health. Truth? I never thought we'd be quarantined this long. I'll still count the days, and I'll still share bits and pieces that I want to remember or document for posterity, but I won't be posting regularly. 

Because I do believe Black lives are in danger and thus Black Lives Matter, what I've been sharing on Twitter has turned people off. I'm okay if they leave me. No one's been mean or wicked in responding - in fact, hardly anyone has responded. That's made me feel alone in this fight on my end. I'm breaking - my mind is not strong, and my body is also weak these days. (Thank you for my ten or so "regular" readers - I wonder what YOU believe? You are quiet on your end. I can understand that.)

So, for now, with a day ahead of me where I'm supposed to celebrate my husband's 68th birthday with my family - who I believe do not think like me and will continue to support that person living in the White House - I've decided I need to take a break if I am going to continue to fight what what I believe is right. I thought I'd get to 100 days in, but why? It's just a number. I need to care more for people now than numbers.

I'm going to share the LiveBinder of resources once again that I created two years ago to support those who want to become Anti-Racist (there really is no such thing as "non-racist" - I get it now), and I'm going to read more books by BIPOC, more nonfiction and fictional stories, and try to become more knowledgeable in actions I can take to support those looked upon as less than human.

I'm also taking a break from Twitter, but I will continue my weekday Instagram stories - to try to help my former students educate themselves, so they can make their own decisions after learning a bit more each day. They are our hope for the future.

If you'd like to join me, please head to the Anti-Racist LiveBinder.
If you want to help me, please add more resources I need to add to this resource in the comments below.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Day 91 - Retirement Get-Together

Friday, June 12 2020

Phew! I spent another three and a half hours outside with two friends again today. We celebrated one's retirement. How did I ever spend over eight hours in a school building if this time outside is exhausting to me?!

I think it might be the constant conversation. I'm not used to having to pay attention for so long all at one time. *Reminder to self: Build in brain breaks next school year!!

I'm glad we're having conversations - we have talked about how Black Lives Matter in each instance. The conversations sounded different, however, and they were good for me to hear and try to join in. It seems as if the opinions of people (well, me for sure) are very divided. I'm looking for some middle ground. Exhausting. And good for me.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Day 90 - A Get-Together

Thursday, June 11 2020

Heading into today, I'm not sure... I'm not sure of myself and my comfort (or lack thereof). I'm not sure of how the discussions will turn. I'm not sure of what to bring. I'm not sure of what I'll say or keep inside. I haven't had "social time" in awhile now, and I'm not sure of how I'll do. I'm heading to a teacher-friend's house to meet with her and another - to have a "socially-distant picnic" of sorts.
I've figured this out about myself while I'm staying at home...


The weather was perfect in the front lawn, I brought my own food that I enjoyed, I didn't have to use the bathroom, and the discussion went in many directions. I think it was mostly negative, but we had some laughs in there. I did share that I've learned I don't love socializing. I made sure to share it because I didn't want to do this often. I thought I would feel guilt, but I actually feel proud. I'm proud I could state how I felt. I'm glad COVID has made me more aware that people have different needs. Yes, I should've known that before, and in a way I did, but now I can see it clearer. I look forward to learning even more.


This was my favorite tweet I saw today:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Day 89 - Unlearning

Wednesday, June 10 2020

Thank you to Denise Krebs for sharing a bit of her history in her blog post titled "Unlearning" here.

This prompt was created by Defne Egbo. “Reflect on the first time you became aware of race—either yours or someone else’s. What meaning did you make of it then? How has that meaning evolved?”  I believe this prompt is from The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad.
The first time I became aware of my race was in third grade when my best friend Lauren called me a "Honky." We'd had an argument, she called me a honky, and I went home and asked what it was. My parents (both? I'm not sure) told me, "A honky is a White person." Oh. I was fine with that. Then they added, "You probably don't want to be friends with her anymore." I knew we'd gotten into an argument, but that didn't mean we couldn't be friends anymore. I remember loving her phone number. It spelled "Buy - A - Cow." Our phone number spelled "Buy - Melo," which wasn't so cool. Sure enough, the days after that, Lauren didn't talk to me anymore. I don't know what I said or did now. I don't remember the argument.

The second time I became aware of my race was in fifth grade after Mom dropped off Mohan at his house. We'd car pool from trumpet practice after school. Mom let me know, "You can't date him." What?! I was in fifth grade! I wasn't thinking of dating! And Mohan was a great friend, so what was wrong with him anyway?! I was made aware that he wasn't White. I remember thinking, that it's okay. I don't want to date anyone anyway. We were just friends.

I grew up (and have always lived) in a predominately White neighborhood, sheltered from... well... everything. I read a ton, didn't go out much, and enjoyed my simple life. When I started college, I heard the name Rodney King, and wondered what that was all about. I just looked up this man today. How naive was I in my own little world? How naive am I still?

My grandparents held some serious racism. My grandfather didn't want a Black man in his house. I was in college at the time, and Papa followed this man around the house, not looking at him. My mom did the talking for him, as he was there to repair something. I remember thinking, what's wrong with Papa? I didn't know it was because he was Black. My mom had to tell me.


I went grocery shopping this morning. Sometimes I wonder, "Is this real? Do we all need to wear masks? Is it still going on?" The numbers say yes, for sure.

The New York Stock Exchange went silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds at the start of George Floyd's funeral yesterday. This was the length of time the police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck. It was the longest moment of silence on the stock exchange floor in its 228-year history. (New York Times update in my email box.)

The drivers of NASCAR want the confederate flag taken down at their races.

I listen to these to on Sports Center, and they have some beautiful conversations about race.
Tony Kornheiser & Mike Wilbon

It seems as if every large group is saying, in some shape or form, that Black Lives Matter. There is hope in all they say.

Meanwhile... Trump is not showing any empathy for anyone. He blames and distracts. Constantly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Day 88 - Triangle Perspective

Day 88 - June 9 2020

In February of this year, I read The Courage to Be Happy... by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga. I read it because my library did not have The Courage to Be Disliked, which a Twitter teacher friend had recommended. I figured I could learn something anyway. It turns out that this one was the sequel to the first book, and it was explained enough in the beginning for me to catch on pretty easily.

I took a few notes while driving (I listened to this one on CDs from my library), and one note in particular stands out to me today.

The philosopher talked about a triangle. On each side of the triangle, there were phrases that represented people's perspectives when they came to him...

He realized this and decided to ask those who came to visit -
     Which one would YOU rather talk about?

Since yesterday was my first "official" last day and summer can start today, I'm focusing on what I can DO from here. If you're a faithful reader, you won't see as many posts here, you MAY see more posts here, you'll see less of me on Twitter (I've found it challenging to talk about race with fellow White educators), you MAY see more of me on Instagram (my students reside there), you'll find me reading more fiction for rest and more nonfiction for action, and I'll be taking care of myself more. All of these shifts in what I'm going to do this summer may actually help me DO more for others.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Day 87 - Documenting

Monday, June 8 2020

Here are things I've seen the past three days...
On Instagram:

On Twitter:

In one of my books (The Rent Collector):
On driveways in my neighborhood:

From another book I'm reading that is SO VALUABLE:So You Want to Talk about Race Audiobook by Ijeoma Oluo ... YES. Yes I do. 
     See another blog of mine for my thoughts and my notes.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

2019-2020 Digital Scrapbook

For Days 85 & 86 of quarantine, I'm bringing up a draft post that I save throughout the year to remember what I've done regarding "extra" teaching or professional development opportunities...

Because my heart is so heavy from the events of this past week and the wondering of the future of my students, I'll be returning to blogging at my other "genius hour" blog about race once again. 

I've decided to lay off the presenting this year (it's way more stress for me than teaching), AND we kind of stopped seeing people in "the real world," so this year's "scrapbook" is a bit sparse compared to some years!

- Video conference with Michael Tromblee's (@mtromblee1) educators regarding Shift This
- USMSpark conference - hosted a healthy grading session and was able to learn from so very many!
Here's Sean Scanlon's post about the connections made, and a photo taken that day:

- USQ conference - Keynoted with my niece and nephew! Oh, how over-the-moon proud I am of these two learners and leaders!

- #BLC19 - My last year heading Boston to present - it's good and sad at the same time... We've decided to do more of our own vacations, instead of having someone else dictate where we go during the summer. If anyone has a conference out west that you'd like to waive the conference fee and hotel for, we're available! My favorite part of this one? Getting to see Carrie Baughcum do her thing.
- WORD SHIFT was published!! I'm fortunate enough to have the time to write and the publisher who'll trust in me.

- Staying true to taking better care of myself and not making my weekends about work, I accepted an invitation to walk with a good friend / coworker of mine in the JDRF One Walk this year. Turns out there were LOTS of people there who know someone with JDRF T1 - so glad it was well supported!
Kim Miklusak
Karen Field

- We read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (aloud) again in class, and one of my students wanted to share something with the author. And he RESPONDED!! đŸ’•

- Half-day Edcamp at Carmel Catholic H.S. My takeaway? Why do we still have days set aside parent/teacher conferences if we're being more transparent and have better communication than ever? Bonus - there were five other educators there from my district!
- My district sent me to learn from Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher in Hoffman Estates! It was so reinvigorating AND I got my books signed!
- IETC in Springfield, IL - I was able to hear a great discussion in my Healthy Grading session, help others create gratitude stars, share my passion for personalized learning with a small group, and speak during lunch, between Michael Matera and new lost sister in my life Julie Nilsson Smith! I'm so grateful to friend and conference organizer Kim Darche for helping me get down to Springfield to share some things I've learned, and thank you to Lindsay Zilly for the sketchnote!


- EdCampMadWi! EdCamp Madison is always a hit. It seems like it's been a very long time since I've been to an edcamp! I had a few people at my "gratitude writing" session, and at lunch we brainstormed a new session for next time - "Boomers Unite!" Bonus - Bob hung out with us afterwards, and we stayed the night before heading home. We did miss Aggie this year, though.
- Our ELA teachers got to have PD on Readers/Writers Workshop for two days. It was such valuable  and needed professional development.
- EdCamp Elmbrook! It was good to connect... and no, I wasn't going to bring up the "Boomers Unite" session when we had so many other topics that were way more important.
- School closed at the end of the day - Friday, March 13. Life as we knew it changed.

- We purchased house plants! Four - ZZ, Umbrella, Peace Lily, and Prince Orange Philodendron

- Through all this crud, I found time to share about Genius Hour!
- And then again on May 16th! 
Click HERE for my session on Genius Hour
Because really... it's so very true...
- And then ONE MORE TIME on June 3rd through an "Open Mic" at Teachers Connect - with Trevor Rawlings and Denise Krebs! I love the fact that it was Trevor's first time presenting.
- Last Day of School 8th grade reverse parade... This might be a new trend...

The first student who came through the parade walked with his mom, because they were early. They left their car and walked around the lot. I teared up because I now see him as having a fragile future. He is half Black and half Japanese. I then wondered about every child in our parade who might not have a long future due to systemic racism, depression, or... I need to get back with the kids already. At least there I feel I can DO something positive.