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.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Day 365 - Lessons Learned

My district shut down our schools at the end of the day a year ago today. We've had students in the building since October 12th (minus an outbreak shutdown), and we've been "all in" (still teaching remote students concurrently) since January 19, 2021. The teacher across the hall has as many as 24 students in class at one time (with more on Zoom).

Anyway... I started writing in my velvet-covered journal I've had since 2000 (along with this blog), and I've got a few pages dedicated to lessons I've learned during the lockdown and the year we've just been through. Some are sentences, and some are fragments. I wanted to document them on my blog, as well. Sticking to the order they were written, here they are (so far):

  • Some (most?) people are social beings.
  • I respond well to praise.
  • what "social distancing" is
  • how to host a Zoom meeting
  • how to record and upload using Zoom or QuickTime
  • Don't ask Hubby for anything for at least 20 min after his nap.
  • I'm comfortable with myself.
  • what a "skin" is in golf (5/17/20 - Live golf is on TV!)
  • Challenges are good for us. They help us grow.
  • what a friend is
  • I've got few solid friends. The rest I'm letting go.
  • It feels good to reach out.
  • I'm not a sociable person - I'm doing okay without all the contact. A few people I can let in. I can even tell them - we just disagree.
  • I love writing when I have something to write about. (Hence this blog, Shift This, and Word Shift.) The kids need space to write about something they want to write about!
  • Sometimes I can change my ways (writing in a calendar/planner in pencil).
  • how to make hot milk cake
  • You have to click on the bell in order to get a notification for YouTube accounts you subscribe to.
  • how to use WeVideo
  • how to make Instagram stories
  • to appreciate even more (how can that be?) ... like a new jar of peanut butter or a new jar of olives
  • Hubby doesn't enjoy "heavy" movies.
  • When I get into something, I really need to learn and share more. It becomes pretty all-encompassing.
  • I realized that there are so many things I love doing! (Thanks to the box challenge from Karen.)
  • I'm going back to some of the things I used to love years ago.
  • how to put GIFs on/in my texts
  • Staying positive - with helpful links - is the way to go on Twitter.
  • specific ways to be anti-racist
  • how to put my gifs of me into a slideshow
  • to be happy with who I am - as long as I'm trying my best
  • I have a confident presence on Zoom calls (so I've been told).
  • A haircut is a luxury - and can make you feel whole again.
  • I'll never go back to long hair (if I can help it).
  • I can leave spider webs alone (outside).
  • I can NOT scratch mosquito bites.
  • I enjoy simply sitting outside and observing. Just being.
  • I enjoy simply watching the birds at the backyard feeder.
  • I don't want to ride my bike to and from school if it's as stressful as the one time I rode home from school this summer. Plus, I have a vehicle I love to drive.
  • I have a few really good friends outside of Hubby.
  • A card in the mail goes a long way - for the sender and the receiver.
  • Hubby and I miss restaurants because we like to sit at the bar and chat with the bartenders and other patrons - and hot food served to us is a luxury.
  • to NOT talk politics with my parents
  • I love our sycamore tree.
  • A friend of mine feels better when I can get her laughing.
  • Everyone has their own preference for masks, set up, teaching, etc.
  • how to teach remotely - Zoom, doc camera, projecting, making connections, etc. (Remember, friends, when some of us said we'd rather take a year off than teach remotely?!?!)
  • Have ONE priority. The word was meant to be singular. Mine = my health (physical & mental) Everything else has to come after that.
  • "I did my part," quote from Hubby. I only have to worry about what I do.
  • to do what I think I should do.
  • When you open a document, wait for it to load before you start to scroll down - it will save you tons of frustration and be easier on your elbow. (It also gives you time to breathe.)
  • how to get addicted post to TikTok
  • If someone can sober up in 2020, I can continue to have a positive outlook and do what's right.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Raise up / amplify BIPOC voices.
  • Compliment others.
  • Learn something from big challenges like this has been.
  • how to play Among Us
  • Children like to be in school.
  • A walk outside is so good for my soul.
  • I need to recognize others' feelings.
  • When I next meet or talk with someone who is crabby, I'll be sorry that they're in a bad place. I recognize that bad place now - where nothing good happens. I've been there. I can stop and listen.
  • Having worry, being in pain, problems with friends... those all weigh on people. When it happens to me, they make me dis- or mis-trust. Our principal told me in September... she always assumes best intent. Assume the kids want to do good.
  • That feeling you have now? It will go away. And it will most likely come back again. And I'll have the ability to survive all the changes. I have the tools. 
  • Listening to others makes them feel good.
  • Songs I can dance to make me feel good.
  • I CAN put down the phone. I do not use up all my will power at work. There is always more.
  • I don't miss presenting; I do miss sharing my "why" for things I believe with other educators.
  • I cannot wait for others to do something for me - only I can help myself. It's up to me.
  • Taking one or two deep breaths in the classroom helps me focus on what's important.
  • It's human to not know what I'm doing, to hurt, to be happy, to FEEL. I'm going through all the feels. This is called "living."
  • It's okay if that life is hard. We can do hard things.
  • I don't have to waste time worrying what others think of me. I just have to like who I am becoming. I will always be becoming. It's a journey that continues every day.
  • I will make mistakes. I hope I learn from them.
  • I, personally, learn the most through my mistakes. Although I hope I make fewer and fewer, I will always love learning.

Photo shared by friend Andi Kornowski, linked to Positive Energy+

Sunday, March 7, 2021

My Reasons...

(I found this post in my drafts from October 3, 2021... I wanted to publish it as is. It's a glimpse into what I was going through while still full-time remote teaching. If you don't understand it, that's okay. I write first for ME.) 

The children are my reasons.

Through all the strife educators are feeling right now - the ones who teach almost every hour of the day, especially, there are stars in the sky. There are beams of light streaming down. These moments are what keep me heading back into the school building and teaching from one corner of the room on three monitors.

Here are some things I've heard or read in the Zoom chat recently that make me so grateful for the moment I'm in:

"Aren't we going to do the Jamboard attendance?"

"Can I show you?"

"Can I say something?"

"But what if..."

"I don't think so."


"My mom says you're a good singer, Mrs. Kirr."

"I can't get in." And shortly afterwards... "Same." "Same." "Samesies."

"Can you play Gaston from Disney?"

And more of what I've heard voiced aloud... 

"Can I go get it now?"

"But what if..."

"I left my charger at my mom's. I'm at 8%, and I'm using a phone charger, and it says it will not charge if the Chromebook is on. Oh, there it goes. It's charging."

When discussing the "would you rather" Jamboard question:

     Student 1 - "If you're a wizard, you don't have the responsibility of being a superhero."

     Student 2 - "But if you're a superhero, you get to help a lot of people."

They're starting to use their voices.