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, May 30, 2021

The Book of Joy

This book is my latest opportunity to learn about how to have better mental health during this time of teaching in a pandemic.

My personal notes from this book are here.

What are my key take-aways?

Life is full of struggle. Make of it what you can. Do your part. Enjoy the journey by being present in each moment; experience it all fully.

Gratitude & Compassion - these will get you far.

I make a practice of #ThankfulThursdays with my students; I'm going to find a way for us to practice compassion once a week, as well! We need more compassion in this world, and it starts with us.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

I'm not giving them my best. Or... I AM giving them my best.

 *Note: This post is simply for my own documentation. It will not inspire readers. 

One of my students, Zoe, asked me what the white cubbies (that are currently on the floor) are used for. I explained that they used to be on the desk, and they used to hold our binders. When students came in the door, they grabbed their binder, then sat down. When they left, they put their binders back in the cubbies. I had just purchased this item from IKEA the February before we went into lockdown last year.

"You had that on you DESK?" Zoe asked.

"Yes. I never sat at my desk. It was the student station." I explained that the desk was for student supplies, such as markers, rubber bands, paperclips, the stapler, the hole puncher, tape, decorations for the room, envelopes, tools, bandages, needle & thread... anything a student or another teacher might need. And students could sit there. I never sat there. I moved around the room. I taught from all over the room.

"Oh," is all she replied, as it seemed to sink in.

The students in front of me - and those on my screen - don't know how I normally teach. They don't know that I hate sitting in a chair all day. They don't know that I used to have 1:1 conversations with my students each day - about their book, about their writing, about their participation, about their behavior, about how proud I am of them, about how I noticed their new shoes, etc. I'm tethered to the laptop. I feel as if I cannot leave my remote students, or I will lose them completely.

I am not the teacher I have been in the past. I'm not giving them my best. Because I cannot. It is physically impossible with the hand we've been given. I have to accept this. Some days I can; some days I'm full of anguish.

This year has been full of realizations. And I've learned so very much.

Just this April, I've realized students have had their earbuds in - during class. One of my students - who is doing fine in class - had to take out an earbud when I walked by and asked a question. I asked, "What are you listening to?" The response? "My music." I kept walking. This is not a fight I'm willing to put my energy into this school year. Students probably spent their remote time listening to their music (and many were playing games, too).

In March, I started seeing students who pulled down their mask to talk. How had I not seen this before? And then, in April, I started seeing the earbuds. How had I not seen this before? This year - I cannot see as well as I could in the past. I cannot hear as well as I could in the past. (The masks - oh, the masks!) Those not teaching don't understand this phenomenon. I do now. I know I've been blind and deaf to so much, because my mind and body can only handle so much. My brain was at capacity. I'm just now starting to be able to see and hear and DO more.

This is temporary. It's not my best teaching by far.  Yet I AM giving them my best - my best for now. Heck, we're in a pandemic. My hands have been tied for so many things. We're feeling the consequences of the rules we've been given. We're feeling the consequences of having to teach two classes each period. We're feeling the consequences of having to do two jobs at once - without any extra plan time or time with our colleagues. No wonder the kids aren't doing THEIR best. 

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week from one worn out teacher who is not feeling appreciated. I keep telling myself - this IS temporary.