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, April 10, 2022

Another New Learning Experience

Jury Duty... Seven days total.

I was so distraught the Wednesday I found out I might have to be on a jury starting that Friday and for what the judge said could be one week long. How the heck was I supposed to hear a woman's trauma surrounding an attempted rape and murder AND even think of making sub plans for what could be a different sub every day or even every class period? I had a huge headache and I was going to miss our first field trip in three years (my ONE DAY out of the classroom with my students this year) and I was crying on the L ride home. I thought the huge surprises that the pandemic had brought us were done. I thought that routine was back in my life. I was suddenly jolted out of any routine and thrust into the unknown.

Being able to go to school Thursday was such a blessing. I was able to talk to my students about the possibility of me missing our field trip the next day and then being out for what could be an entire week. More importantly to my own sanity, I was able to express my fear about not being able to do it all to my coworkers. My friend & co-planner said she'd take care of it. She said I didn't have to write sub plans for every day. She said she could decide the plans, print out the slides we'd use in class, and talk with the sub about how many minutes each activity should take. I found out I'd have one sub for the Monday through Thursday, and if needed, a different one for Friday. I even had that substitute's email address, as he'd subbed for me the day prior for jury selection. That Thursday was such a blessing to have - and my friend & co-planner's help was such a blessing the entire week. That Thursday, I had some of the best sleep I've had in ages, knowing that the work part of my life would be taken care of.

And I learned - I learned so much.

  1. I need to be taken out of my comfort zone every once in awhile. The pandemic teaching in 20-21 took me WAY out of my comfort zone for so long - oh so many unexpected changes! - that as soon as this new routine was threatened, I was so upset. I reacted poorly. I made it a much larger deal than it actually was. I spent too much time so stressed about it.
  2. I need to ask for help when I'm struggling. My friend/co-planner was ready to help at a moment's notice. She seemed as if she WANTED to help. I needed it, and she provided it.
  3. I am better with a "gradual release of responsibility" than with taking it all on at once. Hubby drove me to the CTA L station Wednesday and Friday, and I learned the L system of tickets and stops. Monday I was able to drive myself, and I learned about the parking payment system at the CTA station. Each day of the week, something different happened that was out of the ordinary, and each day I was able to figure it out. (One day the L I was on was "express," one day I didn't get a ticket when I came IN to park and the gate was wide open, one day I got on an L that didn't go as far as I needed, and on the last day, I almost missed my stop because the announcement was one stop late and I was so immersed in writing notes about what I wanted to say at deliberations.)
  4. I love being told one direction at a time. It's easy to follow. I had to get to the Daley Center downtown Chicago by 9:15. I had to take off my jacket and belt and put those and my backpack through the metal detector. I had to be in room 1604 at 9:30. When I got there, I was told to sign in and fill out a lunch slip. When I was done with that, I was told to get my notebook and wait. When I was escorted to the court room, I was told to take my stuff with me. When I was in court, I was asked to sit down. Since the day of jury selection, I knew I would not be speaking, so all I was expected to do was listen and keep an open mind. At a break, I was asked to stand up and follow the deputy back to the other room. It was also suggested we use the washroom. I did - every time. No one knew how long each day - or each time in the courtroom - would be. No one knew how many days it would be. No one knew which two of us (we were 14 total) would be alternates. No one knew when lunch would come. We were only told what we needed to know, and it was easy to follow. At the end of the day, we were provided our $17.20 check (which I'm grateful covered the $7 of parking and $5 L ticket). I appreciated the simple directions.
  5. We all need to get out of our own "boxes" at times. In the courtroom, I was immersed in the situation. I was listening to and looking at the same people every day (with a number of different witnesses thrown in). Everything revolved around the case. Outside the Daley Center, I was surrounded by unknowns. People everywhere. Each one has their own stories they bring to this life. Each one was heading somewhere, for some reason unknown to me. Each one was thinking different things, feeling different things, experiencing different things. In the buildings surrounding me, I was wondering how many people were in them and what they were doing at that moment. I am always amazed when I'm in a large group of people or drivers or passengers on public transportation at the countless - COUNTLESS - number of stories people have in their lives. It's humbling. It takes the focus off of me and any issues I may have. It puts my own tiny existence into perspective.
  6. Bias can truly be hidden. At the selection of the jury, before the trial began, and again before deliberations started, the judge and the lawyers had us swear that bias or any preconceived notions of the witnesses would NOT factor into our decision as to who was at fault. I knew this. Obvious, right? I'm trying to practice this daily. I've been more aware of my biases since the summer of reflection in 2020, and I swore that I would not let bias factor into my decision. I believe it did, however, make me hear or not hear one crucial piece of evidence... There were eight of us that favored the defense when we started deliberating. Four of us were adamant at one point Thursday afternoon that one of the witnesses was caught lying. I was aghast, as was the juror next to me. We both said, "If I'd have heard that, I would've noted it - instead, I noted it was his word against the other witness!" Everyone left at 5pm Thursday, and we were in a deadlock on one of the four points we had to consider. I arrived home 90 min later, exhausted. Over the course of the evening, I thought of a book I'd read called Think Again by Adam Grant. I believe it was in that book where I read that we are wrong 50% of the time (when arguing about something). We all may think we're right, but obviously some of us are wrong. One tactic he suggested was to consider that I was totally wrong, and that the opposite was actually true. So... how could the other side believe they'd heard that evidence?? Maybe they heard something that was objected by the other side and we should not have let that into our brain. Maybe they saw something on the screen that had to be taken down because the other side had objected... If that was NOT true... how could I be wrong? Maybe I had let my bias of the counsel affect what I was hearing. I heard the witness answer "I do not recall," and I wrote down that it was his word against the first witness's word. Maybe I hadn't heard the next part because I was biased toward the defense even at jury selection. As I reflected, I realized that before I even knew anything about the witnesses or what this case was even about, I had thoughts in my head about the two lawyers themselves. The plaintiff's lawyer was a big, strong, pointing-at-people man. I saw him as a bully. I saw him as a money grubber. The defense's lawyer was a lanky, scrawny, mess-with-his-glasses man, and I saw him as the underdog. I stand up to bullies and I support underdogs. When holding up my right hand, I only thought of the witnesses, not the counsel. I didn't think that bias should come into play... it may have. It may have for me, and it may have for the other four that were adamant they heard that evidence.  When deliberating the next day, I asked everyone to write down their bias (even ever so slight) they had before we even heard any testimony. I didn't ask, but what if... what if we all were on the side we leaned toward in the slightest bit at the end of the trial, as well? I shared that the "bully" lawyer cemented my decision when he was pointing at us in his closing arguments and telling me how many millions of dollars I'd write down on the paper. I asked for hands to see who believed they heard the witness - in front of us - say (whatever I'm not going to go into details for here)... and at least six of us did. So, I changed my mind on the first point. Other jurors thanked me for sharing what I'd been thinking, and we moved on with discussions. I truly believe that my bias towards the lawyers hindered my listening skills in the court room. 

My little lessons this past week - such as knowing which cars will be less stinky on the L and how to get around downtown easily - were numerous. It was my larger lessons, however, that made the week totally worth it. I feel proud that I didn't try to get out of jury duty, and I feel as if we made a good decision in the end. I feel that maybe, in this one case, justice was served, and I'm proud I was a part of it.

One of my views every day from the 16th floor of the Daley Center