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, August 20, 2022

Small Wins Are Bigger These Days

I feel things more (stronger?) these days. Hot is hotter, ice is more painful, contentment stays with me longer. I'm feeling all the feels from this first week back at school. Today I'm at peace, so I'm going to take a few moments and share a few small wins from three days with students...

I've got a few self-proclaimed readers. One, after checking out a book from our classroom library, just keeps reading (even as I'm giving directions). As I nudge him to close his book, he says, "This is going to happen a lot. My teachers are always taking my book away." This is a good problem for me to have. (Even if it's not so great for the other teachers on the team.)

At least TEN students checked out books from our classroom library so far.

We found out that our homeroom students speak eight other languages: Romanian, Polish, Hindi, Greek, Spanish, Assyrian, Lebanese, and Arabic.

One class was 10 minutes longer than my longest (I had a 30-min class, a 60-min, and a 50-min class), so I took them out for a walk around the building. One student walked with me the entire way, and we took turns asking each other questions and sharing stories. 

As I was going over classroom expectations (which I'd stopped doing for a number of years and now I'm back doing - because it's needed), one student was upset that I'd put the cushions away if they weren't used properly. Another replied, "No, it's okay, because it's a privilege, not a right." <<Insert hug here!>>

Five students shared their quick writing with the class already. One started to share, then realized he couldn't read his own handwriting. He took it in stride and he may decide to improve it. (??)

Our school librarian had us check out books from the library on the third day of school!

I get to eat my 40-minute lunch with great colleagues.

My co-homeroom teacher greets kids at the door with me (and we have time to socialize!).

Yesterday, one of my classes found the bookmarks I've made for them. :D

I'm giving out intermittent rewards (T-Wolf tickets students can use as currency for a new school store), which the students and I are excited about!

This year, my co-planner and I decided to do what we saw a sixth-grade ELA teacher do - collect the sticky notes that students are supposed to bring in. I found this awesome big jar we've had at home for awhile. Now we have a place for them, and everyone will be able to use them!

When I did our first read-aloud (First-Chapter Friday - Ghost Boys was yesterday's pick), I thanked the students for listening so well, even though I hadn't gone over that expectation. One student said, "We know when to be quiet." I smiled (NOT through a mask - another win!) and replied, "I would think so, but it's difficult to get back into school mode after a summer off. Thank you for practicing this skill with us today." And I felt corny, and old, and totally okay with all of it.

I'm grateful for all the last two years has taught me. (I won't go so far to say I'm grateful for the challenges that have helped me learn these lessons, but I suppose that's really what it is, right??) I know there will be more tough lessons in the future, should I choose to see the challenges as a tool for learning. I always learn the best from my mistakes, rather than from someone just telling me how to do something. I hope these lessons stick with me for the next six years, and I hope this year is much better than the last two as a result.