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, December 30, 2022

Best Books of 2022

My list is not extensive by any means, but I need to share out my favorites from 2022 like I have the past seven years. Maybe these aren't my favorites, actually... maybe they're books I believe other people could benefit from if they read them. I read a bit for myself, along with many books I thought my 7th graders would enjoy or books they recommended for me.

     2021 Favorites
     2020 Favorites
     2019 Favorites
     2018 Favorites
     2017 Favorites
     2016 Favorites
     2015 Favorites
     2014 Favorites

Here are the books I would most recommend from my list of 109 books I've read this year... I tried to whittle it down to one or two per genre, but I read some genres more than others! I'm not going to describe them for you - you can check out the complete list with my thoughts for this year here. Another note: One of my goals this year was to read more adult books. Young adult and books geared toward seventh graders just aren't holding my attention like they used to.

Biography / Autobiography / Memoir
     Adult - Yeonmi Park's In Order To Live
and Tara Westover's Educated
Both of these were eye-opening and educational for me.
Adult - Matt Haig's The Midnight Library helped me let go of regret.
Middle School - Corey Ann Haydu's Eventown I'd bet would help a child get past a traumatic event.
Graphic Novel
Middle School - Misty Wilson's Play Like a Girl is perfect for 7th graders!
Historical Fiction
Adult - Dolan Perkins-Valdez's Take My Hand was needed for me when Roe vs. Wade was overturned.
HS/Adult - Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn surprised me with the way it was written - I wanted to re-read so many sections. Good message for young people, too.
Middle School - Silas House and Neela Vaswani's Same Sun Here is one of those alternating narrator books that capture your heart.
How To / Self Help
B.J. Fogg's Tiny Habits was like Atomic Habits, except you connect a habit to other habits you've already formed... Easy to implement!
Tania Israel's - Beyond Your Bubble: How to connect across the political divide helped me have a very important discussion with my parents. It led us to find some common ground!
I'm not a huge mystery reader, but Jennifer Lynn Barnes's Inheritance Games was on our summer reading list for our middle school, and it did not disappoint! Many students went on to read the entire series.
Adult - Chris Lockhart's Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka was so rich and filled my soul. I listened to this one, and although very long, it was one of my favorites of the year.
Young Adult - The 57 Bus. After abandoning it a couple of years ago, I'm glad I tried this one again.
Poetry / Prose / Novel in Verse
Middle School - Megan Freeman's Alone held a large lesson for me.
Rebekah Lowell's The Road to After helped me heal further from my divorce 11 years ago, even though it was geared towards a young audience.
I only read two this year, and I needed one on helping me manage the classroom, so although I didn't care for the metaphors and the supposedly "funny" quips throughout, Tom Bennett's Running the Room: A Teacher's Guide to Behavior had some good messages I'm still clinging to this school year.
This was my largest genre by far this year, so I'm picking a bunch...
Adult - Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is taught me so much and helped me question more about what I thought I "knew" about gender.
Steven Rowley's The Guncle made me laugh so healthily!
Middle School - Michelle Kadarusman's Berani was so very tender.
Kevin Wignall's When We Were Lost was a great adventure.
Elizabeth Atkinson's I, Emma Freke was one I put off for so long and was much better than I thought it would be!
Adult - Emily Henry's Book Lovers is my favorite because of the witty banter.

Science Fiction
Adult - Max Brooks's Devolution was a surprise, and kept me reading!

Middle School - Joseph Bruchach's Skeleton Man was scary!

I'm still on the lookout for books that stretch my thinking, are written by those with different experiences than me, and are written well. Please comment your favorites (from this year or all time) down below, so I can add more to my list! Cheers to more reading in 2023!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Change Can = Growth

Change that is put upon me... stinks.

At this point in my life, I'm learning to embrace the challenge of change.

Since March 13, 2020, I feel as if I've lived with constant change. It's probably been much longer than that - isn't it true that "the only thing constant is change"??  (Heraclitus?) I just haven't been as aware of it.

Somewhere between February of 2021 and now I've learned that I need to breathe through changes put upon me. I need to slow down. I need to listen better. My life goes smoother when I actually apply this learning and DO the breathing, the slowing down, and the listening.

I fell off my bike on August 27 of this year.  My tooth was chipped (I got it fixed). My face was hurt (the sinus bone was fractured in four places, and the nerve attached is still affected). My hands were hurt (one is fine, the other is as good as it's going to get). My pride was hurt. My pride being hurt has changed to humility. I've learned a lot from that simple little fall.

When I look in the mirror and realize that my face looks normal, I'm surprised, and I'm reminded - again - that so many people hide (consciously or not) so much of what's happening or what's happened in their lives. We can't see all that people are going through. I wonder this about my students. What's behind their smiles? What are they going through that only they or their families know?

I've learned that I don't need to tell everyone about everything happening in my life. I've learned that it doesn't help me to complain about what hurts or what bothers me. I've learned that the latest fall (I've had a few that I've totally recovered from when I was younger) is part of the tapestry of my life. It's a jagged stitch that I can't fix. It's part of my story, should someone want to know it. It's helped me in ways, and I'm glad. 

It's helped me to slow down. Physically, I've been nervous about falling - anywhere - at any time. I fell on such an easy stretch on my bike - with no distractions - so I am now aware I can fall anywhere at any time. I'm much more conscious of where and how I walk. I don't jog anywhere anymore. I watch where - and how - I walk. I'm never on my phone while I'm walking. I hold rails when I'm on the stairs. I move over when there are too many people or it doesn't feel totally safe.

At first, I felt old doing these things. Being so cautious. I questioned whether I was "too cautious."

Now I know that it's okay. I'm 49 for one more month. I am getting older. I am realizing that it's okay to not go fast all the time. It's okay to take my time. It's actually beneficial for me to take my time. I'm not in any hurry to get older, nor am I in any hurry to hurt myself again, or hurt myself further.

This change in me has helped me realize I truly only need to do ONE thing at a time. 

I'm so thankful I can learn from my challenges. 
I wish this for my students. I wish this for my family and friends. I wish this for YOU.
And I hope I can continue to learn from challenges that come my way.

By the way... wear your helmet (I was and I do), and put on those biking gloves (next time).