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.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Best Books of 2023

 My list is not extensive by any means, but I need to share out my favorites from 2023 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.

     2022 Favorites
     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 100 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 - Eddie Jaku's The Happiest Man on Earth: The beautiful life of an Auschwitz survivor

Young Adult - Neal Shusterman's Game Changer

Graphic Novel
Middle School - Two true stories.
Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile's Victory. Stand! Raising my fist for justice along with Christina Soontornvat's The Tryout: Making the Squad Means Risking It All

Historical Fiction
Adult - Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five was one I chose simply because it was banned.
YA - Krystal Marquis's The Davenports (#1)
Middle School - Amina Luquam-Dawson's Freewater
and Jennifer Nielsen's Lines of Courage

How To / Self Help
Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements has four tips anyone should follow.
Ryan Holiday's The Daily Stoic had me reading a bit each day. I'm now going to read a follow-up book on the Stoicism philosophy, because it, along with the Calm app and my pausing to stay in the present, has helped me grow.

I'm not a huge mystery reader, but Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder was a fun one to read with my husband. It was MUCH better than the movie.
Adult - Robin Wall Kimmererer's Braiding Sweetgrass reminded me of how I need to take care of our earth.

Poetry / Prose / Novel in Verse
Middle School - Andrea Beatriz Arango's Something Like Home
Rajani LaRocca's Mirror to Mirror
                                Jarrett Lerner's A Work in Progress

Angela Watson's - Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching reminded me of what she already has shared with her readers.

Adult - Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye ... so grateful for the afterward.
Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures
Middle School - Sarah Everett's The Probability of Everything - The payoff was worth the confusion.
Alyssa Hollingsworth's The Eleventh Trade was a stretch I think my students will enjoy.
Antony John's Mascot grabbed me from the first chapter

Middle School - Julie Buxbaum's What to Say Next was recommended by a parent, and it had alternating narrators that I LOVED.

Science Fiction
Adult - Nikki Erlick's The Measure is still in my mind many days.

Middle School - Tommy Greenwald's Game Changer was a fast read! (Wait a minute... Do two of my favorite books this year have the same title?!?!)

A Book that Inspired Me to Write
Adult - Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
This was the last book I read in 2023. Just this week I purchased a journal - to write to myself... I'm asking myself for advice, and I'm answering myself. I imagine it's kind of like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy... using my own negative thoughts and showing myself what's okay (or even beautiful) about the struggle. I'm excited to keep writing; I've never written like this.

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 2024!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Twitter Journey

My own Twitter journey is coming to an end... 

If you don't want to read the history, jump down to how I think this is going to affect my life. (Side note, I refuse to call it X. It's still at Twitter.com, so...)

My Personal Twitter History
  • August, 2011 - I signed up because my principal asked us to. It was my first full month as Joy Kirr, so I used that name, and I decided I would only use it for professional purposes.
  • February, 2012 - I learned how to use Twitter, and I started to follow hashtags. This led me to learning about Genius Hour, EdCamps, following conferences from home, and a TON of PD in my PJs.
  • From then on, I've used Twitter to join chats, host chats, learn about what I'd like to do in my own classroom, and help others in theirs. I wrote about much of this while reflecting on just my first year.
  • I remember spending hours on the Twitter app, on Tweetdeck for chats, and looking at so very many educators I wanted to follow. (I've lately gone down to 30 min a day, and I'm never on it after 8pm.)
  • If you'd like to know more, I have documented my Twitter thoughts and tips here on this blog.
  • I have been using Twitter for professional use only, Instagram to connect with (former) students, and TikTok to connect with my current students.
  • Eleven to twelve years later, it's probably time to be done.

Why am I leaving?
I love using Twitter on my laptop. It's much easier than on my phone, and I can interact with more people using my laptop. First they took away my Tweetdeck, because I'm not paying. As of today, I'm locked out of Twitter on my laptop, as I never finished the two-factor authentication process when Elon told me that's what I needed to do. I had to clear my cache and history to help my (old) laptop work better, so now I'm locked out, as it logged me out after this process, and it's not enough to just use my username and password. I was going to leave a bit earlier - when Elon took over, but some of my favorite people online were still there. I was still learning bits of tech and opportunities and about people, too... And I was limiting myself to half an hour a day. While I ate my breakfast before school, I got somewhat caught up. Now that it will be difficult to use, I don't see a large reason to stay. I'm glad I follow the blogs of some of my teacher pals, I'm glad I've connected with some of them on Instagram, TikTok, Goodreads, and even Duolingo. I have some of their phone numbers and addresses.

How will my life change?
  • I may read more of a newspaper site (instead of using Twitter for news, too). 
  • I won't be writing on this blog to share via Twitter. This relieves me of some pressure.
  • I may be writing more on this blog, as now there's less pressure. I don't know how many readers I have, but when I tweet out a new post, I feel it has to be "worthy." When I simply write for myself - to reflect or to document - I am more my true self, and I can write, write, write.
  • I won't be sharing self-help tidbits (which has been my go-to tweet lately) on Twitter. I hope to simply be LIVING them. I'm sharing some at the next IDEACon in February, so maybe I'll continue to do this, and maybe I can even share them with my coworkers (which I really haven't done).
  • I won't be comparing myself to other teachers (as often). Although I feel I've learned this lesson, sometimes it still smacks me in the face.
  • I won't be lured into reading accounts I don't even follow. I won't be sucked into what's "trending."

How do I feel?
  • Ready. I'm so done with Elon Musk. I'm so done with the anonymous Twitter handles that feel they can comment any and all nasty things that (I feel) don't belong in this world.
  • It's another change in my life. I was ready when I jumped on, and now I'm ready to leave it be. I do hope, if someone pulls up my feed, they see things that could still help them - new teachers, teachers new to Twitter, and old friends.
  • I'm also feeling a bit old. I still have at least 4.5 years until I retire, but I feel my work now needs to be done IN the classroom. I will still learn from my students and colleagues, and I'll still learn from teachers on TikTok.
  • It's been such a journey that I needed at the time. I'm so grateful for the access, the connections, and the learning that came with that journey.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for keeping the conversations going. If you need me, you can find me on this blog, on TikTok (JoyKirr), on Instagram (JoyKirr1), on Goodreads here, and my email is my name at gmail... Let me know what you need, and please share with me what you love and value.

Monday, December 18, 2023

EduWins - The Small Things

There is so much pain and suffering and hate and sadness in this world right now.

In my own small slice, I've decided to collect and share small wins from my job of trying to teach children who are in my seventh grade ELA classes.

Here are some EduWins from the past two months...
  • One student said, "Thank you" for the fidget stickers another teacher on our team provided. He also put them on his Chromebook right away AND threw away the backings.
  • One of my students struggles with struggle... after he calls me over to help, he often gets angry with me when I come and try. I found him in a calm moment and sat next to him. I shared, "When you want my help and I try to help, but then you act like I'm a terrible person who doesn't understand, it makes me sad."
  • I sent a lot of good notes home one day when I didn't have a team meeting, and many parents replied, sharing more about their child that was enlightening, sweet, and funny.
  • Two students called me "Mom" (or Mam√≠) this month.
  • I was able to diffuse an angry student and allow her to chat with an administrator.
  • Sending a parent a virtual hug via email helped her see she's not alone. Her child had had a tough class, any help I tried to provide backfired, and I wanted her to know that he may come home upset. She welcomed any hugs.
  • Our homeroom raised the most money out of any other because we offered an incentive based on student suggestions... my good-humored co-homie and I will soon be putting a streak of pink in our hair. 
  • I was able to see two of my students at their hockey games on two different Sunday mornings.
  • One student asked me what my favorite book was. As I was thinking of an answer, I suggested one of them to three girls that like to read together. I had two copies already, and I got another one from a coworker - they started reading them five minutes after I showed them where they were!
  • The bookmarks I make are always a hit. And some students even give me back the one they'd been using!
  • One student told me another student was really struggling. Another, on another day, told me about another student struggling. I love how they take care of each other - without making an announcement to the entire class.
May you be able to reflect back and find so many things to be grateful for this week before winter break.