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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Broken Light Fixtures Shine Brighter

I got out of the shower and noticed that the glass in one of our bathroom lights was broken. (I didn't get a photo, but it was jagged and tilted so we threw it out.) I was worried it had happened on its own in the middle of the night while we slept, so I was happy when Hubby said he knocked into it yesterday somehow, but he didn't notice it had broken.

So... we threw out the glass, knowing we'll either find a replacement or replace the entire fixture. No biggie. Just some time and effort. No one is hurt, and the room is a bit brighter.

I thought the light would be blinding without the frosted glass, but it's not. It's really nice, actually. I love a lot of light, and I'm glad we've got this while we search for a new one. I immediately thought... I've got an idea for the #SOL this week, as I've seen this before in my life. The broken light shines brighter...

Just this past week, when I gave my presentation about shifting away from stress, I shared how "broken" I was during pandemic teaching. How I cried every day during school and every night at home through all of September of 2020, and many days and nights following during that horrendous school year. And I shared that I am much stronger now. I feel that, when I'm able to give my full attention to the people I'm around each day like I've been practicing, my "light" is stronger now.

I've jumped on Instagram again recently, and an old Twitter friend from 2014 showed up in my replies. She's been absent from my life for at least eight years. She shared that she'd gotten married and then in 2021 her husband took his life by suicide. I started following her right away, and it looks like now she shares about mental health and strategies to overcome depression. She is no longer quiet and not sharing on Instagram - she's shining brighter. Her light is stronger for all to see.

Nobody's life is perfect. We all have our ups and downs / highs and lows. If we stop during the lows to evaluate what is happening and how we're reacting, we can learn from those challenging times. We can grow from them. A former student of mine, Jake Lavin, shared with our school (years later as he shared about his Happiness Project) an analogy about a grape... 

Imagine you're a grape, growing beautifully on the vine, reaching for the sun, ripening right on time, when someone plucks you and some friends off the vine. You get dropped on the ground. It's darker there, but you've still got some old friends with you - until you get stepped on. Now you're really in the dirt, and you look nothing like your old self. No one will want you now. Your life, as you know it, is over. You are pushed down further the more you get stepped on. Eventually, you're covered with dirt, fall leaves and debris, snow over that, and you're really in a dark, wet, nasty place. You never see the sun anymore. You never feel the wind or the rain. You're there for months, thinking life couldn't get any worse. When suddenly... you begin to sprout new life. You eventually become your own vine, reaching for the sky, emerging out of the dirt, up the trellis, and you grow even more grapes...

He did a much better job of explaining it! 
I'll try ending with a poem, as many #SOL writers have modeled doing so...

A misstep leads to a
Broken frosted pane we take down due to its sharp edges and 
Light beams blast from the 
Fixture upon the wall - no more sheltering of the light that now 
Shines farther than it did before... signaling 
Brighter days are ahead - for me and for those that can be reached by this light.

Interesting... I ended up writing that backwards...

When is a time you've been "broken" and have come back "brighter"?

Monday, February 19, 2024

Still Shifting

I haven't presented at an educational conference since 2019. In 2017, I was at the height of my presenting - and I was the spotlight speaker at the conference I'm heading to tomorrow!
So why haven't I presented? It's because I taught 7th graders during the height of the pandemic - many many many teachers (including myself - in bits) were giving tips on "self care" and how to connect with students... and I was still crying every day. Many others - who were NOT teaching classes during the pandemic - had even more to say to "help" educators. I was so utterly frustrated with others trying to tell me what to do. COVID had me contemplating more... and talking and sharing less.


One visitor asked us in an in-school PD session... 
   "What are you doing for yourself DURING the school day?"

I have read many books, tried many ideas, and now I'm ready to share what I do during the school day to alleviate the myriad stressors that are bound to come our way.
Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, IL in room "Nirvana C" at 9:30am, Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

It's not about getting outside, following your passion(s), getting exercise, eating healthy, drinking more water (and less alcohol)! Those are all things we could be doing outside of the work day. 
What about when you're teaching a class? What about when you're in a meeting with other staff? What about when you need to answer what could become a heated email exchange? I'm ready to share ideas tomorrow. My slideshow is tidbits from books I've read. I hope when I share, the slides all come together nicely. 

My overall message: 
     Be cognizant of what you give your attention to.
         Make an effort to be more in the present moment.

One thing I've done outside of school hours that has helped me become less stressed - I've been basically kicked off Twitter. I can still access it on my phone, but I hate using it that way. I used to access it only via my laptop, and that access is gone. (My explanation is here.) Since I really can't advertise this session much, we'll see who shows! No matter - I'm excited to once again share something I believe can help educators. I love feeling the passion for this session that I used to feel for Genius Hour and Standards Based Grading. I appreciate how life has provided so many opportunities for sharing my passions at different times in my teaching career. I look forward to seeing and learning more from my peeps tomorrow!

Monday, February 12, 2024

Super Bowl Sunday

This Super Bowl Sunday, I just want to document this.

I've saved this tweet for three years now.

In 2016, he played for the San Francisco 49ers. 
He knelt during during the national anthem at the start of games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in the United States.
I have a hard time believing that he never was allowed back into the NFL. 

Today, we have the 49ers playing - against the Chiefs. There is (another) movement to change the Chiefs' name - and get rid of that "chop."

In 2024, we have NFL players can choose up to seven slogans such as "Choose Love" or "End Racism" for the back of their helmets.
On the field end zones, I've seen "It Takes All of Us" and "End Racism" stenciled in paint.
Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburg Steelers wears a tee shirt with "Justice Opportunity Freedom Equality."

Yet one man lost his career because he knelt during a song.
And, as a nation, we're still struggling every day with hate.

I choose to vote for those who include everyone.
I choose to share all different perspectives / authors with my 7th graders.
I choose to support those conversations that help me and others learn from each other.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Spin It to Win It Show & Tell

I love getting ideas from teachers on TikTok.

The Spin It to Win It idea is from Monica Genta (@monicagentaed), and I explain it to my students in this video. Monica's podcast is here.

My last class - who has figured out how a few things that helped them win the monthly contest this month - chose "show and tell" for their reward. We dedicated 20 of our 80 minutes to the end of class Friday for this event. I had no idea who would want to show something, and I was pleasantly surprised at how it went!

One of my (mostly) quiet students shared some awards/ribbons for robotics and karate - I could tell he was proud, and many students were impressed.

Three of my social students (sort of) got a routine together, along with snazzy hats and music coming from a stuffed monkey, and then they did a "fit check." EVERY student in class was smiling and/or giggling. How fun, and how great they were able to enjoy the spotlight!

And then... "The beast" showed up... One parent dropped off their son's bearded dragon, Dino, and he stole the show. Luckily for me, the beast doesn't walk fast, has no fur, didn't poop (I hear it's terribly stinky), and was able to be kept in a shoebox until the end of the next period.

If I were able to share students' smiles, I would - I think we all enjoyed those precious 20 minutes. I don't think Dino would mind being in this post, so...