Last year I did what a lot of us were doing. I decided I was going to try one new, innovative, out there idea to see what would happen. I tried one, and I failed. Tried another, failed. It became almost comical in my class. You know those assignments that you start and mysteriously “forget” to finish with the class. My room was filled with these.
After 14 years of teaching, I thought I knew a lot. Why would I “blow up” what was already working pretty well. I’m a pretty organized and structured teacher, but I kept hearing about the impact student choice had on students. However,the thought of giving the control over to the students was super scary.
So I started to search the Internet looking for lesson plans, units, even a sketchy scope and sequence - There was nothing. I hopped on the Twitter hashtag for genius hour and although I found many people doing it and lots of resources, there was no one who was able to tell me how to implement this program.. Why wasn’t there more out there? I had to just jump in and see what happened. I had a sketchy idea but not much more.
What happened fundamentally changed me as a teacher. It was my hardest year in that I failed so many times, but it was also the most rewarding. When I gave up control and let my students have a voice and a choice in the classroom I experienced a level of connection with my students that I never had before. In fact, until recently, I wasn’t aware just how deeply this opportunity affected my students.
I had students working on projects over the summer, students emailing me to talk to their 8th grade teachers, students emailing me to tell me their friend’s cousin’s brother in OK was getting to do genius hour. All that is great, but there was more than just excitement. I read some portfolios of their work this week that I obviously didn’t really look at last year. It really choked me up.
From the Students -
"What I learned about as a person was that I can do presentations without stuttering and feeling like running away. It may have just been because I was excited about what I was about to present. Whatever the reason, I’m glad it happened! My Genius Hour presentation was the first time i’ve felt comfortable I doubt it will ever happen again but during the time I presented I was glad that I did it."
"The usage of Weebly, weekly blogs and vlogs, has also grown my knowledge in importance of looking back and seeing all that you went through to be able to present your final piece."
Freedom of Creativity
"I think when I am given room to be creative I can do some pretty cool things."
"From this project, I learned something about myself. For my whole life, I thought I was lazy and would never be able to draw animation frames over and over. Besides, I could do something else, like watch Naruto or something. Well, since I had time to do Genius Hour, I actually put myself to it and drew animation frames over and over! For a while, I thought the saying ‘you could do anything if you put your mind to it’ was really lame and cheesy, but it’s actually true."
"Additionally, I learned that as a person, there are hardships that come to you during an important work you are doing. However, after you overcome the challenges you are definitely going to be much more proud of yourself, than yourself gave up in the middle."
"I learned that things can be easily said not easily done."
"I learned that I am actually more outgoing and a better entertainer than I thought. This project has made me see that you shouldn’t have limits on what you want to do and to just be yourself. Also it showed me that even professionals have to work with different people to come together and create an amazing outcome."
Positive School Experience
"I feel that because of genius hour I have become more dedicated and absorbed in my school work and I have become more creative."
I got choked up reading these quotes. Aren’t these the things you wish every student would say at the end of the year? To be absolutely truthful, I even questioned if I did the right thing taking this coaching job. I finally connected, finally reached some goals and then I left. I wasn't done. I had only scratched the surface.
So, that’s why I decided to facilitate this group. I really want to be a part of this - want you to experience what I experienced -I want to be a resource, cheerleader, friend - and maybe even participant in helping you create this shift.