Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fill Buckets, Light Fires: Geniushour
Long before the word GENIUSHOUR was part of my everyday vernacular, I sought ways to be a cultivator of genius at school. It was not through science fair projects or the wonderful production of Romeo and Juliet that the fifth graders put on for the school and families in my classroom (though using a lunchroom cart with wheels was clever). It also went above and beyond the times I would do a Reading Wax Museum. It was instead found in the 15 minute window each day before school was over when the students would share with the class something that they were working on just for fun or a talent that they were mastering.
Classic Example: My fourth- fifth grade looping classroom when Dan was in there, 2001-2003.  Dan asked if all the desks and chairs could be pushed to the side of the room. We were entertained with a wonderful rendition of Schawan's Lake. No, not Swan's, Schawan's as in the ice cream and frozen food company that many Minnesotan's use. Through leaps and bounds from one side of the room to another, Dan told the story of the secret affair of his grandmother with the Schawan's delivery man without a single word spoken. Genius.

We laughed. His family was mortified, just mortified.

His mother, Mrs. N. said that she at first thought I was the worst teacher ever for her very intellectual child who excelled at what I call, "Doing School." She was nervous as he would come home with stories and escapades of shenanigans in our room with a twinkle in his eye and in him was unleashed a power to be free to be him and explore parts of him that his family never knew were there. Mrs. N. later said that she loved the way her son became alive and we still remain good friends. She adamantly proclaimed that the story of Schawan's Lake was far, far from the truth and she can't imagine where Dan got all the ideas in his head. However, in the end, she found it so humorous and it is a tale that is retold in their family. 

Dan is now in his second year of teaching in Colorado. He teaches middle school. He has an adventuresome spirit still that has led him to study overseas, to explore new people groups, languages and food. Dan is fully alive and is happy being Dan.

Geniushour is just like that. It sets aside time to bring people to life. Every child is filled with trillions of genius DNA inside of them itching to break free and to leap across the room, tell a story, share their passion for something, or speak from the depths of their souls. Geniushour is for all students and as unique as the sunrise or sunset on any given day, full of radiance and soul resting beauty. I love whatever geniushour brings, but mostly it's the celebration of individuality.

Now, the first trimester presentations are now in the books. Geniushour was about drawing, knitting, tree climbing, movies, singing, reading, hunting and math.  We learned about drawing, rockets and baking. We were treated to two breathtaking reflections on the essence of family in society. We also enjoyed a student's journey into family history as well as a student who wanted to share about her love of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What people didn't see is the genius forming in the depths of the students heart and mind. The things that they had to tell themselves in order to step to the front of the classroom which sometimes was filled with almost 60 people. There had been tears in the process, a fight with the unknown, battles with what students had told themselves in their thought language and what was actually truth. There was a war within the human soul as students wrestled with faith in themselves. There were many I Can'ts that became Maybe I Cans.

What you didn't see is the time we took to study genius through Angela Maier's book Liberating Genius this year and the videos we studied about people's genius. We watched Ted Talks during morning meeting about people who were and are overcomers. We studied Eric Palmer's PVLEGS as we went along our journey into genius together.

Some will say, "Geniushour takes so much time and we just don't have the time."
I will say that nothing matters more than the freedom to be alive and to self express. School is not about learning to read and to understand math. It is a framework for foundation building. Geniushour mixed with sweat and tears, laughter and encouragement is the foundation that grows strong and healthy life long learners who I believe, become productive adults in society full of life and seeking to bring out the genius in people that they meet along their way. We all have a genius. It is the song of each person's heart that complements the talents and skills we were born with. It is what makes us fully alive.

As the first trimester comes to a close, I am thankful for all the parents that came to our school over three days for to support the whole class. I believe that it takes a whole village to raise a child and strong parent unity makes a difference. I could not be a quality teacher without the parents because they matter and because they are the first teachers and I'm just one extra human standing in the gap with them for a season in their child's journey.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Thankful Learner
Once upon a time, I met a wonderful friend who introduced me to a wonderful friend.

Has that happened to you? If you are a connected educator, I am sure it has.

I could list for you all the people that I have learned from in the wide world of Twitter or Facebook who have radically changed my life. Actually, I did do that. Then I deleted it. It looked more like a year book entry from my senior year of high school.

What I want to share with you is what I know now that I didn't...and I learned it all from you.

You encouraged me in my love of sharing one another's story and taught how to use something simple like 30 Hands or something more challenging like Touch Cast and everything in between to share a story.
Designed for me by Oliver Shinkten

From you, I learned billions of things about Google and other Google-ly things upon other Google-ly things and my mind exploded and then I realized that there is no way I can keep up and it is more like an a la carte line and you just pick up what you need and what works for your set of learners.

I learned about Blab, Periscope and GHO-ing and how that changes and brings people together to learn and how to use these for more ways to share stories.

Who ever it was that told me about Voxer, I'll never remember. Then, I joined Voxer groups; then I left Voxer groups because my phone exploded. Now I am limited my Voxer groups to just a few groups and that too is okay!

I became a TLAP educator because of you and kept sailing my pirate ship waving new flags like PVLEGS and Geniushour lover and how to put that all together in my classroom.

I fell in love with edcamps and then I went to more edcamps because of you and when you pointed me to TED Talks I figured out how to bring the spirit of both into the classroom.

You stepped back from the front of the classroom, so I bravely became the lead learner, not the Alpha and Omega of knowledge and I am very comfortable with letting the students own their own learning and to share out their learning without me.

I noticed when you remove your desk from your classroom. You created rotating office spaces in different areas of your schools so that you were no longer hiding behind desks and walls so I bravely did and pushed the students to find learning spaces in the room that fit them as well.

You stopped insanely grading piddly assignments and TOLD me you were D.O.N.E ... and so I did and I try to have very authentic and meaningful things to do...and sometimes, that is on paper, but not always.

You embraced your failures and learning through it and I became able to face plant myself in my failures and rise again without embarrassment...just a growth mindset.

I saw you love teaching and learning and I discovered that I still did too and you helped me find my way back to my roots (when I wanted to quit and join a circus) and find you why and I know know my why and that is my North Star.

I discovered books...upon books and yet, more books written by you and then Amazon and I formed a monthly relationship, and I was changed by Beyond the Bake Sale and Teach Like A Pirate and Creating Innovators.

You taught me the importance of helping others in my sphere of influence know that they mattered and that mattering is the agenda and why we are here and what teaching needs to be all about.

I learned explored many new streets and I have seen many wonderful things that I just can't even nail down to how it will fit with my classroom, but it is pretty neat-o in yours and I celebrate that we can have wonderful classrooms filled with gifted educators dedicated to passionate learning.

Mostly, I have learned and I have seen the world through  your eyes, virtually stepped into your classrooms and looked around. I have used my passport to learning well.

In this month of gratefulness and reflection, I know that my entire life was changed because of you and I am eternally grateful.  For all that we have learned together and for all that we will continue to learn together, I am eternally grateful.

Because of you, I am. Thank you.