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.