Joy Kirr, a middle school teacher, author, and speaker, was nominated for a Golden Apple award for excellence and teaching in Illinois. Joy has been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2007 and is the author of Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom.
I’ve been following Joy on Twitter for some time and have been so impressed how much she shares online, on YouTube, and on social media. After reading “Shift This,” I reached out to Joy to have a conversation with her. Below are summaries of what we talked about in the podcast along with some resources and links.
My teaching career has been a series of shifts—in mindsets, practice, and experience. My first seven years was as an itinerant teacher in the “wilds” of McHenry County, Illinois with students ranging from three to eighteen who were deaf or hard-of-hearing. They needed to learn to read so I went back to earn my master’s in reading. Then I spent the next seven years as the reading specialist at my current school, became the ELA (English Language Arts) department chair, and became National Board Certified.
About Joy https://youtu.be/kaFYe6zM1bg
Being a middle school teacher
In my fifteenth year, I transitioned into a seventh grade ELA position in the inaugural year of the ELA “block” (reading and writing for 80 minutes). I was also going to be on a team consisting of two ELA teachers, one math, one P.E./Health, one science, one social studies, and one resource (special education) teacher with two teams per grade.
This was my first classroom so I had my plans and worksheet originals ready to fill up the four-drawer filing cabinet well before the first day of school. I also filled the shelves with books organized by author’s last name. Halfway through the year, I started questioning all sorts of things about the room I’d so carefully planned and arranged. All I knew were worksheets, grading, and compliance. My own experiences in school were all I had to draw upon.
After a few years, I decided to give my students time to learn what they wanted to learn. I needed to give some ownership to the students because what I was doing seemed too rigid. As the “sage on the stage,” I was working harder than the kids because I had all the control. I was on Twitter and learned some ideas to help initiate the changes I desired for my class. I now know I could never go back to the way things used to be. Finding a system that works for my students and for me did not happen overnight. You wouldn’t recognize my classes now. I don’t decorate the room, student choice is ubiquitous, we have time built in to personalize learning, students teach each other, and we use feedback in lieu of grades.
Check out Joy’s Class YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/MrsKirrsClass/videos
When you assign something, do you make sure you complete the assignment before your students do? Thanks to A.J. Juliani, I joined the Genius Hour / 20% Time MOOC in the summer of 2013. I learned a ton about what I was assigning students, and what I needed to change. Genius Hour is just a piece of something bigger than all educators are aiming for. I jumped into Genius Hour. Once I made the leap, I began to question and alter many other aspects of classroom time. I realized that you don’t have to dive in all at once to make huge, positive changes.
Genius Hour LiveBinder (tinyurl.com/GHLiveBinder)
Teach Me Your Talent https://youtu.be/8BpHeBRnoDA[This podcast was recorded in December 2017 so we brought in new ideas on the blog post about changing teaching so Genius Hour is not just one hour. It is now all the time. Joy mentions in the podcast that now we look at what Genius Hour did for the kids. Joy even mentions that all her kids signed her book.]
About the Book: Shift This!
I began writing this book during my twentieth year because I felt I needed to share how (and why) I’ve created the shift into teaching the way I believe we are supposed to be teaching–with a focus on children first and content second. My main goal with Shift This! was to share my journey and the small shifts I’ve made to promote student-owned, student-led learning in my classroom. I’m hoping other teachers will begin to feel comfortable and confident enough to make the shifts toward creating the kind of classroom culture they have dreamed of. Putting my ego aside and starting to cater to the students’ needs made all the difference. I realized that my teaching is not all about me and what I do during class. It’s all about the students and what they do during class. With these changes come great trust and a classroom culture that will surprise you. I started asking loads of questions. Why change if things are going well? Why not? Our kids are changing, and we need to change alongside them. It’s time to ask more WHY questions and HOW questions over and over again. So the book asks and provides ideas for WHY and HOW to…
- Shift student-centered learning
- Shift learning spaces
- Shift conversations to get kids thinking
- Shift away from homework and grades
- Shift time spent at school to balance life
Book site: http://shiftthis.weebly.com
Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning – without marks throughout the year. She teaches in a truly supportive district in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Joy is passionate about students owning their learning. She enjoys being known as a “Genius Hour Evangelist,” and is grateful for how her students have stepped up their learning while giving and receiving feedback in lieu of grades. Joy is sought after for her workshops on how to bring student-directed learning into the classroom. Presenting around the nation has helped Joy spread the message that educators need to strive for all children to become lifelong learners.
Joy earned her bachelor’s degree in special education with an emphasis on deaf and hard-of-hearing in 1995, and she later earned her master’s degree in reading from Northern Illinois University. Recently, she was nominated for a Golden Apple award for excellence and teaching in Illinois. Joy has been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2007 and is the author of Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom.
Blogs & Links:
Twitter Personalized Learning & Sharing
Shift This: Celebration