October 3

We need time to be Geniuses

Earlier this week we started Genius Hour 2.0 with the staff. Want more information on how we got here? Check out Genius Hour 1.0. I started off the meeting with a quote I heard on a podcast on the way in to work….

 

I’d rather have questions without answers than answers without questions – Max Tegmart, MIT Cosmologist

 

source: www.haikudeck.com

source: www.haikudeck.com

Our Genius Hour 2.0 is a drop in the bucket that is as big as an ocean. Reflect on this – How often do we provide staff with time to ask big questions, or even focus beyond the “here and now” to the future? The answer is not much. Not much at all.

 

Teachers are generally putting out the proverbial fires on any given day. Ask them to think about next year, 5 years from now and you might get a look. In their defense, that look is well deserved. They simply are not provided adequate time to work on the big picture because they are mandated to attend trainings, lesson plan, teach, grade, discipline, talk, listen, conference, work collaboratively on the most recent data, etc… and repeat. Every day for the school year.

 

To me, Genius Hour is my way of giving them back 20% of the “staff meeting” time to clear their head. Maybe, just maybe, this time requires them to think beyond today, next week or next month. I need them to think about anything that can improve the school.

 

So as the staff embarks on Genius Hour 2.0 I am hoping that they are able to travel up to the balcony and think about their passion, our school, and where it is going. This will be time well spent, and an opportunity for teachers do something different. To solve a problem that may not exist. To ask questions that can’t be answered.

July 14

Pure #Geniushour Reflection on Year 1

source:www.haikudeck.com

source:www.haikudeck.com

This past year our school embarked on the Genius Hour journey. (For previous posts that lead to the Genius Hour: inspiration;  80/20 staff meetings; my passion). In short, I took 20% of the the Staff Meetings this year and made them Genius Hour. The staff could do whatever they wanted with the time (it just had to be something they were passionate about, and could benefit students or the school). We had many ups and downs with the process which lead to successes and failures. It was such an amazing experience!

 

At the conclusion of the school year we scheduled a meeting to review Genius Hour. Honestly, prior to the meeting, I though that the staff was going to vote to abandon it completely. The sad reality is that education doesn’t support geniuses! Let’s be honest with ourselves on why education doesn’t support Genius Hour:

  • We have so many “compliance” activities from the district, state and federal government
  • We have to get our test scores up, and achieve our School Improvement Goals
  • Time – How are we going to fit all this in?
  • Not everyone is passionate about something that can translate into a school setting
  • General apathy and malaise from teachers that think “this is just another passing phase”

 

To my surprise, the opposite of everything listed above was unfounded. The teachers, for the most part, loved it. Of course they are well aware of the factors, and despite those factors were willing to put themselves out there for their passion. They want a lot of the things that are out of our control (the compliance stuff) to go away and do more with their passion!

 

In the final report out, I didn’t require everyone to present…. only those who wanted to. I stressed, prior to the report out, that failure was absolutely acceptable. In fact, my own project failed miserably. What is most important (as you will see) is how each person or team talked about what they would do differently!

 

My project – Genius hour was Podcasting for the district. I only completed 4 shows. I hit road blocks such as getting people to schedule, storage space, and time. Next year, I would like to focus on our school, parents, teachers, and students.

Here are the other takeaways:

  • 2 Kindergarten teachers – Genius hour was focused on increasing technology. They both learned how to use their Brite Links. They were very proud to have used it with the interactive pen. They were able to integrate it into several topics in the Kindergarten curriculum.
  • PBIS Aide- Focus was on developing an incentive program to increase the attendance for the students. She reported out that the attendance board (first project)was difficult to maintain, but then she implemented a daily Bingo game which was very successful. There were road block such as prizes for younger kids and how to reach them.
  • 2 Special Education Teachers – Genius Hour was on Crafts. She taught kids how to cross-stitch, and crochet.  They really picked it up after PARCC was completed in each grade. The students really enjoyed it and were excited about the project.
  • Art Teacher – Genius Hour was having students do video interviews about their artwork. There are some videos on You Tube. Her target group helped kids working on existing art work.  A couple videos were made.  She started too late but will be doing it again because the kids loved it!
  • Music Teacher – Her project was to bring in a Chamber Group. Prior to that she had to focus on listening skills. She determined early on that the students were not where they need to be able to appreciate the music. She would eventually like to embark on this project.
  • 1st grade teacher – Her Genius Hour was based on her passion for school safety. She realized a lot is more than just a school building level. The other factors were money and district support. So she started a Girl Scouts and Daisy/Brownie groups with another teacher.  A lot of group character education lessons were integrated into the program. They involved community members into the project.
  • 7 teachers started a Gardening Club for their project. They wrote and received a Grant for 2,000 dollars. In September, the group will be starting a school garden club for kids. They will plant things that can be eaten right away.  They will also incorporate green houses in some of our classrooms which will be brought out to the outside garden outside. LOWES will be working school closely.
  • 3 teachers –  Their goal was to look into grant money for problem solving for 5th grade students. She used the Genius Hour (Along with the 2 other teachers) as an opportunity to get to know what the students were passionate about in the beginning of the year.  The kids shared ideas such as developing new applications, chicken coops, school newspaper, photography, and dirt bike tracks. The students began their own fundraising in school lunches (pencils, Valentines dance, and coupon books).

 

At the end of every meeting, we do a Plus/Delta (for more information Plus/Delta click here).

Plus (or things that really worked well)

  • Such a positive experience
  • Hearing all great things people are doing
  • Talking with each other and working together
  • That Principal is supporting us
  • Failure was acceptable
  • Everyone did something different that can impact all students
  • Thanks to Principal for challenging Staff to Genius Hour

Deltas (or things that didn’t work well and can be improved)

  • Time
  • Resources
  • Took awhile to understand the concept
  • Not everyone shared

 

Overall, I am very excited about the continuation of Genius Hour. I will be scheduling 4 “meetings” during the year, and a time at the end of the year to report out. Now, I have to go back to the “drawing board” and work on my project 🙂

June 27

Reflect and plan: It’s as easy as 3, 2, 1

IMG_3667 (1)

RM Bacon Teachers engaged in the 3-2-1 activity

A few weeks ago I read the ASCDEdge blog post 3-2-1 Countdown to Summer by Kevin Parr. It was just what I needed. It was just what our staff needed. Since the concept was so applicable, I was able to integrate it into my final staff meeting of the year. Our purpose was to reflect on the year and to begin to plan for the next school year.

 

After introducing the concept, I had the teachers work individually to identify their 3-2-1.

3 to Keep – Taking from the blog post, teachers “identified 3 practices that were working for them.”

2 to Tweak – Teachers were asked to identify 2 activities/practices that they would like to continue, but that needed a little improvement or “tweaking.”

1 New – Teachers were asked to identify one area that they would like to try that is NEW to them.

 

Putting the activity into motion …  

RM Bacon teachers engaged in the 3-2-1 activity

RM Bacon teachers engaged in the 3-2-1 activity

After working individually, the teachers shared their 3-2-1 in small groups. These discussions were very rich with reflection, connections, and new ideas. Then we shared out in a large group for everyone to hear. We learned so much about the year. Here are some of the insights:

Keeping

Teachers flipping their instruction

Using data to improve writing

Focus on the Whole Child

Class Dojo

Classroom blogs

 

Tweaking

Centers

Classroom management

Classroom behavioral plans

Professional Learning Communities

Genius Hour

 

New

First aide supplies for recess

Class Dojo

Remind

New components to reading series

 

 My reflection …  

RM Bacon Teachers engaged in the 3-2-1 activity

RM Bacon Teachers engaged in the 3-2-1 activity

After the 3-2-1 workshop, I challenged the staff to try this with the students. I was pleasantly surprised how the teachers then used this with the students. They had the students reflect on their class using the 3-2-1. This feedback will help the teachers as they plan for next year! One grade level even tweaked the activity, and had the students change the 1 new to 1 that should go. I liked that approach and if I do this again, I would like to see an area for one to go.

 

As the Principal, I felt this activity was very easy to implement, and the feedback from the teachers was amazing. I was amazed at all of the insights from this year. I was able to see what is working in the school and what needs to be improved. The activity gave me an opportunity to listen to teachers, and hopefully empower them to take chances to improve their learning environment.

 

I want to thank Kevin Parr for putting together the activity.

December 23

Early indication of Genius Hour? (357:365)

I was reading Lilly’s Purple Purse by Kevin Henkes the other night when I came across something that piqued my curiosity (no pun intended). The book, published in 1996, is a story about Lilly, an out of the bok thinker, who goes on an adventure. When she is in the classroom, there is a section the teacher established called the Lightbulb Lab – Where Great Ideas are Born. 

 

Whenever the students had free time, they were permitted to go to the Lightbulb Lab in the back of the classroom. The expressed their ideas creatively thorough drawing and writing. Lilly went there often. She had a lot of ideas. ~ Keven Henkes

 

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Sound familiar? To me it sounds like the modern day “Genius Hour” or “Makerspace” that schools and classrooms are implementing. Was this book ahead of it’s time? Or is this something that has been happening in schools for a long time and now has a name, blogs and videos to showcase?

 

 

All I know is whether it is called the Lightbulb Lab, Genius Hour or Makerspace, we need more of it… If only those state administered assessments that determine our future wouldn’t get in the way…. Who knows where we would be????

July 15

How do we develop our Geniuses? (196:365)

source: www.keepaustinweirdhomes.com

source: www.keepaustinweirdhomes.com

As we plan for the upcoming school year, I feel we are on the cusp of making remarkable changes in kids lives… There are a few ideas that may help us on on our journey… Makerspaces and Genius Hour….

 

Let’s face it, we have all but taken the hands-on learning out of schools and replaced it with a focus on standardized assessment preparation…. No wonder that some students are turned off when they enter the building…In their eyes, they are not “doing” anything… For the most part, they are right… Even though research has pointed out time and time again that we learn by doing, how often do we give kids the opportunity to tinker, think, research, collaborate, design, fail, replicate? Simple stated, Makerspace, can be an excellent use of space in the Library for kids to make and experiment!

 

Based off of Google’s infamous 80/20 rule (80% of the time you spend on Google, and 20% you spend on you) Genius Hour has emerged as another innovative activity to provide opportunities for students. In researching Genius Hour, I came across this video that shows the potential impact this could have on your school!