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)
- 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