Saturday, October 15, 2016

We Are Underway!

Since August 15, I have been mentioning 20% Time and Genius Hour to my kiddos in the hopes that it would raise questions in their minds about what we will be doing. They asked and they kept asking. Finally, last week, we kicked off our program. I tweaked the presentation that Melissa and I used to do in order to fit my new situation and spent a full 90 minutes talking to the kiddos about the potential of this project. It was obvious from our conversation that very few of my kiddos have experience with anything like this. That is to be expected. In schools, we normally don't give kids voice and choice. We try but the curriculum and pacing guide usually rule the day and so we must "cover" material. Genius Hour is the opposite of that. In Genius Hour, kids get a chance to really delve into a topic of their own choosing, construct a project around the learning that they want to do and make almost all of the learning decisions along the way.

During our kickoff, a few kids immediately had ideas. Most did not. Part of the challenge for kids in a Genius Hour setting is coming up with a good idea. In a classroom setting, the teacher normally tells the kids what they will be learning so kids are trained to be passive receivers of the assignments. For most, Genius Hour is the first time in their lives that they will be active learners who will drive the project ideas. This change will be frustrating and painful for most of the kids but they will be so much better off when they emerge on the other side. Genius Hour is amazing more for how we train the students to become lifelong learners than for the actual projects that are completed. 

Many kids had "How..." questions. I just kept saying, "Trust in the process. We just go one step at a time." The program that Melissa and I designed and implemented is a deliberate process-oriented program that will help the kids develop one step at a time. Students will figure it out and take off at different times this year. That is awesome. The kids who are more confident in their learning will soar early while the kids who are more teacher-dependent will take longer to take flight. Because each student is a different learner, each student gets exactly what they need in order to become more independent. 

Explaining all of this to the kids in addition to watching a couple of TED Talks (Ken Robinson's "Are Schools Killing Creativity" and Daniel Pink's "The Puzzle of Motivation") had kids' heads spinning. That is great! I want the kiddos to use their brains to make sense of what they saw and heard. I want them to unlearn many of the traditional school behaviors that have been ingrained in them and try something new. For many, this is a scary proposition but we learn the most when we're uncomfortable. These kiddos were uncomfortable!


  1. Your work is fantastic! You are realizing one of my favorite quotes:
    "a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there" ~unknown author

  2. I love that quote! Thank you Bonnie!