Every day, we begin class with a writing prompt. Kids write quietly to the prompt for ten minutes. Often, kids will want to write on another topic. I welcome those decisions. After all, the writing is theirs and as long as they are writing, I'm happy. Last week, one student used the writing prompt time to discuss his Genius Hour project. "I can't wait!" his journal began. "I am so excited to do my project!"
I love when kids are jazzed about doing their work in class. I have talked to them incessantly about owning their work, making decisions in class that personalize the work that they do, and getting more out of the classroom experience because of those decisions. The whole idea behind Genius Hour is to give kids time and space to learn the things that they want to learn, the things that excite them, the things that will make their lives more rewarding. We probably will not have any scientific breakthroughs (though you never know) and we may not have the next Edison or Tesla, but each child has chosen a project that will bring them personal fulfillment along with skills and knowledge along the way.
I have seen the preliminary ideas and I'm very excited for many of them. Some kiddos are going to soar from the get-go. Some kiddos are going to have to tweak their ideas; they just don't know it yet. That is part of the learning process. Many kids have already changed their ideas. When they do, they approach me like they are disappointing me. The conversation that we have is interesting because I tell them that they should never settle on an idea about which they have doubts. Normally they are stunned. These kids are still getting used to the idea that they have the decision-making power for their Genius Hour projects. This power is something that they have to get used to and they will. It is my job to get them comfortable with being in charge of their learning. This evolution occurs every year. In March, kids will tell me, "Yesterday, I changed a part of my project because I ran into a dead end." Right now, however, they don't see themselves with that kind of control. They'll get there sooner or later and I can't wait until they do!