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Genius Hour: Week 7 -"My Genius Hour"

Unfortunately I missed week six of Genius Hour because I was speaking at the LLI Southwest conference. I'd like to give a big shout out to Lausanne Learning and The Oakridge School in Arlington for being such great hosts. I had a blast giving the talk, meeting with other educators and showing some examples of student work, even if I may or may not have had a 102 degree temperature at the time. I was even lucky enough to recruit the assistance of one of my 11th graders that was also presenting at the conference.

That being said, back in my lab at Village Tech, the students carried on without me just fine, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they really don't need me anymore. In a strange way, I'm actually pretty happy about that.

Missing Juniors

While I missed last week, it was the juniors that weren't around for Genius Hour this week. They were all busy working at their professional internships. They will spend nearly two weeks working in offices, classrooms and non-profit organizations getting a taste of what life after school might look like.

While Genius Hour let's them explore subjects and projects that they are passionate about, the internships give them a bite-sized sampling of what it's like to work in the career field of their choice. For some it serves as confirmation that they are on the right track, for others it's an eye-opener that, "Wow...I never want to do this...ever again."

Even with the juniors gone, there were still plenty of freshmen and sophomores hard at work on their Genius Hour projects. Students continued to study sign language, how to speak Korean, how to play piano, and how to use our extremely large CNC machine.

Some worked together, while others set out alone, blocking out the world with tiny earbuds.
At this point, my role is simple -- tour the room, answer a few questions when needed, and be encouraging and amazed by what the students are doing. 
Practicing traditional ballet positions

A student studying photography had no shortage of subjects to photograph

Not Perfect

Full disclosure; I think it's worth noting that of the 170(ish) students that I teach, there are a handful that have "turned off" to the idea of Genius Hour. With those few, it's been increasingly more difficult to get them to participate. They try to work on other classwork during Genius Hour and generally have stopped journaling.

In addition to the above mentioned students, there are a couple that for one reason or another believe their Genius Hour project has "failed", simply because it's not currently meeting their initial expectations. To these students I've stressed the idea that just because their work isn't at the level they feel it should be doesn't make it a "failure". They simply need to journal what happened and why they feel the reality hasn't quite lived up to the level of their expectations. What would they have done differently if they could do it all over again? When, exactly, did things go south in regards to their project? Was it something they could control? Then I remind them that we still have several more weeks left. I try to emotionally pick them up, dust them off and get them headed back in the right direction.

The Right Direction

Learning from mishaps or mistakes is a huge part of Genius Hour, and it's a natural part of how we all improve. We learn from what didn't go well, and we plan to improve things on our next iteration.

Still, I've found myself growing increasingly frustrated with students that have 'given up'. Why am I not able to motivate them? How can they possibly not take advantage of this time that I'm giving them? How is there nothing new that they want to learn? How horrible of a teacher must I be if I can't get students to spend an hour learning anything they want to learn?

Then I remembered something I've told the students for the past 8 Fridays.
Genius Hour is MY Genius Hour project, and this is only my first iteration. 
Just as I discussed with my students, I ask myself, "Are things going to go wrong?"

"Sure."

"Will I look for ways to improve these issues in the future?"

"Absolutely."

"Do a few disengaged students make the entire experiment a 'failure'?"

"Not at all."

So I emotionally pick myself up, dust myself off, and try to get headed back in the right direction.

If I'm not willing to live by the same words I tell my students, then I really don't deserve to be a teacher.


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