The other day I attended an inservice on learning mangement systems (platforms). The current platform my district is using will not be used next year. I don’t know what happened between our district and the company, but the contract will not be renewed. Teachers from the district, K-12, were invited to hear presentations from two new companies. The two companies pitched their product and teachers were able to critique and give feedback as to the system that would work for us. I am always skeptical at these things because I believe the district has already selected the company they want. However, they want it to look like teachers have a voice, so they ask for our input. I hope this is not the case, but it always makes me wonder.
In any case, I was sitting next to my friend, Brenda. We used to work together, but now she is teaching at a different school site. It was nice to see her and other teachers that you only see at events like this one. Brenda mentioned Genius Hour to me at lunch time, and I was intrigued. It is a way for students to learn about something they are passionate about. It is based on the concept developed by Google where their employees devote 20% of their work time to something that they want to learn about. The only stipulation is that it has to benefit Google in some way. I wanted to learn more about this process, so I spent most of my day researching. I am very committed to this idea that I gave up an overnight trip to Palm Desert this weekend.
I am still not sure how I am going to roll this out with my 2nd graders. I have a lot of ideas in my brain, but I am not sure how it will work. For me and my type A personality this is causing me great concern. If I attempt this in my classroom, that means I will have to give up control. This bothers me. Fear of the unknown bothers me. All the what if questions go off in my brain. What if this doesn’t work? What if my kids don’t get it? What if parents complain? Ugh. I guess I will just have to take that leap of faith. I think this will be great fun for my students and for me. I can’t wait to see what my students come up with. This feeling reminds me of a youtube video I saw of a young girl taking her first ski jump. Petrified at the beginning, but exhilarated at the end.
Personally, I am tired of hearing from parents that their child is bored or is not being challenged. What better way to let students be in charge of their learning. The other thing I hear from parents is that their child is not motivated to learn. Well, if I have Genius Hour in my class, I am not telling them what to learn. They get to choose something on their own. I received an email from a parent over the weekend telling me how I should manage my classroom. It’s a long story, but stems from an incident with the substitute teacher that was covering my class while I was proctoring the GATE test at my school last week. Her child was not very respectful with the substitute and the parent wanted to blame the sub for her son’s misbehavior. In the email, she suggested that I provide a reward system so that her child would be motivated to behave in class. In other words, I need to give external rewards to her child so that her son would be motivated to do better in class. I am not a “treasure chest” kind of teacher. I like intrinsic rewards and the feeling of accomplishment for having done something to the best of my ability. Don’t get me wrong, I give the ocassional extrinsic reward, but it’s not how I choose to run my classroom. Why do I need to reward you for something you were supposed to be doing in the first place?
Genius Hour would be a great way to motivate students intrinsically. Who wouldn’t want to take time out to learn about something you are passionate about? I wish I had this 20% built in to my work day. That would be so awesome.
I am still doing my research. If anyone has any ideas for primary grade students, I am open to hearing them. I am excited by the possibilities. I am going to try to roll this out this week. I will make sure to post how it is going. I just have to take the leap and trust in the process.