I enjoyed sharing the concept of genius hour so much with my students this week, that I actually had a little bit of a let down the day after. It was like the day after Christmas, when there is a great level of satisfaction along with that little sadness that the anticipation is over.
We watched Ashton Kutcher’s acceptance speech at the 2013 teen choice awards, and talked about the fact that they were all geniuses. There were a few chuckles, but by the end of the period I had changed some opinions. Then I put up a slide with the following question:
What if…I let you learn about whatever you wanted?
There was a hush in the room, and then I started to hear responses such as:
- I would be interested.
- I would like it.
- It might be chaos.
Then I let them know that I would. Genius hour would be every Monday and they would get to pursue a topic that they cared about, that they were passionate about, that was important to them. I told them that they mattered, and they mattered now. Too many times we tell adolescents that they will matter one day – when they are adults, or when they have made something of themselves. I disagree with that sentiment, these kids can matter now, they do matter now, and we are going to do something about it.
We moved into brainstorming next, and the topics that came up were wonderfully varied. The lists included sports, music, dance, theater, bullying, the environment, famine, the media, technology, people who are treated unfairly, and on and on. Some poured out their ideas and others sat very contemplatively. I could tell they had some ideas stirring, but were not ready to share them yet.
Many of my kids told me that it was hard to think of what they would like to learn more about or investigate because they had never been asked before. They are used to coming to school, being told what they need to know and going back home. What we were starting was so different, so huge, it was difficult for them to wrap their brains around.
We finished the day with some discussion surrounding potential topics. They talked to each other to see about collaborative groups, share some of their passion, and see how they might be able to move forward together. I told them to let their ideas simmer for the week, not to make any decisions right away. A pep talk from Kid President left us reminded to be awesome and that we are all on the same team.
Next week, we move into the computer lab to start researching potential topics and see what is out there. This is one reason I didn’t want them to make many decisions on day 1. They need to see how they can learn about their topic in Spanish, and then transition to work on pitching their project.
Until next week, recognize your inner genius!