Joy Kirr is in her 24th year of teaching, and it is truly her passion. She is the author of the book Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom, but she is a 7th grade ELA teacher first. She says that as she does not have children of her own, every year she takes 90 12-year-olds into her care. Joy is driven by students owning their learning, and she has even gone so far as to be the first at her school to try go gradeless, learning without using points or marks. Joy enjoys being known as a “Genius Hour Evangelist,” and is grateful for how her students have stepped up their learning while giving and receiving feedback in lieu of grades. She also runs the #ShiftThis chats.
Live Binders are like portfolios that organize digital content, and Joy is recognized for hers. From Genius Hour/20% Time to The First Five Days and more, Joy shares her learning and the learning she does through others with a bevy of curated resources. On the show, she started to share the backstory of learning with Ewan McIntosh that helped her begin with LiveBinders. Her Genius Hour LiveBinders site has had almost a million visits.
When preparing for Joy’s P3, I discovered the Brainwaves video of her. Bob Greenberg is a retired teacher who has since been interviewing educators from around the world and placing these short videos on his Brainwaves Video Anthology YouTube Channel. Here is Joy’s video titled Empower Yourself:
Joy prepared for the show by listening to her iPod and Sirius Radio. When discussing her songs with her husband, she realized that she needed to go back for her nostalgic song, to a time before they had met. Joy went back to middle school when she was given a choice for a song. She recalled how empowering it felt to get to make her own decision for school, and she exercised that when leading an aerobics routine for her 8th Grade Phys Ed Class. It has been almost 7 years since this artist passed away, but this song is on many 80’s playlists and was re-released in 2012 after her death. It was even the first song that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry danced to at their wedding reception. Here is Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody:
Joy’s identity song comes from one of her favourite genres of music. The summer that she fell in love with her soulmate who she later married, she remembers hearing this song. She realized that she couldn't just settle for what’s okay and that if she wasn't happy, she’d have to do something about it. At the same time, she went from being the reading specialist to going back to the classroom and began contemplating going gradeless because she didn't want to settle for just so-so. There were a lot of things that motivated her to “...do what’s right." and what she feels]strongly about.” She's been on a multi-year journey going gradeless with support from her administration and a road that she says isn’t all “cake,” but she isn't going to settle for less. This song is even in her karaoke repertoire. Here is Sugarland’s Settlin:
Joy’s inspirational song is upbeat. She refers to the meaning of the song in terms of her students. “ I like the part, too, when she’s talking about what people don’t see. They think this of me, but they don't see… they just see what they want to see…” She connected this to her work with middle schoolers relating them to icebergs because they walk around with so much below the surface that we don't see. She encourages taking a different perspective and not judging them as to how they present themselves. She advises to ask questions and keep the conversation going. Joy flashed back to her own roller coaster of emotion during that time in her life. As it says in the song, "The only thing we can control is our reaction to that … You can either let it get to you … [or] you just shake it off." Here’s Taylor Swift’s hit from the album 1989, Shake It Off:
Joy presents a few times a year and shares her work through her blog, Twitter chats and LiveBinders. She just presented at an EdCamp in Madison, Wisconsin. and will be in Boston in July at the Building Learning Communities Conference. Her book can be purchased on Amazon; over 8000 copies of Shift This! have been sold so far. Joy teaches in Arlington Heights, Illinois and says that she’d rather be with her students than presenting. Follow Joy on Twitter or check out her blog which will get you to all of her other amazing resources and insights.