In starting Genius Hour, I expected it to be fun and engaging. I expected my students to be excited about working on their passions and knew that it would make a huge difference in the way that I was teaching every day. While all of these things have been true, there have definitely been some unexpected benefits to Genius Hour and the impact that it has had on my students.
Digital literacy has become a priority in my classroom. My students are able to use digital tools that will work best for their projects. In doing so, they are learning how to be appropriate and safe online. When we first began Genius Hour, I was suggesting websites and apps that might be helpful. Now, my students make suggestions and take it upon themselves to find digital tools that will benefit them and their projects the most. Yesterday, I realized that one group was using Google Drawings to design their outdoor classroom with no help or suggestions from me. As a teacher, this is what I want for my students. I want them to be able to seek out and find digital tools that will take their projects to the next level. Almost all of my students have created websites and feel very comfortable using technology to connect with others.
Since starting Genius Hour, I have realized that my students have become very self-aware. They know what works for them and what doesn't. They aren't afraid to speak up in my classroom to share what they want to do and how they want to do it. While their plans don't always work out, they know that they have a voice and that their opinions matter. My students are very passionate about their projects and I am so proud of their desire to try new things and think outside the box to make things happen.
Things don't always work out. Every project does not end well or produce the results that we were expecting. We don't always hear back from the outside experts that we contact. We sometimes have to realize that our original idea will not work and we need to make adjustments. But in all of this, my students are learning. They are learning that they are capable of dealing with failure and overcoming the struggles. They are realizing that obstacles don't mean defeat. In my classroom, failure is something that is going to happen. However, my students know that if they aren't making mistakes, they aren't risking enough. Genius Hour has encouraged my students to take risks, experience failure, and find ways to overcome obstacles.
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I'm not sure my students realize how much I learn from them. They inspire me every day as I watch them ask questions, take risks, and take their learning to new heights. I have learned to let them try almost anything within reason and expect great things. They inspire me to be creative and take risks. I look forward to class each day because I never know what challenges we will encounter and what creative solutions my students will use to overcome. Learning from them each day makes my job meaningful and makes me want me to be there.
I honestly cannot think of another teaching strategy or learning experience that would give my students the opportunities that they are given with Genius Hour. Every day I show up and am amazed at my students' ability to create, collaborate, design, and reflect. They inspire me to be the best teacher that I can be and sometimes that means just letting go and letting the learning happen.
You can check out our projects and student blogs by visiting mcnairgeniushour.weebly.com.