Slice of Life: Am I asking too much?

Today I had someone observing reading workshop. Afterwards, she said what I’m doing is challenging or maybe she said difficult. This made me wonder, am I asking too much?

Walking out to my car, I’m still thinking about this and start to kick myself for asking too much of students. More than they can do right now.

Then I remember the beginning of the day. “D” in the front looks back at his friend, and then points at the board.

What?  I look at the board.

He smiles and whispers, “Look, Genius Hour.”

“Yes!” whispers “C’ from behind.

I smile.

Genius Hour. They love it. In this one hour, students have the opportunity to create their own learning. The only constraint I give them is that their project needs to make a difference in the world. I tell them that they have an obligation to the world and themselves to give back and this is their time to do this work. That’s the major criteria. And students amaze me.

One group of students have taken up a passion project about bullying. I shared a few things I found on blogs, (thanks Michelle Haseltine and Pernille Ripp) and they were off and running. Kids I’d never imagine working together have become teammates, deciding tasks and carrying them out.

After class, “P” tells me she is writing letters to all the teachers, “Okay, Mrs. Harmatz?” And to think this coming from the girl who hates to write.

Lunchtime rolls around and I have a classroom full of students all working on their projects.  There is the endangered animal project, the Minecraft contingent and a group of passionate artists.  One student is researching why students don’t like to read (she does). I get fed a new fact or strategy on a daily basis. Honestly, she is really making me think.

Students come after school and stay as long as they can. They take the work home to work more on it. They blog about it. They think about it. They don’t forget the work at home. They greet me the next day with their findings and ask my opinion about next steps.

They are reading, writing, speaking, creating things that matter to them. If only every day could be Genius Hour day.

Is that asking too much?  If only school could bring out this passion everyday, then I couldn’t possibly ask too much.

Thank you to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara at Two Writing Teachers Blog for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays. Submit your own slice or read more slices here.



13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Am I asking too much?

  1. Julieanne,
    Students are choosing to read and write on their own time ~ AMAZING! Real purpose: “make a difference in the world” . . . You need a sign “Students at Work!”

  2. This was so exciting to read!
    I love the investment they have in what they are doing, and the goal of making the world better.
    Reading this makes me want to give Genius Hour a go in my room.
    Thanks for your hard work, and pushing me!

  3. Julieanne, In your tweet you said “thanks for supporting this work.” How could anyone NOT? Once you sink your teeth into it and see what you’re noticing here, you’ve got to support others who are trying this innovative (sadly it IS innovative) work! There are still so many teachers out there who wouldn’t dare think of “giving over an hour” (or MORE?! WHAT?!) to the children in their care. You’re spreading the word now by sharing your excitement and learning and now more teachers will think about the value. Thank YOU for sharing!! It makes a difference!

  4. First of all, I love that you ask yourself the question, “Am I asking too much of them?” It seems you aren’t. It seems they are motivated and engaged and challenged!!!! I, too, want to start genius hour in my class. You are challenging me!!!! Thank you for the shout out. See you soon!!

  5. When given the chance to follow their passions students challenge themselves. Keep on asking “too much” and thank you for writing about it.

  6. You are asking your students to do rigorous work, not hard work. To one who has not been there to watch the development of this work, it may seem like too much. However, you have guided your students to this point in your class. I would have to ask the questioner, are you asking enough of your kids?

  7. Fantastic. If you were asking too much, they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do it. But you have them engaged and creating something they are passionate about. I second Elsie’s comment: “I would have to ask the questioner, are you asking enough of your kids?”.

  8. Sounds terrific to me, Julieanne. To do something about one’s interests and to be supported in that at school is what it sounds like your students are celebrating. Good for you for doing it!

  9. I’ve always wanted to try Genius Hour. I’m adding this blog post to my reasons of why I should. Keep going! I have mixed feelings about having really high expectations (well, when they’re too high. Like, unattainably high), but it sounds to me like your kids are meeting yours!

  10. I love this. Keep asking “too much!” They rise to our expectations and I love how you make time for them to guide and build their own learning.

  11. This is great stuff, Julieanne. Like Katie said, keep asking too much.
    I remember my first principal told me to always set the bar just a little higher than students could reach. I think that’s sound advice.

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