Genius Hour Comes Full Circle…

As this year came to a close it marked four years ago I closed the end of a school year as a classroom teacher. It was four years ago that I stepped out and tried Genius Hour in my classroom and it was four years ago that I began to put together my story to share with others in my region of Texas and later the state of Texas the message of Genius Hour.

About mid-February of this year requests for proposals to present for Summer professional developments in my region and state started to hit my inbox. I had pursued and presented for the last three years on the topic of Genius Hour. Personally, my life as a mom and event coordinator had become exponentially busier. I had not gained a lot of traction where I had the most direct influence to implement Genius Hour. I felt like, while I whole-heartedly embrace Genius Hour, I did not have the same relevant message to share with audiences when it came to the implementation of Genius Hour.

As I was making the decision to “stand down” from presenting, a teacher in my district on another middle school campus reached out to me. Amy Nolan, an 8th Grade Speech and Communications teacher, contacted me to tell me her story with Genius Hour. Evidently she had attended two of my sessions over the past three years and had taken the leap to implement this past year. She was full of enthusiasm and full of individual student success stories. Crazy thing… she said it was all due to me. What?!?!? How could this be?

Funny how sometimes when you decide you might be done with something, events and circumstances say otherwise. Shortly after Amy shared her story with me I received an invite from a neighboring district to present on Genius Hour and within the same week an invitation to present to pre-service teachers at Texas Women’s University. I knew I had to accept, however, not as a sole presenter, but as a co-presenter with Amy. My message with her current experiences and successes brought relevance and fresh experience to the table.

As Amy and I planned, Amy realized there was yet another educator that was impacted by the Genius Hour message shared by me. This was yet another Speech and Communications teacher at an additional middle school campus in our district, Tambra Goode. Through Amy sharing with Tambra the information from one of the presentations of mine Amy attended, Tambra ran with the idea of Genius Hour. From the information shared via a PLC came the Truett Wilson Middle School “Project Change The World.” Of course, she too needed to be part of the story.

Ashes Matches Sparks Flames blog picToday, all three of us shared our stories with another group of educators in a neighboring district. I love how my presentation has evolved to include an even better way for students to begin the process of discovering their passions via Amy Nolan’s design called “Ashes, Matches, Sparks and Flames.”

We are still fine tuning the pieces of our presentation together, but now my story has come full circle. What I have shared is now being implemented and shared with those that I inspired and then inspired others. I am renewed and inspired once again as I first was with this message of Genius Hour. I am reminded again of how important it is for our students to learn from a place of passion, to learn with a desire to serve others with their learning, and confidently share their passions through uniquely and creatively designed processes and products. As Derek Sivers states, “Everybody’s ideas may seem obvious to them… but what is obvious to me may seem amazing to someone else. We should just put it out and let the world decide.”

I am once again renewed in my message of Genius Hour and it is all thanks to Amy Nolan and Tambra Goode taking the time to let me know that the message I shared impacted them and the many students they taught and will teach.

I wonder how many who have impacted me along the way needed to hear the difference they made in my life and as a result impacted the lives of my students? I am making my list right now. Make someone’s day and let them know. Let’s be part of bringing it full circle.

(To know more about Genius Hour, please visit my Google Site: Genius Hour by Kirsten Wilson)

Public Education and Positive PR…


This post has been developing over time.  The seed for this was planted many years ago within my own family.  I received my formative education from public education while my siblings received theirs from private education.  While I could start from this experience to develop this post, I would rather move to the most recent events that have spurred this post.

Every year our district brings the entire district staff together for convocation to “kick off” the new year. Each year we have incredible key note speakers.  This year was no exception when we were gifted with speaker Jaimie Vollmer.  In his address he encouraged us to take action to change education and the common misguided public perception through the “Great Conversation” (Outlined in his website). While there are formal avenues he suggests, what resonated with me and was actionable by all educators were 4 steps. The 4 steps (which are also found on his website) were:

1. Shift your attention from the negative to the positive.

2. Stop bad-mouthing one another in public.

3. Share something positive within our social network.

4. Monitoring our progress.

This stirred my passion and love for the profession that I have committed my life to and gave me new resolve.

My thread of thinking was further influenced by a chat on #sunchat a few weeks back that discussed bullying among colleagues.  I am not too naive to believe it doesn’t happen but to the extent that some shared broke my heart.  Why it happens I don’t care to really know.  What upset me is that ultimately it hurts our students… the reason we do what we do.  So to add to Mr. Vollmer’s list, I suggest:

5. Work together toward our common goal, students. (Not against one another… leave our egos at the front door of the school.)

Then, this week I had a conversation with a campus principal.  We have been through the amazing program together called “Coaching for Results” where we transparently shared our passions, fears and truly listen to one another.  She shared with me concerns with how public education is perceived and how it is not accurate of what an amazing job educators are doing day in and day out across this country. We agreed with one another that changing public perception is a responsibility all educators should feel charged to take on and take action.  Out of that came an additional point:

6. Public perception can be changed by each one of us one conversation at a time. (This can also relate back to Jaimie Vollmer’s point #3.)

Finally, on September 6th, 2013 CBS aired the documentary “Teach.” As I watched, cried, laughed and had conversations simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook (a.k.a. back-channeling), I asked myself why is this so powerful to me and my fellow colleagues?  I think it was because, for the first time, the “struggle was witnessed” and the “passion was honored” in what we do day in and day out.  They presented the reality of our profession, the passion of our commitment and the hope that never wavers. But there isn’t a weekly documentary that can build our spirits, provide us a source of encouragement, and “just in time” help.  That brings me to the final point:

7. Participate in positive collaborative groups, i.e. Twitter PLN chats, or organizations that support us and help us stay the course.

As we go into another week as “instructional designers” determining the best way to develop students’ desire for learning, my hope is that we also take action to share our “work” with the world. We have been charged to develop the learners of today into the leaders of tomorrow by helping students discover their passions.  We coach them to have resilience and grit as they approach challenges today and in the future.  Does anyone beyond your classroom know how awesome  you are?

Brag on yourself, brag on your colleagues, and brag on your school.  YOU are the positive PR that will begin to change the public’s perception of public education.

Please leave your ideas, comments, and/or thoughts below.

Works cited:

Guggenheim, Davis, prod. “Teach.” Teach Documentary. CBS. Nationwide, 6 Sept. 2013. Television.

Sackstein, Starr (moderator), Twitter, “Bullying in the Workplace”, #sunchat, 8 Sept. 2013.

Volmer, Jamie. “”The Great Conversation”” Jamie Vollmer. Jamie Vollmer, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.

YouTube. Prod. Soul Pancake. Perf. Kid President. PepTalk to Students and Teachers. Soul Pancake- You Tube, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.


Learning “Twitter-ese”: Spreading the Twitter Message

Twitter 101
August 2012 I created my Twitter “handle” at a leadership academy for our district. I didn’t look at it for months other than to check up on my sports news (I am a closet sports fanatic… no one would know it with my blingy jewelry and fake nails and pedicure :)). Beyond that I really didn’t see a purpose until January of this year. I am not sure what it was, but I was sitting in a Starbucks waiting for my own child to get out of practice and I started lurking on Twitter. Somehow I came across some pretty amazing Twtter-ers like Brad Currie @bcurrie5 and Tom Murray @thomascmurray. Next thing I know I am actively participating in 5 to 7 PLNs a week and am part of a book club for the book “Teach LIke a Pirate” by Dave Burgess @burgessdave moderated by Chris Kessler @iamkesler.
I may need an intervention, but Twitter changed my professional life. I love teaching. Twitter was the fuel that reignited my passion…not that I wasn’t intense, but reminded me how to love everything I do despite the things I dislike.
Like any great thing I find… I had to share it. So I did with my Principal, and anyone else who would listen. I hooked my principal. She was so excited that within weeks she asked me to facilitate a “How to” on Twitter. I think this is humorous, as I would NOT call anyone who actively started Tweeting in January an expert, but I am beginning to learn that an expert is just someone who is accessing the information at a faster rate than anyone else in that current environment. Thus, I am now dubbed the “Twitter Queen” (I have the crown to prove it:)). Above is a VERY basic quick powerpoint I threw together in about 15 minutes to help my fellow colleagues on my campus get started. It has some suggestions who to follow and PLNs to either lurk/creep or participate.

Challenge: If you Tweet and love it, spread the message (you are free to use the powerpoint if you like).
If you don’t Tweet and consider yourself a learner, follow my powerpoint and get connected… you won’t regret it.

I am still learning. I truly am not all-knowing when it comes to Twitter, but I am glad I didn’t delay any longer. Speaking “Twitter-ese” has transformed my world, raised the depth of collaboration with my campus colleagues, connected me professionally with amazing educators all over the world and made my students environment richer and more exciting. What are you waiting for?

Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi

Sharing my new-found passion for Twitter

twitter pic

Sharing my new-found passion for Twitter

Through one of my fellow tweeters I was asked to share how Twitter has changed me as an educator.  Here is a video link I made for sharing with Quakerstown for a PD piece regarding developing a PLN.