Pure Genius (Hour)

Today, we had double Genius Hour. In the second hour, students presented what they have been studying. We had a lot of fun. My mom, a genius herself, came and hung out with us. I bought everyone pizza. So many good things happened today.

It’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t know these students and this context why the list of events below were so… powerful and empowering.

A student I thought would be too shy to present and has been dealing with anxiety, leapt up and read her creative writing piece without blinking an eye. We all had a good laugh. There is a depth to this young woman that can be missed because she is so quiet a lot of the time. I have seen this in her, but today, we all saw it together. She got a lot of positive feedback from the class as we all giggled along.

A Grade 12 student comes in once a week to teach a group of boys guitar. He is learning about teaching, and maybe this will have some positive benefits for him beyond the immediate pleasure of passing along his skill. He is a patient teacher and a model of what pure passion looks like.

There was pride, as students strode through the school carrying their music instruments. One student joked, “We are on our way to our first gig!” But behind the comment was a kind of seriousness that was also very touching. You feel just the edges of someone wanting something more….

The smile on one student’s face as he showed off his skill…. It is a smile that I am starting to see appear during regular class-time.

I loved watching a young man lean in and help another student learn something. You might have to know how the teacher in this scenario is a student who is largely disengaged.

The Knitters! Granny told them they were the light of her life on Thursdays when she comes to knit with them. Seventy-three years old and she does the twist to the students’ music playing through the iPod dock.

I love the intergenerational mix that is happening. (If I had a magic wand, and all the decision-making power, I would built an atrium on the sunny side of our school and staff it with elders doing all kinds of things, including sitting by the window with their favourite pet.)

What liberation for all of us, that nobody’s work was assessed by numbers or rubrics or checklists. I didn’t have to fail anyone, even the ones who blew it off. I didn’t have to judge anyone’s oral presentation. I didn’t even tell them how they could improve their work. I was able to celebrate all their interests, and all the ways the chose to show their work. I made no mention of grammatical errors.

There was none of this: Can I hand it in tomorrow? I am not ready. When will you tell us our marks? Did I get an A? Was my mark higher or lower than hers? What’d you get?

I could just enjoy them, and they could just enjoy themselves, and it wasn’t for anything else but for the pure joy of it.

I even had a good laugh at a silly, slap-dash PowerPoint that two kids threw together. It was about nothing, but funny, and showed they hadn’t been using Genius Hour. (Of course I knew this already). Nobody’s parents are being called. It is entirely up to them to be accountable. Nobody will make them do it, help them get it done, tell them the answers. They will not squeak by. I hope they will start using it. I hope they saw all the fun we had, and reach higher, and I think they will.

I have to think hard and talk to my PLN on Twitter about when and how to push for higher and higher quality in terms of presentation and areas of study. But these students right now are just enjoying/learning/relearning what ‘for the love of it means’ and I am not ready to do anything at all to jeopardize the pure genius of what is happening.

3 thoughts on “Pure Genius (Hour)

  1. Oh, Kelley, I got chills reading this. YOUR genius and passion came through in this lovely post. Just wonderful! You have said so much of what I believe and think but haven’t been able to articulate. And the examples you share of your students work are just wonderful.

    Your last paragraph has some great thoughts. We are moving into unknown territory, aren’t we? We know it’s genius work, but a few students are not along just yet. Time will tell if we can engage them ALL. I also understand the desire to push for higher quality. Do we let them push themselves and each other? Or do we nudge? I have been known to push students to have richer topics, perhaps more than a nudge a time or two, but I don’t want “to jeopardize the pure genius of what is happening.” Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful glimpse into what genius hour is and can be, especially in secondary education.


    P.S. May we leave a link to this post on our genius hor wiki testimonials page?

  2. I can feel the exuberance, the satisfaction, and the passion your students and you have! This is what school should be – full of students and teachers passionate for learning! We’ll keep trying to engage those that are just following along, and they’ll know we want them to experience success, as well. 🙂

  3. One advantage in being retired from teaching is I no longer have to meet deadlines, attend meetings, study up on subjects, program lessons or mark work. With this freedom, I study up on subjects I choose, write comments on blogs as well as creating my own posts, set my own deadlines and attend meetings I choose. While I loved working with my students throughout the years and gained great satisfaction, what I now do also gives me satisfaction, all the more so because I have the choice of direction.

    I see the advantage in what you are trying to do with the students. You are allowing them some of the freedom I now have so they can know how it is to learn for the sake of learning and to set their own goals. Guidance may be necessary yet the reward will come as they leave with self-motivation so necessary if they want to continue studies at college.


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