Taken from a painting of Kapiti Island at Sunset.
by Sonia Savage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Genius Hour for Five Weeks for the Teacher.

During my just finished sabbatical term, awarded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education I came across a twitter chat #geniushour.  This chat has a number of teachers who have developed in their classrooms what is called a genius hour. Students are able to decide what they are going to learn about and become expert in and then do that for the hour. Denise Krebs talks about it here. I was interested in this so stayed for the chat that day. I thought it was a great idea and perhaps at some time I would like to try it out. I say perhaps as I have other plans as well, and there is always that ongoing tug between many conflicting 'good' learning activities to do in the classroom.

However it got me thinking about my own experience of a ten week paid sabbatical that teachers in New Zealand may apply for  - and only five of it is to be spent on professional learning, the other five is for holidaying.  What a fantastic concept.  I could choose what I spent my time on, I am sure everyone that takes it develops their own programme to suit them as a person.  You do have to put your proposal in beforehand and if that is approved then it is up to the teacher to proceed in whatever way they like. Very self-regulated learning, which is the best type of learning I believe.

I am not sure where this concept arose for teacher sabbaticals, whether it was the Unions who initiated it or what, but I sincerely hope that the New Zealand Ministry of Education continue with this practice, as I would love for every teacher in our country to be able to receive this opportunity if they so wish.  I have worked in education since the seventies and it certainly felt to me that I mattered and I was valued, when I was awarded the time.

I hope I used the time wisely and well.  I was just into my exploration when I was regretting that I hadn't proposed that I follow a path of becoming better acquainted with children's literature.  I wished I had thought about attending the International Reading Conference, however while it was always a dream of mine I forgot about it at the time of the proposal.  There are always paths we don't travel, although I admit that being a reader anyway, much of  the holiday time was spent reading by the fire! So in a way the best of both possibilities.

Here is a summary of what I spent my time doing.  As yet it is all "pie in the sky", if you like.  I still need to incorporate some of this into my classroom.  I realise with all the conflicting pulls for our classroom time at school I won't be able to spend the time I would like.  I plan to build slowly - although I don't even have the actual plan yet - just a lot of ideas mulling around that need to be written down.

As part of the five weeks I spent quite a bit of time learning how to edit a video in Premiere Elements 10. I carried the whole process through because I felt that if I am going to ask my students to do something then I should do it as well - makes me far more compassionate as they deal with the task.  I find otherwise I can be  too demanding - but when I do it I realise all the struggles!  I made this video  with my parent and staff community at school in mind as an audience.


  1. Kathryn,
    I love that New Zealand gives you a five-week "genius hour"! Nice job on your video too.

    I love how you talk about being critically digitally literate. As our students create their own content, breaking down the elements, they become able to better appreciate other online content. Nice job!

    You have students who are fortunate to have you for a teacher, and I am sure they are happy to have you back from sabbatical. I'm sure they will take you up on the challenge to teach you about gaming!

    Have fun, Kathryn!


  2. Denise
    Thank you for calling in, watching the video and commenting. I appreciate it. Now to put some things in action. Yes I look forward to being back with my students, they are such a great bunch.

  3. Kathryn,

    What a fantastic opportunity you've had! Your video was terrific to watch, you bring up some excellent points, especially in regards to digital citizenship.

    I also love the idea of the "Genius Hour", I'm going to think hard about how I can incorporate this into my class.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Melinda Bolton
    (Year 3/4 teacher)


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