GENIUS HOUR AND MENTORSHIP
We are knee deep into our second year of Genius Hour. As we continue to be more knowledge and comfortable with this process, we continue to make adjustments and improvements.
There aren’t many requirements with Genius Hour; that is kinda the whole point. It’s a time for our students to explore THEIR passions and THEIR interests. The hour they get each week is truly THEIRS.
So far, our students know they HAVE to share their information by presenting somehow (but they have total freedom in how to share that knowledge). They also know that HAVE to take notes to keep a record of the information they’re getting and where it’s coming from. Finally, they HAVE to reflect on their journey.
One of the ways we have tweaked our genius hour time this year is to add a requirement for our students to find a mentor. We are hoping a mentor will serve to be a sounding board for ideas, a sharer of information, and a helper/supporter to our sixth graders in their work.
When I presented the idea of mentorship to our students, they were noticeably apprehensive and nervous; having to go out of your way to talk and interview someone that you may not know very well is intimidating and uncomfortable. Trying to even THINK of a mentor in the first place is also a little daunting. Thankfully, my students showed each other why a mentor might be important to their work organically, authentically, and purely on accident…
We were writing our research questions on a piece of paper to grow our genius hour board and one of our students, Vanni, asked me about whether the universe or a galaxy was bigger. I had no idea, but I knew a teacher across the hall was teaching space-type things (can you tell science is not my best subject?!) to her fifth graders. That teacher just so happened to be Vanni’s teacher from last year so he was excited to go and ask her about it. He came back to us, question answered, in about three minutes. We reflected on this as a group and compared how long Vanni spent to get knowledge by asking an expert verses having to walk to the computer lab, login, go to Google, type in a search, read on several different websites, before feeling like his question was answered. “THAT, my friends, is what mentorship is all about,” I enthusiastically shouted while probably banging my hand on a table for added emphasis.
A little later, we were growing a list of HOW to get a mentor. Our students had great ideas: looking for a hotline to call, googling experts in their field of study, telling LOTS of people about their project in hopes someone they know could be a possible mentor, asking librarians, old teachers, etc, etc. Another student, Sarah, was bummed that her mom might not count as an official mentor so that we would all have to broaden our horizons a bit and not rely on immediate family. She was venting her frustration… “My mom’s a doctor in the ER. She sees patients that have been treated for depression; she’d be perfect to ask!” Jake waves his hand in the air and says, “Hey! I didn’t realize your topic was about that! My mom is a phychologist; she knows a lot about depression too… I’m sure she’d talk with you!” Connecting other members of our community together?! “THAT, my friends, is what mentorship is all about,” Again with the enthusiasm and banging of my hand on the table.
Because this is our first year having that be a requirement, I can’t say exactly where this will take us and how easy/difficult it might be to add finding and learning from a mentor as a part of our Genius Hour work. There are always so many unknowns with Genius Hour and that’s probably one of our favorite parts about it. When students are given voice and choice in their learning, it will be constantly evolving and changing.
What I do know about mentorship is this: having an extra adult in your corner to cheer you on, support you, connect with you, teach you, and empower you sounds like positivity all over the place for my students. And THAT, my friends, sounds pretty good to me 🙂