I don’t get Genius Hour. I don’t. Really.
Type “genius” into Google and you get this: “a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.”
The obvious low hanging criticism of genius hour is the name itself, and that being a genius, or demonstrating the qualities of a genius, is restricted to a particular time frame. Because in my understanding of this, it is indeed prescribed time by the teacher when there is the opportunity for students to explore learning in their own way, about what they are interested in. And if its bigger than that, don’t use hour, because that implies that time to be a genius is limited – it sends the wrong message. Name it something else, or maybe just expect kids to demonstrate genius all the time, in everything they do. Have that expectation of them. That’s simple. And better.
So, during this time, you get to be a genius. Other times, not so much. Perhaps I’m just having some fun with words here. But you know what, words matter.
From this blog post: “Genius hour…is when they are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever they want to explore.” Allowed? You can explore your passions, but only when I give you the time to do so? C’mon.
Why should students need permission to explore what they are interested in learning about? Guess what? They’ve been doing that forever – and in most cases, outside of school. Just ask them.
For me, “genius hour” represents another attempt, in a long string of attempts, to “containerize” learning. You can be a genius, but do it at this time, and on our terms. Learn on your own, and what you are interested in, but do so within our structure, when we give you the time to do so. We’ll let you know when you can be a genius. We’ll let you know when learning can be interesting for you. Isn’t it ironic that the intent of the experience is to provide choice and agency, and to deepen engagement, but that it only can only occur at a time when the teacher “allows” it? Not much choice in that…nothing genius about that.
I’m guessing that most teachers will think that genius hour is a great idea, and that adding an hour or two for kids to explore their interests is a good thing. Maybe.
But maybe educators should stop and think about establishing a student learning experience, and school learning culture, where the exploration of individual interests is paramount, and that truly innovative approaches to school that encourage intelligence, creativity, and wonder are the basis of everything that is done in schools, and at all times.