My wife and I give each other one night a week to pursue our own interest. It’s sort of like having a date night alone. Odd, I know, but something that allows both of us to pursue our own interests no matter how crazy life gets. I used to feel guilty leaving my kids for one night but now I realize that this time
Each Thursday night, I go somewhere to do creative work. Sometimes it’s Starbucks (I know, I know, it’s a chain place) and sometimes it’s a microbrew and sometimes it’s a local Mexican food joint. But wherever it is, I sit down alone and pursue my own creative work. This is my Genius Hour. This is my Twenty Percent time. I have a few rules for myself:
- I can’t work on anything related to school. I can’t grade papers. I can’t plan lessons. But I also can’t work on a presentation for a keynote or write a blog post or write an article. This time can’t be connected to teaching.
- There are no deadlines. So, while I love to write fiction, this is bonus time that isn’t part of a scheduled writing process.
- I have to be learning something new. A few years ago, this was coding and programming. Last year, this has included story craft (where I have studied up on what makes a story) as I write a novel. Lately, it has been illustrating and animation. So, while I might be working within my strengths, I am also pushing myself to try something new.
- The audience is optional. I may someday create a short animated film for students. I will most likely partner with my wife again and publish another novel (my last one was Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard.) However, the goal in my own Genius Hour is to work without worrying about audience.
The end result is that I teach differently because of this personal Genius Hour time. I am more likely to think about inquiry, choice and creativity in my lessons because I know the value of this in my own life. I am more patient when students get scared of failure. I see what happens when I make mistakes. I understand the frustration.
I realize that teachers are busy. I know that some people don’t have the luxury of being married to someone else who thinks personal Genius Hour is a great idea. But if it’s possible, I’ve found that all the benefits of Genius Hour for students are true of this time for teachers as well.