Please don’t let the title of this post mislead you. I am not a Genius in the traditional sense of the word–and many people would argue not in any sense of the word. A quick Google search turns up the following as a definition of Genius:
“exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability”
Now you can probably count me out when it comes to having “exceptional intellectual” ability–my ACT score would probably agree. But let’s read the rest of the definition again…”creative power or other natural ability”. See! There is hope! I truly believe every student and every teacher is given an “exceptional natural ability”. The key is identifying that natural ability and unlocking your potential–we call this passion. And that is precisely what Genius Hour does, and that is precisely why we can all be geniuses in our own right.
Each year, when introducing Genius Hour to our students, I inevitably get a student that responds with, “But I’m not a Genius!”. My response is always, “I’m not a Genius either (to which the teacher in the room generally vigorously nods her head), but we both can be!”.
It is this growth mindset component of Genius Hour that I truly love; that no matter your background, race, or state assessment score, you can be a Genius.
I tell my students that being a Genius doesn’t necessarily mean you know everything there is to know about a subject, but rather that you know a whole lot about a very specific topic. It’s about having expertise and not merely “being smart”. In fact, we often use the terms “expert” and “genius” interchangeably when discussing Genius Hour.
In many ways, Genius Hour is like completing a thesis or dissertation (I wouldn’t know, I can’t seem to finish mine!). You select a broad topic then work to narrow it down. This is how you get Professor’s who are experts in “Pre-Renaissance Florentine eating habits”…or something like that. They don’t know everything, but ask them about the origins of the Lampredotto sandwich in Florence and they can tell you anything you want to know! (That’s a cow stomach sandwich in case you’re wondering, and a truly tasty dish!) Genius Hour operates in much the same fashion.
Can a student know everything there is to know about basketball? Probably not. “Basketball” encompasses a lot of things–plays, players, strategy, statistics, etc. etc. But can they become an expert in in-bounds plays? Or uniform design? Or the history of their favorite team? Yes! They can become a Genius or expert in those things!
As you prepare for the upcoming school year and begin thinking about Genius Hour, remember that fostering a growth mindset with your students is essential in facilitating an effective Genius Hour.
I usually finish my Genius Hour presentation by telling my students, “Perhaps, one day I’ll be coming to YOU for advice or information about a topic”…and they think that’s pretty cool.
Thanks for reading!