Genius Hours for Teachers

Unconference: F2F Playful Deliberation conversations

I’ve been musing the last couple of days over the similarities between the #GeniusHour projects some teachers have begun offering their students in their classes (based on Google’s 20% concept popularized in Dan’s Pink’s article “Genius Hour in the Workplace“), and Ontario’s TLLP project-based professional learning program for experienced classroom teachers.

For 6 years, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Education have been perfecting this exemplary and innovative program for classroom teachers.  The TLLP program – the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program – oversees the selection, funding, leadership in-service, ongoing support, and opportunities for knowledge-exchange to up to 2 teachers per Board in the province each year.

“The three goals of the program are
* to create and support opportunities for teacher professional learning
* to foster teacher leadership, and
* to facilitate the sharing of exemplary practices with others for the broader benefit of Ontario’s students.”

But the real ‘genius’ of the TLLP program is that the ideas for the projects come from classroom teachers themselves: professional learning, based on individual interests, needs, and creative ideas, designed by classroom teachers who are truly passionate about improving their practice for the sake of the students they teach: in effect, a Genius Hour program for teachers!

What if every Board or District of Education embraced this concept, and created a similar system of support within their jurisdiction for their classroom teachers to pursue their teaching and learning passions?

What if every District Administration recognized the enormous benefits for both their students and their education staffs, demonstrated by the TLLP program*, by awakening and tapping into the energies and ideas of their experienced classroom teachers?

Imagine the effect it could have on teachers who suddenly see a possibility to design their own professional development for the own skills and interests in their professional practice, and a chance as well to collaborate and share it with their fellow teachers!

It doesn’t matter that a 20% time system would need to be adjusted to fit our current educational system. A program of short-term assistance and release time for even a few projects per year could awaken and develop the passions and energies of teachers who have so much to offer, but who are feeling isolated or even stymied within their classrooms with kids.

A win-win situation for all!

Just imagine the possibilities of a Genius Hour program, energizing the teachers within your schools…



Photo by A. Forgrave under CC license

* The TLLP: Research Project, Dr. Carol Campbell, U of Toronto; Dr. Ann Lieberman, Stanford University; and Dr. Anna Yashkina, OISE, Toronto; May 2013. 



About Cathy Beach

Recently retired elementary teacher and outdoor educator in rural Ontario, Canada. My Olympic Journeys may be over, but they lead me into some very exciting adventures with teachers and kids and the world of connected learning...
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One Response to Genius Hours for Teachers

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing idea, Cathy! I have been blessed to work in a school where teacher inquiry is the norm rather than the exception. We work in small groups or by ourselves to investigate our burning questions through inquiry! I only wish that more teachers could experience this type of PD on a regular basis. Best wishes for your retirement!

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