genius-300x223Did you know that everyone is a genius?  It’s true.  You, me, and every child that you teach has a unique talent, skill, or understanding that is unlike anything the world has ever known.  Our job as educators is to find and tap into that brilliant genius – both in our students and in ourselves – so that optimal learning can take place.  As such, I propose that we all set up a Genius Bar. 

What is a Genius Bar?

If you’ve ever walked into an Apple store, you’ll know what a Genius Bar is and where it’s located.  Generally toward the back of the store, the Genius Bar is the place where you can take your Apple Device if you’re having an issue and they will either fix it for you, or send it to someone who can help solve the problem.  The people who staff the Genius Bar are typically well-versed in specific areas (for instance, laptop geniuses vs. tablet geniuses) and while they have open times for people to just drop by, you typically need an appointment to see a genius.  What if we brought a similar system to a classroom near you?


The Classroom Genius Bar

We could easily extrapolate this model as a way to encourage student problem-solving skills, independent and collaborative creativity, and to showcase each child’s own unique talents and skills.  By having a classroom genius bar, students could specialize in a type of genius in which they would schedule appointments to help their peers with very specific problems.

Have a talent for understanding algebra and operations?  Share your genius at the Classroom Genius Bar with (2) 10 minute appointments each week.  Do you struggle with reading fluency?  Schedule an appointment with a Peer Genius who specializes in using music to help read.  Imagine the autonomy this would provide our students!  Think about the possibilities this opens to us as educators – we become facilitators of learning rather than a static talking head.  Simultaneously, we empower our students by honoring their own unique genius while providing them with the opportunity to refine their talents for the good of others’ learning.

Of course, this requires us as educators to let go of the self-imposed responsibility of providing answers and feedback every time our students struggle.  Instead, we create a culture of collaborative learning where students use all resources at their disposal – teacher, student, arts, and technology alike – to drive their own learning.


Setting up your own Genius Bar

A Genius Bar could be in place in any classroom.  In the art room, there could be geniuses who specialize in sculpture, photography, drawing, painting, or even the use of texture or color.  In the math classroom, there could be geniuses for each cluster: operations and algebra, geometry, numeracy, etc.  In a digital media/library classroom, geniuses may focus on searching skills, using the Big 6, or citation and sourcing.

Part of a genius bar in the classroom needs to be fluid to find the unique talents and skills your students bring to the table.  Try not to set up the genius bar at the very beginning of school year.  Instead, take that valuable time to get to know your students and to discover what natural gifts they could share.

Build the Genius Bar organically.  Bring students along for the conversation and ask them where they feel they could contribute to helping their peers learn.  Honor their choice; if it turns out this isn’t their true genius, go through the discovery process with them – not for them.

Set up appointment times during open classwork time.  Yes, it will be noisy, but students will remain on task and engaged.  This provides them with brain food that’s the equivalent of Miracle-Gro.  Give them high-quality instruction (light), multiple ways of learning (water), some space and feed their brains with a sprinkling of genius and your students will grow faster and farther than you’ve ever thought possible.