Treated As One – A Poem by A Student

I tell my students to speak boldly, and they do.  Thank you Corinne for letting me share your poem.

Treated As One

1.5, 2.9, 3.4, 4.0

Grade point averages

They define who we are.

People walk around school saying

“I got an A”-4.0

“I have a learning disability”-1.5

“I don’t understand”-2.9

“I’m not good enough”-3.4

People always say “Everyone is different”

Well if everyone is different why do we ALL

have to take the same test?

Why do we have one grading system

for six schools with hundreds of kids.

I know life isn’t always fair but school should be.

Because school is where you practice

It’s where you practice what you’ll later need.

Why is a group of different people

taught in one way?

A way where half of the kids don’t understand,

and then the teachers have to say to their parents

“They don’t put in enough effort”

When maybe they think in a different way

I speak for my dyslexic sister

who has to get tutored two times a week

She has told me many times

“I don’t understand”

It’s such a sad thing to see a brilliant mind get

shut away because of what the other kids will say

She once had a teacher that said

she used the word dyslexic as an excuse

to get out of reading

When she hadn’t even read the papers that diagnose her.

My sister is one out of thousands

who don’t get treated fair,

We all just have to live with being

treated as one

All though we are more.

Not All Students Want To Change the World

“But I don’t want a voice to the world…” he stands with a determined look on his face, expecting me to challenge his decision.  “They don’t need to see what I write or what I have to say,” he continues, “It’s none of their business…”  And with that, my students have once again challenged my assumptions and I need to change the way I teach.  Again.

So what else have my students proved me wrong in, well quite a bit, but here are the biggest.

Not all students want a voice.  From 4th to 7th grade I always have students that don’t want their private thoughts, work, or writing published to the world.   Never assume that every child wants their work published or shared, ask first, we would expect the same thing if it were us.

Not all students want to make.  I thought when I started doing more hands-on learning that all students would jump for joy, and while some certainly do, there are also students who go into absolute terrified mode when presented with anything abstract.  Those kids need to fit into our innovative classrooms as well, so offer choices in how they learn, don’t just assume they want to create something from nothing or do their own version.

Not all students want choice.  Some kids just want to be told what to do, not always, not on everything, but some kids need more structure or support through some things.  If we only cater to the creative child who relishes freedom then we are not teaching all of the students in front of us.

Not all students want to change the world.  While we may shout about empowered students and how they are going to change the world, not every child wants to change the world, they just want to be kids.

I have learned that while I may love to change the way education is done in classrooms around the world, I need to make sure I don’t disenfranchise students more by assuming they all want to learn like I do.  So make room for all of the learners in your world, support them all as they grow, and don’t judge.  Push them forward but be gentle in your approach and ask the students first.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

What My Students Told Me – Students Take on Grades

I thought teaching 7th graders would mean that they had a cool distance to school.  That they knew that the grades we give reflect the work they do.  That a report card is not meant as a slap in the face, but rather a tool to be used as they grow toward their goal.  I thought that moving from letter grades to standards based meant students would get it better, would embrace the chance to see what they needed to focus on and then work harder to master their deficits.  Yet again what I thought has proven to not be so, so when I asked my students their thoughts on grades so that I could add their voice to the re-publication of Passionate Learners, I had to take a moment to digest what they told me.  It wasn’t what they said about whether teachers should grade or not, it was how they reacted to the grades they were given.

Once again, I am the mouthpiece for my students, they asked that I please share this with the world in the hope that it will inspire change.  In the hope that it will inspire discussion, that we will take their thoughts and use them to push our own.  So what my students wish teachers knew about grades is simple, yet significant.  I hope it makes you think.

That they feel they have little to no control over what grade they get.  Even in a standards-based grading district, where I ask them to show me mastery with deconstructed standards using rubrics we have created together, they still feel that they have little control over how they are assessed, and more importantly what that assessment means to them.  Now imagine how students feel when they haven’t created the rubric, self-assessed, or deconstructed the standards.  They don’t understand the rubrics we give, they don’t understand at times what they should know to be labeled proficient.  They don’t understand the number they are given.  They crave feedback and conversation, rather than a number or letter.  They crave classrooms that relish growth, failure, and attempts at learning.

That grades means they are done.  The minute we grade something, they are done with it.  It is the signal they need to move on, no matter that I teach in a district that allows and encourages re-takes for everything.  If we wnat them to continue working on something then we should give feedback but no scores.

That grades sometimes become the one thing that their parents look at, nothing else.  The minute a grade is placed on something that is all their parents can focus on.  Their parents don’t always care about the effort, they don’t always care about the growth, just what the final result is.  The conversations then centers around reaching the “3” or the “4,” to get that A, rather than what they learned, how they liked it, and what they are working on next.

That a grade tells them whether they are smart or not.  We may say that grades are in their control and that they don’t reflect how smart they are, but they are not listening.  If you get good grades, you must be smart, if you don’t well then you are dumb.  Grades are leading them to a fixed mindset, rather than the growth mindset we are all hoping for.

That publishing honor rolls or GPA’s mean that their private learning is now public.  We may see releasing these names as a way to celebrate their learning, but many of my students says it just creates a divide.  And it’s not the students who are not on honor roll that said this to me, no, over and over it was the students that made it.  They didn’t see their accomplishments as anyone else’s business.

That grades is for the future, not for the now.  So many of my students reported that grades mattered because they want to go to college, and while at first I found this to be great (they care about the future!) I soon realized that this is so far from the purpose of what school should be.  Students should keep an eye on the future, yes, but they should also keep an e eye on the now.  They should be focused on the learning journey they are currently on and be excited to see their own growth and how it will help them right now, not 6 years from now.

Once again, my students are pushing me to change the way I asses in the classroom.  While I strive to give them meaningful feedback, I have slipped from my ways.  That’s what happens when you teach more than 100 students.  Yet, the numbers I am so carefully doling out are not helping them grow, so I am not doing my job as their teacher.  My students are making me a better teacher, imagine if we asked all of our students what grades means to them?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

What Story Are You Telling?

My students told me to stand proud.  To make sure I made eye contact.  To speak up and smile.  Maybe play music and crack a joke.  To do all of the things I ask them to do every time they speak.  “Tell them what we tell you…we need to change school, no joke”

I stand today, privileged to speak to other educators about the way we do education, about the things we may want to change.  I stand today ready to carry my students’ words out into the world.  I stand today, nervous and with butterflies in my stomach, knowing that those things my students tell me day after day now have an audience to be passed on to.  I don’t want to let them down.

Yet, I am not alone.  All of us that write, all of us that speak, all of us that go out and discuss education whether globally or locally, we carry the words of our students with us.  We carry the awesome responsibility that comes with being in classrooms or schools every day.  We carry the knowledge of what may work work and what definitely doesn’t.  We carry the words students give us so that they have a voice.  We carry the stories of our students and what they do every day.  We carry their words when they can’t.

So before we speak of THAT kid that drove us crazy.  Before we speak of THAT class that just wouldn’t listen.  Before we speak about THAT school that didn’t work; remember that we choose what the narrative of education is.  Remember that within our words we carry all of their words, all of their thoughts, all of their hopes.  We just have to decide what we share with the world.  We decide what story is told about education; one of frustration or one of change.  The choice is always ours.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

What I Need to Change

I was going to write about all of the things we have been doing to try to break down the barriers to poetry in class.  All of the eye rolls I have been seeing, the grunts and groans.  The many “Roses are red…” poems I have sen in the last few days as I ask them to write me a poem, any poem, just write something.  I was going to write about how many of my students hate poetry because of all of the rules we have forced upon them in our pursuit of helpfulness and understanding.  I was going to write about how my students are slowly inching further away from a disinterest or total hate to a small interest or even like when it comes to listening to poetry.  Writing it is an entirely different battle.

But I decided that this was bigger than that.  This moment, in our classrooms, is bigger than that.

It is not that my students are the only ones that hate poetry.  In fact, some of them do, some of them don’t.

It is not that my students are the only ones who hate writing.  Hate reading.  Hate book clubs.  Hate English.  Some of them do, some of them don’t.

It is not that my students are finally expressing their hatred not to be mean or out of spite, but so we can do something about it.

It is not that my students are different from most students.

It is more that I have had the same conversations every year.

It is more that every kid has something they hate about school because of choices I have made, choices we have made, when we decided to teach a certain way.

It is more that student curiosity seems to have been drowned out by our carefully planned lessons.

That inquiry and critical thinking have been buried by the pursuit of the one right answer.

That we have taught students that school is black and white while life is multicolored.

That we tell them to sit still so much that they forget their own voice.

That we make all of the choices for them and then get frustrated when they cannot create on their own.

That is what I need to write about because that is what I have discussed with my students.  That is what teaching poetry has revealed so far.  That is what I need to change.

Who knew poetry would be the place my students found their voice.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

From Gotcha to Good For You – 6 Ideas for Cultivating a Community of Celebration

There seems to be a pervasive undercurrent of jealousy within education.  Ask most educators and they will have a story to share of how they didn’t tell others about about an accolade they got, an award they were nominated for, or even praise they had received.  Shying away from the positive lime light can sometimes feel like a national sport for teachers.  Yet, I am surrounded by people who want nothing but the best for each other.  I have been before.  So why is still that we tend to hide away our accomplishments, rather than share them with those we work so closely?  Why is it we downplay ourselves so that others may not get jealous?  But more importantly, how do we change the culture within our schools that seems centered on a “gotcha” mentality, a negative one where tear downs are the norm, to a “good for you” community where all receive praise, and no one has to hide what they do.

Working in my district, Oregon School District, that goes out of its ways to share the feel good, has given me a few ideas.  Some I have heard about from amazing colleagues, some I have experienced, and some I hope to experience.  All of these ideas are simple.  All of these ideas will make an impact.  It is up to us to change the culture within our schools.  It is up to all of us, not just administrators to create an environment where we genuinely are happy for one another, not wonder why that person gets all of the attention.

  • Taking 5 minutes to acknowledge.    When an administrator or colleague takes the time to stop by and say great job, congratulations, or I have noticed that…it changes the way we feel.  Taking 5 minutes to actually acknowledge someone else every day, or even just 1 minute to shoot an email, can create an incredible change, and it starts with the superintendent.  When my students and I were featured in an article in our very small paper, my superintendent sent me an email thanking me for shining a positive light on all of the great work that happens in our district.  I have never received an email like that before and I can tell you, it made me smile., and it made me want to pass on that feeling.  No matter how busy you are, take 5 minutes every day simply to thank people for what they do.
  • The staff restroom gratitude poster.  This idea comes from another school in my district.  Every Monday someone (perhaps the principal) leaves a poster in the staff restroom with a heading such as “Tell me all of the reasons we are thankful Mrs. Anderson is a teacher here.”  Next to it is a marker encouraging everyone to add their thoughts, and boy do they ever.  As one of my friends told, this little poster is a ray of positivity in everyone’s day as they get a chance to express their gratitude and see what others say.  Every week it is a new staff member, every week no one knows who put it there.
  • The sneaky student compliment paper.  Today, I had every class write compliments to one of our team’s teachers.  My team had no idea I was doing this which made it even better.  It took me less than a minute to explain to the students who then quietly circulated the paper around filling it with gratitude for that specific teacher.  At the end of the day, I gave each paper to their respective subject.
  • The “I have noticed…” Vox or email.  I know a lot of principal that are on Voxer even if their staff is not.  This idea is courtesy of Leah Whitford, an incredible principal in Lancaster, WI.  As she walks through the school, she will quickly vox herself (Voxer is a free walkie talkie app for your phone) whatever she has noticed about someone’s classroom.  At the end of the day she can then email the audio recording to that teacher.  They don’t even have to have Voxer to get it. If you are not on Voxer (which you may want to be), how about a quick two line email.  We often don’t know when someone sees something great happening, think of how powerful it would be to get a quick compliment like that.
  • The applause section of the newsletter.  This is an idea from my principal, Shannon Anderson, who is a driving force of positivity.  Every Sunday she sends out an OMS newsflash that includes information about upcoming events, her schedule, a great article, as well as an applause section where she highlights small and big things that people deserve praise for.  Anything from winning an award to helping others out gets highlighted, and she encourages us to submit names as well.  Too often recognition only comes from huge events that happen to few people, it is vital that all of the little things that make our school run also get their day in the sun.
  • The compliment cork board.  Hang a cork board in the office, put note cards next to it, add markers, and voila – the compliment cork board.  Encourage parents, students, or staff to leave a quick compliment for anyone they choose.  Think of the message that sends to any visitors that enters your school as well.

Be a model of praise yourself.  I try every day to thank someone, acknowledge someone, or praise something I have seen.  It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens more days than not.  Change starts with us, so if we want to work in a culture that celebrates the accomplishments of others then we need to step up to the challenge.  Remember; it only takes person to take the first step.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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