Plant a Seed of Change

image from icanread

I use to try to change things in education with a sledgehammer.  Throw out new ideas and then repeatedly hit people over the head with them again and again, until they finally acquiesced or agreed with me.  If people objected, I took it personally, after all, they were rejecting my awesome new thing, which meant they were rejecting me.  I cringe at how I approached change.

Now I know that to change education, I have to plant seeds of change.  I have to show why this change is a great thing, not just state it is.  I have to be a support, an integrator of change, someone who will help and not just judge.  Someone who will guide and not just lead.

I now know that change does not have to be painful.  Change does not have to be dramatic, nor all or nothing.  Change does not have to be major to make a difference.  Instead change can be small.  Change can be easy.  Change can be inclusive, rather than dismissive.  An even the smallest change can be step in the right direction.  We may not think that people are changing fast enough, but if they are changing at all , there is hope.

So when I am asked how do I get my teammates aboard these new ideas?  How do I get my principal to understand the need?  How do I get parents to approve?  I tell people to start small.  To plant a seed of change.  To show what change can look like but validate what is also being done.  No one wants to genuinely change if they are repeatedly told that what they are doing is wrong.    True change has to come from within, from a desire to do something different.  The idea can come from someone else, but the drive to do so has to be from within.

So before you give up on changing education, keep fighting.  But don’t bring the sledgehammer.  Don’t take it personal.  Bring nuance, bring compassion, bring ideas and support.  Be willing to listen as much as you want to talk.  Change is a constant companion, whether we agree with it or not, but it does not have to be destructive.  It can be just a small thought that starts a revolution.

 

To Bammy Or Not to Bammy

image from icanread

I have been going in circles the last few days, thinking out loud, pulling my hair a little bit.  Nothing new if you ask my husband, but I am finally at a point where I feel ready to write about it.  You see, I was nominated for 2 Bammy Awards this year.  One as elementary education teacher of the year, the category I was up for last year as well, and new this year as education commentator/blogger.   To those who don’t know me or know this blog, this wouldn’t seem like a bad thing.  After all, being nominated for anything is an honor really. But the Bammys and I have a little bit of a history after last year.  And so I don’t whether to be proud or to hide it.  I don’t know what to think of this anymore, not after last year.

I had not told anyone about these nominations until now besides my mom and husband.  I guess the cat is out of the bag now.  So why I am so hesitant?  Well, there are different reasons.  First, I don’t know how I feel about awards still for me any way, I think many of my incredible colleagues should win awards, should get accolades for everything they do.  I think any time we can shine a positive spotlight on education, it is a wonderful thing.  And the fact that the people who nominated me actually know me and still think I do a great job makes the nomination very sweet indeed.  Yet, I don’t think I am the best elementary education teacher.  And I am definitely not the best education blogger.  I am only someone sharing the good and the bad and that’s not really doing much.

I am also hesitant because of last year’s ceremony.  Because of how teacher’s weren’t honored at the ceremony.  Because of how it didn’t seem to be about the kids much.  Because I had to go home and apologize to my students’ parents who watched and were offended at some of the entertainment.  I voiced those opinions and a huge debate started, one I don’t wish to revisit, but one that beat me up nonetheless.  In the end the Bam Radio Organization revamped many things, this year making it about the students, making it about honoring community and not just individuals.  And yet, I am not sure how it will all play out.  It seems like there is an overabundance of “connected” educators represented in the various categories again, it seems like there are a lot of repeat nominees (me included).  Are enough “regular” educators being nominated?  What does this even mean, does it mean anything to anyone?  All of these are questions that I continue to mull over.  And so I don’t know what to do.

One thing I know for sure though, is that I will not be asking for votes.  I will not be promoting my nomination.  I have thanked the people who nominated me, I am so grateful for your kind words, especially because both of the them are people who I greatly admire and strive to be like.  So for now, I will will sit back and see how all of this goes.  Will it be about the students?  Will there be winners and losers?  Will it be positive?  Is this even needed?  I struggle with these thoughts, I cannot be alone.

PS:  One thing I love is the initiative for a 4 minute TED-like talk.  If only I knew how to submit for that because I am pretty sure I have something worth saying about student voice!

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

 

Dear Administrators, Have You Taken the Pulse of Your Building Lately?

image from icanread

“Yeah……I did it.  I goofed.  I pulled a Dufus move. No, it’s not the first time (that number wouldn’t fit in this post) but it was a mistake I should have known not to make. Granted, it was made out of zeal and innocence, but mostly it was made because I focused on my goals and not the goals of my teachers.”

So writes Tom Whitford, a principal here in Wisconsin I greatly admire, in his post “Learning With Your Mistakes” a must read post if you haven’t already.  Tom’s words have stuck with me.  It is not often that we teachers get to look into the mind of an administrator when they make a mistake.  It is not often that a private screw up becomes public knowledge because let’s face it, whether we are teachers or principals, there is some sort of expectation of perfection.  That we always know what we are doing, that everything we do is a good thing.

For years, I have blogged about the mistakes I have made and how it wasn’t until I started asking my students what they wanted to learn, how they wanted to learn, and whether I was doing a good job or not that my teaching truly changed.  Sure, being told that you are boring, or that something you feel passionate about is not liked by others, is hard.  But every time a child has told me their honest opinion, I have thanked them, what courage it must take for a 10 year old to tell an adult that there are better ways to teach something.

So in the spirit of Tom’s post, I wonder how many administrators keep a finger on the pulse of their building?  How many principals ask their teachers how they are doing, and not just at the end of the year, but monthly or more often?  How many principals create opportunities for their teachers to give them advice or to help them change something.  Sure, we can think that we teachers will tell our principals if something is not working, but let’s be real.  Many teachers are afraid of administration and what may happen if they do, even if they are friendly with them.  Some don’t think their words will ever make a difference, while others don’t want to take more time away from a principal’s already busy day. Whatever the reason, and there can be many, I think we need to encourage more open dialogue in our schools.

I am not proposing a free for all, but rather the chance to start a conversation.  That teachers be asked, “How are we doing, what should we change, or how can I be a better leader?” much like we should be asking our students.  Sure, the answers may be tough to hear but taken in the right spirit, like Tom did in his school, everyone will benefit.

When we are not afraid to start hard conversations, we can grow, whether in our classrooms or in our schools.  When we can create environments where teachers trust that they can speak to their administrators even about tough subjects, then we can grow.  We work so hard to create communities of open dialogue in our classrooms, why not extend it to the rest of the school?  We are all human, no one is perfect, and it is time we start talking about it more.  Not just at the end of the year or the beginning, but throughout, as we all create the type of school we would want our own children to be in.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Some Small Ideas That Make a Difference

I love this time of year because my students really hit their stride.  They are confident, they are disciplined, and they love the ownership they have over the rooms.  It allows me to really push their thinking and introduce new things into the room that I think will keep them engaged.

  1. The Video Newsletter – Thanks to Tony Sinanis for this awesome idea!  For the past five weeks my students have been creating video newsletter showcasing what is happening in our room, rather than me writing one.  Students decide what to put in it and how and then film it during class time.  All I do is make sure they didn’t leave something important out and then upload it for them.

  • The Wall of Thinking.  My students have been furiously researching the Revolutionary War in groups and will create something within the next few weeks to show off their knowledge.  Until then, they have been adding post -its to a cabinet door with something amazing they learned.  I have noticed the students reading each other’s post-its and commenting on them as well.  It has been a blast to see their thinking grow.

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  • Resurgence of the “I have noticed…” Post-its.  I did these earlier in the year and then promptly forgot all about them.  This week I am back on track.  The kids need to know we notice how they have grown all through the year.

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  • The Bully Discussions.  If you have not taken the 3 minutes to watch Will Wheaton’s eloquent response to a girl’s question on what to do when people call you a nerd, please watch it.  We read the book “Bully” and then watched the video.  Then students silently reflected on what bullying means to them, how it affects their lives and any other thoughts they had.  I was surprised at how many of them reported having been a bully without even realizing it.

  • Students Teaching the World.  My students have been skyping into classrooms teaching kids and teachers how to do either Mystery Skype or blogging.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of them.  So think of what your students could etach another class and then put it out there.  I love the maturity, discipline, and presentation skills my students have had to showcase while presenting their knowledge.  (If you would like us to teach you, please let me know!).

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  • Planting the Seed for Summer Reading.  It is not too early to think about what incredible books the students will devour during summer, so this week we did the “Mrs. Ripp recommends” book piles on each table.  I pull out as many books as my arms can carry from our library, new and old, place them on the tables and then give students time to peruse.  They have an “I can’t wait to read…” list in their notebooks which they then add to . This 30 minute book extravaganze leade to each students adding at least one new book to their list.

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I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

The One Thing Challenge – Join Me

image from icanread

I start every year with a massive to try list, I think most of us do, so slowly as the year unfolds I whittle it down, thing by thing, idea by idea.  Try a new reading angle, come up with a new math challenge, how about a better project approach, or incorporating more genius hour.  I knew I wanted my students to be teachers this year, I knew I wanted them to be pushed.  And I have and they are, and you would think I would be satisfied.

Sure it’s April.  Sure, summer seems like it will be here in a flash.  And yet, there is still time to try something new.  There is still time to challenge ourselves.  So I propose the one thing challenge.  Pick one thing you are not satisfied with this year, whether it is a stagnant spelling program, a reading approach that could use a little passion, or not having gotten your students connected to the world.  Perhaps you hate the way your classroom looks or the lack of umph in social studies.  Perhaps, like me, you want to reinvigorate writing somehow but haven’t quite figured out how.  Whatever it is, pick just one thing to change, one thing to make better before the end of the year is here.  Leave your one thing in the comments, and if you blog about it, please leave a link.

I know it seems like the year will be over so soon, but it is never too late to challenge yourself or your students.  So pick one thing, try to change it, and tell me all about it.  I can’t wait to hear what you want to change!

 

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Why You Should Share the Good and the Bad

image from icanread

When I started blogging I didn’t know I was going to put it all out there.  Granted my husband could have probably predicted it, after all, he lives with my honesty every day.   And yet, quickly into my blogging journey I realized I couldn’t hold back.  That I felt the need to start a dialogue about not just the amazing great things that I couldn’t believe were happening, but also the crazy bad things where I was embarrassed or had to go home, take a deep breath, and go to bed.

Too often when we blog we don’t share the ugly.  We don’t share the mistakes we make, the lessons that blow up in our face, or the doubts we carry as educators.  I get it.  I also worry every time I post something that shines a negative light on my own performance as a teacher.  I wonder if someone is keeping track of my failures.  Keeping track of how something didn’t work out.  Yet, I keep pushing “post” and I keep sharing.  Why?  Because I ‘m human.  I make mistakes.  I am growing.  And I am learning.

As teachers we are not expected to be perfect, we are expected to be learners alongside our students.  We are expected to be responsible, to create incredible learning opportunities for the children we are lucky to teach.  Yet we cannot account for everything.  We cannot plan for the many  things that can work against us.  And we have to admit that.

Rafranz Davis wrote a powerful post discussing how when we present only the good we create Stepford classrooms that others will never feel they can live up to.  We create a false impression of what education looks like every day, every moment, in our rooms.  That doesn’t help much.  I would be exhausted if I only blogged about the great and then was worried someone might walk by and catch the bad.

I blog to grow and I blog honestly because it keeps me accountable.  I blog about the bad to start discussions, to help others realize that many of us make mistakes, many of us have lessons that fail, many of us don’t have all of the answers.  That doesn’t mean I don’t blog about the great, how can I not write about the incredible things my students do?  But it means that I don’t pretend the bad doesn’t happen.  I don’t hide it, nor do I want to.  To grow fully as teachers, we must embrace our past mistakes.  We must study them and learn from them.  Why not start a dialogue and do it publicly, perhaps just some of the time, so that others can grow with us?

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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