On February 5th Do the #StudentLife Challenge – Show the World What A Day in the Life of A Student Looks LIke

Have you signed up to be a part of the #studentlife challenge on February 5th?  If not, why not?  This simple global collaboration is all about having students take pictures throughout the day and then share them using the hashtag #studentlife.  So far more than 30 different schools in 6 different countries are taking part.

Details

On February 5th, I invite students across the world to share pictures from their regular day using the hashtag #studentlife.  Students (or teachers if students are too young) can use Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social network site they choose to share these slices of their life.  What I hope for is a wide variety of images with or without commentary that will allow us educators to see what happens in our students’ days, not just what we think happens.  If you feel like it, you can also have students do this before February 5th and compile their answers into something that can be shared.  This is what I will do using our blogs.

How can you participate?

Share this challenge with your students and invite them to join, remind them to use the hashtag #studentlife.

Add your information in the form below  or in a comment so that I can share your students’ slices with the rest of the world.

Tune in on February 5th through Twitter or Instagram to hopefully see what our students’ days look like.

Help me spread the word on this please, I think it could be really powerful for all of us to see what students really go through in a day in our schools.

If you have signed up, please fill out the form with your email address so I can send you the details!

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

The Secret To A Happier Teacher, Perhaps

These last few days since publishing my post “There is No Such Thing As Balance” I have been floating around in a relaxed state.  There is something incredibly lethargic about getting it out, pointing out your flaws for the whole world to see and then moving on.  Perhaps we sometimes dwell on things even more than we know.  Perhaps airing our imperfections is not so bad after all, I guess I should know, I have been writing about them for the past 5 years,  However, that has not been the only reason for my better state of mind.  I swear I have found the key to happiness.  A simple one indeed…

Stop volunteering yourself.

Stop saying yes because you feel you should.  Stop saying yes to every single thing that needs someone to say yes to it.  Stop jumping at every single chance you get.  Let others have the chance at doing something, share the opportunities, and save some sanity for yourself.

In the past two days I have stopped saying yes all of the time and my world didn’t crash down on me.  I didn’t become a terrible person, nor did I lose friends.  I stopped saying yes to every single thing that was presented to me, every single opportunity presented.  I stopped saying yes as the very first person because that is what I felt I should and instead said yes to the things I really cared about.  Not a perfect system by any means but one that has saved me a lot of stress.

So say yes when you really want to.  Say yes when you know that it will mean something to you and to others.  Don’t say yes because you feel you have to.  Don’t say yes because it might work out for you.  Save you yes’es for when it really matters. Save your yes for when it should be followed by an “Absolutely!” and give yourself a break.  You deserve it, in fact, we all do.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

There Is No Such Thing As Balance

It’s 9 PM and I have spent 30 minutes with my husband.  2 hours with my four children.  10 hours at work.  1 hour after work working on work and 1 more hour thinking about it.  Just another day in the life of most teachers.  I used to think that days like this meant my life was out of balance.  That adding up all of the hours spent away from those that matter the most meant that I was an abject failure at being a great human being and that I had to restore my balance.  In the past few weeks though, I have realized that there is no such as balance.

In fact, I would like to state that balance is much like a unicorn.  Wonderful to dream about even though we all know it doesn’t really exist.

What I do have though is choice.  And for the past 7 years I have chosen to give the best of me to my students.  I have chosen to give most of my energy, most of my thoughts, most of my hopes and dreams to those students I have been lucky enough to teach.  I have taught with my emotions on my sleeve and at a breakneck pace.  I have chosen to do this, whether intentionally or not, and so my own children?  They have gotten whatever was left of me when I finally made it home.  The final smiles, the tired eyes, the overloaded mind.  And that is no longer enough.

We forget that as teachers we cannot save the world.  That yes, we can try to change the life of a child in our classrooms but we hold a much greater power at home.  We are the people that can change our own children’s lives for good.  We are the people who can make sure that some children will show up to school knowing they are loved, knowing that they have support no matter what happens to them.  We are the people who can make a difference, but that difference needs to start with our own children.

So I am ready to stop searching for balance and instead spend the time and energy making better choices.  There are moments of my day I cannot choose, I will devote myself fully to those hours I get to teach.  But the rest of the day belongs to me and to the choices that I want to make.  No longer should my family get what is left of me, but instead what they deserve; a person who is fully present, not thinking about work or the next thing to write.  A mother who looks at them like they matter.  A wife that shows how crazy in love she still is.  I will never find that unicorn, but I have come to accept it.  Now it is time for a change, how about you?

The One Thing That All Readers Need the Most

I used to think that teaching students to become great readers meant that I showed them as many reading strategies as I could and then we would practice each one until they could do it practically in their sleep.  Connections – check. Predictions – check.  Inferring, visualizing, character changes – check, check, check.  We had our strategies under control.

I used to think that providing my students with as much time as possible to discuss reading would make them stronger readers.  After all, through the talking they would be able to dig deeper into their own process and mimic others.

I used to think that my students constantly had to stop and jot so they could record and prove their thinking on little post-its.  That the more post-its they had in a book, the better of a reader they were becoming.  I used them for proof that they were growing.  I used them for proof that they understood the steps.

I used to think that reading was all about talking.  I used to think reading was all about taking it apart.  I used to think reading was all about proof.

Now I know that reading should be about reading.  That in all of that talking there was very little reading.  In all of that jotting there was no room for flow or getting in the zone.  That in trying to give the teacher proof that they were reading, they were losing valuable reading time.  We stopped all of the time.  We lost independent reading minutes because we had to make sure we had something written down.

For students to become better readers, they need time to read.  We know that, I know that.  Yes, they need strategies, yes, they need to speak about reading, yes they need to think and grow, but  what they need most of all is time to read.  Every day, any chance, and it needs to be uninterrupted.  So now as I plan my days, my sacred 45 minutes I get with every class, 10 of that is dedicated to no-talking, uninterrupted, choice based reading.  10 minutes of quiet in the zone reading where no one tells them what to do.  I wish it was more, the students wish it was more, but it is a start.  It is their chance to read, everything else comes after.  Everything else is less important.

What do you do in your room to preserve independent reading time?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

“What Are You Proud Of?” – Using Letter Grades For Good

I was exhausted to say the least.  Voice raw, thoughts muddled, and a lead brain.  I felt like I had worked days without sleep as I dragged myself home.  All day Thursday, I conferred with almost all of my students.  100+ kids and I sat down, one on one, and spoke about scores, grades,  goals, growth and most importantly what they are proud of.  And I was exhausted.

I hadn’t intended to have a day of conferring.  I had thought we would have a read-in party, I would hand them back their grade slips with my grades for them, the ones they had first decided and I then had added my input to.  After all, most of us agreed on the letter grade that somehow would define their progress in English.  Yet, as I looked at the slips of paper in my hand, I realized that this was not a paper conversation.  That every child deserved to have a moment, even if only for a few minutes, to discuss why that grade somehow represented them and more importantly a moment to carve their own path forward.

So one by one I called them up, showed them their slip of paper and then we talked.  What did I notice, what did they know?  How had they been doing?  How had they felt about being in English?  What could change?  What were my hopes as we moved forward?  What did they hope for?  What did they need?  The conversations changed depending on the student, yet every single one ended with; what are you proud of?

What came from them were almost never their scores.  Nor the grade they were getting.  Instead, child upon child told me how they were actually reading now.  How they had become better readers.  How some didn’t hate writing as much.  How English was getting easier for them.  How they felt they had something to say.  They spoke of insecurities.  They spoke of being unsure.  They spoke of trying.  Of growing.  Of wanting to become better people.  Every child opened up and spke of their journey and together we spoke of the future.

One child summed up the day perfectly for me when he said; “I am not sure what I am most proud of.  I have grown, I don’t know how, but I am now better.”  And I thought, so am I.  I am better teacher because I know my students better.  I am a better teacher because I cannot wait to see what they do next.  I am a better teacher because the students are starting to really trust me.  I am a better teacher because my students push me forward every day, and I let them.

I did not intend to spend a day speaking to my students and doing nothing else, but now I know; it was the best way I could have spent a day.  It was the best way to help my students know that they are more than a grade. More than a score.  More than a letter.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Why Book Clubs Suck And We Need to Talk About It

image from icanread

I had meticulously made my lists.  I had thoughts of habits, tastes, personalities, reading preferences, pace and yes, even their assessment data.  I had scoured the book room, gone book shopping spending my own money and used most of my Scholastic points.  More than 50 choices awaited my students, I couldn’t wait to start book clubs.

So when I announced that today was the day they would know their book club groups, I had not planned for the groan of disapproval that met me.  The disgusted stares and the change in body language; slumped shoulders, heads down.  Clearly, they were not as excited as I was.  And so I did what I always do; I asked why.  Or more specifically, I mimicked what a student said, which was that book clubs suck, and I asked “Tell me all of the reason why book clubs suck…”

And boy did they ever.

“We hate being forced to read certain books.  Sometimes we have read them before, sometimes they are boring, sometimes we cannot relate to them no matter how hard we try.  We want choice, we want things that we want to read, we can decide by ourselves.

We hate being told when to read, how many pages, and what we should discuss.  Sometimes we want to read only a few pages because we know we are busy, other times we want to read a lot.  We want to come up with our own questions and we don’t want a teacher to facilitate.  Let us try to navigate it ourselves.  Let us try to lead the conversations.  Help us when we need it but don’t assume we need it all of the time.

We hate having a book take weeks and weeks to finish.  Sometimes we just want to read because it is so good, and what is wrong with that.  When it drags on we lose interest.  When it drags on we forget what is happening.

We hate being stuck with a book even if we chose it.  We hate being placed in groups with students we have nothing in common with.  We hate having to keep logs, write reports, and do group work when all we want to do is read and discuss.  Don’t you see, we hate book clubs.”

So I listened, and I answered their questions whether they wanted me to or not.  Carefully explained my vision for the next few weeks and why.  Would there be writing – no, just the thoughts they felt they needed to jot down to facilitate a discussion.  Would there be choice – of course, the books were waiting patiently for them and if they found none here then we have a library to go to.  They kept asking and I kept explaining, and as we went on their faces changed and the shoulders came back up.

Every class I taught that day went through the same process.  I didn’t expect to have those conversation 5 times in a row but that is exactly what happened.  Every time I mentioned book clubs, the groan came at me like a wave.  And yet, as we discussed I once again learned more about my students and their reading habits.  I learned how they want to be independent readers and thinkers, how they want to be able to have choice in everything so that they can invest themselves fully.  How it is okay that I put them into groups as long as I explain why those groups were made and that it wasn’t just based on one thing.

I could have ignored their groans, a few years ago I would have, I would have told them to “Suck it up, deal with it and make the best of it.”  Yet, I know from experience that if we want book clubs or anything that has to do with reading to work then we have to have these hard conversations.  We have to discuss, tear apart, and work through the demons that students carry, those preconceived notions of what is going to happen in the next few weeks, before we ever get an authentic buy-in; a reading experience that matters.

The day after the conversation, I had them book shop.  Every group went from choice to choice and debated the merits of the books laid out before them.  Every group weighed their options, and only one group  out of about 30 needed my guidance in book choice.  Yesterday, as I revealed the books they were going to read, most groups cheered.  Some kids asked if they could start right away?  Please, because the book looks really good and we are so excited.

Had I not stopped and listened to my students.  Had I not stopped the plan of what I was going to do.  Had I forged ahead, gone on with our day, there would have been few cheers and instead the next few weeks would have been filled with the passive resignation that middle schoolers do so well.  Yeah book clubs suck, but they don’t have to.  We have to find a way to talk about it and change the way they are done. And the first place we start is by asking out students why they suck or any other word that may describe their feelings toward them.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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