What We Need to Remember

image from icanread

“I don’t think I can thank you enough.”  And with that, we said goodbye, and our nanny of the last two years left our home for the last time, ready for her new adventure. I held back tears, after all, our nanny has helped us raise them, helped us care for them, helped us love them.  We have trusted her with our most important parts; our kids, and she has always lived up to the challenge.  I hope our new nanny does too, after all I spent weeks picking her.

When we send our children to school, we don’t have as much choice in who they get as a teacher.  We hope, of course, that whomever they get will love them, will care for them, will help them be passionate learners.  But the choice is not really ours.  We place our faith in an interview process that may have happened long ago, a screening or selection process for class lists that may be mostly random, and we place our faith in the humanity of that very teacher.  That they will get our child.  That they will love them too.  And it is our job to love, to think, to remember.

So before we plan for anything new this year, remember they are a child.

Before we raise our voice, point our finger, shut the door, remember; they are a child.

Before we get frustrated, get ready to discipline, to gossip about that thing that drove us crazy, remember they are a child.

Someone whose parents hopes that you get what they see at home.

Someone whose parents sends their best child to us every day.

Before we assume that parents don’t care, or that there is nothing we can do to help, remember; they are a child.

Before we tell them the long-term consequences of their poor decisions, remember they are a child.

Before we shoot down ideas, reject change, reject new, reject anything other than our own, remember; they are a child and we should be doing our best to give them the best.

Before we hold back, before we leave scars, before we tell a child what they can or cannot do, remember exactly that, they are a child.  They do not belong to us, but we get to have them for a bit.   They are someone else’s, ours to borrow, ours to safeguard.  They are someone’s child, yes, but they are also ours for just a little bit and we can never forget that.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

So My Kids Did a Reading Challenge and All I Did Was Lie…Almost

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It started as a great idea; new town, new library, let’s go explore!  We went, we fawned (yes, fawned) over the incredible library and then we saw what I knew already would be there; The Summer Reading Challenge!  Thea, my 5 year old, and the only one aware enough to notice it, saw it right away and began to ask questions.  “What’s the robot for?  How do I get a sticker?  I want a bookmark!”

So I signed them all up, even the baby, thinking this would be great.  No big deal, after all, we read a ton, a challenge and log will only cement that.  With our library books in hand, our new brightly colored reading logs, we went home to start the epic summer reading challenge.

At first, it was no big deal.  We read a book, I had our 4 booklets right there, and down they went onto the page.  Thea would ask to read another because she wanted one more title in her book.  Sure!  I couldn’t believe how much we were reading.  Then I started to forget, leaving the booklets in random places.   I often forgot and then had to really think hard about what we were reading.  It wasn’t that we weren’t reading, it was more that I didn’t carry a booklet with me when we did.  I can’t find a pen half of the time.  So although reading continued to surround us, I quickly noticed how much of a pain it was to write it down.  Oh well, I figured this was the least I could do to keep a focus on readin g this summer.

Off we went to the library, proudly handing in our booklets and getting our prizes in return; stickers, baseball ticket, and even a temporary tattoo.  More books came home with us and I couldn’t wait to just read them.  Then, Thea started to ask me to read so she could win stuff.  Yup.  My ferocious book swallower didn’t care what I read to her, it could have been the back of a can for all that mattered, but she wanted to make sure she would get stuff when she went to the library next.  When I asked her why it mattered, she innocently said, “Because I want to win!” with the look of a lion that’s about to devour its prey.  Reading was not our chill out time anymore, it was our competition.

Then I got sick.  And not just it’s a cold kind of sick, but flu sick, for 2 weeks.  Yes, we read, barely, some days my throat couldn’t swallow so reading was more of a miming game.  But we read because it’s what we do.  Reading is what we have always done.  Books go everywhere with us, books are the tapestry of our family, we recollect memories through books.  We read until we fall asleep.  Filling out a log was the furthest thing from my mind.  After two weeks of being sick, I knew we had read, but what we had read and when we had done it; no clue.  So I lied.  I wrote in whatever titles I spotted in the living room, circled 15 minutes on every day.  I was sure we had done it, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t pretend to read, but the details had completely escaped me.

Again we went to the library, completed booklets in hand, Thea ready to harvest her prizes.  I handed the booklets to the librarians, sure that they would see through my deceit.  Sure, that they would question why it was all written in the same color pen, why my initials looked the same every day.  They didn’t, they meticulously checked each entry, then guided Thea toward the trinkets she had earned.  I breathed a sigh of relief, we were done.  Reading could go back to being about reading, not about winning.

I thought we were stronger than a reading challenge.  That something like this would only enhance the experience we already have with our books, going against my own teacher voice.  I thought we were better than this.  That our reading would never be a chore, a competition, or something to lie about.  I never thought that our joy for reading could be replaced with an eagerness to read simply for the act of writing a title down, not for the experience of the book itself.  I was wrong, it was proven, and I ashamed.  I should have known.  I should have thought about it.

We are about to leave, Augustine wants a bottle and the twins need a nap.  Then Then spots it; a shelf full of books with a pink poster.  Win these!  Do the Extra Reading Challenge!  “Mama, what’s that?!” she exclaims eagerly pointing.  “Nothing, honey, now let’s go find some books…”

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

In Defense of Boredom

image from icanread

You would think Thea, my 5 year old, would be in her element.  Long lazy days to do whatever she wants.  Beautiful afternoons to spend at the playground next door.  Time to read, play, draw, dance, even watch TV.  Heaven…except it’s not.  Thea is bored.  And she tells me frequently whenever I am not playing with her.  Whenever we are not doing something.

At first, I jumped into action.  Boredom dispelled with fun activities.  Boredom banished by mama and her wallet.  You want a dog and pony show, coming right up!  Except it wasn’t enough, it never was.  I found myself searching the web frantically looking for more great activities.  Running to the store to buy more stuff.  Turning  on the TV as a last ditch attempt.  Being a boredom buster became a full time job and  I was exhausted.  Since when did summer become one endless list of to do’s?  If she was bored, well, then I was a bad mother.

This happens in our classrooms too.  We think that if we aren’t putting on a show, we are not doing our job.  That if students aren’t excited and loudly engaged at all times, we must be failing as teachers.  We imagine that there will be no time to be bored.  Students will practically skip into our classrooms, eager to start.  And sure, some days they do.  Those days are easy.  It is the days where they drag their feet, have to prop open their eyes, stifle yawns and give you that look, those are the days where we really work.

Yet, much like I realized with Thea, it is not my job to be the boredom buster.  It is my job to present learning opportunities that might engage, that might excite, that might spark an interest.  But I can only do so much.  I can only bring so much to the classroom, and at some point the students have to step up too.  At some point, they have to embrace their boredom and find out what to do with it.  How to work through it.  How to be their own boredom busters.

We try to shield children from boredom and in our eagerness forget that being bored is a gift.  Being bored is not a four-letter word.  It is not something to avoid, nor something to ridicule.  Out of boredom comes curiosity.  Out of boredom rises innovation.  If we do not give our students quiet time, time to reflect, time to be still, yes time they may see as boring, then we are robbing them of time to think.

We think that our classrooms should be loud at all times.  That loudness equals learning.  Yet, I have found that some of my most powerful teaching moments have been the quiet ones.  Where students have had time to think, to be bored, to create, all without me putting on a show.  Sure, loudness is important as well.  But the true essence of innovation can often be found shrouded in silence, when students are asked to do something about their boredom.

So when Thea tells me she is bored, I ask her what she will do about it.  She has run to her room and pulled on her princess dress only then to concoct an elaborate fantasy scene with parts for everyone in the family.  She has quietly drawn pictures of things I would never imagine.  She has gone to her room and sat with a book.   She will never stop telling me she is bored, after all, it seems to be a rite of childhood, but I am no longer the one that rescues her.  She is doing that herself.  Let’s give the same chance to our students.  Let us help them embrace being bored.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

A Letter to Those Who are New, Myself Included…

image from icanread

It’s that time of year where many thoughts in North America turn toward our new year ahead.  A year filled with so much possibility that we can hardly contain our energy.  Or a year filled with so many obstacles that we are not sure where to even start.  Now is the time for advice it seems, more posts will probably come forth with nuggets.  But this post is not just for those that are new, it is for myself too.  I am teaching a new grade (hello 7th grade!) in a new fabulous district (hello Oregon!) with amazing new people (hello team!).  So this letter is a reminder to me…

Dear Pernille,

Be fearless.  I know you are having nightmares, the one where the kids wont quiet down and you end up standing on top of a table screaming at them just to take attendance.  But that’s not how it’s going to be.  It may feel that way at times, but you will never, ever have to stand on top of a table screaming at children.  At least not for bad reasons.  So let it go and realize that although the next year will be filled with scary, it will also be filled with new.  A new chance for you to spread your passion for reading and writing.  A new chance for you to build connections, to be a part of a team, to work for a common vision.  How often do we get to say that we get to start over again and really mean it?

So have goals.  Be brave.  It is okay to present new ideas that you might not have thought out completely, but that you know in your stomach will probably work.  It is okay to try something and then have it fail.  It is okay to not have every answer.  It is okay to show the students that you are nervous like them, that this is a new adventure for you too.  It is okay to get excited about the latest picture book.  It is okay to let your inner dork shine.  And who are we kidding, I don’t think you could hide that nerdiness anyway.

Be true to you.  You have a vision for how your classroom should feel so make it work, but not just for you, but for all of those kids who come to you with their curiosity, their fears, their dreams.  They should feel safe in your room, much like you hope to feel safe with them.  Don’t ever think your words don’t matter.  They matter more than you will ever know, and you will never be able to reach them all but the trick is with teaching that you don’t know who you are reaching at what time.  So don’t give up on any of them, keep trying for all of them.  Even when you are sure they could not possibly push you any harder.

Don’t lose yourself in the job.  Yes, teaching is this all consuming amazing experience that we can live and breathe.  But you have children of your own that need you too.  You have kids at home that need their days listened to, their curiosity protected, that need time with just you.  Not you and your computer.  So give yourself fully when you are at school, but then leave it behind when you drive home, open up to the children at home, they need you too.

Say yes to as much as you can.  Say yes to that that scares you  We only grow when we push ourselves.  But don’t say yes so much that you cannot find the time to breathe.  There may be more opportunities than ever coming your way and so many things you would like to do.  But just don’t.  Teaching is enough.  Being a parent is enough.  You have nothing to prove to the world, that is not your job.

Don’t be ashamed of being you.  You may not always have the best advice.  You may not always be an expert.  You may not always know what you are doing, but you still have worth.  Your ideas still matter.  You still matter.  Your excitement can spread.  Your newness may be an advantage at times.  Your energy and curiosity will help you.  So don’t stand in your own way.

This year will be an adventure, you already know that, but this year is just another year.  Even on your worst days, it will only be a day.  The tide will always turn.  There will always be more good than bad.  More success than failure.  And you can only do your best, you can only bring everything you’ve got, you can only do so much.  There will be much outside of your control, but how you feel about it is in your hands, don’t forget that.  Smile, laugh, think, reflect, reach out, be you, be kind, be honest, wonder, and try.  Yes, this next year will be scary at first, but anything amazing always.  I have a feeling it will be just fine.

Love,

Pernille

Starting Over Again – Some New Teacher Tips From A Not So Veteran Teacher

image from icanread

It never gets easier being the newbie.  You aren’t quite sure where to go.  You aren’t quite sure what that person’s name is.  You aren’t quite sure where to get that thing you need or who to ask that question.  So you improvise, smile at everyone you see, and you try to figure things out.  I thought being a new teacher when you are a veteran would be different.  Lo and behold, I was wrong.  The same anxiety, the same nervousness, the same complete cluelessness has surrounded me since I first set foot at OMS.  And yet, this time I know what to do at least to get more comfortable.  That’s the benefit of having done this before.

  • Reach out.  One of the first things I did when I accepted the job was to reach out to my new team and start asking them questions.  I was even lucky enough to join them for a day, shadowing the person whose job I would fill.  These new connections continue to make the transition so much easier.
  • Ask stupid questions.  To you the question may seem stupid but probably not to those answering it.  I have asked a lot of questions and every single answer has helped me prepare.
  • Explore.  I have wandered thought the school on several occasions, just trying to find my bearings.  I don’t feel quite as lost as I did before.
  • Figure out the alarm.  I had to move my boxes in on a Sunday, which meant I had to conquer the alarm and a huge metal gate.  Sure, it was nerve-wracking but now that I have tried it, I would have no problem doing it again if need be.
  • Write stuff down.  I have been keeping a note of who I am meeting and what they teach, not that I totally expect to remember them all but it is nice to see the list grow and try to make a concerted effort in remembering people’s names.
  • Step up.  I was asked to be a part of the district’s personalized learning committee, and although I at first felt like I would not have the time to do it since I am teaching all new things, I knew how beneficial this will be for me.  So say yes to new opportunities, I cannot wait to help the district continue its vision.
  • Be you.  I know that we end up presenting a polished version of who we are at first, we can’t help it, but it is also okay to start relaxing and letting the every day you shine through.  Yes, you impressed them with your skills and got the job but now it is time for you to let your guard down a bit so they can get to know you, bad sense of humor and everything.
  • Introduce yourself first.  Don’t wait for people to come up to you, go up to them.  They may not realize you are a new staff member, so approach, introduce, and try to remember their names.
  • Be nice.  I cannot stress how far simply being nice will get you.
  • Figure out traditions.  I am so lucky to be a part of a very tight knit team that has a lot of traditions in place, I am not here to change them, I am here to first be a part of them.  You may be asked to do things that don’t quite fit your vision, give it a chance before you decide what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Listen first but don’t stay silent.  Always be open to new ideas, but do not be afraid to add a few of your own.  Show your worth, but also show that others’ ideas have merit.
  • Work on your classroom but don’t finish it.  I have been busy at work setting everything up and yet the room will be unfinished when we start.  I need the students to put the finishing touches on it to make it our room.
  • Dream big.  I love blogging, but I have never blogged with 138 students.  This year we are trying it, not because they have to but because I am passionate about it and crazy enough to try it.  What’s the worst that can happen?  So dream your big ideas and don’t be afraid to try them even if you are not quite sure how it will fit.
  • Trust yourself.  Yes, you may have all new curriculum or all new everything but it is okay to listen to your inner voice and make all the new work for you.  Don’t try to be someone else, make it your own.
  • Bring you with you.  I brought my rocking chair an elementary style classroom library with me.  Sure, 7th graders may not think that is cool, but it is who I am.  I love reading aloud from that chair so I am staying true to that.  Don’t feel you have to give up who you are just because you are a new teacher.

Finally, don’t be afraid.  I know a new job is terrifying, I am right there in the thick of it, and yet my fear is being replaced with a little bit of thrill, a little bit of giddy, a little bit of excitement.  The dreams I have for my new students are starting to fire me up, the passion I have for teaching is pushing me forward.  A new adventure awaits and I cannot wait to go on it.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

I am Not a Rockstar, Please Don’t Confuse Me With One

image from icanread

Last night, I read Angela Watson’s recent post discussing the different ponds we swim in, how we can get stuck in our ponds,  and how we all are big fish in our own small pond.  She discusses also how depending on the place we are in, we may be a bigger or smaller fish.  This has been bouncing around my head and I finally realized why I agreed with the post so much; it’s because I am nothing special.  And yet the labels I am graciously given by others, would have me thinking otherwise.

We are so quick to label people.  Within this weird PLN/social media/education world, we love labels even more as we spread them as tokens of our admiration and respect and yet they don’t fit for me.     “Rockstar.”  “The Best.”  “Incredible.”  We label people with more followers/more readers/more whatever it is…  I have even been called a few of these things, much to the amusement of my husband.

Yet the truth is, I am not better than most.  I am not always a great teacher.  My words are not always inspirational.  I lose my temper.  I raise my voice.  Lessons don’t work as planned.  I am not always brilliant, or witty, or even ready with an answer.  Nor are all of my blog posts amazing, some are pretty awful, and my brain doesn’t work differently than yours.  I write fast.  I read fast.  But I am not in some way more gifted at being a teacher than others.  I don’t know how to reach every child, or to make ever class amazing.  I don’t know how to teach everything, nor do I want to.

I know how to share.  I know how to reflect.  I know how to face my own demons, most of the time.  I know what it means to choose kind.  To be nice.  To be helpful.  And to noth think that I am better than others.  I have found a path that works for me and I gladly share it, but that does not mean that my path is better than yours.

So while the names and labels we give each other are flattering, that is really all they are.  Do not think someone is out of your league.  Do not think someone is higher up than you in this imagined hierarchy.  I am not a rockstar, I am not in an inner circle of cool people.  I am shy.  I am an extroverted introvert who bumbles, blushes easily, and never knows what to wear or what to say when going to meet new people.  I hate being at conferences alone.  I hate the thought of disappointing others and not living up to what they think I might be.  And yet, I am just me.  I am nothing special, please don’t think I am.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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