Make Each Day Count

image from icanread

36

The number of days I have left with my students.  That doesn’t subtract the days where I am not teaching because we are doing special events making the number even smaller.  It is the total number of days that I have left to make a difference.  Left to teach.  Left to help.

I used to do the countdown in my head, not because summer beckoned me, but because I felt a growing sense of dread.  Did I do enough to teach them?  Did I reach every child?  Did I actually teach them anything?  Was 5th grade worth it to my students?

Now, I do my silent count down as a reminder to make every moment count.  As a way to say that yes, summer may come and steal you away, but until then we are still together and we are still on a learning journey.  We still have things to explore.  We still have things to mess with.  Our brain still has mysteries to ponder.

So while I may know how few days we have left together, I will not cling to it for celebration, but rather to push our purpose.  To focus even more on the learning.  To grow even bigger together.  I will never be able to do all of the things I had hoped for but I will keep trying until the very end.

36 more days to go, make each one count.

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.

What if They Eat Me Alive?

The nightmares have already started.

You know the ones; you wake up with your heart pounding, sweaty palms, and this sinking feeling in your stomach.  The students hated you again.  They were out of control.  The parents complained.  You forgot what you were doing.  You weren’t prepared.  Ah yes, the back to school nightmares have already started for me.  Yet school is not out for another 7 weeks, so why is my heart racing every morning when I wake up?

Last week, I took a giant leap of faith and accepted a 7th grade English position in an incredible district, Oregon, with the possibility of working with a new amazing  team.  And now, my dreams haunt me.  I always thought I would be in 5th grade forever, maybe inch my way into 6th, but 7th?  Those are for the truly brave teachers.  That grade level is for those teachers that can handle anything.  Not for me, I am not that good.  Yet, when this opportunity arose, I knew I had to try.  I knew I had to jump.  I knew I had to believe that I could do it.  So now my nightmares are making me pay for it as I feel like the new kid on the very first day of school.

What if they hate me?

What if they think I’m not funny or that my ideas are stupid?

What if I can’t help them become better writers?

What if they don’t want to read?

What if they hate picture books?

What if they eat me alive?

I hope by September 2nd, when those first kids enter the room, that my nightmares have stopped.  I can only hope, and prepare, and dream.  And find really great picture books.  Keep your fingers crossed.

 

Stop the Hurry

image from icanread

“Look at this, mom!”

Thea is jumping from stone to stone on the pavement next to me as I am walking in my straight line sticking to the sidewalk like a proper adult trying to get where we are going as fast as possible.  Never mind that it is a Saturday, never mind that it is beautiful weather, never mind that we have the time.  I want to get there fast just because we can.

At first, I think to tell her to hurry up, to come walk by me so we can get there faster.  I go to reach for her, but her expressions stops me; pure joy.  She is not just getting somewhere, she is exploring, balancing, laughing  - she is on an adventure.  And the extra  2 minutes it takes us to get to our destination are quickly forgotten as I watch her leap.

How often do we tell students to hurry up in our rooms?  How often do we tell them to stick to the path, to get to the destination with an eye on the end and never taking the time to expand the journey?  How often do we stop to explore, to “jump from rock to rock” within a topic simply because we are curious?  Simply because it might be an adventure?

Every year I try to find time for the self-driven exploration within my room but every year by about April I feel like we have to quicken the pace.  Like we need to walk faster to get to our end destination.  But not this year.  This year I want to enjoy my final weeks with my kids, my final weeks as a 5th grade teacher.  I want to not just watch the kids explore, but explore right along with them.  We will still get to our destination, we always do, but we will take the path they want as much as possible.  We will find the time to try, we will make the time to laugh.   I want to see them love learning as much as I do.  And that won’t happen if I keep telling them to hurry up.

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.

Does Your Vision Show?

image from icanread

I have a vision for my classroom every year.  One based on experience, but also on hope.  One that speaks to the bigger goals, those outside the curriculum, those outside the standards.  We focus on courage, passion, and dreaming.  On embracing our mistakes.  On bringing the world in.  On becoming better people.  On focusing on each child as if they are the only child there.

Thursday morning I officially accepted a 7th grade English position in the Oregon School district here in Wisconsin.  I accepted nervously, what do I know about 7th graders?  And yet, every time I interacted with people from this district I thought of how well my own vision for the classroom fit into the district’s vision for all students.  When I spoke to teachers they spoke of the focus on each child.  When I spoke to parents, they spoke of the creative opportunities given all kids.  Wen I spoke to administration, the passion shone through.  Sure, it fits with their mission statement, but they are also embodying it in everything they do and everything they say.

We get so wrapped up in our mission statements that we sometimes forget about the passion, the curiosity.  We carefully select words that we hope represent what we want to say  and yet often the people representing the district; teachers, parents, students are not mirroring the message.  They aren’t living it because other things have taken their time and focus.

So look at your own classroom, your school, your district.  Are you proof of the passion?  Are you proof of the vision?  If not, why not?  What is holding you back?  In the end I gave a resounding yes to their job offer because I didn’t have to ask what their goals were, what they were passionate about, they had already shown me. Are you?

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.

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.

 

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