Be the change, classroom management, student voice, Student-centered

Why Don’t You Challenge Them Instead?

image from icanread

I raise my hand, 5 fingers in the air and I wait.  I wait for them to notice, I wait for them to focus, I wait for them to settle in and be ready to listen.  I tell them, “Every night I go home and tell Brandon just how kind you are, how fun you are, how creative you are.  Every morning, my team mates and I talk about how we love our groups, how we love the energy, how we love the dynamics and how proud we are of you.  So today my heart sank a little bit…”

I now have 27 sets of eyes on me.

“I was told that this grade level is the rudest in the lunch line and the messiest in the lunchroom…”

The kids hold their breath waiting for me to yell.  Waiting for me to punish.  Waiting for me to tell them they know better and how dare they.

“My heart sank because I don’t think that’s who you are…”

Confused looks.

“So rather than try to figure out who did what.  Rather than try to figure out who is being rude or how messy you are, I am going to ask you to prove these people wrong.  I am going to ask you to leave this school as the 5th grade to beat, as the kids to be like, as the kids that everybody is sad to see go.  Can we do that?

Head nods.

“Can you prove them wrong?”

Shouts of yes.

“Thank you…”

Sometimes when we think we need to punish or to rein in even tighter, we should challenge our kids instead.  Challenge them to make us proud, challenge them to be better, challenge them to prove others wrong.  These kids didn’t need more yelling, they needed someone to tell them they are good kids that can do better.  I am proud of these kids and they need to know that even when they mess up, I still have their back.  Even when others say that they are “those kids” again I see more than that.  I see them for the kids they can be, the kids they are most of the time, not the kids they used to be.


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” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


18 thoughts on “Why Don’t You Challenge Them Instead?”

  1. Pernille, how often I read your blog and cheer. This careful negotiation of power, trust, and challenge is what forms character. Some kids, especially the ones who think they are “bad”, need to hear that we see in them the potential for goodness. And we expect the good.

  2. You are clearly an excellent teacher. Why teach if we don’t see all the potential for good in our students, and honestly desire to help them realize it? Thanks for sharing.

  3. I hate the way kids get labelled. How many times have we heard about the power of expectations. If you label a kid as bad and expect them to misbehave that is exactly what you will see. Hence, I love what you have described in your blog. Showing trust and faith in kids can be very powerful, and it leaves everyone feeling better about their day. 🙂

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