Be the change, reflection, Student-centered

Why Our Past Should Stay in the Past

image from icanread

I thought by now I would have it all figured out.  That my lesson plans would almost write themselves.  That by January I would be planned until May.  I thought by now it would be a routine.  As easy as riding a bike.  As easy as following a recipe.  I thought by now teaching would just be another thing to cross off my to-do list of things I was done with for the day.  I was wrong.  And I am glad.

I used to let the past define me.  If I had done something the year before then I certainly was going to do it again the following year.  After all, I had put so much time into learning about it.  I had put so much time into thinking, creating, and then implementing the lesson.  And it had worked, sometimes with great success.  Yet, whenever I pull something out of a file cabinet (whether literal or the one in my head)  it never seems to quite fit the kids I work with now.  It never seems to garner as much excitement as it did the first time.  It never seems to be as much fun to teach.  It still works, but it is not enough for me anymore.

So I have learned  that my past lessons may support me and give me a place to start, but they should not dictate what I do in the future.  The ideas I may have are still worthwhile  but they should be nourished and pushed to grow to fit my current students, not the ones I had the year before.  Students don’t mind the same material, but I think they mind when it is taught the same way as the year before.  They want to feel our excitement and let it feed theirs.  They want to know that we are teaching to them and not just a nameless group of kids.  They want to feel special, as much as I hate using that term.  And I’m ok with that.  After all, it is the change and the quest for the perfect lesson that keeps me coming back day after day, year after year.

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 March from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


5 thoughts on “Why Our Past Should Stay in the Past”

  1. Hello,
    Your blog was the one that I followed first. I felt so affirmed after reading a few entries, it was like finally finding the niche where I belonged.
    One of your musings made me brave enough to reach out and leave a reply for you. It was last summer, and the first time I had felt compelled by a blog to say something in response.
    At the risk of sounding stalkerish, I will stop there. However, allow me to say, there are many decisions that I have made in my classroom and many reaches of faith I have made in the development of my professional learning network thanks to you.
    The post above makes me smile and continue to beleive that I am not alone in my views!
    With each year, and each different group of children I have always changed up my lessons. In my opinion, assuming that lessons can be applied over and over to the next class next year, sounds way too much like an assemebly line. The unique nature of each class should be honored with lessons tailored toward their needs. My kids last year thrived in very different areas than my class this year. My kids now are teaching me things that last year’s bunch did not and in return I am doing the same for them.
    All my best,

  2. As usual, Pernille, you make so many good points. I think one reason I am still teaching after 53 years is not so much the quest for a perfect lesson but leaving the house wondering what I might learn that day and what doors I might open.

  3. I dig it, Pal.

    Especially the notion that our kids feed off our excitement.

    When our content and/or our delivery becomes stale, everyone knows it. It sucks the life out of learning.

    Hope you’re well!

  4. For some reason your quote really resonated with me.

    I think it’s unrealistic to consider that we can plan out a whole year (or few months) – as much as we’d like to be that organised! Whilst it’s nice to have a plan, sometimes when we plan too much we make it harder to respond to the immediate needs of our students.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post – the relentless desire to ‘do better’ is definitely something I identify with!

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