being a teacher, being me, reflection

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.

14 thoughts on “I am Not a Rockstar, Please Don’t Confuse Me With One”

    1. Sure, and I am not even sure if this post really says what I want it to. As I just replied in an email to someone who would have left an awesome comment: it scares me that people somehow think I am better than them or that they are out of my league. How do we break down those walls? How do we break down that hierarchy that seems to surround us within social media. I don’t want people to be shy to come up to me, I want them to talk shop with me if they feel like it, or introduce themselves.

      1. If they think you are better than them, that’s a projection of their own insecurities. Your online and f2f presence is humble and approachable.

      2. It can be an awful burden to try to live up to others’ expectations. Combine that with our own expectations and we over scrutinize every lesson. I often think my teaching life was much easier before Twitter, but it wasn’t better. I guess it is the price that has to be paid.

  1. You end your post by writing that “I am nothing special”. You are wrong.

    I try hard to be modest when people say things about me being a rockstar or wanting to take my picture because they ready my blog or follow me on Twitter. It is weird because I feel the same way as you do about being like many other teachers out there, I just happen to share it on my blog.

    However, you are special.

    better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

    “Otherwise different from what is usual.” That is the part that stands out to me. Not the better or greater parts. The average teacher in the world is not writing books, sharing stories on blogs, or providing PD to anyone that will listen. That does make you special and it makes all of us that do it special. It does not make us better, just different. It is tough to walk the fine line between being humbled, modest, and proud of what you do because you do not want to alienate others who do not do the same things.

    Ugh. I feel like I’m not making sense. I guess I will just say that you are special. You work very hard and deserved to be recognized for what you do. You model excellence for teachers because you share the good AND the bad. Never say you are not special. We are teachers, we have to be a little special to sign up for this.


    Wishing you all the best and thanking you for being a good friend across Lake Michigan.

    1. I love this, Nick, especially the definition of “special” meaning “different from the usual.”

  2. Thank you for reminding us that we all have our non-Rockstar moments. I know that when I read about all the amazing things that are happening in another teacher’s classroom, it can make me over-analyze my own shortcomings. I want to reach all students, but I don’t always do this. I want all of my students to be excited to come to my class, but I know they aren’t. Being a reflective teacher is a fine balance between acknowledging things that work really well, being willing to change the things that don’t, and not beating yourself up when everything doesn’t go perfectly. It’s hard to share your shortcomings publicly, but we all need to be better at this so that our virtual selves are a better mirror of our true selves. Every teacher has some Rockstar moments as well as non-Rockstar moments. Let’s be honest.

  3. How about not “rockstar” like Van Halen, but Rockstar like the energy drink? A shot of Pernille to energize the day.

  4. Pernille,

    You touch on a sensitive subject, which is – why do teachers blog and write books?

    If you are blogging to receive attention, praise and affirmations for how amazing you are, then those “rock star” and “special” comments feel pretty darn good. Your ego is stroked and it wants more and more. I sense you are not that person.

    However, most teachers blog because it’s in our core belief system, purpose and need to share with others what works, what didn’t, our thinking, our frustrations, our wonders and our celebrations. We blog to help others, NOT to put ourselves on a pedestal because we put ourselves out there. So, when someone says how fabulous you are, it brings about an uneasiness – because that’s not what you were seeking, and they are missing your message in your words. You want them to go beneath the surface of the words and think with you, have conversation, dialogue. This takes depth.

    We also blog because we love to write. Keeping those words stuck in a notebook seems selfish, in a way. My thinking is, if they can help one person, it’s worth sharing.

    I don’t like the word, “special” either. It sends a message one is better because they do something others don’t. Every teacher has their own strengths. Every teacher does amazing things with kids in their own way. We all have gifts we were given. Anyone can put themselves out there, many teachers choose not to. And, that’s okay. I respect teachers that prefer to share among their own staff or team, and not with the world — as long as they are sharing, the good stuff and the not so good stuff. It’s our obligation as educators.

    Shari 🙂

  5. Brilliant reflection! Good reflections make good teachers. So, maybe not a rock star. A brilliant teacher.
    Extroverted introvert or introverted extrovert? Can decide which one I am. I was leaning towards IE (they’re usually older) until I read the part about little or no theatrics.

  6. Thank you for posting this. I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but it’s hard not to. Many times when I read other teacher’s blogs, I feel like they have everything together and have mastered the art of teaching. Your genuine humility in this post is inspiring, and it allows me to trust that even though I mess up (a lot) that’s okay! It’s not just me, it happens to all of us. That said though, I appreciate what Nicholas said and agree with him that you are special!

  7. You know, being special and thinking that you are better than others are two VERY different things. Just like with our students, every one of us is special for the things that we bring to the table. But just because someone brings incredible things to the table, it does not mean that person thinks he or she is better than anyone else.

    I think when people say that you are a rockstar, it is EXACTLY BECAUSE you do not think you are better. You make us all believe that we can do these things too. You make us all believe that we can think about our purpose in the classroom, that we can think about the power we can give to children and that we can bring our teaching and learning to a new level. That is why people connect with you. That is why people want to thank you by letting you know how special we think you are.

    I can imagine that you must never feel comfortable with compliments, but perhaps if you just see it as our way of offering our gratitude for what you help us to see in ourselves and in our students, then maybe, just maybe, it will feel a little bit more okay.

  8. Rock star or not, thank you for sharing your thoughts, insights, and experiences. It’s a privilege to be invited in to your day to day “fleshing” out of your passion. It is a gift to be able to stir others’ thoughts.

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