advice, assumptions, being a teacher, being me

The Mighty Will Conquer If We Let Them

Augustine, our youngest, was born 10 weeks early.  Weighing in at less than 4 pounds, unable to breathe by herself, we were told the consequences her hasty arrival might have on her. We were told that there might be blindness.  We were told there might be attention issues.  We were told there might be learning disabilities.  We were told that some of her deficits would not show up until she was much older, surely lulling us into a false sense of security.  The problem is; nobody told her.

So when she left the hospital at 5 pounds, 4 weeks ahead of schedule, she didn’t care what her plan should have been.  When she started to crawl at the age of 7 months, she didn’t care that developmentally her age was 5 months, and 5 month old babies shouldn’t be crawling.  At 11 months she shouldn’t have been walking.  At 13 months she shouldn’t have been trying to make words.  She shouldn’t have been trying to run after her siblings or do what they do.  She shouldn’t be so small, yet be so mighty, that even the NICU doctors can’t believe how ahead she is.  No one told her that she should slow down, act her age, stop developing, stop getting ahead of where she really should be.  We may have been told what to expect but we didn’t have to believe it, and really Augustine made that choice for us anyway.  Yet, we also had a choice as parents when we took her home; treat her with the expectation that life would be harder for her or treat her the same as our other children.  The choice was easy for us.

I think of the labels we place on our students, of the expectations we have based on our casual judgments.  How we label some students slow readers, struggling writers, or problem students.  How our report card comments, parent/teacher conversations, and casual references become the labels that our students define themselves by.  No child comes to school thinking they cannot achieve their dreams, school plants that seed in their heads through the expectations we set.

Augustine serves as a daily reminder for me that we can expect our children to soar or to fail.  That we place limitations on our students based on our own beliefs of their capabilities.  That we can create more obstacles for them than there was before.  That how we handle them, how we speak to them and about them can determine the path they take in life.  I wan tto make sure my words set high expectations, that my words will help students achieve, not lessen their dream, not change their focus to something more within reach.  Augustine is conquering the world with us cheering her on; doesn’t every child deserve that same chance within our schools?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 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.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

3 thoughts on “The Mighty Will Conquer If We Let Them”

  1. So happy to read that about Augustine. The children who challenge need the most advocates. As Rita Pierson so beautifully says Every child needs a champion.

  2. I just love the story of your youngest! How feisty she must be. I hate labels! I work with students everyday who all have labels. Labels given because the government makes us put them into categories. I get it and it is not that that makes labels dangerous. It is like you said what they prevent from happening. I wish (and work hard at everyday) seeing a student as what they are capable and how those strengths are going to help them overcome their weaknesses. It is when we allow the weaknesses strength that they define us and hold us back. I love your words and the reminder that our passion, our belief and our expectations matter. We need to ensure we are always seeing the can and empowering students to get there!

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