Be the change, being a teacher

How to Really Thank a Teacher

White, Black,  Free Image

The cookies have been put away.  The flowers beginning to wilt.  The cards remain on our whiteboards, but life has moved on.  No more lunches.  No more notes.  No more half-price pizza or buy one get one free burritos.   Teacher appreciation week is over and the world keeps on spinning.

And while I appreciate the sentiment.  While I appreciate the notes.  The cards.  The food, I cannot help but thank that it is too easy to thank a teacher this way, rather than do it properly. That the whole notion of teacher appreciation is just one more example of how the teaching profession is given little value, in certain circles, because if it were, we wouldn’t need to be thanked like this.

What if instead of a note, people voted for politicians who believed in funding public schools?  For politicians who believe that better teaching programs are the answer, not equipping people with no teaching degrees a teaching license?  For school boards who support the courageous work teachers do in their classrooms as they try to teach empathy, kindness, acceptance, and understanding?

What if instead of flowers, we were all given livable wages and healthcare that was affordable?  I work for a district that has kept our wages intact despite the push of our politicians, who have made it their mission to not only attract new teachers but retain the old.  What if every teacher felt that respect?  What if every teacher could actually pursue their dream of making a difference for the future of this nation, without having to work two jobs?

What if instead of lunch, we were all given resources?  Student service personnel so that every child could get the support they need?  Interventionist so that all kids can achieve?  Classroom libraries in every room?  Technology devices to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing world?  Textbooks, if needed, that accurately portray the world we live rather than continue to push misogynistic, racist, and other dismantling views?

What if instead of discounts, we were all given support?  Support from our administrators to show off our family, even when it falls outside of what some in society has deemed “the norm?”  Support from our school board when we share books that start much-needed conversations?  Support for when we try new things?  SUpport for when we support our students who need it so desperately?  Support for when we hang on to common sense instruction?  Support for when we question the computer programs that are placed in our schools instead of teachers?  Support from our families as we try to create opportunities that do not push an agenda, but instead push understanding, critical thinking, and actual debate.

To be a teacher is a calling for most.  To be a great teacher is a job that will tear your heart out, fill it up and place it back in a new shape.  While I will hang on to the notes and cards my students gave me this week until I get old and can no longer teach, I wish we could see as a society how there is so much more to be done.  How teachers should feel valued all of the time.  How we need to protect the work they do.  The meager resources they get.  The little respect at times individual teachers face.  Not just when the calendar tells us so.

Advertisements
Be the change, being a teacher, end of year

And What Do We End With?

A few days left of school, counting in days instead of weeks, counting in hours rather than units and you can hear the whispers in the corners.

“We will miss these kids…”

“Another great year…”

“They are ready…”

And we mean it as we plan our lessons, down to the very last day, and we try to continue the learning despite the energy, despite the crazy, despite the hint of summer in the air.

And we think of how far we have come, how much they have grown, how much we have grown, and we remember that what they will remember will probably not be the lessons we so meticulously planned.  The grades they got.  The homework they did.  But the moments.  The feeling.  The little things that in the end became the big.

How we stood outside our doors greeting them every day.

How we smiled whenever we saw them.

How we asked what was the matter rather than assumed we knew.

How we asked others how we could be better and actually listened rather than felt judged.

How we took a moment when they needed a moment and how it paid off in the end.

How we told them we were glad they were here rather than tell them they were late.

How we tried to make it matter.

How we tried to make it meaningful.

How we asked them what we could do better and then actually did it.

How no matter the day, no matter our mood, our classrooms and our school was always ready for the child who showed up because that is the child we hoped would come.

 

 

door sign
This sign has hung outside of our door all year, it will stay there for next year.

 

And we vow to keep trying to reach that child that we haven’t quite reached until the very last day, until the very last moment.

We start our years with our hopes and our dreams.  Our hearts ready to love.  With worry and sometimes doubt that we can be what they need us to be.  We start our years with lofty goals and new ideas, ready to make a difference.

And what do we end with?

A year filled with moments that shape us in ways we cannot even comprehend yet.

A year packed with learning that will only help us be better.

A year of opportunities to be something more than we started us.  A year that hopefully taught us as much as we taught them – if we did it right.

And hearts that now hold the names of even more children who went from perfect strangers to be ours.  Our kids.  Our kids who we will miss even though they may forget our names.  Even though they may forget our lessons.  Even though they cannot wait for summer and are even counting down the days.

Who knew we had so much room to love?

Who knew we would be, already, to do it all over again?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Be the change, being a teacher, books, inspiration

Need Some Inspiration? Enter to Win a Bundle of Books.

Congratulations to Jessie Krefting, who was picked by the random number generator.  Thank you so much to the more than 800 of you who participated in the contest!

With the days hurriedly passing by, it is hard to believe that in the northern hemisphere school is almost done for many.  I am going to miss my students so much.  Days of eating ice cream, sitting by the pool, and yes, traveling to speak and learn from others are ahead and my stack of amazing professional development books awaits.  I love summer for the renewal and recharge it gives us.

So why not share the love a little?  I thought it would be fun to give away a bundle – yes, all four books to one person – of professional development books that can hopefully spark some conversation and help you shape your teaching different.  This contest is open to the world and all you have to do is enter on the form.  It will close on May 10th.

What are the books?

I am so happy that so many are finding inspiration within the pages of my latest book, Passionate Readers.  The lessons from my students in it have truly changed the way I teach and think about reading instruction.  Hopefully, it will help you do the same as we discuss independent reading, reading identity, libraries, and how to help students actually like reading.

The very first book I wrote, Passionate Learners, is all about how we change our school system from within.  Once again, pushed by my students’ lessons and advice, this book is meant to reshape our entire school experience in order to help students find more reason to be engaged in school.  From small ideas to big pushes, this book is meant for every teacher, everywhere, that feels school can be better for all of our kids.

If you follow this blog, you know that I am obsessed with Sara K. Ahmed’s book, Being the Change.  This book is reshaping my classroom and should be a must for any educator, no matter their grade level.

And finally, but not least, Kate Roberts’ newest book, A Novel Approach, is the book we all have waited for.  A practical inspiration for how to incorporate a whole class novel into reader’s workshop.  Trust me, the ideas in here are not to be missed.

I hope you are as excited about this bundle as I am, after all, any of these books by themselves should help an educator grow and also feel affirmed in the work they are already doing.  But together, that is a powerhouse of change.  To enter, please fill out the form, please enter only one.  Good luck and happy reading!

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

being a teacher

On Selecting Better Read Alouds

When the Global Read Aloud was founded, I added the word “Global” because I wanted to connect kids around the world.  I wanted to make the world smaller.  I wanted to bring the world into my 4th-grade classroom in Middleton, Wisconsin, and help my students understand just how many others like them were out in the world.

A few years into the project someone pointed out, in a not so nice way but still, that perhaps the word “Global” should also mean books that weren’t always written by American authors.  That perhaps global also meant global authors, not just global connections.  I stood corrected and have tried as much as possible since then to include authors not from the US.  While distribution problems arise at times when a non-US author is chosen, it is an important part of the project.  Not every child involved lives here, therefore, not every book should be set here.  There is much more to the larger world than just this…

The read aloud is a central part of many classrooms, something that we value for the experience it gives us.  In fact, according to The U.S. Department of Education Commision, the most important activity for building the skills and background for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.  And it should be, reading aloud to our students, at all ages, allows us to not only build community but to build knowledge together.  To dive deep into a text and have rich discussions.  To model what it means to be a reader in thinking and in fluency.  Read aloud weaves us together and it is the stories that we remember as we look back on our students and the year we had together.

This is why choosing the right book to read aloud, whether globally or not, is such an important action.  No longer can I simply pick a book just because I like it, more thought needs to be given than that.  Examining the books you read aloud has to be a central part of your educational grounding, because it is not enough to simply pick a book because it is fun, or because you loved it for many years, or because you have to.  There are many different questions to ask before you start the book.

Is it meaningful? 

An obvious question to ask, of course, but is the book something that will add value to your experience together?  Will you come out changed at the end?  Better?  More thoughtful?  The experience that your chosen read aloud cerates should be one that students are excited about and remember after your year is over.

Is it relatable?

Is there something in the book that the students can connect to?  Not that the book has to feature characters like them, but is there some aspect of the story that students can recognize within themselves so that it can be a book that means something to them personally.

Is it pushing our thinking?

Will new conversations arise from this read aloud?  Will new experiences be sought after so that we grow past the book?  Read alouds work so well for starting deeper conversations because it is safe to start within the pages of a book, rather than just dive into it.

What else have you read aloud?

Is this book just like the others or does it bring a new facet to your year?  While it is great to do one tried and true read aloud, there is immense value in experiencing something new together, something different than the norm.  Also look at mood, if every book you read aloud is heavy in nature, then what does that do for your community.  read alouds can tackle complex topics and still be funny.

What does the main character look like?

If we are only reading books with characters that mirror what the “norm” is projected as in America: cisgender, white identifying, heteronormative families, we are doing our students a disservice.  Where are all of the books that show off families and children that are unlike the supposed norm?  Where are all the books to further own understanding of what it means to be a person?

What is the gender of the main character?

For a long time, I read books with male protagonists.  It wasn’t on purpose, I just hadn’t thought about it.  It wasn’t until one of my 5th graders pointed out that she would really enjoy a book with a strong female character lead that I realized what had happened.  Study the characters of the books you have chosen and make sure to add variety.

What is the issue of the book?

Is the issue of the book always how someone who is seen as being on the fringes of society is struggling to fit in?  Is it that a disabled character is shunned?  Is it that an LGBTQ child is struggling with society’s acceptance of their identity?  While these books are vital they cannot be the only books that we introduce students to.  How about a book like The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson which is a mystery that also discusses embedded racism and even has a parent that comes out to their child?

Is the book problematic?

There are so many books that we have clung on to as our read-aloud books that are truly problematic, look no further than Little House on the Prairie.  If we are creating inclusive classrooms where every child’s identity can be fully accepted then we have to examine the choices we make for read aloud.  How do the books handle race?  How do the books handle history?  What is represented as the norm? Who wrote the book and are they an #ownvoices author, does it matter whether they are? A read aloud can be a seminal experience in a child’s life, we want it to be that for the right reasons not because it made them feel marginalized or pushed outdated and even dangerous thinking on them.

Is the book a window, mirror, or door book?

The work of Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop has been seminal within the children’s book industry and it should be in our classrooms as well.  Are you only reading one type of book where students only see characters like themselves (mirror)?  Are they never seeing themselves in books (windows)?  Are the books opening up to new conversations, learnings, and connections (doors)?  The choices we make as far as the texts we use to tie our community together speaks volumes of what we hope for our readers.

Is it worth it?

Choosing the right book to share with a class is no laughing matter, even if the book itself brings plenty of laughs.  Don’t be afraid to abandon a read aloud that isn’t working, there are some books that are better experienced by yourself than read aloud.  Don’t be afraid to do nothing but listen, read aloud is about being together, about listening, about going on a journey within the pages of a book.  Not just listening to understand or find evidence for comprehension.

The Global Read Aloud started as a small dream of making the world a little bit smaller.  To think that an idea thought of on a long summer drive could reach millions of kids around the world is almost inconceivable.  But it did, and it does, join us as we do it again starting on October 2nd with some incredible new read alouds.  Because the GRA would be nothing if it weren’t for the books.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

 

Be the change, being a teacher, Literacy, Reading

The Real Reason to Read Children’s Books

White, Black, Yellow,  Free Image

We had visitors in our classroom again today as some fantastic educators had traveled to be with us (shout out to West Dubuque).  As always, they had a few moments to speak to the people that prompted their visit in the first place; our students, who with their candor, wisdom, and humor always have great things to share.

They asked, “Why do you think it matters that Mrs. Ripp reads children’s books?”  I was eager to hear their answers.

I thought they would say that it mattered because I could recommend great books.  They did.

I thought they would say that it mattered because there was a lot of great books in here to choose from.  They did.

I thought they would say that it mattered because it made it easier for them to find a new book.  They did.

But what I hadn’t expected was this…

It matters because it shows that she cares about her job.

It matters because it shows that she cares about reading.

It matters because it shows that she cares about us…

Let that sink in.  That while we know that reading children’s books matters for so many reasons, this was the biggest one of all.

For all of my students, me reading a book and being able to bring it into class shows them that I care about them as people.  As kids who read and who have meaningful reading experiences.  That I am willing to dedicate my time away from our classroom to something that will hopefully matter to them shows that I mean every word when I say I love my job, I am grateful to be your teacher.

We worry so much about whether or not kids know that they matter.  Whether they know that we care about them.  We come up with elaborate ideas to show them how much we appreciate them and sometimes forget about the small things.  That care comes in small packages.  That caring sometimes comes in the shape of a book read and discussed.

So for every book I purchase, for every dollar spent, I will continue to tell our students that I love my job, that I love being a teacher for them, that reading matters and that this very book I read is my way of reminding them that I care.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Be the change, being a teacher, technology

Lessons from a #PhoneFree Classroom

I have been meaning to write more about our phone free classroom for a while.  It’s been more than month now.  I have been meaning to update, and yet, it keeps slipping my mind.

Not because I am busy.  Not because there are so many other things to do, even though there is.

No.

More because quite simply put, there isn’t much to say.

The protests and indignation I was worried would build over this rule haven’t come.

The anger or the sneakiness I wondered about hasn’t happened.

The letters to the principals, the “how dare you” statements never uttered.

Are some kids annoyed?  Probably.

Are some kids leaving them in their pockets? Probably.

Are some kids hoping to go back to the old way?  Probably.

But are they mad?  Outraged?  Feeling like their rights as a learner somehow having been violated – nope.

In fact, every day we have our routine down.  Most kids leave their phone in their locker.  Some in the bin in our classroom.  After the bell, I give a final reminder which inevitably leads to a few more phones in the bin and then we are off.  Focused as much as we can be in May in 7th grade on the learning that is happening.

Yet, what I have noticed has been small.  A few changes here and there; more face to face conversation within our classroom walls.  Less tense faces.  More presence.  Less worry.

It turns out that we didn’t need more cloud for more engagement, but needed more presence.  More here.  More now.

And today I noticed how several kids even forgot to grab their phone, only showing up later in the day to claim it once they realized it was missing.  Some of these kids were kids I have had to remind to put their phone away in the past, and here they come several class periods later, glad that their phone is still there waiting but realizing that perhaps it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway.  Perhaps not having their phone was not the end of the world.

And so we will continue until the very last day.  Separated from something that sometimes feels like it contains our entire world.  Given a moment to breathe that doesn’t involve notifications, likes, or needing to record every moment of our day.  A space to take risks, be present, and focus on each other, with just a small change in our days.

I started this experiment worried about the mental health of us all as we become more and more addicted to our phones.  But I also worried that it would cause resentment and anger, a sense of distrust in our community, that I was yet another adult who didn’t care about my students.  It turns out that my fear was unfounded.  That asking students to leave their phones out as they bring their hearts in was a step in the right direction.   In the end,  it turned out that we really didn’t need them for much anyway, who knew?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.