Awards, being a teacher, Reading, Reading Identity

On Reading Rewards

He finally found a book he liked.

She actually has a book she wants to read over summer.

He read more books than he ever has before.

She tried a new genre and liked it.

He finally actually read a book rather than just pretend.

These major accomplishments are some that my students shared today as we gathered around to do our end of year reading celebration.

Some of my students read more than fifty books this year, some only read a few.   And yet, within that number lies the story of a child who tried, who didn’t give up, who kept investing themselves as a reader, no matter what their relationship was before they came to 7th grade.  I am so proud of how they have grown.

And yet, when I look around on social media I keep seeing posts about how teachers are throwing special celebrations only for the kids that met their 40 book challenge goal.  That met their AR level.  That reached the growth target set for them.  And I cannot help but get sad, and perhaps, a little angry, because are we truly thinking about what these types of celebrations do to the kids that once again are excluded?  That once again did not get invited?  That once again did not get any recognition no matter how hard they worked?

Once again it appears our well-meaning intentions have gotten the better of us.  That we get so focused on the goal, on the quantity, that we forget about the growth.  The incredible mountains that some of our students have overcome to simply find a book, read a book, love a book.

When we reward only those who have met the goal we have set, we tell the rest that while they tried, it was not enough.  That while they may have finally read a book, they are still not enough of a reader for us to recognize.   That our experience together was never about their growth but was about this arbitrary number that they needed to reach, this goal they did not set.  That while they may have felt like they accomplished something, they really didn’t.

Which teacher really wants students to think that?

What if we instead celebrated all of our kids?  What if we instead asked every single child to reflect on how they have grown as a reader?  What if we instead asked every single child to give themselves an award based on their own perceived accomplishment?

You might get something like this if you did…


Students who contemplated over their own reading experiences and then wrote their own award.  (To see the template for the certificate go here).

Kids who know they have grown as a reader and who see the worth in what they have done.  Kids who see that the teachers recognize this year’s worth of work and dedication and are so proud of them.  Because we are.  Kids who are proud of themselves, because they should be.

So I implore you, do not make your end of year reading celebrations about the number.  Instead, ask the students what they are proud of.  What they have achieved and celebrate them all.  Let them have the time to see how far they have come so that they can leave our schools with a sense of accomplishment that they might not otherwise have had.

PS:  Next year, start the year by having students set their own goals, as explained here, so that they too can work on something meaningful.

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.

Awards, being a teacher, being me, parents, rewards

If You Really Want to Reward a Child

A few days ago, I sorted my own children’s toys.  Cleaned out all the misfits, the broken pieces, and marveled at the bag of plastic dippity does I was able to throw away.  A bag worth of trinkets, of things that meant something to them the first 5 minutes they got them, only to lie forgotten in their toy chest since.  The sheer abundance startled me, after all, I consider myself a miser when it comes to toy purchases.   But the proof was in the toy-chest; plastic trinkets galore.  As I snuck the bag out to the trash, I couldn’t help but feel like a mean mother for getting rid of their broken “treasures.”

Turns out, I didn’t have to worry as Thea, our 7 year old, came home with a plastic yo-yo today from school.  She proudly showed it to me before it broke (cheap plastic things tend to do that quickly) and told me she had earned it for reading. For reading…Because she had read every night.  And I sighed, and inwardly I rolled my eyes, and then I realized that I had to get something of my chest, (imagine that)…

We need to stop cheapen the act of learning with plastic trinkets.

We need to stop teaching kids that when they learn, they earn something.  That when they learn they must be rewarded with a tangible thing to play with, rather than just the satisfaction of the knowledge they have gained.

Because in our well-meaning intention of trying to help students feel accomplished,  we are helping kill the love of learning itself.  We are teaching kids through our treasure chests, our prize boxes (guilty as charged), that learning is not enough.  That they have not gained anything until they hold a new toy in their hands.  That the knowledge they have gained is not enough.  That simply becoming more knowledgeable does not matter unless they have physical proof, and I shudder as I think of the long term effects that can have.

So if you really want to reward a child, hand them a pencil to write another story or solve another problem with.

If you really want to reward a child, hand them another book when they finish the first one.

If you really want to reward a child, give them more of your time as a class, give them a high five, a hug, or some sort of positive attention.

If you really want to reward a child, discuss their strengths with them, their effort, their growth, anythingt hat will make them see their own success if they do not already.

If you really want to reward a child, reach out to those at home; let them know what you see so that we can act accordingly.  Let us know what you see so that we can see it too.

But as a parent I plead, from one teacher to another; please stop handing out the trinkets, the stickers, the dippity doodads, the things we find at the dollar store.  Stop the paper awards and the made up rewards. Save us from the tangible, the things that break, the things that mean so little in the long run.   Celebrate, yes.  Acknowledge, please.  But save the toys for home.  The kids don’t need them, and neither do we.

If you are looking for a great book club to join to re-energize you in January, consider the Passionate Learners book club on Facebook.  We kick off January 10th.  





Awards, being me, global read aloud

ISTE to Recognize the Global Read Aloud

Cross-posted on the Global Read Aloud website

The story of the Global Read Aloud is a very simple one indeed.  What started as a summer night’s conversation and a “What if…” moment spoken aloud, has turned into a global event that somehow grows, changes, adapts, yet perseveres year after year.  As new people join our family, as new incredible books are selected, as new technology is incorporated, the mission does not change; one book to connect the world.  One book to read aloud.  When I look back at the rise of the GRA, I don’t quite know how it happened, only that I am so grateful that it has.

Yet, this project is not just mine, it belongs to all of the educator, children, parents, and administrators that have seen value in it.  That have believed in it and made it their own.  It belongs to the world, as any global project should do, and yet, it is still my baby.  Something that takes up so much time but is so rewarding.

I am therefore incredibly humbled, yet so very excited, to announce that I have been selected for the first annual ISTE Innovation in Global Collaboration award for the creation of the Global Read Aloud.   I have wanted to share the news for a while officially on this blog but it feels terribly odd to tout your own accomplishments.  But I am proud, it is hard work, and yet, this isn’t really about me.  This recognition is about all of us.  All of the people that make the Global Read Aloud what it is.  It is about all of the kids that believe they can make the world better by taking action and reaching out.  It is about all of the teachers that take the leap of faith every year and sign up, not quite knowing what to expect, and still making it their own.  It is about all of the authors that write such incredible stories that have to be shared with others.  It is about all of you, I just get to represent us all , and for that I am so very grateful.

So if you happen to be at ISTE this summer, and you happen to be around Monday morning, there is some form of breakfast, a recognition of some sort.  And while I haven’t gotten many details, I would like to invite all of you to come celebrate this award with me somehow.  If you can meet up with me, please come tell me your story.  Find me and please celebrate with me.

This award may have my name on it, but that is only because there isn’t enough room for all of yours.  Thank you so much for spending your time with the Global Read Aloud.  Thank you so much for believing in me.

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.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   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.

Awards, being me, reflection

Once Again I Am the Loser – But Not Really, Well Maybe

image from etsy

Tonight I am the second time loser of an award.  It happened rather anticlimactically.  I paused to check my Twitter feed in between carrying a bucket of dirty water from the carpet cleaner to the sink.  Congrats rang out all around but not to me.  I shrugged, felt happy for the winner, and told my husband I was a loser once more.  He gave me a very strange look indeed.

I have never shied away from expressing my hatred toward awards in general.  It hasn’t always been like this, I used to hand out awards like I was trying to get a degree in it, and yet, I realized one day that it was mostly the same kids getting rewards through my own fault and that of the systems implemented.  I realized one day that I was not the kid that would have gotten any because I never did.  Funny, how a tradition like that follows you into adulthood.  And yet now, I am not as bothered, I have bigger things to do.  Bigger things to be proud of.  And besides, my daughter told me tonight that I am the world’s best mom.  That’s the award I want to win every night.

And yet.  I am loser but at least I was nominated.  I was recognized for something that is bigger than me, the Global Read Aloud, which I happened to create.  I was part of an elite five that somehow had been chosen to represent all of the millions of elementary teachers in the US (or the world, I am not sure).  I had been singled out.  The young me would have jumped for joy – finally someone to recognize this greatness- and yet the adult me just feels dirty.  I cannot help but think of all of the other teachers that should have been nominated, or all of the other people who make our jobs easier, better.  All of the others that we build our success upon.

So rather than blast awards more than I have, I would rather use this blog to nominate people who I think deserve some recognition.  You may know them, you may not, I could nominate many incredible people who have thousands of followers, people who know of them already, but to me it seems unnecessary.  Chances are the people you know who have changed my life are exactly that; people you know.  So instead I would like to recognize some quieter people.  Those who make me think.  Those who make a difference not just to me, but to many others, that don’t seem to fall into any award categories.

To the bus driver, Brad,  who for the last two days has made sure that my daughter got to her new school and back to me safely; thank you.  Her last school lost her twice on the busses so having her come off of your bus with a smile and you waving and calling her by name, that means the world to me.

To the para that comes to my room in 5th hour and laughs along with me at the crazy things the students do, and yet jumps in every time anyone has a need, thank you.  Lynn, you make me feel like I am a better teacher.

To Kelly, “my” special education teacher who sometimes reads this blog but has no idea how at home she has made me feel and how much she does not just for me, but for the school, thank you.  You should have thousands of people following you if you ever get on Twitter.

To Jen Wagner, who tirelessly creates global projects that others can do for free just to make the world smaller; thank you.  You got me started on global collaboration, just like so many others.  You make it safe and you make it fun.  I don’t think the world knows how much time it must take you to do it, but I do, and I appreciate it more than you know.

To Jessica Lifshits, your post this summer about coming out and embracing who you are in your classroom, has rocked my world.  The work you are doing to create a safe community for LGBTQ teachers may be slow and painful, but you are changing the world by making it better for all of us to find our tribe.

To HappyCamperGirl, I know your name is Amy, but I realized tonight that I don’t know your last night.  We follow each other on Twitter, I have learned from on many occasions, how do I not know your last name?  Your post on finding your tribe and being there for each other as teachers completely changed the way I treat people that I work with.  You made me realize that we are not in competition, but that we are better together.  That we should not be tearing each other down, but building each other up.  You did that for me, I am sure those I work with thank you for it.

To Tony, how did you become like my annoying little brother so quickly even if you are older than me?  It’s crazy how close Voxer can make you feel to someone.  You guide me when I need it but you also make me think.  Checking in with you is a highlight for me, you make me a better teacher because I want to be more like you.

And finally, to my edu sisters; Leah, Kaye, Jena (and sometimes Sue), your words matter to me every day.  Your stories, your ideas, your dreams resonate.  I see you as those I come home to every day on my way to my home.  I love knowing you like this, I am not alone, because I have you.

How about we all took the time to nominate someone who makes our lives better?  How about for once we don’t recognze people like me who have a blog like this.  How about we recognize the people who don’t get recognized, those who may seem invisible?  I think it would be worth our time.

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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Awards, reflection, rewards

When Your Child Receives an Award

photo (8)

You could see her pride from the front door. “Look mom!  Look what I got!”  Thea stands in front of me holding a signed award of recognition certificate given to her by her incredible 4K teacher.   Apparently on November 5th Thea had great behavior and she now hands me the certificate to prove it.  Of course it goes on the fridge.

That night as I clean up after dinner, the award catches my eye and the irony of it hanging there so prominently hits me.  I don’t believe in awards in my classroom, it is one of the things I threw out 3 years ago and have never regretted.  And yet, today I saw just what that piece of paper meant to my kid.  You couldn’t have burst her bubble even if you tried.  But still…I wonder if this means that November 5th was the only day Thea has been behaving well?  Or was it her turn to be awarded?  What did she do exactly to get this recognition?  Did every kid get it?  I ask her and she has no idea.  All she knows is that her teacher gave this to her and to her that is all that matters.  Granted she is 4 and is not the most reliable explainer but still I wonder how did she even earn it?

Did my students ever know why they earned something?  The thing with awards is that they are subjective and are meant for show.  We pick a goal and then award a kid if they have met that goal.  Often we don’t tell them how they can earn something but instead surprise them when they have.  We make a show of it so that others know that they should try to earn one as well.  We can’t really give one to everyone because then they don’t mean as much, so we continue creating losers and winners in our classrooms simply by giving them a piece of paper or trinket in front of their classmates.  You see, it is not the actual award that sets the kid apart, it is the show of it in front of others.  You need to see that your award is special to you for it to mean something and that just sits wrong with me.   We think that physical awards make kids feel special, yet our words can do the same, in fact, often our words and taking time to say things to a child will have a much more lasting impact than any piece of paper can.  Than any trinket.  Than any ticket.

For now the award stays on our fridge, in a few days, she will no longer care about it and it becomes just another piece of paper in our already paper-filled house.  I don’t plan on keeping it and although Thea tends to hoard paper, I don’t think she will mind.  To her it was validation that she is a good student, to me it was just more questions as to the great intentions we may have as teachers.  Do we really feel we need to award students certificates any more?  Do we really need to put on a show?  Or are we just perpetuating the myth that there must always be winners and losers for people to feel special?

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.

Awards, being me

Why I am Not Going to Win an Eddie – And I am Ok With That

Ahh the Edublog Awards, affectionately known as the Eddies, are upon us and with that comes all the “Vote for me!” tweets and posts as well as the misgivings people have about awards.  And boy does that get boring after a while.  But let’s be real here for a second, it is nice to be recognized by someone that your blog is worthwhile.  In fact, it is really nice.  I was lucky enough to be nominated in 3 different categories, all new to me, and all way out of my league.  Most influential post…did you see who I am in company with?  So that is why I am certain I will not win, and I am ok with that.

The thing is, I am still fairly new to this blogging world.  I started 1 1/2 years ago not intending to write to anyone but just as a matter of reflection for myself as I changed my teaching dramatically.  In that time I have shared many personal stories as well about losing a pet, various competitions, and even the heartbreak of losing a pregnancy.  This blog has morphed into a true reflection of my life, my dreams, and my fight for students first in education.  And for that I am proud.  I look at some of the contenders in the awards and I realize that I have far to go, many miles to walk and mountains to climb before I reach their level.  It simply is not my time.

So if you stumble upon the EduBlog Awards take some time to read the other people.  Discover new blogs if you feel like it and weigh their contribution.  Don’t worry about how long they have been blogging but rather whether or not you have been moved by their writing.   Worry about whether it speaks to your heart, or whether it changes your mind.  Then vote for them or maybe don’t even vote but add them to your reader.  Celebrate the diversity of the voices out there and know that being nominated is indeed an honor, but not a necessity to be a great blogger.  My biggest prize from blogging are the connections I make, the comments I get, the ways I am challenged through  discussion.  I win that every week, and that I am ok with.