Be the change, being me, end of year

On Counting Down the Days…Again

Make those last days count Design

An older post from 2017 that still rings true today. I will not do a countdown for many reasons, even if I know how many days I have left. While the belief started as an epiphany of the wildness it was creating, it now rests more solidly in the notion that not every child has a safe place to be during the summer. And while this year of teaching has been like no other and every single person involved with schools deserves a break, to step away from simply making it through the day, I still know that for some being out of school does not allow them to thrive in the ways I hope every child has the possibility to; with food, a bed, adults to supervise and care, learning opportunities, and true rest. We can still celebrate a conclusion of an extraordinarily hard year without counting down the days together. We can still be glad to have the chance to step away to recharge without notching days.

The other day I was asked, “What is the one thing you would tell teachers to stop doing as the end of the year nears?”  I needed no time to think because my answer is simple; the countdown.

I used to do the countdown with my students.  20, 19, 18 days left of school.  Each day the kids would get more excited.  “We are almost out of here, Mrs. Ripp!”  They got crazier as the countdown neared the end, energy barely contained, and I loosened the reins, had fun, did less curriculum and more community building.  Except the days dragged on.  The kids grew restless, and I even started looking at the clock, wishing the day to be over.  Was this what teaching the last few weeks of school would always be like?

Six years ago,  after a particularly trying week, I had an epiphany – one that many have had before me.  I was creating the excited mess unfolding every day in my classroom.  My choices in doing a countdown and stepping away from our routines were signaling to the kids that school no longer mattered.  That what we were doing no longer mattered.  That all they had to do was wait it out and then this, too, would finally be over.  As if our students needed any more reminders that school is not a great place to be.

So I stopped the countdown, I went back to teaching and have not looked back since.  Because while the countdown may be fun on the surface; another way to show off student accomplishment – you made it through 7th grade! -it also sends a much deeper message; we are done with the year.  I am done with you.   Is that really what we want to tell our students?

Yet, this is not the only reason I hate the countdown.  One year, a child cried under his desk on the last day of school.  Inconsolable, I asked him what had happened.  Had someone said something to him that I had not caught?  Instead, he looked up at me, tears running down his face and said, “Don’t make me leave…I don’t want to go on vacation, I want to stay here.”  I cried with him and did the only thing I could, hug him and tell him I would always be here for him if he needed me.  Yet, his words have stayed with me all of these years.  This child did not look forward to summer.  This child faced a summer of unknowns, of food shortage, of not knowing who he would live with, of who would care for him.  Summer did not represent a break, but an uncertain future where he had to carry the weight of a society who has very few safety nets for children in poverty and home adults who are trying to survive.  Our classroom was his safe space.  In our classroom, he felt cared for, knew he would eat, and knew he had people with him. Outside of school that wasn’t always the case.  By counting down the days, I was reminding him every day of what was ahead after that last day of school; uncertainty, fear, hunger.  None of those messages were what I hoped to convey to my students. None of those messages were what my silly countdown was meant to convey to him. And I am sure there have been others who silently dreaded the end of school, who didn’t show it through their tears but kept it inside or showed in other ways. Who didn’t excitedly tell their peers about all the things they couldn’t wait to do but instead hoped that they could stay together, sta where they were, instead of walking out on that last day of school. So while school certainly doesn’t represent safety for all children, for some it does.

So It is not that I don’t know how many days are left.  That I pretend to be clueless as to the end of the year. It is just that I don’t advertise it. I don’t actively remind children how much better summer will be than what we are doing together, than what we have built together.  It undermines the entire mission we have had all year of instilling the importance of the work we do.  It undermines every single time we have said that school is important, that our community is valuable.  I have less than three weeks left and so much still to teach and learn, so many opportunities to keep connecting with kids, to continue to build community and provide resources that will hopefully make a difference in the days ahead. So now, when a child tells me that they are excited about summer, I tell them I am too, but also that I will miss them, that I will miss our learning, that I will miss our classroom.  That we have so much learning still to do.  That we will work to the very last day because our time is valuable.  Because we need every minute we can get. Because what we have built matters and I am sad to see it go. I am sad to see them go. I don’t need a countdown to remind me of that.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

Be the change, being a teacher, being me

To All the Tired Educators

Before the first day of school, oh the excitement and nervousness present

Dear Pernille, and perhaps so many others

You have been losing a lot of sleep this past year. The world has felt so heavy, so hard at times, and when you finally have found your stride, life has thrown yet another turn your way. Events that will shape you the rest of your life, experiences that are being lived through that will follow you until the end.

You have worked too much, you have tried to create boundaries as well as anyone else, and yet you have felt the insatiable hunger of failure nipping your heels every day, haunting your every decision. Never enough. Never good enough. You have felt like the role of teacher came first, above mom, above wife, above person. You have stayed up too late, gotten up too early, pondered and wondered, sought out idea upon idea in an effort to continue all of the dreaming that shapes the classroom community you build every year with your students. And you have looked at the constraints and tried to plan your way through them, busting the chains of the old ways that have stood in your path, getting tangled up in obstacles unforeseen, expanding energy quicker than you could replenish it.

And now you face the creeping end of the year and you hear the whispers of learning loss, of failed year, of not enough so loudly they feel like drums beating a new path ahead. They drown out the voices of the educators who innovated, who created, who invented and rose to the occasion. Of the kids who met us in the pursuit of learning despite all of their obstacles. Of the home adults who kept trying no matter their own circumstances. Do not listen to them. This past year was not lost. The moments we have lived through, the experiences we have created, the learning that has happened has transcended what we thought was possible. We did the impossible, we did it, despite everything in our way.

Because this year the learning was perhaps not as much in the standards. It was perhaps not as much in the pages of textbooks. Perhaps it looked nothing like we had ever tried before. It was a year of navigating new. Of hearing the words “unprecedented” and “Covid” too many times. A year of figuring out how to connect through screens and distance. Of asking kids to tune in when their reflexes were to tune out. Of asking ourselves to try again when we were beyond exhausted. Of sending one more email, making one more phone call, of showing up and trying again.

It was in living through experiences that will help these incredibly resilient kids for years to come, will help us, the school staff who kept trying for years to come; how to problem-solve technology, how to advocate, how to manage time, how to learn independently, how to chunk out assignments, how to get the help deserved and needed. How to recognize what is the most important in everything we do; not the content but the kids, not the grades but the growth. It was in showing up in whatever capacity we could despite everything that stood in front of us. It was in digging in even after the energy was depleted. In not painting a year in failure before it had even begun.

Because there were many who wanted us to fail. Who told us that the only way to do school was the ways we had done it for hundreds of year, a way that has failed so many before. There were many who couldn’t wait to tell us how this would never measure up, how this would never be enough. And yet we came, we worked, and we kept trying long after our contract hours, long after our energy had left.

So dear Pernille, you have to let the whispers of failure go. You have to rise from the ashes of your own doubt, burn down the defeat and recognize the strength that you carry within you after the last 13 months. You have to look back at this year and see the small triumphs that have risen through the cracks. Not as an attempt to dismiss the things that didn’t work, the kids where traditional learning was put on hold, but to recognize that among the fires there were things that did succeed. That success is not just found in standards and grades, which you have known for so long, but in the small conversations, the openings into their lives, the bonds that have been formed no matter they had to work their way through. No matter how much you worried.

That you and all of the kids in your care did incredibly hard things. They spoke up when they would rather stay muted. They turned on their cameras even when they would rather have sat in the dark, they chatted when they could, they handed in what they could, they asked questions when they could and they hopefully recognized that every day, no matter how much work they did, they were cared for, they were accepted, and they felt safe.

Because what happened in the past year in education is so much bigger than just learning content. Is so much bigger than just one singular experience. It is about community. About innovating through unforeseen obstacles. About a relentless pursuit of connection, of seeing our own mistakes not as places to rest but places to grow. Of knowing that you did the best you could and that what we did mattered, that what you did mattered.

So celebrate these last few weeks. Revel in the kids and their amazing fortitude. Cherish the times that you still get to have with these incredible kids that you got to call yours for a while. And rest. Rest in the knowledge that you did it. That you worked through it. That you learned lessons you will use for the rest of your teaching career. Rest in the knowledge that there will be more learning and growing in years to come and that we did not get lost, we instead found a new path that we had to forge together and that the content and the skills is still on our path. We may just need a new way to get there.

Love,
Pernille

Ready for yet another change – now only 3 feet between desks and 21 kids in the classroom as of April
Be the change, being a teacher, Reading, Reading Identity, student choice, Student dreams, student driven

A Question to Center Reading Joy

What are the reading experiences Design

I have been thinking a lot about reading experiences of kids lately. If you follow my writing, you know that this is something I think about a lot. Perhaps it is because I finally have big classes of kids in front of me rather than small cohorts. Perhaps it is because we have only 7 weeks left of the year and I feel the urgency of the mission we have been on all year to help kids change their relationships to reading. Perhaps it is because I am presenting on this topic around the world and so I keep thinking of what else we should discuss about it, what else we can do to potentially change the narrative that seems to be repeating itself this year despite our best intentions.

Because I see a lot of kids not reading. I see a lot of kids disengaged from reading. I see a lot of kids who don’t see reading as something valuable or even something they have want to spend time doing. And I see a lot of adults not quite sure how this keeps happening despite everything we are trying.

So perhaps, this post is a way to remind myself to take a deep breath, perhaps it is an offer to us all to rethink the dialogue that surrounds kids’ reading lives. Perhaps this is a reminder to those who need to hear it that this disconnect between books and readers is one we have been working through for a long time, one that we will continue to work through for a long time, and it also didn’t just happen because of the pandemic. And that there are things we can do but that sometimes we create obstacles that we can’t even see, we don’t recognize the long term consequences of short-term ideas.

I could blame previous curricular decisions, after all, wouldn’t we all like to assume that it is solely because of the decision some other teacher made that created the readers we have. And yet, when we do that, we don’t see our own part in this either. We don’t see how we often have to interrogate, audit, and change an entire system rather than just one teacher. It is too easy to blame one year or one experience for killing the love of reading. When we get stuck there, it does us no good, it doesn’t allow us to see past those small decisions and instead focus on the entire experience. It doesn’t allow us to see that perhaps the whole system we function in needs to be aligned and adjusted. That what we see as “okay” may not be at all.

So instead, I would offer up that we use our worry about kids and their relationships to reading to urge us forward. That we start to invest in long-term solutions, discussions, and curricular choices that offer up an opportunity for all kids to connect or re-connect with reading year after year. That we shift the focus from what one teacher can do to what an entire system can take on. That we recognize that to center reading joy is not just the work of one, but the work of many, and that kids need more than one great teacher urging them to read.

And that starts in conversation rather than reading logs. That starts in meaningful work rather than computer quizzes. That starts with making space and time for kids to explore the parts of their identity that is tied in with reading and asking them how they ended up where they are. That starts with recognizing what the reading rights are of all kids, not just the ones we get to teach on a daily basis and then wonder how the experiences they are all guaranteed shape their readerly lives or not.

And so we must put our emotions aside for a bit in order to step into these conversations, to recognize that everything we do should be put on the table in order for us to weigh what may work for all kids. What should be instituted on a whole-school or all-district schedule.

It means that we offer space to think and then space to do. That reflecting on the journey we are on becomes a part of the curriculum, even when we feel pressed for time like this year. That we listen to student voices and have them move us into action. That we consider the weight of their words as we plan for future units and experiences and not just assume that we know what they need or even what they want.

The work of creating joyful reading experiences centered in powerful instructions, access to books, free choice of independent reading books, culturally relevant teaching and ongoing conversations should not and cannot fall on the shoulders of just one teacher. We are not enough, the year we may have with students is not enough. It has to be a whole district or at the very least a whole school conversation and plan.

So where do you start? We start with one single question to guide our work; what are the reading experiences EVERY child is guaranteed in our care. We lay it all out on the table in order to constructively look at what the reading experiences are for every child no matter the reading experience and skills they have had before this year. We truthfully recognize what often happens when a child is identified as being behind in whatever scope the data says and how often that impedes the choices they get to make throughout their day and even the joyful reading experiences they get to be a part of. And then we fight to give them access. We fight to give them equality in their reading experiences and we monitor what happens to the kids in our care.

And we cannot do that work without listening to the voices of our students, without asking the home adults what they see happening while we have kids in our care. We cannot do this work without revisiting the question again and again to re-align and readjust. Without truth, courage, and a recognition that sometimes our best ideas are not the ideas that should continue on.

It takes humility, patience, and toughness to do this work. Our students deserve that their experiences are carefully constructed around choice, around freedom, around receiving the care they absolutely deserve. We can do it and it starts with a conversation and it continues with a commitment.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

Be the change, being a student, being a teacher, new year, PD, student choice, Student Engagement, student voice

Final Free PD Masterclass: Getting Ready for Going Back – How Do We Learn Best?

This summer has been one of worry. Of anxiousness. Of too much time spent thinking about possibilities that seemed to shift every day. Of waiting for answers. Of too many times trying to not think about the fall. But the countdown to go back to school has started for many of us, the future, while still uncertain, has at least been hinted at, and I still have so many questions.

A few weeks ago we were told we would be fully virtual for the first quarter and with that information I knew that I could stay overwhelmed and anxious or I could move into solution mode. To take it day by day, rather than try to figure out my whole quarter; focus on the first week, and then have an idea for what might come after. It has helped calm me as I think of all of the unknowns. (Not that I am feeling calm by any means).

And so, as I move ideas into action, it is time to invite you into the thoughts and discussion in my final masterclass of the summer: Masterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice. While some of the underlying research and ideas will not have changed from May when I offered it last, I have updated it with ideas of how I plan on establishing conditions to build community, to determine how we can feel safe with one another, how I will embed choice and space for students to speak up and change our time together as we start fully online. This class dives into why it is vital that we center the voices and identities of students as we plan on our instruction and interrogate the systems we have in place. It is meant to inspire, spark discussions, and also offer practical ideas. The accompanying office hours will allow you to ask follow up questions, to share your ideas, and also to have a collective of experts help you with your problems of practice.

So join me for this free PD session offered through CUE and sponsored by Microsoft, just hit the “Join this Session” at the time listed and it will allow you access. Spread the word if you think this masterclass will be helpful to others. This will also be the final free PD I offer for a while as the school year looms large and I have to balance the virtual schooling of my own four kids with the needs of my 80+ students while also trying to keep my sanity.

The class sessions will be:

  • August 13th 7 PM PST/9 PM CST
  • August 20th 7 PM PST/9 PM CST
  • August 27th 7 PM PST/9 PM CST

The office hour sessions will be:

  • August 15th 8 AM PST/10 AM CST
  • August 16th 8 AM PST/10 AM CST
  • August 23rd 8 AM PST/10 AM CST
  • August 30th 8 AM PST/10 AM CST

Don’t forget to check out the other incredible free PD sessions as well that are still being offering during the month of August.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely and in-person as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in an in-person, virtual or hybrid model throughout the years and would love to help others as well.

Be the change, being me

Who I’ve Learned From

For ten years this blog has been my own little corner of the world. A place where I have gone to reflect out loud in order to move forward in my own journey. A place where I have shared a few good ideas but also a lot of failures. A lot of missteps, a lot of hurt, regret, shame and it has been the way I have processed the world I live in. I have invited others along on my journey, at times physicially handing them the space, more often than not linking resources, sharing voices when I can.

For a while now, I have not known what the role of this blog should be. It mirrors the internal conversation I have had for the past two years about whether my voice should take up any space in education when there are so many others whose voices, particularly those of anti-racist and anti-bias experts, should be heard above mine. While I have not come to any final conclusion about this space, I have slowed down, I have focused more on my immediate sphere of work and life than on here. I have allowed myself to do the work and not share rather than share at all times.

Right now, again, I want to recognize the space I have been offered, the rooms I have been invited to, the events I get to be a part of and use it as a way to direct you to other resources that support the anti-racist work that us, White educators, need to further immerse ourselves in and carry with us into the classroom. To perhaps help you discover the work of others who have shaped small or large parts of my journey. To invite you into the work of others who may change you like it has changed me. I hope my resources below are old news to you, that you have followed these people, read these books, or taken the steps already. I hope this post is redundant, but in case it is not, here you go.

I will never be able to give every single person credit whose words have shaped me so please see the links here as a small sample. One of the biggest benefits of being connected to other people through social media is that I can use the work shared to guide me to others whose work then leads me to even more resources.

Read all the posts from #31DaysIBPOC founded by Dr. Kim Parker and Tricia Ebarvia from the past two years and then follow all of the people who wrote them, support their work by paying for their work, buying their books, and signal-boosting their work.

Interrogate and audit the media you immerse students in. Be inspired and enlighted by the work of the women behind #DisruptTexts – educators Tricia Ebarvia, Lorena Germán, Dr. Kim Parker, and Julia Torres – who so generously share tools to “to challenge the traditional canon in order to create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable language arts curriculum that our students deserve.” 

As Julie Jee asked on Twitter, how many book clubs do we need to be a part of before we move into action? Join a community like #CleartheAir founded by Val Brown to read but then push yourself to actions beyond the learning. As Christie Nold reminded me this week, it is easy to get stuck in the learning part of disrupting your own thinking, but our students don’t need us to just learn, they need us to change. Create book clubs in your own community but then create action steps beyond that, not just lofty goals.

Plan for change now and in the fall. There are so many learning opportunities being offered through books, PD, or even future small in-person events. Look at this list offered by The Brown Bookshelf of resources as a start or watch the incredible Kidlit Community Rally for Black Lives. Join the Author’s Village In Conversation series. On Twitter and Instagram, every single day, there are resources shared and events publicized, it is incredible to see. Ask your administration who they are partnering with for PD. Who are they asking you to learn from and demand inclusive representation. Partner locally with community resources, I love that my district has partnered with Nehemiah to continue our antiracist work past platitudes and promises. Use the free resources offered by incredible sites like Teaching Tolerance or Equal Justice Initiative. See who else they link to and do your own learning. Create your own accountability group, even if it is just one other person to go on the journey with you. Invite your students into the work with you by using a resource such as This Book is Anti-racist by Tiffany M. Jewell and illustrated by Aurelia Durand, I am using this book with my own young children as well over the summer. Buy more children’s anti-racist books sure, read them as well and book talk them throughout the year, there are many lists floating around, but as The Conscious Kid and Edith Campbell reminds us, do not just show one aspect of the Black experience, show the full lives, show the joy as well.

Do more than just be angry. As Layla F. Saad, Jes Lifshitz and many others reminds us turn that anger into action now and come fall. Don’t sit in silence, instead take actions. Sure, you may absolutely screw up but then learn from it. Don’t let your fear of doing it wrong stop you from taking action, I know I feel such shame at times but the shame passes and my own feelings are simply not as important as the lives of others. I have to be the growth for myself, I have to model it for my own kids and bring them on the journey. Am I bound to screw up, absolutely, but I still need to do the work.

Support Black owned bookstores, one of my goals this year is to stop using Amazon and shop locally. If you are in a space to read and have the financial opportunity to do so make it your mission to shop local for book additions. But then also make it your mission to read the books so that you can share the boks with others. If you cannot purchase the books, ask your public library to get them if it is open or offering curbside service, once you read the books, review them, especially on the “big sites.” Every review is free for us but can make money for the creators.

And finally, if you are reading this post and like me, you are a White educator who is asked to be a part of a lot of different spaces, I urge you to look around and take notice in whose voices are missing and how that is impacting the conversation. But don’t just notice, take action. If you say yes to be on a team, who else is on it? If you are part of a hiring committee, who is being interviewed and offered jobs? If you are planning community events, who is part of the planning? If you are creating curriculum, whose voices are centered? If you are an invited speaker, who else has been invited? If you are offered another opportunity to share your voice, ask whose voices are also shared and if the answer is more of the same people that look like you then push back. Have a list of names to offer up instead of you. Rescind your name if you can, make space, demand space, do better, give up your space.

I am so grateful to so many who have allowed me to learn from them and alongside them. Who inspires you? Who pushes you? Who holds you accountable? Sending love into the world to those who need it. I wrote more about who I have learned from here but this learning doesn’t end now with my anger. It doesn’t ever end. It continues and I know I still have so much more to learn, don’t we all?

authentic learning, Be the change, Personalized Learning, Reading, Reading Identity

Join the Global EdTech Academy – 14 Weeks of Free PD

Pernille Ripp Speaker GETA Card.png

This morning I received my final email alerting me that every single education event I am supposed to have been a part of between March and September have all been cancelled. While it was expected, my heart still sank for so many reasons. When I interact with others, I learn so much. When we learn together, we all grow. When we come together and share not just our accomplishments but also our moments of failure, we can continue on the path of learning we have been on for so long, together. I know I grow further when I walk with others and get to question my own practices.

So imagine my sheer delight at being invited to be a part of an incredible collaboration between CUE and Microsoft that will run for the next 14 weeks featuring global education speakers on a wide range of topics. Need ed-tech inspiration; there are sessions for you, need to further your pedagogy; there are sessions for you. There are so many sessions and so many speakers available, it is pretty amazing.

The 14 weeks will feature hour-long sessions from many international presenters at many different times, as well as master classes where you can go deeper into a topic with the speakers offering it (I am hoping to learn from Ken Shelton’s!). There will also be weekly office hours offered, a chance for you to collaborate and brainstorm with the speakers that you choose to work with. Bring your questions, they will try to help. The sessions will be live, but they will also be archived to be accessed later if you want. This is definitely helpful when it comes to navigating time zones.

But did I mention the best part? It’s free. Yup; FREE.

So how do you get signed up, well, this week’s sessions can be seen right now – note, that these are not the only speakers involved, just this week’s.

And what will I be doing? I will be offering three separate master classes, with one being repeated, the first one kicking off tomorrow at 11 AM PST! Join me there if you can or join me in the future when it works for you.

DateTimeSession Title
5/1911 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 1
5/2611 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 2
6/211 AM PST/1 PM CSTMasterclass – How Do We Learn Best – Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice: Part 3
6/107 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 1
6/177 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 2
6/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass – Reimagining School Part 3
7/231 PM CSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
7/291 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/61 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
8/131 PM CSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3
8/177 AM/9 AM PSTPassionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child
8/247 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 1
8/317 AM/9 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 2
9/86 AM/8 AM PSTMasterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity Part 3

Thank you Microsoft and Cue for offering up this partnership and including me in it. I can’t wait to learn with all of you.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.