It’s All in the Small

She tells me, “You know, Mrs. Ripp, I really learned a lot in 7th grade…”

I grin, and ask whether she is sure, that I often wonder if anything we do really helps them learn.

She says, “What helped me the most were all of those little things you would teach, the easier ways to do things.  I use those now…”

The bell rings, my sub time is over in 8th grade, I tell her to see me for a book, and she is off to see her friends.

I am reminded in these moments that as an educator I need to see the small steps.  That I need to count the little moments that really are the big wins in the bigger picture.  That it is easy to see that one child who all of a sudden becomes a reader, or a  science lover, or a coder, or a successful student.  But that when I only look for those big moments, I miss all of the small ones that are equally important.  I miss the moments that show signs of important growth, that may not be as obvious as that big aha moment.

Like the child who independently abandoned his book and then immediately went to the bookshelf to grab another one.

Like the former student who told me he didn’t have a book and then actually came and book shopped and found one.

Like the student who told me that he thought it was pretty cool that he doesn’t hate reading now, but doesn’t mind it as much anymore.

Like the child who trusts me enough to tell me that she is lost and needs help.

Like the child who only takes two reminders to settle in rather than five.

If we only measure education in the big successes, we may lose faith in our ability to actually create change.  For our students to actually grow.

Because those changes happen so gradually that they are easy to miss.

Because those changes often happen after they have left us.

Because those changes aren’t always shared in an outward way.

Because those changes often get overlooked when we compare students to each other and then wonder why they are not all acting the same way.

So if March is bringing you down.

If you are having a hard time remembering why being teacher is the very best job in the world.

If you are wondering if you are making a difference.

If you are wondering if your students are learning and growing.

Look for the little change.

Really remember how they came to us.

See how far they have come.

And if you are not sure, ask them.  Do they know how far they have come?

Count the small steps and then count yourself lucky that you get to be a part of this incredibly complex process we call school.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  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.



Can I just discuss priorities for a moment?

I find myself at a point in time where it apparently bears repeating that some of our priorities in education seem a little misplaced.  After all, I don’t know how many more discussions I can bear witness to that centers around which expensive curriculum to purchase when our librarians are being forced out of their jobs.  How many more giveaway prizes are needed rather than actual books?  How many more paras we need to help the students, rather than certified staff?

If our priority is to create education that actually works for all kids and not just the ones who are easy to teach, then we need to discuss what our priorities should be.

Our priority should not be how to punish the kids that misbehave but rather how we help them remain in our classrooms instead.

Our priority should not be for how we can force kids into our rigid systems but instead how we can make our systems more flexible.

Our priority should not be how many skills a program will teach if we don’t have the foundational knowledge to understand why these skills are needed.

So can we instead decide that it only makes perfect sense to…

Invest in certified staff, particularly in areas that have the biggest impact such as special education, the arts or the library.

Invest in books before basals.  Books before programs.  Books before computer programs that teach basic reading skills.

Invest in raising student’s voice, rather than finding ways to quash it.

Invest in mental health services, in counseling, in smaller class sizes so we can truly connect with all of the students we teach rather than in more security and locks.

Invest in the staff we have, in order to retain an experienced staff, rather than always focusing on how to recruit the new?

Invest in community.

Invest in access for all kids.

Invest in hugs.

In smiles.

In high expectations for all.

In challenging all.

In equity and in hard conversations that uncover our own areas of weakness.

In the basic components of education that may not garner news headlines but that we know works, respect, credibility, training, reflection, and yes, love.

Can we please make it an expectation that if you teach kids you have to actually like kids.  After all, it doesn’t feel like too much to ask.

Perhaps if we straightened out our priorities and went back to common sense, we wouldn’t be having so many of the same conversations again and again.


If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  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.


I Don’t Want to Be a Hero

Today, as too many times before, I walked into our classroom and tried to figure out what we could use to protect ourselves, what we could use to barricade the door, what I would need to help my students escape through our second story window.  How we would survive in the case of an active shooter.

As colleagues drifted in we discussed the news; another school shooter, more lives lost, more teachers portrayed as heroes as they shielded students with the only thing they had; their bodies.  And we looked around our rooms and we shuddered at the realization that really the only thing we can hope for is a lucky break if someone decides that our school is the next target.  That the only thing we can cling our hope on is that if a shooter was to enter through the front entry, then we perhaps would have enough time to get out simply because of our location in our school.

And as I watched students come to class, ready for another day to learn, I was surprised at their lack of talk about it.  One child finally brought it up, telling me she had seen the videos recorded from Snapchat.  How it was hard to watch and I wondered; have our students become used to this new reality where we don’t do just fire drills but also active shooter drills?  Where my 5-year-old kids come home to tell me how they sat really quiet in the corner so that the bad man wouldn’t hear them.  How is this our nation?

Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) _ Twitter.clipular.png

Last night I sent out the following tweet and all day today the replies have poured in.  Comments from fellow teachers telling me what they have for weapons in the classroom (nuts and bolt, fire extinguishers, bats, golf clubs or anything else they can get their hands on), how they plan on getting out, what they plan to use to barricade the door.  How their doors lock from the outside, how their kids won’t know how to stay quiet and hide.  How they know as special ed teachers that they more than likely will have to shield their kids because they may not be able to get out.  How they are training their students to run around the gunman in case they are taken out.  How they cannot fathom how this is our reality in the United States, because, guess what, it is not the reality for teachers anywhere else in the world, not at this scale.

My husband told me he would be purchasing a rope ladder and window hammer for me to keep in my classroom.  That he would think of something to send in with me in case I needed to defend myself but I couldn’t help but think; what good will a bat do against an AR-15?

We are working in a public school system where our funding is being depleted and our class sizes are going up, leaving us less time to connect with each child, leaving us less time to really get to know the kids we have in our care.  We live in a country where mental health services are being slashed and those who desperately need more care, cannot get it.  We are living in a country where protecting gun rights is more important than protecting human lives.  And we are told to not make this political but how can we not when it seems the only response we have in America is to send thoughts and prayers?

And so this morning, as I entered our classroom, I realized, again, that as much as I want to live to be old, I would also shield my students with my body if I had to. That I would stand in the line of fire if I need to because that is now also a part of my responsibility.  That my students lives matter more than my own.

So today I put on a brave face in front of my students, even if every little out-of-the-ordinary noise made me flinch.  Even if I thought about every student I have ever taught and whether I did enough for them to make sure they felt known, like they mattered, and not like they should come back for revenge.  And I was scared.

I am scared.

Because I don’t want to be a hero.

I want to be alive.

I want to see my own children grow up.

I want to see them graduate.

Fall in love.

I want to be a grandmother some day.

Be called mormor and tell stories of back in the day.

I want to retire and hold hands with my husband by the ocean someday while the world passes us slowly by.

To take my last breath surrounded by my family, not in my classroom.

But I may not get that dream if we don’t change the way our laws work.

How many more children will have to die for us to do something?






Lessons From the Mother of A Child Who Was Bullied

Before this year I had never written about bullying from a parent’s perspective.  There was never any need.

Before this year I had never had to take on the role of THAT parent.  The one we all dread being.  The one that wonders after every interaction how others took what they said, what they wrote, what they shared.

Before this year I had never had to tell my daughter that school was a safe place and not know whether it truly was for her.

Before this year.

But as they say life changes.  And this year has been one of enormous highs and some very deep lows.  Moments that I don’t wish on any parent, on any teacher either, and most of all not on any child.

And yet, as things seem to settle down a little for our oldest daughter from what has been a harrowing few months.  As changes in her classroom roster, routines and even procedures for her fall into place, I can look back at the experience and perhaps release some of the breath we have seemingly been holding for the last few months, and hopefully, just hopefully, put something worthwhile into the world from this whole experience.

Because there are a few lessons that I have learned this year as a parent of a child who is bullied.  There are a few things that I have learned that I wish I had already known before all of this.  And so perhaps us, the adults, experiencing this awful situation can help others navigate through theirs a little bit easier.  One can hope at least.  So what do I wish I had known to do as my daughter was bullied?

I wish we would have known to raise our voice sooner.

For so many parents and caregivers we worry how we will be seen, how we will come across.  The reputation we may get from repeatedly asking for support, for sending many emails, for calling as much as we need to.  And so we wait and hope that within our waiting something will happen.  I know now that that is often not the case and it is not from a lack of indifference from the school but simply because schools are overwhelmed, teachers are overwhelmed, the administration is overwhelmed.  So if something is happening to your child don’t wait, bring it up right away.  The bullying of our daughter started in September and we did not have a plan in place until December; four months of hurt and harm happened before we could get it to stop.

From an educator’s experience, I have learned that while something may not seem like bullying to us as adults, it may be bullying to a child.  Especially when it is a repeated small maneuver that is persistent.  Something like always taking someone’s pencil may not seem like a big deal, but when it is done day in and day out it leaves a mark.   I wish I would have known to ask deeper questions in the past when students had reported transgressions like these.

I wish we would have known to be louder.

Going back to being worried about how we came across, we waited a long time between emails or phone calls.  We were somewhat direct but not forceful.  We were nice, in the worst kind of ways, when we should have been yelling.  When we should have continued to reach out until we got the response we needed, rather than wait days and sometimes weeks before we heard anything.

From an educator’s perspective, I am reminded of how vital it is to partner with those at home.  That even if we have a completely different perspective on a situation the least we can do is make contact back.  I think every educator whether in the classroom or not should follow the 48-hour rule, even if it is just to say that you are looking into things.

I wish we would have known to involve others sooner.

We didn’t get much of a plan set in place until we went up to the district level.  Again, not because of lack of care, but because the school itself had so many things they needed to solve that not a lot of priority was given to our situation.  After waiting a long time, it was at the gentle encouragement of a friend and colleague that we went higher in the chain and the results were immediate.  This is when things started to change and at a rapid pace.  Had we not done this, I wonder whether anything would have changed.  This also goes for involving a lawyer or police if needed.

From an educator’s perspective, I am reminded that we are not alone in all of this and even if we think we have a situation solved or under control that involving others that can help us is always a good thing.  This is not a sign of being weak as an educator but of strength.

I wish we would have documented from the beginning.

You think that when your child is being bullied that you will remember every instance, every kick, push, taunt, shove or aggressive slight toward her, but the truth is;  it overwhelms you as a parent, just as it overwhelms your child.  You send off so many reports that it gets hard to keep the timeline and names straight.  I wish we had written things down from the start, or even just made a note about it.  I know hindsight is twenty-twenty and we didn’t know that this would be repeated behavior, and yet, I would advise anyone to just jot something down when it happens just in case and then hope you never need it for anything.

From an educator’s perspective, I think I will now be jotting down things too to help those at home with a paper trail.  It not only helps see patterns that we may otherwise be missing but may also help is realizing the seriousness of a situation sooner.  We have to remember that it is never us versus those at home but that we are a partnership.

I wish we would have asked for counseling sooner.

As we learn more about how trauma shapes our brain, you would think that as a teacher, I would recognize the way my own daughter’s brain was being shaped by these experiences.  And yet, when you are in an active bullying experience, it is hard to think about the later when all you are worried about is the now.  Yet, now that we have cautiously crossed into the later, we see the ways this experience has changed our daughter.  Yes, she is resilient and strong, but she is also wary of others and often assumes the worst rather than the best.  She worries that the situation will happen again, that it is not truly over, she is not sure that school will ever be a safe place for her again.  Do you know how hard it is to hear this from a kid who we have tried so hard to get to believe in school?  She now has a trusted adult who checks in with every morning but that should have happened much sooner.  We should have demanded it, but we didn’t think that far ahead.  I have learned that just because your child is no longer being bullied that the damage is done.  It is there.  And it is up to us to work through it.

From an educator’s perspective, I am reminded of just how powerful it is to have one trusted adult.  An adult that hears you, that is not too busy, that will listen and help as needed.  There were times my daughter did not feel that anyone was listening even if they were, this made her feel even more unsafe.


I wish we would have known to teach our child to deal with indifference.

Yes, there were two girls who viciously targeted our daughter, but there were also many who idly stood by.  Who didn’t see it or didn’t stop it.  Who probably felt powerless or weren’t interested in getting involved.  And I think, my kids would react in the same manner, even if I am trying to raise them to speak out.  For how long has our bullying instruction been focused on standing up, when it is perhaps not just that we need, but instead we need for other kids to care and to show that they care.  When I speak to my students about why they don’t stand up to bullies, they say it is because they are scared and I get that.  So how about we also teach them to care about the victim?  To make sure that the victim feels included at lunch?  At birthday parties?  On the bus and in class?  How about we tell our kids that it is not just about being nice on the surface but taking an interest in others, especially those viewed as outcasts or who are victims of another child’s wrath that will make the most significance to a victim of bullying.

Just this weekend I found a  note that my daughter had kept from a friend.  It said that the friend was sorry one of the girls had called her ugly and that she wanted her to know she was beautiful both on the inside and on the outside.  My daughter kept that note because it meant more than anything we could have said.  Just like having the one friend will make the biggest difference to a child who is a victim of bullying.  I think indifference from others can hurt more in the long run than hatred, that has been a tough lesson to learn.

And so our job as parents is to raise our children to care more.  To go out of their way to include others.  To not tell them it is okay to just be nice but not be friends.  Instead show them by example what it means to include others, to make friends, to stand up for others, after all, we are our children’s greatest teachers.

From an educator’s perspective, this is something we have been working on every year.  Lessons where we use picture books about loneliness, reflecting with students on loneliness and whether they feel seen or not, and also asking them to reflect on who they are as human beings and how they treat those who they do not view as friends are part of what we do.  It is not enough, but it is a start.

I wish we would have found a way to keep our daughter safe.

Every day, my husband and I wondered what else we could do.  What else was there to do for her to keep her safe at school?  How else could we protect her, and yet, our answers were so limited.  That is one of the hardest parts of being a parent of a bullied child; how little you can actually do.  How much you place your trust in the school that they go to.  How much you hope that today is the day that the bullying stops.  That today is the day that the plan starts to work.  And yet, we felt powerless because in many ways we were and that needs to change, not just for us but for the many parents and caregivers that feel equally powerless.  How can we, as educators in our schools, help the parents and the victims actually trust us again.  I don’t have the answer yet but I hope that one day I do.

We never thought we would be the parents of a child who was bullied.  After all, when we look at our daughter we see light.  We see passion.  We see creativity, joy, happiness and a little bit of sass.  We never saw those things that other kids decided to see and we never will.  We thought we knew how to protect her, how to navigate the system if we ever needed to and now we know that perhaps because of how we knew the system we did not do enough early on.  We know that Thea will be okay, she is one of the lucky ones, but we also know that we have a long road ahead.  That there are many words and actions she will never forget no matter how many great memories she has instead.  The tears still come for me, how can they not?  And yet, all I have to do is look at my daughter, the child we tried to have for more than three years, to let me know that I , too, can be strong.  Because that is what Thea is.  Strong, powerful, and so determined to be something amazing.  What she just doesn’t believe quite yet is that she already is.  She is amazing, and no one will ever be allowed to try to take that away from her again.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  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.


The 30 Day Unslump Yourself Challenge

If you are like me, January brings excitement, positivity but also exhaustion.  This quiet month is one where I sometimes find my energy running low, my creativity running out, and rather than take the time to take care of myself I barrel on as if that will do the trick.  So this year, I realized I needed to challenge myself.  Challenge me to take better care of myself.  Challenge me to slow down.  Challenge me to focus more on meaningful interactions, rather than hurried conversations.  And yet I know that as soon as I say I will do it, I just don’t.  Such is life.  Such is so many of our realities.

So I created a 30-day challenge to unslump myself.  To remember to take care of me.  You are more than welcome to join me or create your own.  My challenge starts on Monday.  I cannot wait.  To see the challenge document, go here.


If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  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.


On My Own White Immigrant Privilige

I often get asked how I started writing, where this blog came from.  My answer has always been the same; this blog should b called Pernille’s Random Thoughts.  Pernille’s  thoughts that keep me up at night.  Pernille’s reflections that I need to to make so that I can grow from them.  While I know others now read it, this was never my intention, it still isn’t.

I write for myself.

For the words that otherwise haunt me.

For the experiences, I have to process.

Sometimes I write to share ideas because I am so proud of something that worked.

Sometimes I write to share failures so that others can learn alongside me.

Sometimes I write simply to think out loud, to hold myself accountable, to set my thoughts out in the world so that I can be reminded of what I believe in to my core.

On Sunday, 8 AM, at NCTE, I was part of a session with 6 powerful women.  That morning Jess Lifshitz, Katie Muhtaris, Kathleen Sokolowski, Sara Ahmed, Katherine Hale, Donalyn Miller and I got the chance to share a personal story to help others reflect on their identity and our society.  The invitation was wide open for me to share whatever I felt like.  I knew that this was an opportunity for me to take the privilege that I have been handed because of my skin color, my socioeconomic status, my resources and so many other things and shine a light on it.

And yet, I was scared.  My hands shook.  Not because my risks are great; what’s the worst that can happen?!  (Although I sometimes do forget that things can happen that would greatly affect my family) But because I was afraid of not saying it right.  Of muddling my words.  Of unintended consequences.  But the words came out and so did the tears.  So for all of you who were not in our little session at NCTE, here is the story I chose to share, some pieces already shared on this blog, and others not.

I remember clenching the steering wheel.  The red and blue lights behind me flashing.  My heart in my throat.  My breathing fast.  In my head, I kept wondering what I had done.  I knew I had followed the speed limit.  I knew I had used my blinkers.  I knew my registration was up to date.  

And yet, I was getting pulled over and all of my kids were in the kid yelling at me about the police car behind us.  As the police officer walked up, I was scared.  After all, I didn’t have my Green Card on me.  That little card that grants me the permission to be in the United States as a lawful immigrant.  That little card that tells authority that I am legal.  That little card that I am supposed to carry on me at all times, in case anyone ever needs to see it.  In case the police, or ICE agents, or any other authority ever decides to question whether I have the right to be in the United States of America.

I didn’t have it.  It was at home.  And then the police officer came up to my window.  

I rolled down the window, ready to ask if I could please go home and get it, ready to make promises to always carry it with me in the future.  I still had no idea why I was being pulled over.  

She asked me for my license and I held my breath as I handed it over and she began to speak.

 My brake light was out.  That was it.  A brake light.  I had seven days to get it fixed or else but my “or else” was a ticket, not questioning, not deportation.

She thanked me for my time.  And then she walked away.

She never asked about my green card.  She never asked if I was an American.  She never even thought to ask.  

I almost cried as I pulled my car out into traffic and went home.  

I was raised in Bjerringbro, Denmark, a small town of about 8,000 people.  My mother moved my siblings and me there, I was 6 months old when she found the courage to look for a better life.  My mother was a strong single mother, who also had a wandering heart and so when I was six years old, she moved us to America so that she could write a book at Berkeley.  I was six years old the first time I spoke a word of English taught to me in an inner city classroom in San Francisco.  For seven months I navigated this foreign tongue, I navigated not understanding what someone said to me when they spoke.  I navigated trying to find the bathroom when you don’t know how to ask to leave or even how to say “Bathroom.”  I navigated how to make friends when you don’t speak the same language, how to show I was smart even if I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.  And just when I felt like I had mastered this new language, this new culture, this new me,  we went home.  Back to Denmark where we resumed the life we had left behind.  Becoming Danish once again, rather than a kid who doesn’t have English as their first language.   


So when you see me; do you see a woman whose first language is not English?  Do you see the ESL student I was?  Or do you just see my white skin?  Hear my American English?

When I was 18, my mother decided it was time to move again and she asked me once more if I would come.  “Stay for a year and if you don’t like it, I will buy your ticket home.”  In July of 1998, I walked up to the counter in Logan Airport and declared myself an immigrant.  I was alone, traveling by myself, and clutching my sealed papers as tightly as I could.  The immigration official, a surly man, pulled me into a small room, took my papers and then opened them without a word.  I stood there silent, afraid that I somehow would make the wrong move or say the wrong thing.  Afraid that at any moment the uniformed man, this stranger, would decide that I was not going to America and just like that I would be sent back home to a country where my family no longer was.   After questioning, he stamped my passport, handed it back and simply said; “Welcome to America” as he led me out into what felt like a whole new world.  



Newly moved to Wisconsin, in my 18 year old glory



For 19 years no one has ever asked me for my papers again.   I have walked freely wherever I wanted to without being questioned, without being pulled over, without name-calling, all because of how I look.  That is white privilege,


When I wrote about how I am never assumed to be an immigrant, someone replied; “Well, that is easy to understand, after all, you look like an American.”

Let’s think about that for a moment.  How can I look like an American when I do not have a single drop of American blood in me?  How can I look like an American when I can trace my Danish roots back more than a thousand years?  How can I look like an American when my first language is Danish and not English?

Take Martha, our nanny.  She is a full-blooded American and yet she gets pulled over regularly for as she calls it “Driving while Mexican.”  She is questioned about her heritage, asked where she is really from, whether her parents came here illegally.  When we go out together, she is automatically viewed as the immigrant and I am not.  Our assumptions about what makes someone American follows her everywhere she goes.  She shrugs it off like it is no big deal, says that’s just the way it is, but I am not okay with that, we shouldn’t be okay with that.  

And I get it,  I am so white I am like a caricature of whiteness.  You see me coming; blonde, blue eyes, tall, my Viking heritage directly responsible for the four blonde children that cruise around with me in our mini-van while we bungle the words to Despacito.  I was born white, it is who I am, but I am on a journey to use my innate privilege to be something more.  Not just an ally, but a fighter.  Someone who doesn’t just shut the door when the going gets tough but leaves it wide open.

My children go to a school that does not mirror us.  It is through circumstance we came to it but by choice that we stayed.   Learning among other cultures, races and identities have brought many questions to our dining room table.  Questions that were hard for us to navigate with our young children, questions who pushed our own thinking.  I shudder to think whether these questions would have been posed by my children if they did not go to the school they do.  And so I think of the choices we, as white people, make as a privileged society to keep our lives homogenous.  How we live in neighborhoods where people look like us, we send our kids to schools where they float in a sea of whiteness, we not only elect people whose values mirror our own but so do their faces.  I can choose to step away from racism.  I can choose to step away from inequity discussions.  I can choose to step away from anything that may be upsetting, dangerous, or demoralizing.

I am privileged because I get to be afraid of the type of reaction my teaching may cause if I continue to discuss inequity.  If I continue to discuss racism. If I continue to discuss what it means to be privileged in my classroom.  I get to be afraid for my job and I get to choose whether to have these hard conversations or not.  But the truth is, there should be no choice.  We, as teachers, are on the front lines of changing the future narrative of this country.  Ugliness and all.  We are the bastions of truth, so what truth are we bringing into our classrooms?

Where is our courage when it comes to being a part of dismantling a racist and prejudiced system?  It is not enough to have diverse books in our classrooms if we are too afraid to discuss diversity and what the lack of humanity for others does to our democracy.  It is not enough to say “You matter” and then do nothing to change the world that we live in.  Or to celebrate diversity and then not accept a child for who they truly are, differences and all.  It is not enough to say we are an ally if our actions don’t match our words.   I don’t need 100 clones of me, I need to create more opportunities for the students to do the hard work.   To offer them an opportunity to decide.   To create an environment where they can discover their own opinion.  Where they can explore the world, even when it is ugly so that they can decide which side of history they want to fall on.

So this year I am planning for even harder conversations.  I am planning on being an ally, for being a fighter, even when I get scared.  We say we teach all children, but do we teach all stories?  Do we teach the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or just the sanitized version that will not ruffle any feathers?  Do we give the students time to discuss, to formulate their own opinions, to evaluate the society that they live in and reach their own conclusions?

I am so white, I am like a caricature of whiteness, but perhaps even this white person can make a difference by not being so afraid.  By listening, by asking questions, and by doing more than just saying that this world is filled with wrongness.

I am no longer just an immigrant, this summer I became a United States Citizen.  I no longer have to fear being deported and separated from my children, but then again; did I ever really have to fear that? Or did my white skin shield me from what it truly means to be an immigrant to this country?   Did it give me the cover of assumptions when I am assumed to be American?  And so I wonder; what assumptions do you make about those that you teach?



My beautiful friend, Jess Lifshitz’ also shared her story, please go read it, it took my breath away.