being me, New Adventure, new year

Embarking on a Year of Yes

December 1st…

Chocolate calendar opened. Candles burning bright. Christmas tree up and presents are starting to appear below it as we think back on the year that was and the look forward to the year that will be. To the year I turn 40, to the 10th year of this blog.

For the past year, I said no a lot, focusing on my family as my husband enters his final year of his education degree – I cannot wait for him to graduate in a year! As my kids settled into new routines, as we worked through another diagnosis for one of the children. No to anything extra that would take my focus away from my family, away from my classroom. And I loved it, mostly, it was wonderful to have time to breathe and time to re-prioritize. But…and there’s always a but. I missed out on great opportunities to learn. On meeting new people. On exploring new facest of my life that I otherwise would have grown from.

So with the blessing of my husband, I am embarking on a year of “yes.” On saying yes to as much as I can manage, on saying yes to new collaborations, to new adventures, to new learning. On saying yes when it feels like a great fit either personally or professionally. On saying “yes” when it feels as if I can help in some way.

While it will not be yes to everything, after all, I am only human and do not want to work all of the time, it will be a lot more yes than no, a lot more let’s try than no thanks. A time to perhaps write another book, to blog when I can, to learn as much as I can.

So this is my invitation to the world; whether it’s for collaboration, working with other teachers or speaking at a conference, whether it is trying a new idea, meeting new people, doing interviews or reflecting through something, whether it’s for friendship or some other thing, send your idea my way. Reach out, send an email, come say hi if our paths cross.

Welcome to the year of yes, I cannot wait to see what happens.

To contact me, please go here https://pernillesripp.com/about/

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest 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

achievement, being me, Reading, Reading Identity

My Daughter Will Not Be Left Behind

Our daughter’s annual IEP meeting is coming up. It’s a big one, she is headed to middle school next year and this is the document that is meant to wrap her in protection. To make sure that she still gets the services that her numerous teachers have offered her through the years as we have watched her grow from barely reading to where she is now. It has been a long process, I have documented it on this blog, and yet the growth has been there because of the people who have seen her for more than a reading score. For more than a reading level. Who have sat with her, countless hours, and asked her to read, to explain, to try, and taught her new ways to look at the pages and find meaning. Who have seen her whole process as a reader as something to pay attention to, and not just her comprehension. Here as a human being. We owe so much to the teachers that have had her in their care. Who, like us, know and believe that the best we can do for kids who are vulnerable in their learning is to put highly qualified professionals in front of them in order to see the child and not just the disability, the lack of, the less than. To keep their dignity and humanity at the center of all of our work.

So imagine our surprise when we were told that in middle school her reading growth would be measured using Lexile. A computer test will test her throughout the year and progress will be reported to us this way. After we made sure we heard correctly, we told them that that would not be acceptable. We know our rights as parents when it comes to an IEP. Her meeting is next week, I know we will come to a solution with her team because that’s how they are.

And yet, what about all those kids who do not have someone fighting for them? Who do have people fighting but no one listens? Whose parents or caregivers are not even invited into those conversations because our assumptions about them have shut the door? Whose parents or caregivers do not know why Lexile is problematic? Why trusting a computer to spit out a test score is problematic? Why basing a child’s reading instruction which inevitably becomes part of their (reading) identity on what a computer test tells you is problematic? Why, once again, removing experts, trained professional, from the equation is problematic? Why reducing a child to a score is problematic?

And it keeps happening to our most vulnerable kids. The kids we worry about and then have no problem putting in front of a computer who will not understand the nuances of their thinking, the way they reached an answer, or even give them enough time to think about it. But sits there, waiting for an algorithm to be complete, in order to supposedly tell us everything we need to know. And we base our instruction on this? And we base our assumptions on this?

We are in the business of human beings and yet how often do we, educators, say yes, or are forced into, instructional components that have nothing to do with valuing children as people. Education says yes to the easy. Education says yes to the packaged. Education says yes to the computer. To the limitations. To the less-than-equal instruction, because it might save us time, it will make us more efficient, it will make us all achieve, but it doesn’t. Because the kids who continue to strive are left behind while we pour our human resources into the kids that can.

My daughter will not be left behind. She will not be left behind a computer screen. Or behind layers of inequity that would rather dehumanize her than provide equity in the deepest way we can; human power, human potential. Because we will fight. But it’s not enough for me as a parent to just fight for her. Because this is a story that plays out loudly in so many places. How else can we mobilize and try to break the cycle of inequity that has always been a part of our system? That has always been based on creating further inequalities and separating the kids who can from the kids who can’t. A system that continues to protect those whose circumstances allow them access to more opportunities, better opportunities, and offer nothing but band-aids to the kids who need so much more than that. And I am supposed to be okay with that.

On Monday, we meet and while I will gladly pull out research and offer alternatives, I also know that it won’t be a hard fight, not for me, because of my privilege as a white, college-educated, middle-class woman. Because of the quality of educators our daughter is surrounded by. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. I shouldn’t be able to game the system because of what I know. I shouldn’t have to raise red flags when those flags should have been raised before the program was even purchased. Before the first child was placed in front of that test. We owe to all our kids to do better. To fight and break the continued systems of oppression who function alive and well within our educational system. Which have created a system that can predict who will succeed before they even show up.

Right now, it’s my daughter who’s on the line, my miracle, but it could just as easily be any other child.They all deserve better.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest 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

being me, Literacy, Reading

We Make the Time

She told me that her goal was to find more time to read. That life had been busy and so reading had gotten lost. That while she liked it, sometimes, there just wasn’t enough time in the day. That while she liked that book, sometimes, she didn’t bring it home because there wouldn’t be time. That while she knew she should read outside of class, sometimes she just didn’t have the time, after all, there was so much else to do. And she wondered how I read so many books, how I found the time, despite it all. And I only had one answer to give…

I don’t find the time. I make the time. I make the time to read the books so I can speak books with the people in my care. I make the time to read outside of my known, outside of the known of my students so I can bring the stories in that we maybe didn’t even know we needed. I make the time because I see the value, I live the value so that perhaps through our shared dedication, through our conviction, our students who have not (yet) found the value will.

We make the time to find the stories that will light up a new understanding. That will entrance. That will captivate. That will spark, even if only for a moment. That have just entered the world and now need to enter ours.

We make the time because if we don’t then we can tell students to read until we are blue in the face and they will know that we don’t really mean it. After all, how can we say we value it if we don’t give the gift to ourselves?

We make the time so we can speak books, develop a shared language wrapped up in our shared experiences, colored by the rollercoaster tracks of the stories we surround ourselves with.

And we question the books we love to make sure that our love is warranted. And we question the books we dislike to question whether our dislike is misplaced. And we keep an open mind so that all stories, because our kids are our stories, feel safe and valued and accepted no matter the differences we all bring into our community. No matter the sameness we bring into our community.

Because as we all know, or at least we should, the days we have lived will never come back. The moments we have spent will never trigger more. No person in human history has ever found more time. We all live by the same 24 hours, the same 86,400 seconds. We all live by the busy, the to-do and the get-done’s. By the push and pull of a life we say we control and yet at times feel such little control over.

But the time we make.

The time we take.

That’s what matters when we share this community with our students. When we wind ourselves up in stories. When we hand a child a book we loved too. When we hand a child a book we cannot wait to read. When we hold up a new story that has somehow become a part of who we are. When we admit that last night, even though I wanted to, I just didn’t read, because last night I chose to give my time to something else, but tonight! Tonight I will read because I want to. Because I choose to.

So we make the time and we urge our students to do the same. Our colleagues to do the same. Our own kids to do the same. So that this life, one that is already rich with story, becomes a life where quiet moments of great imagination are not the exception but instead the reality we choose to live on our own.

So we read so we can grow so we can share so we can learn.

And we tell all of our children, even the ones that do not belong to us, that stories are the threads of humanity and so we must take the time to read them. We must take the time to live broader in the ways that only stories can provide us, because that is the reward we can give ourselves day after day. That is the reward we can give others.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest 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.    

being a teacher, being me, Reading, Reading Identity

An Email Requesting For Our Children To Not Have to Do Reading Logs

Inevitably, every few years, one of our four children brings home some variant of a reading log. Typically it involves logging the minutes that that they have read every night, a signature, perhaps the titles as well and sometimes even the need to write a few lines about the book they read. Often times it is tied in with a reward; pizza, parties, extra recess.

And while it used to anger me that kids (and their adults) were being asked to do this work, I have realized that the request for a reading log is typically not anchored in any kind of malice. Rather, it is sent home with a genuine interest in the reading lives outside of school. With a hope that a child will make the time to read. With the hope that a family will make the time to read because it is now expected as homework. What is the harm in that? So every time we are presented with one, I find myself in a dilemma; do I say anything, ask for my child to be opted out, or do I let the practice ride? After all, there are bigger things to worry about when it comes to the reading experience of children.

And yet, I have seen the damage that the simple requirements of a reading log has done to my own children. When our oldest came home with our first one, she asked for a timer, set it for 20 minutes and when the alarm went off, she resolutely shut her book and told us she was done. No matter that she was in the the middle of a page, no matter that the previous nights she had read for a much longer time. The 20 minutes was all she needed to read. Or our son, who when he did a book logging program that offered up prizes didn’t care so much as to what he was reading or having read aloud, but instead would pick the shortest books in order to log as many titles as possible, so that he could get whatever prize was attached to the amount of books. Or how they make me a liar. I don’t know what my children are reading often, they are surrounded by books and while we talk about them we don’t always. So when I am supposed to sign off on their minutes or write down their titles, I do it gladly, without really knowing if it is true or not. Should I know every minute read and every book read, sure, if I had unlimited time in the day. Instead, we discuss many things in our household, books included, and focus on our time together not just the homework they have to do.

When I ask my students to discuss their negative experiences, reading logs rise to the top. It doesn’t matter if it was only for one year or even for a shorter amount of time, having to account for the minutes read did little to inspire further reading, but instead added yet another to-do to their to-read. So last night I sent out the following tweet, and with that comes this post, because it turns out there were many that also have wondered how to advocate for their own child when faced with a reading log or other potentially harmful measures.

So I have an email that I send when the reading log comes home, and I do hesitate to share it here because I am sure to some it is not enough, and yet, in my years of teaching, I have found that engaging in dialogue with other teachers about their practices from a lens of genuine interest is going to take me so much further than citing research, telling them about the wrongness of their choices, or in any other way trying to prove that I am right and that they made a mistake. No teacher wants to be shamed, and why should they be for this?

So the email I send in its edited form is simple:

Hi,
I saw the reading log sent home today and wanted to ask a few questions, if you don’t mind. 

A big focus for our family is that reading is its own reward so we don’t tie anything to her reading; no minutes, no prizes.  She needs to understand that reading is something you do for personal enjoyment and not outside gifts. In the past, when (insert child’s name here) has seen the time requirement, she right away told me that was all she had to read for.  We don’t want her to think that there should be a maximum time for reading, but instead follow her natural rhythm for reading when she has a great book.

Are you ok with us not filling it out and instead me giving you my word that (insert child’s name here) reads every night for at least 30 minutes?   Is there another way we can show our accountability to reading? We read every day so it won’t be a problem.  

I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, I don’t really know how to put it in other words.  We love you as a teacher and so does our child and want you to feel supported. If you would like to discuss this in any way please let us know.
Best,

Pernille

I could cite the research, I could go on for a long time about the damage of reading logs and offer up other ways to measure reading. Or I can simply ask questions and see what happens. We have never needed to do any of those other steps because often it is not the teacher that mandates the reading log but rather a team, a school, or a district. And that teacher deserves my respect and gratitude for the care they give our children.

Would I though if I had to? Of course. The reading lives of my own children and others is too important to let linger in harmful practices. So here are my other posts on reading logs if you need them, including one that discusses how you can make it an option or other ways to see if kids are reading. For now, I will wait to hear back.

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, being me, new year

A Few Ideas for the New Year That I Am Trying

Every year, a few new ideas surface over summer that I just cannot wait to try. A few ideas that make me even more excited for the kids to come, if that was even possible. These ideas are not tried and tested yet, how can they be since summer still beckons, but I thought I would share them anyway in case they are ideas that maybe others want to explore as well? Or perhaps you want to share some of your own ideas as well? Either way, here are a few things happening in my head and in our classroom, room 203.

Ready-Set-Go conferences. These conferences are nothing new, but I have never done them at the middle school level. The concept is simple; offer up a 15 minute time slot ( or longer if you can) to every family that would like to meet with us before the year starts in order to give us a sneak peek into their child’s hopes and dreams. This is not for us to talk, but for us to listen as we meet the families that will be impacted by their child’s school experience with us. I also am pondering offering up “open office” time at a local coffeeshop for those who do not want to go into the school – thank you, Mindy, for that idea. I cannot wait to see how many are able and want to take this opportunity.

First writing unit is all about writing identity. While I do a lot of work with the kids surrounding reading identity, our exploration into who we are as writers has been piecemeal in the past few years. Not this year, our entire first exploration is an inquiry into who they are as writers, being mindful of privacy and how comfortable they are sharing anything, and picking up their journey wherever they are. This will center around personal essays/memoir and also feature a portfolio rather than one finished product. We will go slow, and hopefully, develop trust for writing instruction to truly be centered around not just the needs of each child but also how they hope to grow. And, it will take the time it takes.

Writing Circles. I was thrilled when I learned about the use of writing circles as a way to develop authentic writing partnerships in the book Comprehension & Collaboration by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey “Smokey” Daniels. Now, I want to implement this great idea into our writing throughout the year. Centered on the same concepts as literature circles, writing circles offers each child a unique opportunity to write with others around the same topic, or in the same format, writing alongside each other offering up critique and feedback throughout the process. This is trust based and so the students will get to select their first writing circles to see how they work for them and then I will help them adjust as we go. I am hoping this will provide students with a more natural collaborative group throughout the year that can help them grow as writers, rather than only having a few opportunities throughout the year to work with others. I will probably write more about this as I go.

Pairing book talks with author videos. Every day for the first month, I do a very short book talk every day in the hope that students will find great books to read. (After the first month, students start to do them as well, but they continue all year). This year, after our quick book talk, I will show a short video of the author speaking about the book, their writing process, or just being interviewed in general. This will serve a few purposes; students will see what the creators look like and hopefully connect with their work on a deeper level, seeing authors speak about their books can generate further excitement, and also, representation matters. When I am searching for author videos, Youtube or TeachingBooks.net are great places to start, I am further reminding myself that we should be highlighting the works of underrepresented authors and creators. With older works, I will search for audio recordings.

Supplies for all. I have always had extra supplies ready for kids, but in the past they had to ask for them because I didn’t really have space for them anywhere. Not this year, after heading to the Dollar Store, I am ready with several hundreds of pencils, erasers, post-its, markers, glue etc and they will be set out for the students to just grab when they need. No more needing to ask the teacher, just get what you need, bring it back if you remember, and then get to work. Most kids won’t need them, some will need them a lot, and others will need them once in a while and I am okay with that.

Group writing. We offer up a free writing prompt every day at the end of class, so that kids get a chance to either work on writing of their choice or do the prompt displayed, this is a way for them to continue to develop their writing and also dive into topics that they want to write about. This year, I am purposefully adding in opportunities to write as a group on Friday’s, I am hoping this practice will strengthen their writing circles as well as they will create together. (Writing will take many forms – acting out, drawing, and other multi-media expressions will also be included).

Incorporating an often overlooked history focus. I used to do a meme a day on our morning slide, which most of the kids found mildly amusing, but realized that the morning slide that greets kids is yet another opportunity to highlight the important work of historical figures that may have been overlooked in some of their lives until now. So every day, along with my welcome, will be a historical fact that abut an event or a person that they may not already know. On Fridays, we are also incorporating a small segment called Overlooked History where I use videos to start a discussion about historical events and people such as the Doctrine of Discovery, The Navajo Code Talkers, Henrietta Lacks, Japanese Internment Camps and many others.

While there are many more ideas being explored this year, these are just a few that I am slowly developing in order for them to feel naturally embedded into our classroom culture. I am hoping that this year, once again, is a year filled with questions, curiosity, and also work that means something beyond “just” reading and writing. I hope that what we do will matter more than just the grades, but time will truly tell.

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, being me, new year

On Posters and Welcome Displays

The post I wrote before this was really long and rambling, so much so that I got sick of writing it and instead decided to just get to the point. So here’s the point…

If you come to our room, and many people do, you will see this poster hang next to the door, in a prominent place where I hope every person sees it. This poster is my heart on display, but it also so much more.

Image result for you are just the child we hoped

It is a promise.

A reminder.

A stern warning when needed.

And not to the kids, no, they barely glance at it, but to myself.

A promise to every child that walks in that day no matter their mood, no matter their temper, that in our space they will have space and I will do my best to value them.

A reminder to live the words I choose to share with the world, even when I am tired, frustrated, out of ideas.

And a stern warning to myself when my actions and reactions go against the very words I say I believe in. To stop. To breathe. To find love.

Because let’s face it, the display is easy to make but hard to live up to. Especially after the first few week’s excitement has worn off, especially once we settle into the every day routines, especially after the dust settles and we realize that we have so much to do and somehow we need to get doing it. Especially once we realize that we are, indeed, only humans with dreams and flaws that sometimes get in the way of success.

And so the poster hangs proudly as a reminder to myself to continue to reflect. To look at my own practice, to hold myself accountable even when others may think I am doing just fine. To use my voice to speak up, to try to make change, when so many inequitable practices still exists within the structures of school. To stick my neck out and fight for the kids who we don’t always fight for, even when I am the problem, even when my choices are the problem.

To remember that I cannot say that every child is welcome if the truth is far from it. That I cannot support the education of all children if the inequitable systems are not questioned, changed, broken. That I cannot pretend to be happy that these are the children that showed up if my pedagogical and psychological decisions don’t reflect that.

And so at the beginning of this brand new school year, with a classroom as ready as it can get for now, with all of these ideas in my head, with all of these hopes and dreams, I say this out loud so the universe knows; how will I live up to the words that I promise? How will you?

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.