The February UnSlump Yourself Challenge

Aah February; a month of love, of reading, of waiting for spring if you in the Northern Hemisphere.  While February may  be the shortest month of the year sometimes in teaching it can feel like the longest of them all.  While I love this month for the work I can do with my students, I find that sometimes the dark nights and cold Wisconsin winters can be positively slump inducing.  Rather than dread the slump, why not do something pro-active?

So this year I plan on doing my very own unslumping challenge and you are more than welcome to join me.  Every day for the month of February, I plan on doing something to either reinvigorate myself or make a difference to others.  It will not cost me much money but will hopefully instead lead to a deeper level of gratitude for the incredible job I have, the amazing students I get to teach, and the wonderful people in my life.

Here is what I plan on doing – to see the document, go here 

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I will be introducing this in the Passionate Learners book club as well if you would like to have a community to unslump yourself with.  To join, go here.  And remember; we choose how we feel about our days, even when we feel the influence of others. Here’s to an amazing February.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  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.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   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 Portals We Create – A Guest Post for The Nerdy Book Club

I have loved The Nerdy Book Club for many years.  How can you not?  To find a community online of such amazing people is not something that happens often.  So I am honored to share part of the guest post that they featured yesterday, a day that marked marches all over the world standing up for our rights.   Please make sure you go to the site to see the rest, subscribe to the blog (it gets delivered right in my mailbox) and then sign up to be a guest blogger.  They are always looking for stories…

I don’t remember the first time someone told me I should be fired as a teacher in response to work my students had done.  I know it was several years ago.  I remember the fear though, how it felt like a bucket of water was thrown in my face.  Here I thought we were doing good work, and yet others vehemently disagreed.  I was not fit to be a teacher, couldn’t my district see that?

I do remember the most recent time I was told I should be fired.  The internet has a way of bringing hate into our lives, whether we ask for it or not.  It was in response to a video that Microsoft had produced surrounding an exploration we had done as a class.  For several weeks we had investigated the refugee crisis all in an attempt to come up with our own opinion on what the role of the United States should be in it if any.  My 7th graders had dug in with gusto, using the skills that we incorporate on a regular basis to disseminate the information they were uncovering.  They used all of those skills we teach our students when we ask them to read closely, to questions, to clarify, and to create opinions all of their own.  Microsoft created a short two minute video about our work and highlighted how we had reached out to a refugee, an amazing woman named Rusul Alrubail, who is an Iranian refugee living in Canada and changing the world herself.  She had graciously shared her story with us via Skype, the students had had so many questions.  She happens to be Muslim, as are many of the refugees from Syria, a fact that many commenters could not get past.

As the video was posted I saw the comments roll in.  Some were grateful to the learning opportunity my students had had, but some were not.  I was an example of everything that is wrong with our society.  I was indoctrinating.  I should be fired.  How dare I expose them to Islam?  I felt fear for the first time in a long time; even though the logical part of me knew I had done nothing wrong, but what if “they” came to my school?  What if “they” came to my house?  When people hate they do it to hurt, they do it to make others afraid, and for a brief moment in time, they succeeded.  I was afraid for my job, for my family, for myself.  But then I scrolled further down and a comment caught my eye.  It was from one of my students telling someone that they had no idea what they were talking about.  That they would know if they were in our classroom that I do not tell my students what to think, but instead just ask them to think, to have an opinion, to figure out the world because this is the world they will inherit.  In that moment, I stopped being afraid, because if my 7th grader could have that courage.  If my 7th grader could find the words to push back.  If my 7th grader felt that they had the right to educate, then I certainly did too.

To read the rest of the post, go here

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  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.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Three Keys to Creating Successful Reading Experiences

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It’s January.  In the perfect world all of my students would love reading by now.  All of my students would bring their self-chosen book to class, eager to dive in, begging for more reading time.  In a perfect world, every child would have a goal they were working toward, every child would be eager to book talk their books, to browse our library, to read outside of class.  I don’t teach in the perfect world, I don’t think anyone does.

Instead, by now here in January, I have kids that still show up with no books.  That still tell me they hate reading.  That still would rather flip the pages and not actually read anything.  I still have kids who don’t read outside of class, who have no goals, who would rather do everything they can to avoid having a reading check in with me.  Not a lot, the numbers have dwindled, but they are still there, they are still prominent, and I still lose sleep over how to help them have a better relationship with reading (or writing, or speaking, or English, or even just school…)

We all have these kids in our classrooms, in our learning communities.  These kids that seem to defy the odds of every well-meaning intention we may have.  Who do not fall under our spell or the spell of a great book.  Who actively resists not so much because they want to but because they feel they have to.  And so our initial thoughts are often to tighten the reins.  To tell them which book to read.  To hand them a reading log so that you can see when don’t read.  To tie in rewards to motivate or even consequences to punish.  We create lesson plans with more structure, less choice, less freedom overall thinking that if we just force them into a reading experience, perhaps then it will click for them.

We must fight our urges when it comes to the regimented reading experiences.  What these kids need is usually not less freedom, more force.  What these kids need is not more to do when it comes to their reading.  What these kids need is not the carefully crafted worksheet packet with its myriad of questions that will finally make them read the book.

What they need is patience.  Repetition.  Perseverance.  I am not in a fight with these kids.  I am not here to punish them into reading.  I am not here to reward them into reading either.  I am here to be the one that doesn’t give up, even if they have themselves.  I am here to be the one that continues to put a pile of books in front of them and say “Try these…”  I am the one that will repeat myself every day when I say, ‘Read…” and then walk away.  Who will crouch down next to them and ask them how they feel and listen to their words, even if I have heard them a million times before.

We look to external systems and plans because they entice us with their short-term promises.  We fall under the spell of programs, of removing choice from those who have not earned it, in an effort to get these kids there faster.  Yet, what I have learned from my students is that every one is on a different path.  That every child is on the journey  and while their pace may be excruciatingly slow, they are still moving forward.

So our classroom is not perfect, and neither am I.  I cannot force my students to read but I can create an ongoing opportunity where they might want to.  And so that is what I will do, every day, up until the last day, hoping to reach every single one, even if I have not reached them yet.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.

A Story of A Child that Can

For the past three years, on December 19th, I have written about the miracle that is our youngest daughter, Augustine.  About her much too soon arrival.  About the fear.  The uncertainty.  The guilt…

I have written about my hope for others to see how a child’s start in life may still haunt them many years later when they show up in our classrooms.  I have written about how the very least we can do is love them when they come.  How we can prepare all we want and yet never be fully ready.

Augustine’s much too soon arrival has shaped our lives in many ways, and yet…last night when I came home from school I did not see a baby that arrived too early.  I did not see a 4 pound miracle.  I did not see a child wrapped up in long nights and frightening futures.  In machines and medical personel.  I saw an almost three year old showing me her pig, Pua.  I saw an almost three year old that wanted to watch that monster show.  I saw an almost three year old that kept her siblings awake by making cat noises.

She will always be the baby that came too soon, but she no longer is just that child.  She is no longer just a preemie, she is my willful, loud daughter, making her own place in the world.  She is the child that crawled at 5 months, who walked at 9 months.  She is the child that is perfectly average.  A child that defies the odds.  Who didn’t wait for someone to tell her that she should do what her siblings were doing but simply ran after them and did. And with every naughty thing she tries not to get caught doing, she is rewriting how we see her.

How often do our students show up with haunted pasts?  With files that follow?  With reputations and beginnings that yes, have shaped who they once were, but now no longer defines them?  How often do our students come to us with assumptions laced around them so tight we can hardly see past them even though that child is no longer the child that presents itself.  How often do we acknowledge the past, even if the past is just yesterday, but then purposefully readjust our focus to see the child that stands before us now?

Augustine was the child that came too soon, but she is now the child of can’s.  The child of will’s.  The child of average.  No one who meets her now will ever guess her tumultuous beginning, and I am glad. How many of our students are trying to escape a past that no longer is them, that no longer is all they are?

I became the mother of a premature baby 3 years ago, but I am now the mother of an almost three year old.  A little girl that didn’t care what the doctors said.  A little girl that from the moment she could, she did.  She asks to be seen for who she is now, not what she was before.  The least I can do is adjust my vision.

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I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.

Look for the One

There is always one moment of good, our job is to find it. @pernilleripp

This year has been a year of amazing reflection opportunities for me.  This year has brought these incredibly resilient and demanding (in all of the best ways) students into my life.  There have been glorious days and then there have been those days where I feel like the worst kind of teacher.  Where I feel like all of my best laid plans, all of my great intentions, all of the dreams that I carefully crafted meant nothing, did nothing and I stand there feeling like the worst kind of teacher.  I am not alone.  As speak to my fellow educators, we all have those days, we all have those long nights where we reflect on what we did wrong and how we can get better.  So I write this to myself, to all of us, for the days where I feels like nothing went right.   I write this a reminder, as a message on the days where I forget.  On those days where we all forget.

Dear you,

I am so sorry that today seemed like one of those days where there was a perfect storm.  Where we seemed stretched too thin and it is almost as if kids picked up on it and every single thing that could go wrong, went wrong in the worst of ways.  As if every dormant issue rose up and came alive to create one glorious, awful day.  Where we feel like a bad day kind of teacher and we are not sure just what to do.

So know this, as you lick your wounds and go home downtrodden; it is one day.  One day of awful.  One day of not so great among many days of great.  Know this; that what separates the good from the bad is that you choose to go home and not blame the children, but instead look at what you could have done better.  Asking; how can I make it better and telling yourself that tomorrow will be a better day.

And on those days, when that feeling of awful settles into your stomach, ready to overshadow your night, then you must look for the one moment.  The one moment where what you did mattered.  The one moment where what you did today was not a complete loss for that one kid.  Because there is always one kid.  Even when everything else burns around us and our walls come down and we feel like the biggest fraud in the classroom, and we feel like we are a part of the problem and not the solution.  There is one kid who had a good moment today, and so your job is now to find that one good thing.   To find that one good thing so that you will remember that even the best teachers have bad days.  That you are better than you think you are.  And that having a bad day is just that; a human being having a bad day, and because you had a bad day does not make you a bad teacher, nor does it mean that tomorrow will be bad.

So look for the one.

Look for the one thing that you forgot, that you missed as you look back on the day.  Hold on to that one as you think of the bad and don’t beat yourself up too much.  We were never promised it would be easy but only that it would be worth it.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.

 

We Have Already Grown

I realized today as my students sat quietly reading that if a stranger were to walk into our classroom, it would all look so effortless.  As if the kids had always quietly settled in with their books and this hush had fallen over us.  As if the kids had always read when I asked them to.  As if they had always known just what to do and when to do so.  Yet, that is not the true story.  Ask any teacher and they will tell you; creating a space for independent reading time is not easy, nor does it just happen.  It is hard work.  It takes effort.  It takes planning, and boy, does it take a lot of patience.  It takes great books.  It takes dedication.  And it takes a community, takes trust, takes respect, and takes conversations.

We build our communities in small pieces.  We plant the seeds on the very first day when we welcome our new kids into our lives and into our classrooms.  When we say this is your room, these are your books, and we mean it.

We build it when we ask them to pick up the books.  To read a few pages.  To talk to one another and to share their truths.  We build it when we accept their truths about why reading does not matter and promise that we will try to help them change their minds.
Every day as we plan our lessons and build our communities, we give them the reading pieces to place into the puzzle of their identities and hope they will see the value.  And we do it one day at a time.  One conversation at a time.  One book at a time.

It may be almost December, we have so much time still left, and yet I cannot help but marvel at how far so many have come.  How many actually will read, not because I ask them to but because it is their habit.  How many of them will casually abandon a book because they know they can find a better one.  How many of them will recommend a book because they want to,  because they need to share it, because someone else deserves to have the same experience with this book that they just had.

This is work.  This is love.  This is what we do.  And we do it in such small steps that sometimes we forget to look back at just how far we have come.  So as I sit tonight, exhausted, thinking back to all of the moments we shared today, I also realize that while we are not all there yet, we have come a long way.  We have already grown.  We have become better readers, even if if for a second I may have forgotten that.

 

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out January, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.