being a teacher, being me

Pausing Twitter

Please change my Twitter password…

These were the words I texted my husband on November 18th as I traveled home from NCTE.  Exhausted yet fulfilled, I knew my brain needed a break from the constant stream of learning that Twitter provides me with.  Take a break fully in order to be more present with my family.  Taking a break well-knowing that even taking a break from some of the work that is happening on social media is a privilege in itself.  I get to step away when I am exhausted.  Not everyone gets to do that.

I could have just stopped going on there and yet I needed a further distance than that.  A true break where I did not get to check in, where I didn’t get to quickly sink back in, slowly letting the consumption of Twitter pull me back in.  Because that’s what has happened in the past.  Call it fear of missing out, of feeling inadequate, of being excited to share, whatever you call it, the reality was; when I was on there, I was affected and I needed a break.

At first, I missed it.  It was weird not just jumping on there to check in.  Weird to not see all of the conversations unfolding.  Watch the news break.  Hard to not share the work we were doing in our classroom through a quick tweet or question.

But after the missing came the questions; am I still doing enough to change the world of education if I am not on Twitter?  Am I still doing my part whatever that part is?  Am I less effective as an educator if I am not connected to those who not only will inspire me, but also challenge me?

I am not sure, I am still pondering that…

But what I do know if this…  Since then I have checked Twitter four times and every single time, I have felt my heart rate increase, my stomach clench, my brain get filled with to-do’s that weren’t to-do’s a few moments ago.  I have noticed that within the excitement of seeing the conversations happening, the sharing, the hard truths being pushed out, I also felt lost.  I felt overwhelmed.  I felt like I was not doing enough, or maybe I was trying to do too much.  That perhaps my voice could add to the ongoing conversations or perhaps it could hinder others from joining in.

So today, I asked my husband to once again change my password.  To allow me to continue to step away from “Twitter Pernille.”  Not because I don’t want to engage, but because I want to engage in other spaces.  Because I want to preserve the energy I have to affect change in my own classroom, my own school, my own district.  Because my kids deserve more of me, both my own four, but also the 76 I get to call mine this year.  Because I want to focus on reflecting, because I want to focus on learning.  I don’t want to focus on what I need to produce.  I want to listen to others whose work will help me become a better educator, a better human being.  And right now, Twitter isn’t doing that for me.  And that’s ok.

So for now, I will be on here.  I will be in my classroom fully present.  I will try to find a better balance between sharing and staying quiet.  I will be in the Global Read Aloud community, the Passionate Readers community.  I will be actually reading more of the fantastic things written by others whose work inspires me to be more than I am.  I will be diving back into research.  I will be looking at my own practices in order to grow.  I will be by my fireplace reading a book.  I will be at my dinner table laughing with my kids.  I will be just Pernille, not Pernille that has a lot to say and doesn’t always know when to be quiet.  If you see me on there, it is probably a cross-posting from Instagram or a very rare moment indeed.  But until then, take care of yourself.  I am trying to take care of me.

 

 

being a student, being a teacher, being me, writing

With Permission

We are about to write in class.  15 minutes of free write await.  I have a prompt from the amazing The Creativity Project, I am ready with my own pencil, my notebook, the document camera.  And yet…the hesitation from students is almost palpable.  So many of them already feeling defeated.  Feeling like this will be hard.  Asking if they can read instead of write.  Despite all of their years of great teaching, of great moments with writing, so many of our kids still feel like writing is something they will never like, nor is it something they will ever master.

On our wall hangs our writing rights poster, the rights we created as a writing community at the beginning of the year.  The rights that surround us as we play with writing, as we develop our writing voice.  And yet, something is woefully missing from it.

So I add it quickly.

“You have the right to write “bad” writing.”

And I tell my students this…writing doesn’t have to be great.  Writing doesn’t even have to be good.  You have the right to write bad stories, to write poems that you never want to share.  To write a few sentences that are so cringy that you can’t believe you came up with them.  You have the right to start, to stop, to think, to write whatever pops into your mind.  Not because it is any good but because you are simply writing.

And then I share the beginning of a story I wrote that morning with my first-hour class.  A story that I knew was terrible as I wrote it, filled with cliches, overused plot points and weird sentences, but U was tired and distracted and so that was all I could think of.  I read it aloud, laughing as I go.  At first, I can see the skeptical looks – this isn’t that bad, Mrs. Ripp – but when they get to the genie in the bottle part, they are laughing too.  As I finish, I shut my notebook and declare that I will never continue that story but at least I wrote.

One child yells, “But you write books, Mrs. Ripp, how can you write bad stories?”

“My book took me a year to write..” I answer honestly because it’s true, my books take a long time because I wrote a lot of stuff that never gets published.

We turn back to the prompt.  I remind them to sink into their writing, to simply write something, using the prompt or not, and off they go.  Every single child writing something.  Every child trying.  Not because they are all trying to write something powerful but because they are reminded once again that writing doesn’t always have to be everything we love about writing.  Something you just have to write badly and be okay with that.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my 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, writing

As We Write…

All day, writing has been calling to me.  The magic of the words unfolding, my thoughts becoming clearer, my ideas set to page, taking a life of their own.  Ideas abound, swirling until I feel unsettled, craving the peace that inevitably arrives after the writing has happened.  A picture book?  A new book for educators?  A blog post?  A poem as I prepare to advise our slam poetry club starting tomorrow (wish me luck)?  The urge to write is there even if the ideas are not fully formed, fully present, but the keys call my name as I sit in front of the fire, reflecting on today.

I wonder how many of our students have that urge?  How many are called to write as they process the world around them?  Search for their unique way to sift through the bombardment of images and thoughts that constantly surround us?  How many feel the call of a pen, a journal, a keyboard, as a way to unpack and digest?  As a way to create something that didn’t exist until they decided to create it?

I have said it before, but it bears repeating; in our eagerness to make sure that students can write well, are we extinguishing their very urge to write?  To tell stories?  To reflect?  To process somehow?

When we ask our students who they are as writers, their answers lack little surprise; I am a writer who writes because I have to.  I am not a writer.  I hate writing.  I am a writer who writes in school, that’s it.

“How many sentences do I need, Mrs. Ripp?”

“How long should it be?”

“I don’t know what to write…”

Not let me write.

Not can we write?

But why do we have to write?  I will never use writing when I am… older…in my job…when I leave school.  Fill in the sentence however you see fit.

So for the next four weeks, we will play with writing.  We will form stories, journals, poems, plays, comics, whatever strikes our fancy as we take away the assessment.  As we make a space every day to simply write.  As we make a space every day to share what we wrote if we want to.  As we make room for the conversations that need to surround the writing and the writers.  As we strip away the to-do’s and search for the to-be’s.

As we discover perhaps not just who we are as writers, but more so who we want to be.  As we search and perhaps even find a place for writing somewhere in our busy lives so that perhaps, just perhaps, their answers will not always be, “do we have to write?” but instead can be “Do we have to stop?”

If you like what you read here, consider reading my 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

One Small Thing

Our house is a mess.  In between coming home from being away, the rush of two school days, the joy of Thanksgiving and now the Christmas decorations, it seems that on every surface, in every corner, there is something out of place.  A job that calls for my attention, urging me to pick up, clean up, fix, do.  It is overwhelming to simply wander, now knowing where to start.

My house reminds me so much of our work as teachers.  Everywhere we see projects half-finished, ideas calling out for us to work on them, conversations that should be had, and, indeed, children who seem to have a long way to go.  Children who we are not quite sure how we will ever get there, wherever there may be.  Children who need us in ways that we have not really discovered fully yet.  Children whose lives will be shaped by the decisions we make, whether we intend them to or not.

It is overwhelming at times, all-consuming at times, urgent at times.  Where do we start?  Where do we go?

Too often we are big idea people as teachers, and yet within this innate quality to juggle many different components at the same time also lies a dangerous mindset; the idea that we must think of all things at the same time.  The idea that if we do not constantly focus on the whole then we will never reach our destination.  It is a paralyzing mindset, one that may spur us into action at first, but then burn us out.

Yet, just like our houses, our lives whose unfinished projects call our names, we have a choice to make.  Do we sit back, looking at all of the projects calling to us, or do we simply go from one thing to the next?  Do we have an overall goal in mind, but then focus in on the one small thing we can do right now?  The child we can sit with?  The lesson we can plan for tomorrow?  The book we can read tonight?  The idea we can try right now?  The change we can when it comes to the inherent wrongs we are constantly faced with in this world?

So I propose a simple reminder today; focus on the next small thing and once that is accomplished then focus on the next small thing.  Be aware of all of the needs, but focus in on one.  Don’t force yourself into this perpetual state of overwhelmedness that seems to envelop us all as teachers, as adults.

Start small with each child focus on what you will try next right now.  The next few days.    Change a text.  Change an approach.  Try something new.  But do it one at a time.  And then pay attention to the small changes.  To the small moments that indicate successes that we so often miss when we keep our eye on the end of the year.  The growth is happening, I promise, we just have to take a moment to see it.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my 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

The Great Teacher Myth

I have spent the last few hours quietly wandering around NCTE, trying to listen more than talk, processing, pondering, and also trying to reflect on the work that lies ahead when I return to room 235d this Monday.  When the reality of what it means to teach comes back versus this dream world where we sit and discuss how we can change what we do to make it work for all kids.  To work for all adults.

And yet, the learning doesn’t have to end when we return to our school.  The conversation doesn’t have to end.  Only if we make it.  Because in our school, every day, we are surrounded by people who have ideas.  By people whose voices may not have been heard, yet.  People whose ideas have not grown past their own classroom doors.  And yet, how many of us will go back and try to engage in the same professional conversations that we engage in when we leave our schools?  How many of us would rather go to a professional development day than spend a day immersed with our colleagues, trying to grapple with the weight of the very reality we teach withing?  How many of us, myself included, would rather idolize someone who doesn’t teach with us because they seemingly have it all figured out and if we only listen to them some more we will, surely, finally be a great teacher?

It’s a lose-lose situation and an unsustainable one at that.  When we assume that “those teachers,”  that “those experts” have it all figured out, we only see ourselves as less than.  As someone who perhaps doesn’t have ideas to share.  As someone who there isn’t space for in the conversation.  As someone who will never be good enough, let alone a great teacher.  And this simply isn’t true.  Our schools are brimming with people, and yes, kids are people, who have so much to share if we only start to realize the wisdom that surrounds us.

Because I can tell you this; as someone who has been given a lot of space, who has had labels, both positive and negative, attached to her very being; I am nothing special.  And I don’t mean it as a false sense of denigration.  As a way to tear myself down so that others can lay on the accolades.  I am simply a teacher who chose to reflect out loud.  Who chose to question her own practices because she faced the very harsh reality that if she continued on the path that she was on, she would harm children.  Who screws up oftentimes privately, sometimes publicly, who is lucky enough to have people who care enough (or are angry enough) to point it out and tell me I can do better (thank you!).  And so are you.

So it’s on all of us.  If we don’t give space.  If we don’t strike up conversations.  If we don’t reach out and ask for help from the very people we work with.  If we don’t share more of our mistakes as some of us are handed pedestals to stand on, then we are doing a disservice to those who come to us or guidance, who trust us with their time, who call us colleagues and mentors.

So find your worth, share your story, trust me when I say; we are all just trying to figure this out.  Sometimes we do great, sometimes we don’t, but we are all in this together.

 

 

 

being a teacher, being me

On Death Threats and the Life I Lead…

Black,  Free Image

Note:  There is offensive language in this post, not from me, but I wanted to warn you before you read it.

I was cooking dinner today when my phone went off.  Three new emails waited for me.  In between cooking dinner, catching up with my husband, and watching the kids have a water fight, I checked my email because I was waiting for an important one.

Two were comments on my blog, nothing unusual in that until I read them.  The first one said

6129818614366208.png

The next one said

4732758648422400.png

I showed my husband, Brandon, and tried to shrug it off.  After all, these aren’t the first vile comments I have received and they probably won’t be the last but he stopped me.  “What do you mean you have gotten comments like this before?  You haven’t told me that?!”

I guess in this day and age you just get used to it.  I see it happen all of the time, especially to women, and even more to women of color.  It seems to the price you pay to be public in a way, to being online.  Nestled in between all of the learning, the connections, and the book recommendations is your daily slice of hatred.   You have people who praise you, people who disagree with you, some in angry ways.  And then you have death threats against your family and yourself.

I blocked the commenter, deleted the comments after taking screenshots of everything. And yet, Brandon wouldn’t let it go.  “You should report it, just in case…” Sure it’s probably nothing, but still…And it was that “Just in case…” that made me do that very thing.

Because sure it is probably some kid somewhere having some fun.

Because sure it is probably some troll not caring who they wrote to or what they really said.

Because sure it is probably someone who just wanted to get a reaction and saw an easy way to do so.

But still, that small little thought is there; what if it’s not?

What if it’s not…

What if someone does want to hurt my children or me and I did nothing but shrug it off?

So I write this post to say it’s not okay.

It’s not okay for us to be a society where threats towards us and our families are so commonplace that we barely register when they happen.

Where language like what was posted to me is deleted rather than reported.

Where threats and the use of vulgar language are so common that we even hear people in power use them as if it is no big deal.

Where trolls and kids and whoever wants to hide behind their computers get to mess up your sense of security because who really cares how others feel, they were just joking anyway…

And because it happens so much we don’t even do anything about it.

It is a big deal.  And we have to remember that…

When kids say things in our classrooms that are not okay.

When people leave comments online that are not okay.

When those in power say things that are not okay.

We have to speak up, reclaim the conversations, and shift the power back.

So tonight, after I hung up with the police and they told me I did the right thing, while I didn’t feel much safer, I did feel right.  Like somehow me tracking that ISP.  Me documenting.  My writing and sharing let me reclaim a little piece of the power that someone tried to take away from me.  Because guess what?  I’m not done writing.