aha moment, answers, assumptions, balance, being a teacher, believe, change, education, education reform, educators, elementary, hopes, inspiration, invest, school staff, talented, teachers, teaching

Bring Out the Experts

The education community loves experts. Experts are flown in, bussed in, and wined and dined. If you are an expert on something chances are there is a school that wants to pay you for sharing your thoughts. In fact, you don’t even have to claim to be an expert, others will often bestow that title upon you as a favor. After all, how else will your expense be excused? So I wonder, how does one become an expert, after all, aren’t we all just humble learners?

The word expert is tinged with weight. To be an expert you must be not just knowledgable, but also an authority. Yet who decides when one is an authority? Does it need a book deal? A huge following? Or someone else who is an expert to look at you kindly? Who decides who the experts are?

We are quick to bring in outside experts whenever there is a need but often I wonder who could we have turned to on-site? Who at this school could already have shared that same information at a fraction of the price? Who at this school could have had the opportunity to teach others, much as we teach our students every day. I consider myself lucky being surrounded by experts every day. I find myself among some incredible educators that work hard to bring their expertise into the classrooms to benefit the students. Isn’t it time for all of us to recognize the experts among us?

I dare to propose that we are all experts. Although not world known, or even known outside of our small circles, yet we are knowledgable of something particular, something that we can claim authority on. And so consider this; at school you are indeed surrounded by experts. Whether they are experts at teaching the civil war, grammar, haikus or how to dribble, they have deep intimate knowledge that they can pass on to others. So share your expertise with others, go ahead open up and discuss what you know you are good at. We have to get better at celebrating each others knowledge, each others succeses, simply each other. We are all experts, how will you foster expertise?

being a teacher, believe, making a difference

How Do You Know You Made a Difference?

How do you know you made a difference? Is it the test scores? The grades? The parent approval? Or your principal giving you a thumbs up? Is it the highlights? The low moments? The tears? Or the smiles? Maybe it’s the hugs? Or the excitement? The introductions and the goodbyes?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is the people. The kids, the conversations, the handwritten cards. Your self-satisfaction from knowing you tried your hardest. The tiredness that comes from focusing on something you know is important. Perhaps it is the kind words sent your way, a friendly gesture, or a friendly hello. Maybe a plea for help or an offer of assistance shows you made a difference. Maybe someone letting you try that new thing or even that old tried and true thing. Maybe somebody simply believing in you or letting you try again after you failed. Maybe that means you made a difference. Or maybe, just maybe, believing you are making a difference is all that it takes to make it come true. Maybe if you believe in yourself enough you will know that it matter, that it all counts, and that the kids are noticing. Maybe then you will know you are making a diffence.

being a teacher, believe, inspiration, self, students

Adding Up the Weight of Words

I used to think I was a good dancer. Not the “So You Think You Can Dance” kind but not horribly ungifted either. I could shake it without care, busting a move with the best of them, and carefree live my life. I used to think I could dance until I met my husband. Brandon is a natural, he moves, he shakes, he glides. Why he knows how to twirl around a dance floor I do not know, but next to him, I acquired two huge left feet.

At first, we laughed about how I was clumsy. Being tall, skinny, and with two large feet didn’t help me either. And yet, as we laughed and joked about it, I really did get worse at dancing. For every negative comment I started to believe a little more that perhaps, just perhaps, there was something to it. Perhaps I really was bad at dancing, perhaps those jokes and comments were truth and not just fun to be had. Now, I barely ever dance, mostly just around my house with my daughter, but I am no longer the first one on the floor and I definitely always looking around seeing if anyone notices just how uncoordinated I am.

I think of my students, of the little comments we make throughout our day. Of snappy lines other students make, often in jest, but oft repeated. I wonder how many of those lines, those comments, dig themselves in and burrow down deep until they latch themselves into their psyche rendering them useless at something. How often do they start out laughing along until they realize that it is just not that funny?

We must always carry a sense of humor about ourselves, but when does that humor become destructive rather than funny?

So those little words, those small actions, add up to more than we can ever know. And not just the negative ones, but the positive ones as well. How about laughing about how talented someone is rather than how inadequate? Perhaps if I had joked about how incredible of a dancer I was, I would believe it now. I know that words have power, but often I forget about the small words and how much power they gain when I add them up. It is time for me to give weight to the positive ones.

being a teacher, believe, inspiration, promises, students

My New Year’s Promises

I promise to be the teacher I say I am.  I promise to laugh louder, scowl less, and wonder more.  To dream, to dance, and to sing as loud as I can.

I promise to inspire you, to be a role model whenever it is humanly possible, and to switch out my swear words.

I promise to read, reflect, and ponder.  I promise to be strong yet kind, unwavering yet changing, and always always questioning.  I promise that I will balance the work, the life, and the love.  I promise to be present, right here, now, listening.  

I promise to ask questions, not judge, and save up compliments.  I promise to not make so many promises that they become another weight to carry.  I promise to be me, warts and all, and to accept you, glorious faults and flaws.

I promise to push myself, to reach for new heights and to believe, believe, believe.

But most importantly, I promise to be the mother my daughter should have, the teacher my students deserve, and the wife that my husband makes me want to be.  What do you promise?

aha moment, being a teacher, believe, classroom expectations, communication, get out of the way, honesty, hopes, inhibitions, inspiration, kids, learning

When Learning Fails – We Blame the Students

Being a 3rd year teacher in my district means writing a PDP or Professional Development Plan, in which we are to continually reflect upon our learning and our focus for our professional development.  I am therefore constantly reflecting with other students both face to face and through the internet on that most important question of all; why did I become a teacher? Well, I became a teacher because I believe in children and in their potential.

 Over the summer, I went through one of the most transformative periods of my life, developing a PLN and going through my chosen curriculum asking myself, “Why, why, why?” Why do I choose to teach the things I teach, besides the obvious state and district standards? Why is it that I force students to do book reports when I find them boring and unproductive? Why do I do packet work when it does not ensure learning? Why do I talk all the time, is it for control, for learning or because I am that in love with myself? Why do I fail 4th grade students? Why do I assign at least 40 minutes a homework a night? All of these were massive questions that were daunting and breathtakingly hard to be honest about, but I did it, I survived and for that I am a better teacher.

I realized over the summer that when teachers stop to question themselves is when the curriculum becomes stagnant. I know that we all get in our comfort zones and we feel that something works, so it becomes hard to give it up. But how many times have we stood in a situation where a particular cherished lesson or approach did not work and we end up blaming the students, rather than the teaching method? I had to realize that if something was not a success than I was to blame, not the make up of the students, or the particular day of the week, just me and my delivery. I therefore also knew that if I was going to rethink my teaching process than I had to fully believe and be passionate about what I teach. So this year my classroom is all about the students, or as I like to call it; it is the student-centered room. You will still find me teaching the students some of the time, but you are also more than likely going to find me walking around or sitting down and discussing curriculum. The students are learning to take control of the classroom, however, they are frightened at times, not quite sure what they are doing and yet I urge them to speak, to think, and to listen to one another. This system is not perfect, it is work in progress, but as my students grow, so do I.

So as I continue my conversations with fellow teachers, and we constantly re-evaluate ourselves, often being our own harshest critics, I am honored when others feel secure enough to tell me of the overwhelmedness or exhaustion.  I know that I have been in that same place but that this year I won’t be. Sure there may be things that do not work out, and learning that does not quite happen as well as I would like it. However, when I glance around my room and see the confidence level of my students and also the excitement that is building in regard to our learning, I know that I am to something. I am back and I am staying.

being a teacher, believe, life choices, Passion, personality, teachers, teaching

They Call Me…

They call me Mrs. Ripp and I look around for my mother-in-law, oh wait, that’s me now

They call me mom and I smile a little and then laugh with them when they apologize

They call me “hey you” when they are in a hurry

Or “dude…” when they are steaming from their recess kickball game

They call me a force, whether good or bad, but always believing

They call me honest, to your face and very, very direct

They call me early-riser because I love coming to my classroom

They call me a believer because that is what I do

They call me passionate

They call me a difference maker

They call me a changer

Because I am a teacher