being a teacher, communication, end of year, feedback, hopes, parents, trust

Why You Should Ask For Parent Feedback Even When You Are Afraid of the Answers

I just hit “Send” and for a moment my hand hovered over the “undo” button.  Perhaps I didn’t need to ask these questions, perhaps this year I would skip the annual end of year parent survey.  I don’t know why after 7 years of teaching, asking for feedback is still so excruciatingly tough.  Not from the kids, that I ask for every single day, but from the adults, the parents/guardians, the ones at home that see the effects of the teaching I do every single day.

For a few weeks I have wondered if I even wanted to send it this year.  If anything good would come from it, or if my self-esteem could handle it?  This was my first year teaching 7th grade and in so many ways I have felt like a brand new teacher with all of the flaws, the mishaps, the bad teaching that comes along with the first year title.  So now as the end of the year is in sight, I was compelled to just forget all about the feedback, pretend I don’t want to know, pretend to not care.

But that’s not the truth.  Because I do care.  Sometimes probably too much.  I know that I have screwed up.  I know that I could have been better at reaching every kid and teaching them what they needed.  I know I have failed some times, and I know some of my feedback will say that.  Some will probably crack my facade and make me feel pretty terrible.

And yet, if I don’t ask, I can’t grow.

So I let it go, and I now I wait, hoping for the best.  I hope there are some that will see how hard I tried to reach every kid.  I hope there are some that will see the thought, effort, and diligence that went into this year.  But I also hope there are some that will take a moment to give me advice, to tell me how I can grow.  Because I know I need to, and that is the bottom-line.  This is not about me, it is about the students.  And while I may have an idea of what I need to work on (and boy, do I ever), there is nothing like the perspective of a parent/guardian to show you things you never even thought of.  If we truly mean that we are in this for the kids, then we have to include those at home.  We have to ask the tough questions, even if the answers may sting.

If you would like to see my parent survey this year, here you are.  Student surveys will be done in class next week.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join ourPassionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, being me, communication, contest

We Are Only Human, Why Do We Forget That?

Being a blogger, a teacher, a person who exposes themselves to the world through their words and actions, our personalities sometimes get distorted.  We get boxed in, labeled, or categorized in some way, all so that others can get a better handle on who we are and what we stand for.

Strangers decide whether they like us or not on small acts, on assumptions that they create, on things we say, write, do and then spread that like or dislike to others, forever judging us based on perhaps one blog post, one idea of what we are, or some distorted image.  And sometimes others forget that we are humans too.  Parents send angry emails based on an assumption, anonymous commenters attack rather than discuss, and sometimes people you consider to be part of your support network drop you like you were yesterday’s news.  And it hurts, and our blogging, or our teaching interferes with the emotions we bring home and into our homes.  Our personal relationships suffer because of what happens outside of us, outside of our own realm of control, and we wonder why we put ourselves out there?

This school year, I was a top 10 finalist in a contest for good teachers.  While I had nothing to do with my own nomination, I used it as a way to show that having a non-traditional classroom in a public school setting was indeed possible.  And yet, no matter how noble my intentions,  the contest proved to be detrimental to me as an educator and as a person.  I said yes to continue on in the contest because if I won, I could get $10,000 and use it for something at my school; a new gym floor, working computers, more books.  And that was something bigger than me.  I knew there would be backlash but the magnitude of it still astounded me.  People who I thought would understand, perhaps not support, but understand, berated and tore me to shreds.  Educators whom I admire in my PLN decided that they would no longer follow me or have conversations with me, teachers whom I admire thought I did it as a way to show off, to elevate myself above the rest.  And it hurt.  And it confounded.  And even though you try not to take it personal, you do, because it is.  And even though you try to pick up the pieces, they just never fit back together the same way.  The people are gone, the communication is gone, the care is gone.

So I learned my lesson, don’t think you are anything special – perfect for a product of Janteloven – because others will disagree.  Others will tear you down.  How sad, how utterly contrary to what we stand for as educators, how eye opening.  And yet, I continue to congratulate others, to be excited about their success and I remind myself whenever I see someone within my realm of the world; whether global PLN or local community, that is being recognized that I should cheer for them.  That I should be happy whenever an educator is recognized for something good rather than some evil they have done.We are all just human, and words hurt more than we know, we should be each others biggest cheerleaders, there are enough people trying to tear us all down.

being a teacher, communication, grades, parents, Student-centered

Why the Report Card Should Be Getting an F

Several days ago I quickly jotted down thoughts on how one of the major components of education; the report card, may just be becoming obsolete. Immediately the discussion that followed was one that spurred me to think a little deeper on this institution, particularly as I approach the deadline for writing 25 of my own.

The report card used to be useful. Before the age of Internet and faster communication with parents, the report card was the communicator of success or lack of it from school. We have all heard the stories of what happened when a bad report card was brought home and can probably remember our own anticipation or dread when it was handed to us. This was it; the ultimate report on how hard we had worked, how much we knew, and how much we cared about school. The was no conversation, no goals, just grades and teachers recited missives which on mine included the usual, “Pernille should really try to apply herself more.”. Whatever in the world that means.

Yet now, faced with the ever-evolving tools for communication and also teachers own increased visibility and feedback giving, it seems it has lost its purpose. That is if its purpose was to report how the child is doing academically.  Instead many teachers have running grades online; which I don’t actually think is necessarily progress either, or feedback is given to the students or sent home regularly.  In my own classroom, I meet with students regularly setting goals and discussing how they are doing, not even handing them a letter grade but rather feedback and meaningful conversation.  This does get communicated to parents as well either through email, phone calls, or even small meetings.  Conferences also act as a communicator of progress and goals.  I may be in the minority of how I handle progress in my classroom, but I think I am in the growing minority.  So why also do a report card?  It seems to be a duplication of all of the work we already do although it does provide an easy out for those who choose not to communicate throughout the semester.

So if the report card’s purpose is solely to communicate to parents how their child is doing, there are certainly other alternatives.  How about a weekly email or note, penned by the student?  Or a shared Google doc where parents and students can add notes and questions?  Conversations can be recorded using a Livescribe pen and emailed to parents as well, which also creates another record.  In my team we already send home unit math scores breaking down each skill the student has been practicing.  Writing assignments are handed back with a rubric attached and comments on them.  To me, it seems that we already do all of the reporting that is duplicated for the report card.  What about a report card created by students?  I often wonder what they would put weight on and choose to report, and also how it would look.  Either way I think it is time for a change, do you?

So is it time for the report card to disappear or at the very least lose its formality?  Is it time for it to no longer be the final product and instead be a piece of information in a long line of information.  Should we hand back the power of goal communication to the students so that they can take more charge of their education?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Classroom, communication, technology

Technology Usage Parent Letter and Consent Form

Classroom (Photo credit: James F Clay)

Internet safety and education is always at the forefront of my mind when I work with technology in the classroom.  It is therefore important for me to have my parents have an understanding and some control over their child’s work and image as it relates to usage and access.

Here is the link to purchase the whole letter and below is what part of the document looks like.

A Letter on Technology in Mrs. Ripp’s Room

Technology serves a major function in this classroom to collaborate and connect with students across the globe.  Safety and proper usage of the chosen technology is therefore vital for this classroom to be successful in its implementation.  This letter is intended to inform and expand on the most common types of technology that will be integrated throughout the year, as well as serve as a consent form.  Please note that the District Acceptable Use Policy for Technology is upheld and discussed throughout the year as well.

°  Flip Video Cameras:  Students use video cameras throughout the year to capture their learning and for presentations.  I also use the cameras to capture specific student work to be published on our classroom website (
°  Digital Cameras:  Students and I take pictures of our projects and students at work.  These images are often used for publication on our website and once in a while are included in presentations I conduct to teach other educators.  


Dear Parent or Guardian,
Throughout the school year, I may include photographs, videos, or work of individual students or student group activities on our classroom website (, on my professional website (, and occasionally in presentations for other educators.  Any student and/or their school work will be identified by first name only.  No last names will be mentioned.

Please mark any of the choices below and return to school:

_____    Yes, I give permission to photograph, videotape, or audio record my child.  I also give permission to display my child’s school work including class pictures.

____    Please do not publish my child’s photograph on the classroom website or any other Internet page.

being a teacher, communication, community, students

The Mayor of West Middleton

The mayor of West Middleton works the crowds.  He is that kid, busy in the hallways saying hi to every kid, every teacher.  If he doesn’t know your name that day he runs after you to ask you what it is.  And then he remembers.  He knows us all, whether veterans, brand-new, student teachers, substitutes.  He knows parents, siblings, and any new kid 10 minutes after they walk in the door.  He smiles, laughs, and pays attention.  He cares and he lets you know that he cares.

It’s not an act, this welcoming thing; it is him, something in his nature that he cannot help.  Something that cannot be contained, as his teacher – trust me I have tried when we walk down the hallway.  Then I realized that it was only my sense of order that made me dislike these random outbursts of talk or stopping and hugging people.  I needed him to walk with me, not in front or behind me, not be around the corner when I needed him in line.  Now, I let him loose on the people, let him do his thing.  He never goes far, just far enough to greet, to spread that smile.  And for that I am thankful, he makes me a better person, a better teacher because he shows me every day what genuine interest does for another person.  He leads by example, and it is an example we should all follow; know everyone, greet them, hug them if you want, ask questions, and if you don’t know their name it is ok to ask.  But most of all; remember them all and show them that you are happy they are here, happy they are with us, happy they came to school that day.  The world needs more kids like him.

assumptions, being a teacher, communication, community, new teacher

Sing the Praise of Other Teachers

We want to be a welcoming school, a place where all students feel safe, happy and inspired. We cherish our kids, greet them in the hallway and take a special interest in anyone who needs it or just happens to be in our path. We recognize achievements, we assemble and build community, togetherness and pride in ourselves and each other. We discuss how to do it better, more, bigger. How can we reach each kid to make them feel appreciated, acknowledged and valued? And yet, sometimes we forget about the teachers.

We are so busy always focusing on the achievements of the kids that the natural success of fellow staff members becomes something that slips our mind or is an entirely taboo topic depending on your staff climate. Why? Shouldn’t teacher accomplishment, whether big or small, be the first place we start when we discuss success in our school? Don’t we want to be part of an active community where you hear genuine praise in the hallways, classrooms and staff lounge? We forget to share or assumptions are made that no one wants to hear it. I some places, jealousy can rear it’s ugly head and people learn to not share, to not divulge that they did well on something.

Enough of this fear of acknowledgement! Ban the temptation to not share or highlight. Praise others as you wish your students would praise each other. After all, our students learn best by example, think of the great learning experience it will be for them if they hear natural praise every day between staff members. Start small, be genuine, be brave and take the first step; tell someone you noticed, you cared, you were inspired. Praise someone and set the example, start a movement.