aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher, connect, Student, Student dreams

How Do We Know Who We Don’t Even Know?


I think I teach 128 students this year but I haven’t done the math.  There is a lot of them.  I know all of their names, have since the first week.  I know their writing styles, their book preferences, I know who will avoid me and who will seek me out.  I teach 128 students but  am not connected to 128 students.  I have those that I am closer to.  That I joke around with, that come to me asking for help, that leave me notes, that I have nicknames for.  I have the ones I truly consider my kids, the ones I consider mine.

Call it the curse of teaching a lot of students, but no matter how much you try, not every kid will become connected to you.  That is why I am thankful for my incredible team; I know how much they care about the kids we teach, I know they have “their” kids too that they feel close to.

And yet, in all of those connections, we know that there are kids that do not “belong” to anyone.  That do not have a special relationship with a teacher.  And by now those kids that we haven’t quite built a relationship with are starting to fall through the cracks.

So what do we do?  How do we know who we don’t even know?  How do we as a team, whether school-wide, grade-level or in some other configuration figure out who those kids are that nobody is seemingly connecting with?  Well, there is a simple way to find out, and no, I did not come up with this idea but wanted to pass it on.

Put all of their names on a big piece of paper and hand every teacher a marker.  Put a dot next to those kids who you feel you have a closer relationship to.  Then stand back and look.  Who has no dots?  Who has just one?  Discuss those kids.  Pay special attention, make a list, and the next time you teach them, ask a question not related to school.  Not related to the work.  Not related to what you share already.  Do it the next day, and the next day.  Pick a few kids at a time if there are too many.  Invest your time, and not in a forced way, but in a human way.  don’t force a relationship, but dedicate time to giving one a chance.

As my brilliant colleague, Reidun Bures (follow her at @ReidunLee) pointed out today, “We don’t see our own patterns of who we speak to.  We get comfortable and then wonder why some kids don’t respond to us as well.”  And she is right; we all try to connect with all of our kids and don’t see the ones we haven’t quite connected with.  Not seeking them out becomes a part of our pattern.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  All kids should have at least one teacher that has their back, one teacher to fall back on.  And the first step is to grab a marker and make a dot.  And then do something with the result.

If you are looking for a great book club to join to re-energize you in January, consider the Passionate Learners book club on Facebook.  We kick off January 10th.  


being a teacher, being me, conferences, connect

Well Hello #NCTE15

For a few years I have sighed every November when it seems like every literacy genius that I follow have headed to NCTE and then shared all about it.  For a few years I have thought that maybe I would go, but then when it comes to be time, there never seemed to be enough time.  And so I haven’t.  And I have been fine, but boy ,have I felt like I was missing out.

So thanks to the amazing Lynda Mullaly Hunt who thought that maybe we should propose a session on the Global Read Aloud.  Thanks to all of my amazing Nerdy Book Club friends who told me that this was the best conference ever, thanks to my district for believing fervently in professional development, and thanks to Skype for believing in me and the GRA, this is the year I get to go.  And I am counting down the days like it is a countdown to Christmas.

So where will I be?

On Friday, I get to be on a panel with Franki Sibberson, Ruth Ayres, Bill Bass, Ann Marie Corgill, Katie Muhtaris, Katherine Hale, Colby Sharp, and Kristin Ziemke.  Yup, I am so honored to be presenting along these amazing minds on Keeping Reading Authentic and Student-Centered with Technology at 11 AM.

Later that day, I get to do my 3rd ever Ignite.  And I am nervous; how can you not be when you only get 5 minutes to share what you are passionate about?  But at 2:30, I am going to try.

Saturday at 8 AM, it is then to the session that started it all; The Global Read Aloud.  I will be the one pinching herself when I get to sit with Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Sharon Draper, Kate Messner, Jenni Holm, and Katherine Applegate, as well as Michelle Kedzierksi as we talk about the project and more importantly the community that it creates.

Now for some reason none of these come up with my name in the app, which actually feels rather symbolic, after all, I cannot believe that I get to go. I cannot believe that I get to learn and be inspired finally at this conference.But trust me, they are happening, I will be there, and I will be grinning from ear to ear.

So if you see me, and I look pretty much like me, please say hi.  Please tell me which book you are reading, tell me what you’re up to.  I will be the one amazed at simply being there, surrounded by so much passion.



aha moment, assessment, assumptions, being a teacher, being me, conferences, connect, Passion, student voice

How Can I Make This Better For You?


For the past three days my students have read.  They have sat wherever they wanted, immersed in the book of their choice.  They have book shopped.  They have reflected, but mostly just read.  Whispered about their books.  Handed those in they have finished.  And waited for me to call their name, knowing that soon it would be their turn.

I have sat at a table and spoken to them all, one by one, taken the time it takes.  “How is English going…How can I be a better teacher for you….What is not working…”  Armed with the survey they have takes as we finished our very first quarter, they have told me their truths.  They have looked at me and then gladly told me everything I have needed to change.   And I am so grateful.  Think of the guts that it takes to look at your teacher to tell them that something is not working for you.  Think of what that says about the community we have.

So for the past 3 days, I have listened.  I have nodded and taken notes.  I have asked for further explanation, and I have also asked for help.  How can we make it better?  How can we find more time?  How can we make it easier?  More engaging?  More of what they need?  How can we…

We read books to become better teachers.  We ask colleagues for help.  We meet with administrators.  We reach out to parents.  We connect and we ask and we ponder together.  Yet, how often do we ask the very kids that we teach?  How often do we stop what we are doing simply to conference with them?  Not about their work but to uncover how things are going?  What they need?  How we can change?  How often do we stop so we can learn from them?  Not often enough, but that can change.  It starts with us.  And it starts with a simple question; how can I make this better for you?

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.

being me, conferences, connect

Have You Submitted Your EdScape Proposal Yet?

I first heard about EdScape a few years back when my Twitter feed exploded with knowledge during the weekend of the conference.  For years I have wanted to go and be a part of this conference created by the amazing Eric Sheninger, but life seemed to continually get in the way.  Well, this year is my year.  Not only do I get to go to EdScape and learn with educators from all over the USA, I also am honored to be the opening keynote speaker.

So why should you come join me October 17th in New Jersey?  Because this amazing conference is an incredible space for learning, allowing us all to not just be inspired but also to come away with tangible things to do as we change education.  Because this conference is a one day don’t-want-to-miss event.  Because during lunch there will be an EdCamp.  Because this conference is $35 to attend – yup $35.  Even better, if you present, your registration is free,

So if you have an idea that you would love to share.  If you love presenting and meeting people.  If you want to come and inspire as well as be inspired, come to Edscape.  Submit your proposal before August 15th because I hope that you come and learn with me, I hope you come and share your amazing ideas, I  hope that we can connect.  I know I cannot wait.

To submit your proposal, go here

To register for the conference, go here

To see more about this amazing event, go here

Be the change, being a teacher, connect, control, principals, trust

Dear Administrators, Can We Tear Down the Great Divide?

Dear Administrators,

I am not sure I am the right one to bring this up,in fact,  I am not sure it is my place to start this conversation.  Yet, this blog has offered me a voice that not all teachers have, a place to start a public discussion that is needed.  That doesn’t mean I am the best one to bring it up, but here goes nothing.

There has always been a divide between administration and teachers it seems.  From the poor jokes about going to the dark side to the hushed conversations behind closed doors discussing the latest admin “screw up,” it seems that there is an invisible mountain between teachers and administration that both sides don’t understand the origin of.  It is not that anyone wants to think of the other as being on another side and yet it crops up in conversation time and time again.  But I am starting to wonder why we all seem to be okay with it.  It seems to just be an accepted fact when I don’t think it should be.  After all, are we not all trying to educate the same children?

So what is it that is creating it, and more importantly what can we do?  Because I hear over and over that teachers don’t think their administration will believe in whatever idea they have, or their administration won’t give them permission, and I am always left wondering if this really is true.  Do they really know that or is it just an assumption?  In fact, how often do we assume what someone else may say or think and thus feel defeated?  How often do we blame our administrators for something when we don’t know if it is really their fault?  How often does our own fear of having a courageous conversation create unintended barriers?

Perhaps the divide has to to do with trust.  While I believe almost all administrators trust their staff, I wonder how often that is explicitly communicated.  Not just in words but in actions. I wonder how many times trust is assumed rather than discussed, how many times both sides assume that the other know their intentions.  What if we decided that the other side couldn’t read our minds and instead started asking questions?  What if we were told that administration trusted us in both words and action, would that break the divide?  What if teachers started to tell their administrators that they trusted them, what would that do?

What if we gave second chances?  What if we, every day, gave each other a new chance at doing what is best?  What if we actively tried to create a community of educators just like we work on it with our students?  What then?

I don’t know what the answer is.  I am not an administrator, just a teacher who wants to find a solution. So dear administrators and other educators reading this, what do you think?  How do we tear down the great divide?  What can I tell all those teachers who feel like their administration will never trust them?  Who feel like their administration will never understand what they do, what they are trying to do, and who feel no one has their back?  Because I don’t think it’s true but maybe I am wrong, I have been wrong so many times before.

Thank you,


PS:  I am absolutely loving all of the great conversations that are happening due to this post.  Here are a few responses to the post on other blogs.

John Bernia wrote a great response 
So did Melissa Emler here 

And Brandon Blom here

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 our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being me, conferences, connect

Well Hello ISTE 2015!

I have never been to ISTE.   A few times I have almost gone and something has always gotten in the way; finances, pregnancies, courage…  I hear ISTE is amazing and yet I am so terribly nervous to finally be going.  Will I get lost (probably), will I feel overwhelmed (probably), but more importantly – will I get to meet all of the amazing people I want to meet?  Will I get to make connections?  Will it be worthwhile?

So if you are going to ISTE, I would love to meet you.  I am pretty shy when it comes to meeting people, but this will be my chance to work through that.  So where can I be found for sure?

Bloggers Cafe – I think this will be my preferred hang out spot.  The only reason I get to do all of the incredible things I get to do is because of my blog.


ISTE Townhall Lead & Transform Panel – Sunday, June 28th 9 AM to 11:30 AM.  I am honored to be the teacher representative on this panel where we get to discuss how we are changing professional learning in our communities.  The best part of the panel is that I get to listen to  he amazing students from SLA, who will start the discussion!

ISTE Ignite Sunday, June 28th 1:30 PM to 3  PM.  I have dreamed of doing an Ignite for several years and what better place to try it than at ISTE.  I don’t know whether I am more excited to speak about having courage to create passionate learning environments or listen to the other Ignite presenters!


Monday morning – Award breakfast where the Global Read Aloud and I will be honored with the ISTE Innovation in Global Collaboration Award. 

Monday lunch – The ISTE Making IT Happen award luncheon.


Set Their Voices Free:  How Students Can Share Their Stories – Tuesday, June 30th 10:45 AM to 11: 45 AM.  I am pumped to be presenting on this topic and with these people; Erin Klein and Colby Sharp.  We started planning this session this week and it promises to be hands-on with time to work, discuss, and share ideas.  Isn’t that what we all hope to get from a session.


Corwin Connected Educator PanelWednesday, July 1st 8:30 – 9:30 AM.  I get to see some of my favorite people and discuss one of my passions; how do we empower students and staff in our schools with my friend and inspiration, Tony Sinanis.  What isn’t there to like?

Other than that I plan on hanging around the Skype booth and otherwise bopping around.  So if you are there, please say hello.  I am going to make as many connections as possible and would love to connect with you.

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 our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.