being a teacher, education, MIEExpert15, Passion

5 Ideas For Diffusing A Negative Mindset

We have all been in the situation it seems; surrounded by negative people whose only joy in life seems to be finding something to complain about.  Those teachers that cannot wait to share how terribly a child did, those teachers that cannot wait to discuss how awful a new initiative will be, or even just how overwhelmed they feel.  And you know what, at some point we have probably all been one of those teachers, I know I was!  And we usually don’t even know it.

So what can we do if we find ourselves surrounded by the negative?  How do you move beyond it, inspire change, but not look like you are complaining yourself?

First idea is to reflect; are you adding to the negative?  Are you getting sucked into the conversations?  Are you adding fuel to the fire?  Misery loves company and it is so easy to get wrapped up in a juicy story about a demanding parent or how there was another stupid idea proposed.  If you are even a little bit guilty of participating in these conversations, stop.  Catch yourself in the act and change your own direction.  Change your narrative and share the positive.  This doesn’t mean you cannot discuss hard situations, just change the way you phrase them.

Second idea; change the immediate conversation.  So if someone starts to complain, see if you can spin it in a positive way.  If a child is being discussed, highlight something positive.  If you see a conversation turning into something that will not benefit you and you cannot change it, you also have the right to walk away.  Even if you like the person speaking, nothing says you have to be a part of it.  Sometimes our actions speak louder than words.

Third idea; acknowledge the negative and then try to problem-solve.  If the negative continues to surround you, acknowledge it because sometimes people don’t even know they are doing it.  This doesn’t mean calling them out in an uncomfortable way, but just acknowledging that what they are saying seems to be bothering them and if they are looking for someone to problem-solve with.   We all have days where we need to release some of the energy that seems to be haunting us and sometimes discussing it is our way of reaching out to work through it.  So offer to be that person, withhold judgment, and try to alleviate the negative.

Fourth idea, look for the positive.  Sometimes our own perception makes a person seem much more negative than they really are.  Are you seeing them as a whole person or just someone who complains?  Make sure your own thoughts aren’t clouding a situation.

Fifth idea, get to know them more.  We don’t always know what is going on in someones life and sometimes when they are complaining about little things it may be an indicator that their life outside of school is stressful right now.  I know I have a much lower tolerance for anything when I am too busy outside of work or not sleeping well because of stress.  So if someone seems to take a turn toward the worse, see if you can find out what is going on.  Express your concern, be there as a friend, and remember to see them as a human being.  We all have bad days.  We all have moments where we are at our lowest.

No one comes to work meaning to be the negative force, no one walks into a social situation hoping to change it into a vent fest.  Sometimes it just happens, sometimes life gets the better of us and we don’t know that we are “that” person.  When all else fails, you just have to shrug it off.  Continue to be a positive force for good, continue to keep yourself in check, continue to be aware of what you put out in the world.  We are not able to change other people, but we can change the environment we teach in in small ways.  What do you do to diffuse the negative?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, education, learning, Passion

Every Workshop I Attend Should….What Attendees Wish We Knew

image from icanread

With a cold day declared today, I found myself at the local coffee shop furiously trying to prepare for the conferences I am lucky enough to present at this spring.  I have never been invited to speak at conferences before this year, so the pressure I feel is mounting.  I want people to be inspired.  I want people to feel it was worth their time.  And most importantly, I want people to leave with ideas that they can implement the next day, not just the next school year.  I don’t know why I find it so nerve wracking to speak to other educators when I teach students every day, and yet it is exactly those experiences I need to rely on.  I would never lecture for 45 minutes or longer to my students, so why would I do it to adults?

To make sure I was on the right track, I tweeted out the following

As always, I was not disappointed.  There seemed to be several themes that immediately jumped out at me, and it turns outI was right, people attending conferences do not want just to sit and get, they have very big desires for what they will leave with.

So for all of us gearing up for spring workshops/presentations or any kind of professional  learning opportunity, listen to what educators around the world had to say.

They want choice!  No more forced professional development with only one choice, with in-district experts there is no reason to limit the day.  Sure, bring in outside speakers, but don’t forget about your local talent; those teachers within your district that know a lot too.  Get as many sessions as you can muster and offer a wide variety so that all minds can be at least somewhat satisfied.

They want to connect!  Sitting in a room with like-minded people and just speaking to them is not something we get to do very often.  So please offer time to discuss, share ideas, and inspire each other.  As one teacher wrote, “Allow more time for me to talk with other attendees.”  Offer them a chance to become connected educators.  Brilliant.

They want to be acknowledged as experts too!  We tend to elevate the speaker to the one with the most knowledge, and while this sometimes is true, we can never forget about all of the knowledge there is in the room.  So find a way for others to share what they know and acknowledge their expertise.  No one wants to feel inferior or that there experience doesn’t have merit just because they are not the presenter.

They want practical ideas!  They want something they can go and try the very next day in school without a lot of preparation or extra stuff needed.  They also want long-term ideas that they can implement over time.  So make sure to offer a mixture of both.

They also want to be inspired!  We go to conferences to become better, so being inspired and having our passion re-ignited is vital.  Use the opportunity to lift up rather than break down, there are indeed many things that should be changed in education but don’t forget about all of the good.  I would rather start from a place of hope than a place of fear or anger any day.

They want the focus to be on students!  As presenters we shouldn’t be there to just highlight the work we do, but rather keep the focus on the students.  What we are doing, after all, is to make the lives of our students better.  So make sure your presentation discusses the way students have gained from whatever topic and share their voice through quotes, video, pictures or even bringing a real live student in.  They are in the end why we teach.

They want it to be fun!  I learned a long time ago in my classroom to have fun with my students as a way to get the learning across, yet I tend to forget this in my presentations, I get too nervous I suppose.  Yet professional development needs to be fun, energetic, passionate, and exciting.  Find a way to lighten up the learning a bit, this also allows you to offer participants a way to get more hands on with things.

Once again, the people I connected to helped me push through and really sharpen the focus of my upcoming presentations.  The next month will allow me to hopefully create an experience for all the people I am lucky enough to work with in the coming months.  If you are interested in seeing where I will be or having me speak, please go here.

And now it is your turn.  Please finish the sentence…Every workshop I attend should….

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

advice, being me, education, new year

Be Careful – My Words for the New Year

I seem to have guiding statements every so often that come into my life and shape my future.  Shape the way I teach, shape the way I speak, shape the way I act.  In the past I have been brave.  I have been passionate.  I have been happy and I have been fearless.  But this year I feel my life taking a different turn, and while I continue to tell myself and others to be brave, to be happy, to be passionate, to be fearless, I also want to say be careful.

Be careful with your words, because what we say matters.

Be careful with your risks, take them and own them and don’t be ashamed.  Share them with the world, share them with your students, share them with people who care, you don’t have to keep wasting your time on people who don’t.

Be careful with your dreams and that you don’t extinguish them yourself out of fear.  The future may be unknown but you set the path to follow.

Be careful with your students, we get one chance to show them that we care about them, don’t waste it on minor problems.

Be careful with the way you spend your time, there is truly only so much you can do in a day.

Be careful with your small conversations, those moments in the hallways, those moments at lunch, those moments in passing, because those are the ones most people remember so make them worthwhile.

Be careful with your public statements, we jump to conclusions and social media only allows us too much of a platform.  Use it for good.  Use it to lift others up.  Use it to debate, but use it to debate kindly.

Be careful with your choices, make sure your heart is in it, don’t just say yes because you should, but say yes when you mean it and then really mean it.

Be careful with your passion.  Yes, change is great, your ideas matter, and yes, there are probably other ways something can be done, but others have passion too.  Don’t diminish theirs to highlight your own.  Build a bridge, compromise, and listen to each other.  Believe in yourself but spend just as much time believing in others.

Be careful with yourself.  Stop belittling and battling yourself.  Take care of you so that others may have the chance to care as well.  Be proud of who you are and allow yourself to change.  Allow yourself to try.  Allow yourself to pull back and heal when needed.

Be careful but don’t be so careful that you do not change.  That is my wish for 2015.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, education, ideas, MIEExpert15, Passion, writing

5 + 1 Simple Ideas to Make Writing Fun Again

Over and over their comments come.

“…I hate writing…”

“…Please don’t make me write…”

“…Writing is soooo boring…”

And with each comment, I am grateful for my 7th graders honesty and also very, very challenged.  How do you make writing fun again when all of the joy has disappeared for some?  How do you make writing something students want to do, or at the very least don’t hate, when you have a curriculum to get through?  How do we continue to inspire students to become writers, even when facing so many old writing demons?  Two weeks off have given me some time to think, so here is what I have realized.

  1. Writing cannot be for me.  Writing has to be personal and for an audience.  Not a made up one, although they can come in handy, but an actual real live audience that will give feedback on the writing.  Whether it is for a class across the hallway, the local paper, or any connection you can make; establish a purpose and then have that audience give feedback.  My students’ writing grew immensely when they knew they were writing for “real” kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  This also is why we blog, they know people are reading their writing.
  2. It is okay if they don’t write.  I forget that I only write when I am inspired and how hard writing is when it is “on demand.”  Yet, on demand writing is what we ask students to do every single day and we expect it to be great writing!   Sometimes, we just need time to think, to ponder, to reflect, to doodle, to stare into nothing.  Not every day, because yes there are still things to cover, but we seem to have forgotten that a lot of writing happens in our head before anything is even written down.  So allow students to think, help them along if they are stuck, allow them conversations and to look outside of themselves for inspiration.  Yes, this takes time away from covering curriculum but writing needs to be less forced and more organic.
  3. Know when to publish, rather than revise.  We get to so caught up in having students continually revise that sometimes we forget to just let a piece go.  Even if it is not perfect.  Even if it is not finished.  Too often we force students to revise, edit, and revise some more so that we can see their best writing for every single piece, yet writers don’t do that.  They pursue their best piece, abandon others, and sometimes circle back.  We have to offer students an opportunity to decide when something is finished and then let it stand by itself.  Even if that means publishing a blog that is not their best writing, even if it means showing me unfinished work.
  4. Allow for 5 minutes of free write.  I plan on incorporating 5 minutes of free write into my tight 45 minute schedule.  Just as I devote 10 minutes to read independently, I have to devote time for them to just create, think, and possibly write something.  Whether it is a story, a journal, a doodle, a poem, whatever it is, they need the time to get into writing mode.  This will not be graded, nor will it be read by me most days.
  5. Enough with the grades.  I am not a fan of letter grades or even scores when it comes to all writing.  Yes, there is a place for teaching writing through final feedback, but we tend to get so grade heavy that students can’t see any of the progress they have made, nor the feedback they are receiving.  As one of my colleagues told me regarding her writing experience in high school, “…There was so much red pen on my papers when I got them back, I just threw them away without reading any of it.”  That’s what an overabundance of grades and feedback can do.  Instead, have students pick a piece they want graded and have them explain why this represents them as a writer.  Our lens should be on providing specific and short feedback that can boost their writing skills, not continually grading their practice writing.

And yes, as always there is a plus one…

      6.  Use different types of writing tools.  This idea is stolen right form Kindergarten, still has merit with our older                    students.   Why not have them write on post-its, big posters, or anything else that can take some writing?  Why not                bring out the markers?  The sparkly pen?  The paints?  We get so confined in what constitutes writing that we forget to          have fun with it, and while this is a superficial fix that will lose its luster, it can still inject the beginning push for writing to          be viewed as fun again.

On Monday, I plan on having students critique my ideas.  They are, after all, for their educational benefit.  I will share what they say but in the mean time, I would love to hear from you; what has brought back life in your writing with students?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA,  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. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

education, student blogging, students

The Purpose of Education According to My Students

Wordle: Purpose of education

I know we as educators frequently discuss what we think the purpose of education is.  Fancy words and creative sentences abound when this noble philosophy is discussed.  We debate, digest and dissect until we feel we have reached some form of conclusion, that is, until someone new sparks a different discussion and we ponder it all over again.  Yet how often do we ask our students that question?  How often do we ask them what the purpose is of education and then listen to their answer?

Well, last week I unleashed the question on my fabulous 5th graders who took the time to ponder and then blog about it.  And they would love to hear your thoughts!  However, a couple of things struck me as a trend in their answer, so much so that Wordle even agrees with me. 

–  There is a purpose to education, it is not just a waste of time.
–  Education somehow prepares us for life after school and without we may not be succesful (something I don’t totally agree with)
–   Education is related to their life

I loved what Karina wrote;
Why is Education so important to kids and adults? This question made me really think.  I have heard kids say ” Why do I have to go to school.” and their parents say ” Because you have too.”  It is not the easiest question to answer but if you think about, it is actually easy.  My first answer was… This man screwed up his life and does not want it to happen to anybody else.  After I thought that for a little bit it came to me. It was that people way way back used writing and reading to escape from people who controlled them and didn’t treat them well.  If people were educated to write and read then they had more choices in life.  They could work a lot of different  jobs.  Education gives us choices in life.

Emphasis added by me.

No matter what we decide the noble purpose of education is, I love how my student, David, adds another dimension to the question.  He finishes his post with, 

A final and really important reason for going to school is making friends. I mean, it feels good to talk to someone when you are sad, really excited, bored and just to talk! You need to know how to interact with people if your job requires it.”

So perhaps education from the eyes of a 5th grader is just to prepare them for life outside of school, to teach them to read or write, but in the end it is also about developing them as human beings, to maintain them as someone who others want to be friends with.  And that is indeed a noble purpose.


alfie kohn, education, No grades, Student, Teacher

So You Want to Quit Letter Grades – A Practical Guide From Someone Who’s Done It and Survived

Last year I made the decision to stop giving out letter grades as much as possible. This was not an easy decision or one that I made lightly. Only after research, deep reflection, and many conversations with peers did I decide that this was the best step for me within my educational philosophy. This post is not a debate of why I quit letter grades, but a how, so here goes.

  1. Do your research.  I knew that to do this right I had to have my philosophy and facts straight so I read Alfie Kohn’s work, as well as the numerous blogs, articles, and reflections on it available through a  Google search.  This strengthened my stance and gave me practical know-how.
  2. Think it through.  This is a bucking-the-system type of decision so you need to be clear on why you are doing this.  Providing students with more meaningful feedback: yes.  Less work and more free time: no.  
  3. Now think it through practically.  What is this going to look like in your room?  How will you take notes?  How will you assess their learning?  And then how will you compile that all into feedback, progress reports, and perhaps even a dictated grade on a district report card?  This was my biggest hurdle this year and something that I need to refine next year.
  4. Create your goals. All lessons have to have goals, otherwise you will have nothing to assess.  Sometimes we are not totally sure of that what those goals are since a curriculum has been prescribed to us.  Dig through it and find them or create your own within your standards and then make a list or some sort of report.  I was able to quickly assess through verbal Q&A whether a student was secure in something or not and then check off that goal, moving that student on to something else.
  5. Involve the higher ups.  I didn’t have to alert my principal to what I was planning on doing but it made my life a lot easier when I did.  Some districts will not support this without a proper discussion and it is important to have allies if someone questions your program or philosophy.
  6. Explain it to your families, and particularly your students.  The first few weeks we discussed what proper feedback was, what we could use it for, and how the feedback was just another step in our journey.  This made my students start to focus on the feedback rather than pine for a grade to be done with it.  Deadlines became more flexible and a product was seldom “done” but always a work in progress.
  7. Involve your students.  I had to still give letter grades on our report cards so I discussed with students what their grade should be.  More time consuming, absolutely, but it was wonderful to see their knowledge of the subject and understanding of what they should know.  Most of the time, their grades and mine lined up perfectly and in rare occasions were they much harder on themselves than I was.  Either way we figured it out together, through conversation and reflection, and they started to own their learning more.
  8. Plan for it.  Meaningful assessment does not just happen, it is planned and somehow noted.  If you think you are just going to remember, you are not.  So every day I had my trusty clipboard that I took notes on, checked off progress and goals accomplished on, and added anything else useful to.  This became my “grade book” and the days I didn’t use it, all of that information was lost.  
  9. Take Your Time.  Letter grades will always be easier to do because they most often are compiled from a piece of paper or a one-time presentation.  Deep feedback is not.  This happens through conversations, assignments, and lots and lots of formative assessment.  Give yourself time to take it all in, take your most important goals and give them enough time to be accomplished by your students, and then give yourself enough time to have the conversations.  The conversations are the most important tool here.
  10. Allow Yourself to Change.  This means both allowing yourself to try out not giving letter grades and then figuring out if it works for you.  This also means allowing yourself to know that this is a work in progress.  There were absolutely missed opportunities in my room this year concerning feedback, but I know what to work on now.  I also know what my goals are, how to engage students in meaningful conversation regarding their work, and also how to give better feedback.  Just like our students, we too, are learning.
  11. Most Importantly: Reach Out.  Through my PLN I was able to engage in meaningful conversations and iron out hurdles with the help of Joe Bower, Jeremy MacDonald, and Chris Wejr.  I even reached out to Alfie Kohn.  There are people who have done this before you, there are people who have gone through it before you, use them, ask them questions, and know that you are not alone.  I am always available to discuss this with anyone so reach out to me as well.

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