being a student, being a teacher, being me, end of year, Student dreams

We Carry the Words

Tonight, as I sit quietly processing a moment where a student shared their fragile truth with me.  The moment when a child sat silently watching as I read their words, breath held to see how I would react, and all I could think was how very grateful I was for their trust, their truth, their faith in me as their teacher, as an adult in their life to carry the words they had chosen to share.  I thought of this post, now written 5 years ago and yet ever so true in my heart.  We may feel like we carry our students’ dreams into the world, we may feel we carry their words with us, but it is not just their words we take with us when they leave us.  It is their truth.  We protect it, we support it, and we carry it with us long after their final goodbyes and the summer vreeze settles in.  I am so grateful for the very job that I get to do every single day.

The shuffled movement, the slight look possibly from the left, a small gesture to be noticed. “Ummm, Mrs. Ripp can I have lunch with you?” Oh shoot, there goes that extra prep, but yes, absolutely yes, let’s have lunch. Over food the words come tumbling like a bottle with it’s cork pulled. Didn’t even have to ask a question, they just spill out and out, away from this student, this trusting student that needs someone to carry the weight of the world with them. It is not new, not shocking, but every day life, every day fears, every day needs of wanting bigger, better, more. And yet here, it means the world.

We carry those words.

Another morning, a moment, a need for a hug and then a drawing shown. “Do you think I can make it, Mrs. Ripp?” “Of course, you can, just dream and work toward it,” is what I say but what I think tells more… Work hard, little child, don’t believe those people who will try to steal your dream. Don’t believe those people that tell you you are not smart, that you will not amount to anything. Don’t listen when they make you angry, or when they make you cry. Dream, dream on, dream strong.

We carry those dreams.

At the end of the day, a mad rush, backpacks on, cubbies emptied, and one last, “Thank you for coming.” I mean it too, thank you for being here, for sharing your day with me. For sticking with me when my voice got tired, or my explanation made no sense. For listening when I should have been quiet, for raising your hand patiently and waiting your turn even though you were really, really excited. Thank you for laughing, for thinking, for creating, and trying. Thank you for believing and caring, for trusting and loving, because that’s what it is; trust and love and hope and hard work, every single day.

And within the words they share.  Within the dreams they hold.  Within the hushed conversations and quiet moments, I realize that it is not just me that carries something, or even just the other adults.  But all fo us as we protect the fragile relationship that exists within  our 4 walls.  And when they leave us on the last day of the year all we can do is hope that we have given them enough strength to keep on, to still dream, to still trust.  And in the end, we were not the only ones that carried, fore they carried us too.

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 a teacher, being me, end of year

This is the Time

This is the time where I don’t feel I am enough.  I am not fun enough.  I am not smart enough.  What we do is not making a difference, nor is it engaging.  Where the test scores come in (thanks STAR) and I disagree with the stupid computer that clearly has no idea just how much our students have grown.

This is the time where I look forward, hoping next year will be better, while still trying to squeeze out every last drop of this year.  Where I look around and realize that the students are counting down, the books are still missing, and the time for settling down stretches out before us.

I am not alone.  How many right now feel like they didn’t do enough?  They weren’t enough?  That they still have so much to do?

But this is the time where I see a kid buried in a book who asks for just one more page and please don’t make me stop.

Where a child shows me their to-be-read list and tells me that they cannot believe how big it is.

This is the time where a child gazes at the book shelves, pulling out bin after bin until another child hands them a book and tells them they must read it because it quite possibly is the best book ever.

Where a child who has fought all year actually does something the first time it is requested.

This is the time where a child tells me they are ready to share their truths with the classroom, that they want to make sure that others see them for they are and not just who they think they are.

This is the time where I forget just how much they have grown.  That they have learned.  That they have changed.  That they didn’t hate English, nor me.  That I cannot be everything for everyone, but that I don’t have to because I am not alone.  A team stands behind me.  A team that cares about all of the kids.  A team that sees all of the kids.

This is the time where I hold my breath as the end barrels toward us and I cannot believe that we made it another year.  That I hope that the fragile seeds of reading that have been planted will blossom over the summer and stay strong until September.

This is the time where I know that every day I tried and so did the students.  That what we had did matter.  That they have changed and so have I.

This is the time to be thankful.

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 a student, being a teacher, end of year, student choice, student driven, Student Engagement

It Is Time to Remove the Scaffolds

http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-384893I think we have 25 or so days left of school.  I may be wrong, I haven’t been counting.  I don’t like to count down, I want to savor every moment, embrace every opportunity, teach until the last minute.  I owe it to the kids.  Yet with the inevitable end of year in sight, I feel the urge to release my students.  To maybe even push them away a little as they need to stand on their own.    To let go a little more, to have them try the exploration by themselves first and not rely so much on me.  Because in 25 days or so, I won’t be there anymore.  I won’t be there when they write, or when they discuss, or when they book shop.  I won’t be there to support, to help, to push.  So they need to find their own way; after all, fostering independent learners is one of our major goals in education.

Yet it seems we have created a paradox.  Within our own eagerness to be the best teacher we can be, to provide everything for every child, I think we forget to let students go a little as well.  We create so many scaffolds in our classrooms in an effort to help students learn more and then forget to remove them, wondering why students come to next year’s teachers seemingly ill prepared to be independent.  And I am not alone in these  thoughts as I am reminded of Bob Probst speaking at NCTE about how we teach kids in early years that NF stands for “Not fake” and then never correct that notion.  Or Donalyn Miller, who wrote an incredibly wonderful book about creating wild readers; readers that would read outside of our classrooms, after they left us.  It seems in our passion for teaching, we may be creating kids who lose sight of what education really is about and instead rely on our systems to pass from class to class.

So right now, as we slip toward the end, I think of all the ways my students must be released.  To make sure that they know that the signposts that we find because of Notice and Note are not the point of reading, but are meant to deepen their experience.  That a MEL-Con paragraph is not the task at hand, but instead just a way to remember that if you present any evidence when you write, you must analyze and explain it.  That they must look inward to discover who they are as a reader so that they can select books using their own methods that do not revolve around what the teacher book-talked.  And the list goes on.

At the beginning of the year, we are so focused on the routines we must set up for our learning communities.  On the expectations that we create along with the students.  We start programs, curriculum, and set our journey up for the most success.  It is therefore only right that toward the end we start to unravel the same routines, the procedures, the scaffolds, so that students can leave us better, bigger, and more independent.  So the students can leave us and not look back when they go, knowing they are ready for the next challenge.

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.

 

 

aha moment, being a teacher, being me, end of year, teachers

To All the Teachers Who Cared This Year

5 days into kindergarten, my oldest daughter declared that she hated school.  With all of the anger she could muster, which was remarkably quite a bit, she stomped her foot, scrunched up her face and told me that school was not for her after all because her teacher hated her and she was done.  I chalked it up to her being tired.  When on the 6th day, and the 7th, and the 8th, she told me that she still didn’t like school, and on the 9th she told me she had a stomach ache, I knew we had a problem.

It wasn’t that I thought that her school was bad.  It was not that her teacher did hate her but in her mind, her reality, this was the truth she lived.  And once that idea had set in, she was done.  So 3 weeks into the school year of her very first year we open enrolled her in my district and Thea started kindergarten once again.  I swear I have held my breath since then.  Yesterday, she proudly showed me her kindergarten memory book and my breath caught for a moment when I saw what she had written.  Under her most favorite thing she had written “Going to school.”  And then I knew that I had to give thanks.

So to the teacher that loved my little girl so much that she cried on the night before the last day; thank you.  I know how much you tried, I know much you cared.  I know how many hours you worked, and how much time you spent thinking about all of those kids you taught.  I know that there were days where I am sure you wanted to pull your hair out, we all have those days, but I also know that Thea told me that you were always happy.  That no matter what you were happy to see her and she loved you for it.

You may not know, but that smile you put on your face, those little conversations that you had, the stories you told of your own adventures; those are what she told us about every single day.  Those times you got silly, those times you held them to high expectations, she told us about that too.  Every day a new story, every day a new memory.  And so when she told me that she didn’t want any other teacher ever again, I knew that I would never have enough words to tell you how grateful we are.  She hated school.  You changed that.  She faked stomach aches, threw fits, and cried those big fat tears, but you changed that.  That is why great teachers matter.  That is why people like you are so important for all of our kids.

So to all you teachers who cared this year.  From this parent, who happens to be a fellow teacher, thank you.  Thank you for putting in the time.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for dedicating all of your emotional energy because you cared so very deeply for all of our kids.  Thank you for inventing, for making, for creating.  For giving students voices.  For not giving up.  For hugging.   For listening and for seeing all of the kids for who they are.  For giving hope, and for giving consequences.  For making kids believe that they could achieve, even when the world was against them.

They say it takes a village to raise a kid, but honestly, sometimes it just takes one person.  A person who sees your crazy amazing kid exactly for who they are and doesn’t think that something is wrong with them but instead tells them to be proud of who they are.  So to Mrs. Huenink; the world needs more teachers like you so that more kids like mine can feel that they matter and that school is actually a place for them.  Thank 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.

being a teacher, being me, classroom management, end of year, life choices

It’s the Very Least We Can Do

The comment keeps showing up on my end of year surveys, slipped in between suggestions, hard truths, and great advice.  It makes me smile every time.  It has been a comment I have heard throughout the year from students in blog posts, in small conversations, and even from parents.  “Mrs. Ripp smiles a lot…” “You always have a smile on your face…” “You smile every day.”  And while it is not true, I don’t think I smile every single day for every minute, this little comment means the world to me because every day I make a choice to smile.  Every day, when I pull up to the parking lot, when I open the days, when the crazy noise of the students coming up our stairs reaches my door, I make sure I have a smile ready to greet them because it is the very least I can do.

As educators, we spend so much time planning meticulous lessons.  We do professional development to continue to be lifelong learners.  We lay awake worrying about kids, about parents, about what we said, what we asked our students to do that day.  We spend so much energy on the big picture stuff that we forget about the easiest thing we can do; smile.  Show all the kids of your school that you really want to be there.  That it matters to you that they are there.  That you are happy to see them.  That their very existence makes your life better.  Even if you don’t totally feel it.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the kids.

Our actions speak louder than our words and you wouldn’t believe how much the sight of a smile in a busy hallway can change the mood of a day.  But don’t take my word for it; try it.  Make it a habit.  Smile as if your life depended on it, who knows, whose life it will change?

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 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.