being a teacher, being me, honesty, student voice

A Students Shares What It’s Really Like Being In Our Classroom

For years, I have been sharing the sometimes magical, sometimes fantastical, and sometimes awful things that go on in our classroom.  I have been honest in my blogs, I have presented what really happens, not diluted it or polished it to make myself look better.  And while my students have blogged for years on their blog about being a member of our classroom I have never had one of them write it on here.  Until tonight where one of my former 7th grade students, Corinne, agreed to write an honest post about what it is really like in our classroom.  Besides adding paragraphs, I have not edited or added anything to this post.  Thank you Corinne for your honest assessment of what it really looks like in our room!

She writes:

There is no doubt that Mrs. Ripp’s classroom is a classroom that anyone would want to be in. Being in Mrs. Ripp’s classroom every week day for a year has taught me so much, not only about English but myself to. Mrs. Ripp’s classroom is place that makes everyone feel important and wanted. Through out the year we did various projects and had various assignments that students sometimes enjoyed and sometimes hated. For example last school year every student that had Mrs. Ripp as an English teacher got the chance to write a non-fiction picture book. This was my favorite project that we did through out the year. I think that so many kids enjoyed it because everyone got to express themselves in their own unique ways.

An example of a project that many students disliked was our book club projects. I think the problem for most of the students who didn’t like this project was the fact that they were being forced to read. That is what I personally didn’t like about the project. For me it wasn’t so much the project itself, it was the mind set it was giving me. So most kids told Mrs. Ripp that they were reading when they weren’t, and then looked up the summary of the book on Google so that when it came time to talk about the book they knew what was going on. Other kids would simply decide that they didn’t want to read and they didn’t want to do the project, so they weren’t going to do it. Others would try their  hardest but their hearts just weren’t in it. So then when everyone presented their horrific projects to Mrs. Ripp and we all got bad grades it was this HUGE reality check for everyone. But of course no teacher wants their students to fail so there is always a second chance in Mrs. Ripp’s classroom. Sometimes the second chance was coming in during a study hall and talking about what you could have done better, sometimes it was studying more and then getting a chance take the test again. Getting these second chances makes a big difference in grades and how they improve.

Through out the year in her classroom you get a lot of chances to do a lot of cool things that are once in a life time experiences. I find myself referring to it as “her classroom” but I know that if Mrs. Ripp were writing this she would be referring to it as “our classroom” because that is what it really is to her and that makes a big difference in the way she teaches and how and what you learn in her classroom. All in all being in Mrs. Ripp’s classroom is fun, exciting, interesting, and an educational opportunity that I wish everyone could experience.

challenge, connect, connections, honesty

A Challenge to All

I was the new kid in town 4 times before I turned 14.  I hated being the new kid.  My sister, Christine, was a dazzler.  She made new friends simply because she arrived, she drew people to her, and she still does.  I was the awkward kid that kind of looked like a boy, had huge feet, and was way too serious for her age.  Not a great combination for dazzling new people.  So when I first joined Twitter, I felt the clammy hand of past embarrassment gain hold of me.  What if no one cared?  What if no one responded?  What if no one followed?  I want to say that I joined Twitter to learn, which I did, but I also joined the blogging and tweeting world to connect with people, and it is this connection that keeps me coming back every day.  It’s the connection that urges me to get others to join, that makes me write my heart out on this blog, and that makes me push myself into new challenges.  But what if you just can’t make that connection?

There were a couple of people who immidiately took me under their wing Lisa Dabbs @Teachingwthsoul, Edna Sackson @WhatEdSaid and Joan Young @Florishingkids.  If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t think I would still be tweeting.  So as I look at my own follower count and see it grow way beyond this shy girl’s expectations, I wonder, who can I reach out to and how?  How can we make deeper connections, especially with those people that like me felt like the new kid in town?  How can we let people know that Twitter is all about connections and not to be afraid to reach out?

I think a movement has gained momentum lately spearheaded by Katie Hellerman who posted this incredible video: The Connection Challenge.  This then sparked an amazing post by Jabiz Raisdana called “Next Level” which urged us all to reach out and open up.  Cale Birks came up with the idea of the Ten Picture Tour of our schools, which you can follow on Twitter under #10PIXTR. And today Justin Tarte wrote a great post asking what can we do to keep the momentum going called “It’s All about Sustainable Momentum..” 

So I have been wanting to open up, after all, I am way to honest on my blog anyway.  And the one world that we often keep hidden is our home, afterall, we can hide behind our computers. What if we did the 10 picture of our homes instead?  Wouldn’t that also provide another layer to our connection?  If you see the mess I sit in every day when I blog, will it make you know me better?  So I offer up this challenge:

Do a 10 picture tour of your home.  Nothing fancy, I don’t expect masterpieces.

Post it on your blog and tweet it out using the same hashtag #10PIXTR (I hope that’s alright).

 Let’s see if we can take this connection one step further.

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.

believe, choices, community, connect, education, educators, honesty, hopes, inspiration, invest, leader, learning, life choices, Mentor, promise, reform, Superman, teaching, trust

I am the Reform

I am the reform when I trust other teachers.

I am the reform when I stand united, and not divided.

I am the reform when I discuss, assess, and learn with my students.

I am the reform when I trust in others.

I am the reform when I ask for observation, feedback, and growth opportunities.

I am the reform when I discuss, even with people with whom I disagree.

I am the reform when I reflect, reject and reinvent.

I am the reform when I ask for help.

I am the reform when I learn more.

I am the reform when I am not afraid.

I am the reform when I listen and I speak.

I am the reform when I believe.

Are you the reform?

being a teacher, emotions, honesty, personality

Yes, You Look Fat in Those Pants

I am an open book.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, smile to the world and rage directly at the people that need the rage.  I am driven by emotions both good and bad and have a very strong instinct that guides many decisions.  I was probably born this way but can also accredit this personality to my mother, who never backs down when it gets tough, who always speaks her mind, who is always honest.  I am the friend that will tell you that those pants make you look fat but I will also tell you when something you did was amazing.  I am that wife that tells their husband when they are whining but will also show genuine appreciation for taking the garbage out or buying gas station flowers (they are the best).  I am that teacher that will tell you how your actions upset me and then we will solve it together.  I wish I could say I do not carry a grudge, but I do, however my grudge list is very brief and I intend to keep it that way.

It is not easy being bold, or direct, or honest.  In fact, this society does not reward such behaviors but instead tells you to tone it down, think of who you are offending, or know your place.  Being Danish does not make it easier since it is a trait much-valued in my country and yet over here, it is almost entirely frowned upon.  The trouble I have gotten into because of my bluntness could fill the pages of a very long book, from being booted out of a wedding the week before, to almost being left behind in a Vegas casino, yes, I have made many mistakes.  And yet, I would not change who I am, at least not in a major way.

Yes, I am emotional but that is not a swear word.  Instead, I am exuberant, joyful, and overly optimistic – most of the time.  I am genuinely happy to see you, to meet you, to connect with you and if I am not, you will know.  If I care about you, I will reach out to you.  If I am interested, I will ask.  If you upset me, I will tell you and then try to solve it.  If you hurt me or there is a misunderstanding, I will come to you rather than my colleagues or friends.   I believe in honesty and it is my driving nature.  Sure I get into trouble, a lot of trouble, but I will not change it.  It is time we let our guards down and let the honesty out.  It is liberating to tell someone what you really are thinking as long as you weigh your words carefully.  But do not be afraid of yourself, your emotions, your instincts, after all, they are you.  Do not hide from your directness but embrace it; embrace yourself, and give yourself a chance.