being a teacher, hopes

Have Hope Photo Credit

Some people say that they are tired of fighting.  That this is the end of education.  That the reform has gotten so far out of hand that there is no more room for common sense, for creative thinkers, for partnership.  Some people say that our students will suffer, and yes I agree, but some see no end to it all.  No winning, no change, just more tests, more papers, more, more, more – with less.

I say there is hope.  That amongst all of this fear, all of this uncertainty, we can still look at our students and see that spark.  That they know we suffer through testing with them and we teach them to be resilient.  We teach them that sometimes life asks you to do things that  make no sense, and we must get through it with grace, valor, and creativity.

So when it all seems to be too much, too crazy, too little, too late, think of the students.  Think of what we do for them every day when they enter their rooms at school, when we tell them good morning, when we end the day by saying thank you.  Thank you for being part of this, thank you for being part of something that is bigger than us, for placing your faith in me as your teacher.  For placing your faith in this school and this wonderful learning journey.  Have hope; our students do every day.

education reform, hopes, testing

Bring Back the Thinking

One of the biggest struggles in my classroom and teaching is how to infer.  This vast concept of being able to process information and knowledge to produce an answer is a lifeskill, one of those daunting tasks as a teacher that we must accomplish making sense of for our students.  I don’t think the students are the problem, in fact, they are quite creative in their thinking; it is the educational system as a whole that is to blame for this.

With an emphasis on tests we teach students there is only one packaged answer, at least at the elementary level.  We do not teach them that the answer can be deeper than just one sentence or that their answer may differ from ours.  Why?  Because you cannot measure that on a test.  A test requires one bubble filled in or writing that fits into someones rubric.  A test requires conformity in our thinking and particularly in our creative problem-solving skills.  Tests do not like when we debate or argue various points.  Tests urge simplicity in our instruction.

That is not to say that all tests are bad.  We often discuss how it is what you do with the information that measures the worth of a test, and yet, tests hinder us from doing exceptional things in the classroom on a daily basis.  That urgent need to constantly check for progress through a test experience, stiffles students in their quest to become bigger and better thinkers, and to help create inferences.  SO most of our instruction is teaching to the test, math has one answer, when we ask questions they almost always have one answer as well.  Teacher bias means a need for student thinking to line up with their own interpretation, so it becomes right versus wrong.   After all, how many of us after the correct answer has been given, stop to ask whether there are other correct answers?

So why am I so hung up on inferences?  Well, they require that one gathers a lot of information, mixes it up with background knowledge, and then draws a new conclusion.  Inference requires confidence in ones own qualities as a thinker, as an independent creator.  Tests do not teach confidence.  My instruction attempts to, yet I am constantly battling students who think that there is just ONE answer.  After all, that is what they have been taught.  So if they miss that one true answer, then they must be stupid.  It appears that we, by pushing tests on our students, become the creators of our own demise; students who have no confidence in their abilities to learn.  And by “We” I mean the system as a whole.  In our incessant quest to measure, we are dumbing down our student population, urging them not to think creatively but rather stick to the known, the facts, the things that can be measured.  We are making them believe that the world has a right and wrong answer in every scenario, but it doesn’t.  No wonder some of our most successful thinkers did not feel the urge to complete college.  We have to get past the one answer tests to help our students.  We have to get past the constant need for progress measurement.  Get back to teaching.  Get back to discussion.  Get back to creative solutions.  It is time to bring the thinking back in education.


A Dream

I dream of being a teacher that learns along with her students.  I dream that for my children to soar I must soar along with them.  That we shall reach our dreams through hard work, diligence, and creativity.  I dream to be the teacher that says “yes” instead of “no,”  “do it” rather than “stop,” “dream it” instead of “hmmm.”  I dream of a classroom where students are engaged, on the floor, in chairs, on top of desks, busy learning because that is what they want to do not just what they are expected to do.  I dream of a school that encourages collaborations and even gives us time to do it knowing that we are only as strong as our weakest idea.

I dream of a classroom where student questions come before teacher lesson plans.  Where the goal may have been set but the journey is always being recreated, invented, or totally changed.  I dream of a school where children cannot wait to come to class because they know that they will leave there being better, more, bigger somehow.

I dream to be a teacher of all students, where culture and heritage is embraced.  Where differences are respected, accepted and then used as a strength to unite rather than to seperate.  I dream of a room where the students feel like they belong, they they are cared for, that they are loved and that their voice always, always matter.

I dream of a system where the students are not just numbers, but whole people, where we encourage individuality even in our teaching and cater to all needs, not just the ones that suit our teaching style the best.  I dream of a job where experimentation is encouraged, expected and always respected.  Where ideas are discussed, turned upside down, and shared without fear or judgment.  I dream of being in a job that is respected for what it gives to the community, for what we do every day for our students.  I dream that there is a place for me where these dreams become reality.  Where I will get to experiment with all the dreams I have, knowing that students are the ones who benefit so that they too can become dreamers.

anger, hopes, love, students

Dear Arnold Once More

Dear Arnold,

I haven’t heard anything for so long, and yet, there you are again, coming into my life but this time only through conversation.  It seems that my angry 4th grader only grew into an even angrier 6th grader.  Someone whom the system failed and who is now set to be expelled from not just another school, but an entire district.  The news is given to me nonchalantly like it is no big deal but just another update on an old student but they don’t know.  They don’t know how I worry about you still, how I carry your smile with me, how I reflect on what I could have done better.  My heart sinks, and the heaviness of this job gets to me.
My principal asks what happened to you back then?  We failed, that’s what happened.  We tried to get you help but the red tape was too much, it was too ever present, looming over us at every step of the way.  Those people just wouldn’t listen when we told them that we felt that this was it; this was your moment to choose your path, and we were so worried with the direction you were headed. So we just focused on getting you through that day, rather than giving you the chance of getting better, of getting help.  And now you pay the price for our failure.  You are the one who even an alternative school has failed because all of that anger inside of you just keeps on coming.  
So I try to reach out, to help from afar, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do.  Except I can’t just give up like others.  I can’t just let it go.  You may not see what I see in you, or even understand why this crazy white teacher keeps fighting for you, but you matter.  Demons like those you battle are not meant for children.   Kids your age should not be worried about the burdens you carry, real or perceived.  You should be playing soccer, or hanging with your friends, by now even checking out girls.  And instead the anger has fused into your spine as you carry yourself through those hallways, glancing at everyone as you prepare to fight. The world is not against you, even if it seems that way.
So Arnold, I know I can’t save you, but I say it again; I am here if you need me.  I am here to listen, to vent with, even if I will never understand why you are so angry.  Even if I will never live your life.  You are not alone, you are not a failure, you are kind, you have the greatest heart of any child I know, you matter.  Don’t let the world take that away from you.
Mrs. Ripp
From i can read
being a teacher, education reform, hopes, students, testing

Being a Good Teacher Means

It is no longer a secret that our nation is obsessed with the supposed battle between “good” and “bad” teachers.  Apparently, according to many, America has an epidemic of bad teachers on their hands and it is only through dismantling of the unions that these bad teachers can be disposed of.  So for the sake of research and help, I asked colleagues to finish this sentence “Being a good teacher means…”  So America, here to help you with the definition of a good teacher, as well as how to evealuate them, see my favorite answers below:

Being a good teachers means…

  • Being willing to reflect, change, and improve-looking for the best opportunities for student learning – @MrMacnology
  • Laughter, lots of laughter. Laughing with your students – @HeidiSiwak
  • Recognizing you are a learner, as well as a teacher and getting your students to understand that learning is for life -@henriettaMI
  • Listening more than you talk … Often kids have a better answer and you just have to hear it – @Polygirl68
  • Being open 2 our students drive their own learning in the classroom – @MollyBMom
  • Always feeling the lesson could’ve gone just a wee bit better – @Attipscast
  • Means u never stop learning and u always work to improve – @KTVee
  • Being a learner. being humble. being empathetic. being flexible. being knowledgeable. being driven. @RussGoerend
  • Always doing what’s right by the kids @Becky7274

So there you have it; what makes a teacher good.  In my words; passion, change, dedication, transparency, authenticity, knowing when to be quiet, and knowing when to fight.  No one said test scores, rigidity, or grades, so why do they seem to be the driving force behind what determines someones worth?

What is missing?