aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher, change, inspiration

You Don’t Have to Throw Everything Out to Be Innovative


I almost felt guilty walking to the cabinet.  I almost felt as if I would get busted, as if someone would burst through the door wagging their finger and raising an eyebrow.  Touting me as a phony because am I not “one of those” educators that are supposed to be innovative?  One of those that is constantly trying something new and crazy?  One of those that tells everyone to just take a chance and make a change?  Well I am (sometimes), but I am also human.  And on this day I went to the cabinet to fetch an old lesson, something I knew would work, something that I could use again.  Something that I would probably tweak to fit my new students, but not majorly overhaul, and honestly I felt relieved.

We often confuse great teaching with constant innovation.  We think that to reach all of our students in the best way possible, we must constantly change.  we must never rest.  We must never reuse.  Yet, we forget that we are dealing with children that crave routine.  Children that yes can be creative and curious but at the same time also need some predictability.  Children that can get exhausted when we are constantly trying new things and asking them to discard the old to embrace the new.

And let’s not forget about ourselves.  The job we have is demanding, and we must constantly search for new solutions, yet we forget to give ourselves a break.  There is nothing wrong with using something that has worked before, as long as we make it better each time we use it.  There is nothing wrong with trying something we have tried before.  There is nothing wrong with pulling out old lessons.  Innovation should not be confused with discarding every thing we have tried.  There is beauty in the old, in the tried.  There is beauty when a teacher has experience.  Allow yourself that moment.

So do embrace the old when it works.  Fly the flag of your past lessons that have soared.  Don’t get stuck, but allow yourself to rest in familiarity as well.  Great things come from ideas we have tried on before.  Don’t think you have to constantly change to be a change-maker.

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 from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being me, inspiration, reflection

Lessons Learned From a Week

image from icanread

The end of the year means a quiet time for me.  This year more than ever.  And yet in the quiet I find solace because I realize just how much I have learned from those that surround me.  Many of these lessons really came through  in the last week where the unexpected 10 week early arrival of our daughter reminded me of just how much I don’t know.

I learned this week, once again, that we cannot control everything.  That even when we think we know what the plan will be, whenever it involves children, they ultimately steer the plan.  So while I think I may know exactly how to get somewhere, my students often have a better idea, it is important to slow down enough to listen to them.

I learned this week, that what you read matters.  I can see when I love a book because all I want to do is sneak moments to read it.  When a book is not for me, reading becomes a chore even when on bed-rest.  When we tell a child what to read, even with our best intentions, we may change reading into a chore and nobody likes that.

I learned this week that goodbye matters.  When I left to go into the hospital again, after I had told my students I would be back the following day, many of them understood but could not get over that I had not said goodbye.  Everything had happened so abruptly that although they understood they still wanted to make sure I was ok and without a quick goodbye how could they know that.

I learned this week that receiving help does not mean you are greedy.  Many people asked how they could help and whether they could bring a meal.  While this goes against every Danish bone in my body (you just don’t get  handouts!) my instinct told me to accept with gratitude.  I cannot tell you how much easier our lives have been just because someone took care of dinner.  How often do we say no in our classrooms because we don’t want to appear demanding?  It is time for us to start to say yes instead, especially to the little things.

I learned that while we feel the need the need to be by the side of one child, our other children need us even more.  Augustine really needs time to grow in the hospital, our other 3 need us to be parents full-time.  The balance is so hard to achieve but we try every day.  Just like our students need us to be there for them, there are days when one needs us more.  It is our job to realize who has the biggest needs that day and juggle everything around it, while realizing that sometimes it is not the kid that seems the most dire that has the biggest need.

I learned this week to be present for every moment.  When you get to hold a 3 lbs baby in your arms, and you can barely feel her, every grunt matters.  Yesterday my husband held her for the first time and as she reached out her hand and placed in on his heart the whole world stopped.  I wasn’t on my phone, we weren’t speaking, we were just there in that moment, part of it.   How often are we present in our classrooms for those small moments of success?

I learned this week that it is not the fault of others if I am tired.  Some times life gets in our way of our optimal health but that does not mean I have the right to snap.  How many mornings do we drag ourselves to school because we stayed up too late and then get grumpy with our students.  The choices we make affect everyone around us, so we must take responsibility for that.

I learned this week that every special moment does not have to be perfect to feel perfect.  Christmas is tomorrow for this Dane and I am not sure everyone has a present, what the kids will wear, how we will get cookies for Santa, or  even if everything is wrapped.  But as my husband said, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we celebrate the time we get to be together and that we focus on our family.  Not the presents, not the wrapping, not the extra.  Our classrooms don’t need to be perfect for children to grow in them, they need to be filled with love and a focus on each child.  Everything else will fall into place.

I learned this week that how I face the world is in my control.  Yes, life may have been turned upside down in the last 7 days but it is how I choose to deal with it that matters.  While I may feel like crying a lot, no good will come of it beside a temporary relief.  What I need right now is to stay positive more than ever before.  This is not the end of the world even if it may seem like it, it is the beginning of a new journey that we are fortunate enough to be part of.





Do You Need a Style Pick Me Up? How About a $100 One from Loft?

Many years ago as I went to college full-time I also worked at  Loft.  Perhaps this is where my critical eye of teacher style was honed, but it definitely helped me build my own beginning wardrobe while giving me skills I still use today.  So while I don’t really do promotions on this blog, after all I want to keep it real, when Loft contacted me to do a giveaway I felt it was my time to give back.

First the details, between October 15th and October 20th any teacher who shops at Loft (and shows their teaching ID) will get 25% off full time purchases.  Now for the cherry on top one lucky reader of this blog will get a $100 giftcard to shop with from Loft.  So how do you get this awesome gift card?  All you have to do is leave a comment detailing either your biggest teacher fashion pet peeve, your biggest fashion blunder, or tell me why you need this gift card.  Now I wish I could give one to everyone that reads this blog, I am sure we could all use it, but I do only have one.  You have until Sunday evening at 8 PM CST to leave your comments.  Have fun shopping!


Update:  The contest has closed, however the promotion starts tomorrow.  Happy shopping!

Be the change, being a teacher, inspiration, new year, Student-centered

A Kinder, Slower, More Receptive Approach to the Start of School

If We Would Just Stop Talking We Might Learn Something

I was fortunate enough to have my very first article published by EdWeek this week in anticipation of my book release this fall.  I have been so excited to move into the editing stages of my book, titled “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom back to Our Students Starting Today.”  This book is meant to be a how-to book for new teachers and veterans that want to change a little or a lot of how they have been teaching.  It is a practical book filled with ideas and examples to hopefully inspire you to give the classroom back and give students a voice in their education.

So here is an excerpt from my article, please click the link to see the rest

No teacher begins a teaching career with ill intentions. Yet most of us make our biggest mistake on our very first day. I was no different, nine years ago. I chose to do everything the way I had been taught in college—the way the popular new-teacher advice books said I should.

Sure, I laughed with the students and made noises about our “class community.” But as the all-important first week of school progressed, I went about dictating rules, establishing who was in control, and setting tight boundaries for the year.

As a result, I lost the opportunity to create the kind of relationship with my students that leads not only to motivation and engagement but to real ownership of learning and ultimately greater achievement. At the time I didn’t recognize the loss—it took several years, in fact. If you’re a new teacher about to begin your journey, maybe my lessons learned can help you avoid the pitfalls of a pretend partnership with your students.


To see the rest and my ideas for a better way to start, go here

inspiration, new year

Some Videos to Inspire at Back to School

I wrote my post asking administrators to inspire us back to school simply because of my own hopes and dreams.   I wrote it in the hopes that it would make someone think while they prepared their own meetings and activities, and it seems to have done just that.  One question I have then gotten is which videos to show at back to school?  And while I had a few in mind, I asked on Twitter and got many great responses.  So in no particular order, here are some of my favorites.  (I tried to pick shorter ones because I know my own attention span is limited at the beginning).

Brave by Sara Bareilles – I will be showing this video to my students as well, but the message in it applies to everybody; I would love to see how big your brave is!

The Fairy Scientist – to remind us how kids wonder and we should cultivate that.

Suli Breaks – Why I Hate School but Love Education.  I use this with my students to discuss what the difference is between education and school and how we can change it.  I would love to see this as an all staff conversation.

Suli Breaks – I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate.  Again, phenomenal spoken word that is sure to get discussions started.

Rita Pierson – Every Kid Needs a Champion.  Phenomenal video discussing those kids that need us the most.

Diana Laufenberg – How to Learn? From Mistakes.  Another phenomenal Ted talk from someone I admire greatly, this will spur a great conversation with anyone.

Introduction to Genius Hour.  I am super biased here since I do both Genius Hour and Innovation Day so why not spread this wonderful way of learning.

Kid President – A Pep Talk.  One of my favorite videos from last year and one that still resonates with me; It’s time to do something!

Jimmy Casas shared the videos he shows, there are some great ones here too I haven’t shared.

And then why not create your own school vision video like we did a few years back.  Let everyone know what we stand for.

inspiration, Reading

The Smart Things People Said at Teachers College

I spent a week being inspired at Teachers College in NYC and while I wish I could report on every thing that was said there, I thought I would just share some of the more memorable quotes I heard throughout the week.

Rub a fiction book and a nonfiction book together and create a spark – K. Bohne Holder

We must create the counter narrative to education – Lucy Calkins

Kids should be reading books created by authors, not by corporations – Lucy Calkins

Look for the beauty in your colleagues’ rooms and then share it with the world – Lucy Calkins

The most effective feedback is what students tell us through action, words, and products and then using that to change our instruction – Chris Lehman

Reading fiction allows us to be what we never could be – Kylene Beers

Let me tell you what happens when we give a kid a text that is too hard; it is too hard, that is what happens – Kylene Beers

We confuse decoding with reading – Kathleen Tolan

Regurgitation does not equal understanding – Kathleen Tolan

Book clubs are not shares, they are conversations – Kathleen Tolan

We can over-manage kids into not speaking during our reading conversations – Kathleen Tolan

My job as an author is to get readers to turn pages – Christopher Paul Curtis

Don’t let anything come between you and your love of teaching – Kathy Collins

If you have the capability to doubt, you also have the capability to wonder – Kate Roberts

I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, 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 “The Passionate Learner – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.