authentic learning, learning, Personalized Learning

Great TED Talks to Use With Middle Schoolers and Other Ages Too

I wanted to immerse my students in thought provoking TED Talks and videos as one of the new options in our final round of “Choose Your Own Learning.” Watching these videos will allow us to continue the work we have done all year on expanding our world view and discussing “Whose Voices are Missing?” as well as allow students for a chance to work on their analysis skills. Students will watch one video a day and then either write or record a response to the video. While I wanted to draw in specific non-fiction skills, I also just wanted students to have a chance to connect and respond. To see my very much work in progress assignment, go here.

While I had several videos I knew I wanted to use with students, I also knew that there were many I had not yet discovered. Enter my incredible Twitter network. I sent out the following Tweet

87 replies later, still growing, and I could not believe once again the treasure trove of incredible videos that were suggested. My gratitude runs deep and so does my penchant for sharing, so without further ado, here are many of the replies given to me with thanks to those who shared them. I am so grateful for all of you. Some are not here that were suggested more than once. I have also ones that we have used throughout the year that have started great discussion in our classroom.

Jamila Lyiscott – Three Ways to Speak English

Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

NY Times – Growing Up Black in America

In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.

Matthew Carter – Your Story is Your Superpower

When two teenage boys robbed Matthew at gunpoint almost 11 years ago in front of his own home, he spent many years being fearful of teenagers and feeling haunted by the memory of a cold gun barrel pressed against his head. He realized that living in a state of constant fear prevented him from living his best life, so he worked tirelessly to change his mindset and learn the difference between things he could control and things he couldn’t. Decisions based in fear often result in not being in alignment with our true selves. At its core, the majority of problems seen in most media outlets are stemmed in the emotion of fear. A child is not born afraid. These emotions are imposed on them from another’s fears or caused by life experiences which results in us building both emotional and physical walls to keep out what we’re so fearful of. Being in the “flow” of life allows our natural state of being – love – to be the driving force in our decision making. Matthew works at The Ohio State University and is working to follow his life’s purpose. He has survived two instances of gun violence. He visits schools throughout Ohio and across the country to share his story – a message of hope and perseverance.

Prince EA – What is School For?

Kandice Sumner – How America’s Public Schools Keep Kids in Poverty

Why should a good education be exclusive to rich kids? Schools in low-income neighborhoods across the US, specifically in communities of color, lack resources that are standard at wealthier schools — things like musical instruments, new books, healthy school lunches and soccer fields — and this has a real impact on the potential of students. Kandice Sumner sees the disparity every day in her classroom in Boston. In this inspiring talk, she asks us to face facts — and change them.

Noah Tavlin – How False News Can Spread

Dive into the phenomenon known as circular reporting and how it contributes to the spread of false news and misinformation.

Stephanie Buari – How Fake News Does Real Harm

On April 14, 2014, the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Around the world, the crime became epitomized by the slogan #BringBackOurGirls — but in Nigeria, government officials called the crime a hoax, confusing and delaying efforts to rescue the girls. In this powerful talk, journalist Stephanie Busari points to the Chibok tragedy to explain the deadly danger of fake news and what we can do to stop it.

Asha de Vos – Why You Should Care About Whale Poo

Whales have a surprising and important job, says marine biologist Asha de Vos: these massive creatures are ecosystem engineers, keeping the oceans healthy and stable by … well, by pooping, for a start. Learn from de Vos, a TED Fellow, about the undervalued work that whales do to help maintain the stability and health of our seas — and our planet.

Jarrett J – Krosoczka – Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes

Children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka shares the origins of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in which undercover school heroes serve lunch…and justice! His new project, School Lunch Hero Day, reveals how cafeteria lunch staff provide more than food, and illustrates how powerful a thank you can be.

Gene Luen Yang – Comics Belong in the Classroom

Comic books and graphic novels belong in every teacher’s toolkit, says cartoonist and educator Gene Luen Yang. Set against the backdrop of his own witty, colorful drawings, Yang explores the history of comics in American education — and reveals some unexpected insights about their potential for helping kids learn.

McKenna Pope – Want to Be an Activist? Start with Your Toys.

McKenna Pope’s younger brother loved to cook, but he worried about using an Easy-Bake Oven — because it was a toy for girls. So at age 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the pink-and-purple color scheme on the classic toy and incorporate boys into its TV marketing. In a heartening talk, Pope makes the case for gender-neutral toys and gives a rousing call to action to all kids who feel powerless.

Zak Ebrahim – I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace.

If you’re raised on dogma and hate, can you choose a different path? Zak Ebrahim was just seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His story is shocking, powerful and, ultimately, inspiring.

Kakenya Ntaiya – A Girl Who Demanded School

Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo a traditional Maasai rite of passage, female circumcision, if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community, changing the destiny of 125 young women.

Shabana Basij-Raiskh – Dare to Educate Afghan Girls

Imagine a country where girls must sneak out to go to school, with deadly consequences if they get caught learning. This was Afghanistan under the Taliban, and traces of that danger remain today. 22-year-old Shabana Basij-Rasikh runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. She celebrates the power of a family’s decision to believe in their daughters — and tells the story of one brave father who stood up to local threats.

Monique W. Morris – Why Black Girls Are Targeted for Punishment in Schools – And How to Change That

Around the world, black girls are being pushed out of schools because of policies that target them for punishment, says author and social justice scholar Monique W. Morris. The result: countless girls are forced into unsafe futures with restricted opportunities. How can we put an end to this crisis? In an impassioned talk, Morris uncovers the causes of “pushout” and shows how we can work to turn all schools into spaces where black girls can heal and thrive.

India Hawkins – Facing the Real Me: Looking in the Mirror with Natural Hair

Growing up, 18-year-old India Hawkins was taught how to maintain her hair, but not how to love her hair. A tangled history of political oppression, irresponsible advertising and unattainable beauty standards meant she spent her childhood using chemicals, heat, and protective styling to “manage” the hair that grew naturally from her head. Until one day India decided to “go natural.” But she was in for a shock; India never knew how much she was hiding behind her hair, until the day she cut it all off. In her Talk, India describes the emotional sometimes difficult journey that led her to love her hair.

Haaziq Kazi – Cleaning Our Oceans

When 11-year-old Haaziq Kazi first prototyped his invention to clean plastic from the surface of the ocean, it lasted for about 7 seconds before coming apart in his bathtub. But that didn’t stop him! In fact, his invention just got better and more elaborate. In this Talk, Haaziq’s enthusiasm and creativity remind us that, when it comes to solving some of earth’s biggest problems, our imagination may be one of our greatest assets.

Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Drew Dudley – Everyday Leadership

We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

Matt Cutts – Try Something New for 30 Days

Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.

Shane Koyczan – To This Day

By turn hilarious and haunting, poet Shane Koyczan puts his finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young and … different. “To This Day,” his spoken-word poem about bullying, captivated millions as a viral video (created, crowd-source style, by 80 animators). Here, he gives a glorious, live reprise with backstory and violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson.

Ash Beckham – We’re All Hiding Something

In this touching talk, Ash Beckham offers a fresh approach to empathy and openness. It starts with understanding that everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced hardship. The only way out, says Beckham, is to open the door and step out of your closet.

Proud to Be (Mascots)

Watch the #BigGame commercial the NFL would never air.

Indigenous in New York

Where does history begin? New York’s infamous Columbus Circle memorializes the founding of a new world and perpetuates the myth of American exceptionalism, while denying the violence against Indigenous people—a will to ignorance. With a crew of Natives, we asked over 100 New Yorkers to identify the “origin” of our Native models to understand where contemporary Native lives exist in popular consciousness. The indigenous story is more accurate and a story that we all deserve to hear. Let us begin to write and speak a healing narrative that honors Native people, let us get to know each other, let us hug each other—you can and should #HugANative today.

Ron Finlay: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Sugatra Mitra – Kids Can Teach Themselves

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Ismael Nazario – What I Learned as a Kid in Jail

As a teenager, Ismael Nazario was sent to New York’s Rikers Island jail, where he spent 300 days in solitary confinement — all before he was ever convicted of a crime. Now as a prison reform advocate he works to change the culture of American jails and prisons, where young people are frequently subjected to violence beyond imagination. Nazario tells his chilling story and suggests ways to help, rather than harm, teens in jail.

Joy Buolamwini – How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms

MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini was working with facial analysis software when she noticed a problem: the software didn’t detect her face — because the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures. Now she’s on a mission to fight bias in machine learning, a phenomenon she calls the “coded gaze.” It’s an eye-opening talk about the need for accountability in coding … as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.

Stacy Smith – The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism

Where are all the women and girls in film? Social scientist Stacy Smith analyzes how the media underrepresents and portrays women — and the potentially destructive effects those portrayals have on viewers. She shares hard data behind gender bias in Hollywood, where on-screen males outnumber females three to one (and behind-the-camera workers fare even worse.)

George Takei – Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me

When he was a child, George Takei and his family were forced into an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, as a “security” measure during World War II. 70 years later, Takei looks back at how the camp shaped his surprising, personal definition of patriotism and democracy.

Judge Helen Whitener – Claiming Your Identity

Michaela Horn – Teen Stress From a Teen Perspective

A simple experiment to discover what stresses high school students leads to disturbing results that soon become a story on their own. Michaela Horn shares her journey, results, and the alarming turn of events that unfolded.

Mac Barnett – Why a Good Book is a Secret Door

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn’t children’s books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Kids on Race “Because I’m Latino, I Can’t Have Money?”

Hear some straight talk from middle-schoolers about race and what it’s like to grow up in such racially charged times.

Michael Jr – Know Your Why

Comedian Michael Jr. goes Off the Cuff at live comedy show and uses this completely improv moment as a great illustration for knowing your why and purpose in life. See what happens after he asks if he can sing…

Charlie Todd – The Shared Experience of Absurdity

Charlie Todd causes bizarre, hilarious, and unexpected public scenes: Seventy synchronized dancers in storefront windows, “ghostbusters” running through the New York Public Library, and the annual no-pants subway ride. His group, Improv Everywhere, uses these scenes to bring people together.

Phil Hansen – Embrace the Shake

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.

Ed Thomas – What Will Be Your Legacy?

A short documentary for the 2010 ESPN Espy awards. This year the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was presented to Ed Thomas and family of Parkersburg, Iowa.

Derek Sivers – How to Start a Movement

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains how movements really get started. (Hint: it takes two.)

Maya Penn – Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist

Maya Penn started her first company when she was 8 years old, and thinks deeply about how to be responsible both to her customers and to the planet. She shares her story — and some animations, and some designs, and some infectious energy — in this charming talk.

Adora Svitak – What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.

Rita Pierson – Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

Richard Turere – My Invention that Made Peace With Lions

In the Maasai community where Richard Turere lives with his family, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

Fernando Pérez – The Importance of Bearing Witness

The importance of listening, and validating the stories of others, is demonstrated through an intimate look at Pérez’s great-grandmother who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. and moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s

Paul Nicklen – Animal Tales from Icy Wonderlands

Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend. Share his hilarious, passionate stories of the polar wonderlands, illustrated by glorious images of the animals who live on and under the ice.

Simon Sinek – Start With Why

Cole Plante – Getting Started as a DJ

DJ and producer Cole Plante is only 17 years old, but he’s already worked alongside industry superstars Skrillex, Avicii and Major Lazer (to name just a few). In this combination talk and DJ set, Plante shows off his mixing magic and gives tips to aspiring DJs.

CM Hall – Social Justice…In a Cookie

The social justice issue no one is talking about…

I, Pencil: The Movie

Beau Lotto & Amy O’Toole – Science is for Everyone

What do science and play have in common? Neuroscientist Beau Lotto thinks all people (kids included) should participate in science and, through the process of discovery, change perceptions. He’s seconded by 12-year-old Amy O’Toole, who, along with 25 of her classmates, published the first peer-reviewed article by schoolchildren, about the Blackawton bees project. It starts: “Once upon a time … “

Joseph Lekuton – A Parable for Kenya

Joseph Lekuton, a member of parliament in Kenya, starts with the story of his remarkable education, then offers a parable of how Africa can grow. His message of hope has never been more relevant.

Vivian Connell – The Monti Video Series

After learning of her terminal illness, Vivian Connell sets out to take her ESL class to the Holocaust Museum.

Suki Kim – This is What It’s Like to Go Undercover in North Korea

For six months, Suki Kim worked as an English teacher at an elite school for North Korea’s future leaders — while writing a book on one of the world’s most repressive regimes. As she helped her students grapple with concepts like “truth” and “critical thinking,” she came to wonder: Was teaching these students to seek the truth putting them in peril? 

Kelvin Doe – Building a Radio

THNKR is proud to present the next chapter in the riveting story of 15-Year-Old engineering prodigy Kelvin Doe. THNKR has exclusive access to Kelvin as he returns to the United States to deliver a riveting talk at TedxTeen and grapples with the impact of newfound YouTube superstardom.

Kevin Alloca – Why Videos Go Viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube’s Head of Culture & Trends, and he has deep thoughts about silly web video. In this talk from TEDYouth, he shares the 4 reasons a video goes viral.

Pamela Meyer – How to Spot a Liar

On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lies can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Ann Makosinski – Why I Don’t Use a Smartphone

Imagine all the things you can do…off of your phone. Parents be warned.

Cameron Russell – Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model

Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.

Grace Lin – The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

What your child reads sets the path for their own self-worth as well as how they see others. Grace Lin is a children’s book author/illustrator whose book, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” received the Newbery Book Honor. She shows how the books that are not on your child’s bookshelf are just as important as those that are.

Clint Smith – The Danger of Silence

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Lindsay Malloy – Why Teens Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit

Why do juveniles falsely confess to crimes? What makes them more vulnerable than adults to this shocking, counterintuitive phenomenon? Through the lens of Brendan Dassey’s interrogation and confession (as featured in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” documentary), developmental psychology professor and researcher Lindsay Malloy breaks down the science underlying false confessions and calls for change in the way kids are treated by a legal system designed for adults.

Laura Rovner – what Happens to People in Solitary Confinement

Imagine living with no significant human contact for years, even decades, in a cell the size of a small bathroom. This is the reality for those in long-term solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment regularly imposed in US prisons. In this eye-opening talk, civil rights lawyer Laura Rovner takes us to ADX, the US federal government’s only supermax prison, and describes the dehumanizing effects of long-term solitude on the mind, personality and sense of self. What emerges is an urgent case for abolishing solitary confinement — and evidence for how our tax dollars, public safety and values are implicated in it. “Prisons are administered in our name and on our behalf,” she says. “We have an obligation to bear witness.”

Aaron Huey – America’s Native Prisoner of War Camps

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.

Bryan Stevenson – We Need to Talk about an Injustice

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

David R. Williams – How Racism Makes Us Sick

Why does race matter so profoundly for health? David R. Williams developed a scale to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system — and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination.

I know there are many more incredible videos out there to use, I know I discover new ones every year and have missed many here. So leave your favorite in the comments, and again, thank you to all who contributed to this list.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

aha moment, Be the change, being me, learning, lessons learned, teachers

Try To Be You


I have been surrounded by greatness for a while now it seems.  It has been awe-inspiring to hear the stories of what amazing educators are doing in their schools as I go to conferences.  It has been profound to see the supposed ease with which some of my colleagues at Oregon Middle School navigate their days.  I am not there yet, I don’t know if I will ever be.

So this past year has been one of inspiration, but it has also been one of frustration.  I have left many conversations wondering why I am not doing that, why I didn’t think of that.  Read a book and wondered how I can become that teacher.  Heard a speaker and wondered what I need to change to be them.   And yet, tonight I realized that I will never be someone else.  That when I try to be someone else that I lose the very essence that makes me me.  That when we try to imitate, even the best ideas, they will never fully be what we hope for them to be but only shadows of the original.

So do be inspired this summer.  Read a book, start a conversation, go to a conference and meet amazing people.  Learn from them.  Create with them.  But don’t try to be them.  You never will be. I never will be.  We can only be ourselves so change accordingly.  Find ideas that will inspire you to be a better teacher but don’t try to be someone else.  It will never work, our students will see right through it.  Instead make a vow to better yourself, trust your own ideas, and know that you, you are amazing too.  You may just not have discovered it yet.

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.

advice, aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher, being me, learning, Reading, Student

How to Break the Rules Gently – Creating Experiences that Protect the Love of Learning

In true EdCamp Style, Nerdcamp yesterday was all about the collaborative sessions.  I, alongside Donalyn Miller (!) ended up facilitating one of my all-time favorite sessions ever  “How to Break the Rules Gently –  Creating Experiences that Protect the Love of Reading.”  I tried to tweet as much of the advice shared as I could but thought a follow up post would be in order as well.

Let’s face it, we have all worked within systems that went against our beliefs in some way.  Whether we were told to follow curriculum we didn’t believe in, follow rules that broke our hearts, or even just compromise in a way we never thought were would.  Being an educator often means we are wondering how to protect the love of reading in our classroom, the love of school.  And not because people intentionally set out to destroy either of these things but sometimes decisions are made that have unintended consequences.  So do you work within  a system that has rules or curriculum that you want to change or break?  How do you create change when it’s just you fighting?

You know your research.  One of the quickest ways to keep a teacher quiet is to say something is research-based.  So you have to know your own research says Donalyn Miller.  You have to be willing to ask to see the research, and then counter with your own.  Stay current, stay knowledgable and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Donalyn recommends the book Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading by Barbara Moss & Terrell Young as a great place to start.  I ordered it yesterday.  You also don’t say that you are “just” a teacher said Leah Whitford.  You are a teacher, you have power.

You inform parents.  Most parents think that what we choose to do in school is always in the best interest of the child, but this is not necessarily true.  So have a classroom website where you describe what you are doing in class, what students have do, and also the requirements you are faced with.  this is not to complain but rather to inform, because parents cannot speak up if they don’t know what is going on.

You speak kindly.  I used to think change would happen with a sledgehammer approach but ow know that just stops people from listening to you.  It is not that you should be quiet, or not be passionate, but you will get much further with a kind approach where you validate others in the process in furthering real change.

You compromise.  We all think what we are doing is in the best interest of our students, so connect with others and share ideas.  Withhold judgment when you can, but always share what is happening in your room and offer resources.  Don’t claim for it to be the best, but simply share.  Be willing to use others’ ideas as well and compromise on your team.  That doesn’t mean you have given up your ideals, it means you are an adult working with other people.

You find your tribe.  If you cannot find someone in your school that shares your same ideas, look to other schools in  your district, look in your county, and obviously look online.  The Nerdy Book Club is a great place to start.  However, having local connections to keep you sane and invested is a must as well.  It is important that you know you are not alone in your corner of the world, but you have to search these people out.  They may be scared to speak up like you.

You work within the system.  When I was told I had to do reading logs, I had students do them right in class right after independent reading.  I was still doing what I was told but not sending them home.  So find ways to work within the rules that may be imposed on you if you cannot break them completely.

You find your core beliefs.  Figure out what your core beliefs are or values within the classroom, write them up, hang them up and then make every decision based on those.  I think the visual reminder of what you are fighting for will help you pick your battles as well as lead the way.

You are willing to let go.  Sometimes something we love does not fit the purpose anymore, so if you are asking others to change you have to be willing to change yourself.  Even if you spent money on it.  Because money doesn’t equal qulity or great ides or passionate students.

You find out the reason why.  Often when new things are imposed on us, such as leveling a library or doing a reading log, there is a bigger reason behind it.  Find out what that is so that you can try to find other ways to reach that same goal.  So for example if you are told to level your library, if it is for students to be able to self-select “just right” books then explore other ways to achieve that.  Present these ideas and be ready to discuss why these may be a better fit.  As Donalyn said, “Everything we do is a scaffold toward independence – that’s the end game.”

You stop assuming.  We are terribly good at assuming why rules are made or how administrators will react to us.  And yet, often our assumptions are wrong.  So have courageous conversations.  Ask gentle questions and try to broach the subject.  You may be surprised when you find an ally rather than an enemy.

You involve your students.  The biggest advocates for independent reading time in my 7th grade classroom are my student, hands down.  So offer them ways such as on blogs, vide, Twitter, newsletters or whatever else you can think of to spread the message about the things they love in your classroom.  If you want parents onboard, get their kid excited about school!

You work together.  Invite others in to see the classroom environment you have created.  Ask other teachers to come in and observe if they want, admin even though you don’t have, get the special ed teacher to be a part of the movement or any other special teacher you can.  Involve your librarian, they are a reading warrior if I ever met one.  Bring in parents, have family nights.  Find a way to spread the positive image of your class so that others will fight for it as well.

You stay persistent and passionate.  Don’t confuse passion with anger, although it is okay to get angry sometimes.  But stay passionate and persistent in your goal to protect students, stay on top of your reasons for doing things, stay up-to-date on research, and stay down to earth.  No one wants to listen to anyone who thinks they are better than others.  Don’t give up, real change can take a long time, but we must stay at it.  Even if it seems like you are totally alone and no one is listening.  As Jen Vincent said; “You never know what will come of a conversation you have.”

being me, learning, student choice, student voice

Calling All Educators in the Midwest

I tend to not self-promote much on this blog, it feels awkward and weird when I do.  And yet, it is not every day that you get to learn along with the amazing Diana Laufenberg and so this time I am making an exception.  Calling all educators in the Midwest, if you want to explore how to create student-driven, passion-filled classrooms, this two-day workshop is for you on June 25th and 26th outside of Chicago, IL.  Join Diana and I at The Midwest Principal Canter as we explore how to construct 21st century learning experiences.  I promise this workshop with its hands-on approach will be worth your time, after all, this is Diana Laufenberg facilitating.

Here is the more formal description if you are interested, as well as the link to register.

The age of information surplus is upon us and the information is everywhere. Understanding and shifting to that reality in our schools is both daunting and exciting. Join us for two days of exploration into the strategies, tools and resources that yield teaching and learning agile enough to evolve with the shifting information and standards landscape we all navigate in the profession. It is time to move beyond asking what our students know and asking what they can create, innovate and imagine from that knowledge. Many resources are widely available to modernize our classrooms and schools. It’s time for our classrooms to meet the exciting realities of a modern educational approach. Specific teaching units, resources and strategies will be shared. Participants are encouraged to bring units, lessons or objectives that they are currently using in the classrooms and/or schools.

Attendees will:

  • Explore the core values of modern learning
  • Experience and participate in activities to expose teachers to a wide range of model projects and methods that can be used to design their own lessons and units.
  • Explore the systems and structures that must change so that the greatest number of students, teachers and principals can thrive, learn and feel valued.
  • Participate in break-out sessions designed specifically for both elementary and secondary levels.
  • Create and/or revise  a unit or series of lessons throughout the two-day workshop that meet the demands of the standards, while also valuing the role of the student as an active learner
  • Explore a wide range of digital tools and resources that can open up a world of possibilities for an inquiry-driven and/or project based learning environment
  • Investigate the role of global collaboration and how it can complement your existing curriculum

So if you are interested, make sure you get registered.  This promises to be an incredible experience for all of those attending, myself included.

being a teacher, connections, learning

Why I Would Love to Attend the What Great Educators Do Differently Conference

I seem to be aware to a lot of conference, I think it comes with the territory of being connected.  Many conferences catch my eyes and I dream of going but the reality is often that the days don’t fit, the price is too high, the location is too far away, or it is not quite what I am looking for.  Imagine my delight then when a new conference caught my eye and I, for once, realized that this one might just be something for me.

From the authors behind the great book What Connected Educators Do Differently , Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, Jeff Zoul comes the What Great Educators Do Differently Conference – yes, that’s a mouthful, but completely worth your time! So why is this conference piquing my interest?

  • The presenters!  It is not often you get the likes of Todd Whitaker, Shannon Miller, Jimmy Casas, Angela Maiers, Dwight Carter, and even my friend Joe Sanfellipo at the same conference presenting. And the best part is that they are not the only ones, to see the full list of presenters go here.  I think what made me the happiest, though, was the mix of presenters.  From professors, to superintendents, to classroom teachers and everything in between, this conference promises to have many voices represented, not just that of professional presenters.
  • The location!  The great conferences are almost always far away from the Midwest but this one is right in Chicago.  A mere 2 1/2 hours from my house.
  • The dates!  Yes please to professional development on a Friday and a Saturday in October (the 16th and 17th) because by then I feel like i am ready to learn again.  I have gotten over the beginning of year craziness and am ready to be inspired.
  • The vision!  As much as I love being inspired when I got to conferences, I really want practical ideas that I can implement right now.  This conference promises to give me both; great inspiration and even an unconference in the middle of it to make sure attendee voices can be heard as well.  What more could you want?

So you may be wondering whether I am getting paid to write this, but no I am not, this conference looks that great.  I hope you check it out!

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, 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.