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.


Continue Your Summer Learning

I am thrilled to be doing 2 webinars for SimpleK12 this summer.  if you are unfamiliar with these webinars I can tell you they are pretty amazing.  First of all, they are free (!) and you get to ask the presenter as many questions as you want within the time limit.  I have taken part in several of these and love the 30 minute format, as well as how easy it is.

I get to discuss two things that are very near to my heart; no homework and student-led conferences.

To Homework or Not to Homework
An ongoing debate rages among many educators over whether or not homework is truly necessary in today’s classrooms. In this webinar, Pernille Ripp discusses her own journey away from homework the ups and downs of helping parents understand, as well as how to still promote time-management, responsibility, and practice. This webinar is meant for teachers who want to move away from homework or who are curious about the journey, as well as for parents who would like to support their student in their quest to be homework free.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 @ 11:00:00 AM EDT

To sign up for this one, go here 

Promote Student Ownership of Goals and Learning with Student-led Conferences
How would you like your students to take ownership of their goals, their paths, and their learning? You can help them to accomplish this by doing student-led conferences. While it may sound scary to turn over ownership of this important time to students the results are in – student-led conferences promote ownership and lead to deeper learning conversations. In this webinar, join Pernille Ripp as she discusses why student-led conferences are beneficial and provides suggestions and tips for how to conduct them. Forms will be shared to help students prepare for them, and various modifications to their format will be discussed.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 @ 10:00:00 AM EDT

To sign up for this one, go here

Can’t wait to see you there!