being a teacher, being me, middle school

To the Girl Who Cries At Night

To the girl who cries at night,

You may not want to hear my words.   You may not want me to care.  You may think that we adults, we teachers, have no idea what you are going through.  You may think that the world is coming apart, that all of those people you thought you could trust, who cared about you, turned out to be frauds.  You write your poetry, telling your teachers that it is not personal, you speak to us of friends that are having a hard time. You reach out, but you shield yourself in every possible way.  Just so we don’t catch on to the fact that it is not your friends that are hurting, it is you.

And I get it.  Right now, life seems like it is too much and there is no way to dig yourself out.  Like having a concerned teacher will only cause more problems, add to the burden, and so you stay silent, struggling through as best as you can.  You keep putting on the mask, every single day, putting on your brave face so that no one will spy the cracks in your armor.  But at night, when it gets dark and you are alone, that’s when you cry, and you wonder why you keep coming to school, why you keep caring, because no one seems to care about you.

I am here to tell you, we do.  I am here to tell you that we see the cracks, that we see how much you try every single day.  That we see the hurts being thrown your way and we try to shield you in all of our lessons, all of our words.  We try to teach empathy, kindness, and love in the picture books we read.  We speak to you about friendship, tolerance, and acceptance.  We show our human side so that you know we are more than just teachers.  We greet you every day so that you know that someone sees you.  We leave our doors open so that any time you need us, you can come in.  We have arms that will give hugs and shoulders that will carry the burden with you.  We may not have the answers, but we do have the time to listen.

So to the girl who cries at night, you are not alone.  Even when it feels like there is no one left to care about you, that there is no one left to notice whether you are here or not, we do.   Every single day, we look for you, every single day we try to reach out.  We try to convince you that it gets better.  That when you think that life will always be like this, it won’t.  Yes, middle school may seem like a cruel place at times, but there are so many people who care.  Who want to create the best experience for you, and not just the academic one, but the emotional one.

So to you, the one with the brave face, who fights her way through her year, just so you can say you did it; I see you.  I am here for you.  And I am going to tell you, I know how you feel sometimes, because I was the girl who cried at night.  Who thought that life would never get better.  Who got up every single morning eager for the day to be over, just so one more day would have been lived.  Who thought at times it was too much and that no one cared whether I existed or not.  I was wrong, and you are too.  You may not know how many people care right now, but they do, and we do.  So keep coming to school, keep letting us in.  Open up and let us help.  You don’t have to be alone.

Love,

Mrs. Ripp

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.

aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher, being me, believe, middle school, Passion, students

What I Have Learned Being a Middle School Teacher

image from icanread

I thought I would be a great 7th grade teacher until I became one.  Smothered in my own nervousness and excitement about so much change, I never quite fully realized what I was getting into.  Luckily so because I am not sure, I would have said yes, if I had known just what this would hold.  Yet through all of the ups and downs, the moments of sadness, the moments of frustration, the moments where I felt sure that I must be insane for going to school that day, there they were.  Those crazy 7th graders with all of their emotions, all of their thoughts, all of their stuff that seemed to shroud them in mystery.  Always there, always watching.  Always poking away at the sense of security I had felt in my teaching skills.  And I am so grateful that they did.

This year, and its not over yet, has taught me so much.  When I tell people that 7th grade has been my biggest challenge yet, I am not joking, nor exaggerating.  With their moods, and their doubt, and their sense of fairness, they have held my feet to the fire every single day, exhausting every teaching cell in my body.  Yet, along with that exhaustion comes a few hard-earned lessons, for which I am forever grateful.

I have learned that when they say they don’t care is actually when they care the most.  They wait for your reaction to see how to categorize you.  They wait to see how their lackadaisical attitude will sit with you; will you be rattled or can you handle it?

I have learned that on the toughest days they will put on the bravest face, and only people who pay really close attention will be able to notice the subtlest of differences in their demeanor.

I have learned that when you think they are not paying attention, they actually are.  That when you think they don’t care that you are there, they do.  That when you think you have hit your lowest point as a teacher there is always a better moment coming your way, usually courtesy of something they just said or did.

I have learned that when I thought there was no way I would ever make a difference in their lives, they surprise me with their knowledge, with their passion, and with what they remember.

I have learned that relationships are above anything else, that it does not matter how engaging a lesson is, how fun a project may be, how much time you spent making sure everything was to their liking; if you don’t care about them, they do not care about you, or your lesson, or your project.

I have learned that it is ok to not be sure of yourself, to still put yourself out there, to get excited over picture books, to dance to ABBA in the middle of class, and to always, always, always have a smile on your face no matter how much you don’t want to.  That’s what my incredible 7th graders have taught me; that I was not a good teacher until I taught them, and I still have a long way to go, but they believe in me, so it is time I start believing in myself.

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.