aha moment, being a teacher, being me, PLN, principals, trust

How to Do PD Right – Yes, It’s Possible


Last week, I had two full days of professional development, or PD as we like to call it.  I shared my excitement on Facebook about the two days and, of course, was met with disbelief.  Excitement?  Really?  Since when has PD actually been something to look forward to?  And so I realized that I might be in the minority when it comes to excitement for PD, that I might be a lone voice among the educational community and yet, in my district I am not.  Because my district, Oregon School District, has figured out how to do PD right.

They operate under a few simple things; trust, communication, and choice.  Tenets that far too many districts kind of believe in when it comes to PD but then really don’t when it comes to setting the agenda.  Yet, my district not only believes it, they live it, and it is apparent every time we are given time to learn as professionals.   Our two days consisted of many different things, all meant to fulfill the needs we not only have as a community, but also as individual learners.

We started with curriculum time.  Just that.  No set curriculum to go through.  No agenda.  We were not even told who we had to meet with.  Instead we given the true gift of time to meet with those we felt we needed to meet with.  And so we did, and we planned, and we even book shopped as we prepared for book clubs.  They trusted us to use our time in the best way possible, in the way that we would see as most beneficial, and so we did.

Then we were given small group work time.  We have 4 separate professional learning communities happening in our school, so each group met to check in and then as a group we decided what we needed to do.  My group had decided it needed time to read the books our school had ordered for us (on our request of course).   So we did, we met after and we discussed what we found. Not in order to fill out a sheet, or to check off a box, but because we wanted to learn from each other.

The afternoon was filled with whole school learning as a coach came in to teach us how to coach each other and students.  2 hours were spent trying to make our community stronger and more cohesive.  While confusion may have arisen from things we did, it still started a lot of conversation.  It still gave us tools we could use.  It still gave us a chance to learn from each other.

We ended the first day with work time for whatever we needed.  Again, no need to check in.  No need to report somewhere.  Just work, get it done, whatever “it” is.

The second day had two components to it.  The first part of the day being an Edcamp style set-up where we could choose to go to whichever sessions our colleagues were holding, the second being time to work on Educator Effectiveness, our state evaluation system.  The morning was fantastic, there were so many sessions, it was hard to pick.  And the best part was the variety of the sessions; from discussion of curriculum, to brainstorming, to hands-on projects.  From the advanced to the basic, there was room for all.  That afternoon we ended our two days with time to do all of the things that our government is asking us to do.  Whether it was to meet with our evaluator, meet with a colleague, simply fill out the many online forms, or contemplate how to reach our goals, we were given the time.  We were given the tools.  We were given the support to be the very best educators we can be.

I wrote about trusting staff in my book Empowered Schools, Empowered Students.  I wrote about what it could do for an entire district if professional development started to mean something again.  I wrote about how a district could actually use these days to honor the talent, the curiosity, and the need of its educators by trusting them.  By listening to them.  By offering choice.  When I wrote that book, I had no idea that I would get to work for a district that lives out this vision every day.  I am so grateful that my dream is not just, but actually a part of the tapestry of where I get to teach.  PD can be done right, after all.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

aha moment, being me, conferences, PLN

10 Tips for Going to A Conference All By Yourself

This is the summer of a lot of firsts for me; first time going to ISTE and many other conferences, first time going to certain states like Utah, first time doing an Ignite, first time going to NerdCamp (finally!) first time getting an award, and first time doing a lot of travelling by myself.  So as I have been preparing to hit the road, I figured I cannot be the only one that is traveling to conferences by themselves this summer and thus needs some help on how to make the best of it.  Behold, Pernille’s 10 travel tips for going to a conference all by yourself…

Make connections beforehand.  If you are on Twitter, start following the hashtag of the conference and see who else will be there.  I also know there are Facebook groups for some larger conferences and I have been joining some of those, just to make connections.  Even if you are not into social media, Google the conference and see what comes up.  I also try to scope out what type of social event there will be available to you beforehand so that you can go and meet people.  No one should have to go through a conference by themselves.

Figure out your goal.  The first conference I went to I tried to do it all; go to as many sessions as possible, meet new people, make meaningful connections, check out new products!  And I was exhausted.  So this summer it is all about meeting people.  Yes, I want to learn, yes I want to see the new products, but I am focusing in one thing rather than all of them so that I can allow myself to take a break.  Don’t try to do it all, do as much as you can and be excited about how much you accomplish.

Pack what you feel the most comfortable in.  I like to dress up when I present, it is a professional respect thing for me, as well as something that gives me confidence when I have to speak.  Even if I am not presenting, I look pulled together but always comfortable.  Very rarely do I wear heels if I can wear sandals in summer, and I always dress in layers.  Who wants to be cold all day?  So find out what you feel your best you in and then see if that will work for you, if you are going to meet people, make sure you feel confident when you do.

Pre-brainstorm opening questions.  I can be shy at times, particularly in large groups or when people tell me they have read my blog or my books.  So while this may sound stupid, and I probably shouldn’t admit to this, I purposefully go through and think up questions that I can ask any person I meet.  I am, after all, traveling to connect and meet with people and want to make sure that I can spark up a conversation.

Go up to people.  This is something I have had to really work on, but it is important to learn how to introduce yourself to others.  I have had too many missed opportunities where I had hoped to meet someone and I never felt the right moment came for me to go up to them.  Later I was bummed I had missed the opportunity because of my own fear.  So make sure you create that moment, which leads me to my next point…

Practice being brave.  This is something I remind myself of every time I go a new place.  I love meeting new people but can have a hard time initializing a brand new connection.  I have told myself I have to practice every time I travel, every time I have the chance, and meet at least 5 new people.  I set a small goal so I can accomplish it but also make it big enough for me to get in the habit of going up to people.  Some of the best conversations I have had has been with complete strangers that I introduced myself too.  It took bravery and that is something we could all use practice in.

Print a business card.  I laughed the first time someone told me this, (what does a teacher need a business card for?), and then I went to my first conference.  Aha!  When you meet someone new and you want to exchange information that business card becomes your new best friend.  The best part was my husband’s tip of using one of the free websites where all you have to pay for is shipping.  I got 250 cards for $5 and I am bringing them all.

Plan down time.  While I love the learning and connecting that happens at conferences, my brain can only take so much.  So don’t overbook yourself, schedule in for down time where you will sit, eat, and do whatever it is you need to do to feel like this is still a good time.  Going to conferences should be a great experience, not a hassle, nor a stressor.

Bring a book (or five).  Or whatever it is that lets you completely relax by yourself.  I read any time I can and know I will be traveling with a lot of books.  Yes, they weigh a lot but the fact that I can pull out a book at any time and escape a little bit makes a world of difference for me.

Be a nice human being. Unfortunately sometimes going to a conference means that some people forget to be nice, or completely forget to be professional.  We are all busy, we all have places to be, and yes, we probably have many people we would love to be speaking to.  But be nice.  Be kind to the people that speak to you.  Help others.  Look for people who are alone or seem like they don’t know what they are doing, after all, that person may be me.

Represent.  I tell my students this whenever they leave our classroom and the word carries us out into the world.  Remember, you are not just there representing yourself, you are representing your entire school community and your family.  I go to conferences to share the words of my students, to help them change the way education is done to kids all around the world.  That is not something I take lightly and so I behave appropriately.  I have heard crazy stories of conference after parties, and I certainly have no intention of becoming part of those stories.

What else would you add to those traveling to conferences by themselves?

PS:  To see where I am traveling to, go here – hopefully our paths will cross this summer.

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, PLN, student voice

Have You Heard of the Teachers Leading Teachers Conference?


Being a teacher who presents, which is a very new adventure for me, has been quite interesting to say the least.  I didn’t know just how few of us there are that actually are able to go out and talk about the things that we do with our students and still stay in the classroom.  In fact, I have been to a few places where there were less than a handful of teachers presenting and yet the entire conference was geared toward teachers.  Hmmm… But I get it.  It is hard to leave my classroom.  It is hard to leave my family.  Presenting and sharing the words of my students is an incredible opportunity that I am honored to get, but it is like having two full-time jobs at times.  Yet, I can’t help but wish that more teacher’s voices were heard at all of the conferences that surround us.

Well, that is exactly what the founders of the Teachers Leading Teachers Conference, John T. Spencer and A.J. Juliani thought so too.  But instead of wondering about it, they decided to do something about it.  So what are the details of this awesome totally online conference?

The Teachers Leading Teachers Conference (from July 16th-20th) is bringing the best teacher leaders from around the world together to present and share their failures, wins, and practical strategies for teaching today’s student.

Here Is The Best Part

The entire conference in online (no travel or paying for accommodations)! Each session is available live, and as a digital copy. This format allows you to bring back the learning to your colleagues and school leaders at anytime.

It’s often difficult to explain the experience of an Edcamp or conference when someone wasn’t there, but the TLT Conference gives you access to that learning at any time. Sign-up now and take part in this first of it’s kind, online conference for teachers.

What You’ll Get As An Attendee

  • Over 20 Live Presentations From Top Teachers Around the World – Mine is all about empowering students, one of my very favorite things to discuss and share about.
  • Digital Recordings and Access to the ALL Presentations Forever  – think of the wealth of knowledge you will have access to!
  • Certificates for work completed and each session – I love this because my district gives me PD Hour credit for conferences like this.
  • 20+ Hours of How-To Sessions from Teachers Still Working in Schools
  • Bonus Resources From Our Presenters That You Can Use Right Away
  • Free eBooks from the Presenters and Conference Leaders
  • The Best Online Experience with Cisco WebX Platform
  • Live Q&A Before, During, and After Each Session
  • Sessions on STEM, Design-Thinking, Project-Based Learning, Student Blogging
  • Classroom Design, Robotics, 21st Century Literacy, Genius Hour, 20% Time, and Global Projects

Schools, Group Packages, and Early Bird Pricing

We are currently offering Early Bird Pricing from now till June 16th. You’ll save $50 on each conference ticket with the early bird price.  And if you use the coupon code “Pernille” you will save an additional 10%!!!!!

We are also offering group packages for schools and districts. If you are a school district leader who is interested in purchasing a school/group package please contact me at ajjuliani[at]gmail[dot]com.

Learn more about this conference at TLTconference.com – and we’d also love for you to send in a proposal to speak (on the website we have a Call for Proposals).

So I hope you consider being a part of the conference or even presenting at it.  I did my very first presentation 5 years ago at an online conference and I can tell you; it is an incredible experience to share the work of your students with others!

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 me, connections, PLN

Are We Really Connecting Anymore?

I cried this morning when I said goodbye to my family.  Not that I am sad to go to North Carolina, but more because the fear of the unknown, going to a conference to present by myself, is something that is hitting me hard.  You see, I am so used to going places where I know people, where I can quickly seek out those few people that I know will introduce me to others, that will hold my hand while I navigate the conference waters.  This time though, I am pretty much flying solo and so I had a decision to make; do I do what I was hired to do; present and then lurk around at sessions without much interaction but still learning, or do I push myself out there, get the most out of this amazing opportunity that has been afforded me, and do exactly what I tell others to do; connect.

As a connected educator, I am so quick to tell others to reach out, ask questions, and connect, yet how often do I do it myself?  How often do I sit down with someone I don’t know?  How often do I attempt a conversation with a stranger?  How often do I open myself up to the chance of learning something new and not just seeking out those people that I know already?  We get so stuck in our circles of educator friends, people that were strangers once, that we forget to expand those same circles.  And we become stagnant, and we perceive our own importance as something larger than it is because everybody already knows who we are and what we stand for.

While the introvert part of me is yelling rather loudly to spend the next few days as quietly as possible, the tiny adventurous part of me is actually winning.  And I am letting it.  So these next few days I am going to connect.  I am going to seek out.  I am going to introduce myself.  I am not going to hide behind a book or a computer, but instead greet every new adventure with a smile, reach out to others who may be sitting alone just like me.  Go to sessions where I don’t know the presenter, where I am not an expert already on the topic,  but just want to learn.  Yes, I may make a fool out of myself, I may reach out to people who don’t want to be met, and yes, I may find myself alone at times.  But I will be having a great time wrapped up in my incredible nervousness.  I will be connecting, going back to how it used to be before people started to read this blog or started to ask for advice, establishing new ways for me to become a better teacher, and maybe even have some great conversations along the way.  Wish me luck, I am pretty sure I am going to need that or at least some courage.

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. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   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, being a teacher, connections, PLN, trust

Voxer Takes Connections to the Next Level If You Let It

This summer I, along with many other educators, got on Voxer and started discovering just how powerful of a PLN tool it could be.  Although I wrote a post extolling the virtues of the app then, it is not until now 5 months into using it that I have truly witnessed the incredible power it holds for me.  Voxer is not just for collaborating, it is for connecting, and those connections are changing my life.

As educators, and especially female educators, there seems to be a weird phenomenon surrounding us; the seemingly overabundance of highly connected male educators, whether administrators, teachers, or tech integrators.  (Yes, this is a simplification, but bear with me).  I have often wondered about the apparent “mens/boys” club that seem to exist on Twitter, at conferences, and on blogs that list who people must follow, and have even written about it in the past.  Don’t misunderstand; I don’t feel the need to be a part of a male club, instead this realization made me long more for my own female version that could share the same camaraderie that seemed to exist in these groups, the ease with which they communicated and had each others’ backs.  I wanted my own group of women that would inspire me, support me, and actually become friends.  Enter Voxer.

5 months ago a few acquaintances and I started a Voxer group.  I didn’t think much of it, after all I was in about 8 different groups at the time all discussing various things related to education, and loving it.  The group consisted of 5 women from different parts of education that all had a few things in common but were nowhere near being close friends.  At first the Voxes were funny, little slivers of our lives and thoughts being shared.  Yet with time those Voxes grew, sometimes spanning more than 5 minutes, and as they grew so did our bond.  I never knew how much I needed this group.  I never knew how much I needed a group of women to grow with.

Yet, this group is not the only one I go to every day hoping for my heart to be filled, for my inspiration to be renewed, and my thoughts expanded.  Another Voxer group is between a few female educators I greatly admire and am lucky enough to call friends.  These two women have inspired countless blog posts, helped me make huge life decisions, as well as made me laugh.  Every week we check in, we update, we share our thoughts, making sure that we all feel supported, that we all feel cared for.  How powerful is that.

So if you are in need of a tribe like I was; don’t be afraid to reach out.  Use Voxer a s a way to connect to others in a deeper way and don’t be afraid to ask others to be in a group with you.  If you are a female connected educator but feeling alone sometimes, Voxer is your place.  Start a group, take the plunge, reach out tot those that you maybe only know a little and see what happens.

The groups I get to be a part of, those that really matter to me, weren’t planned. We didn’t set out to create these bonds, but they happened because we tried.  They happened because we realized that by having this tool to bring our voice together, we grew stronger as a group, we grew because we trusted each other.  You don’t have to feel alone even if you are a connected educator.

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 a teacher, PLN

I Need Your Help

This week I was astounded by the news that I am one of 10 finalists nationwide in the Great American Teach Off.  While I am humbled, excited, and certainly shocked, I now need to make 5 videos, 90 seconds in length each by Wednesday the 28th of September (!), answering these questions:

-How am I an innovative teacher
-What I’m doing to make a difference
-Best teaching tops for teachers across America
-Endorsement from a parent or peer
-What I would do with $10,000 for my classroom 

While some of these are easier to make, I need your help with one of them.  Some people tell me that I have helped inspire them to change something in their room, whether it is to get rid of your desk, join the Global Read Aloud, get your students blogging or other things.  If you are one of those people, please consider taking a picture of yourself holding a sign where it says what I inspired you to do, your name and where you are from and email it to me (psripp at gmail.com).  I may then use it one of the videos.

So something like this (courtesy of my amazing students):

You don’t have to be super creative, just write it in sharpie and hold it up.  I cannot tell you how much this would mean to me and my kids as the grand prize winner gets $10,000 for their classroom.

Thank you!