Be the change, being a teacher, being me, Passion, power

A Rally Cry for Our Girls (And Boys)


A woman I admire greatly, Joyce Valenza, keynoted today on female leadership.  Before her keynote she asked me and other women I admire greatly to share their experiences of what it means to be a woman in education.  The following is roughly what I shared in a short video clip, I thought it only best to share it here as well but written instead of spoken.

I am the mother to 4 children all under the age of six.  I am the mother to 3 daughters that will one day, hopefully, become independent leaders, not afraid to speak up or speak out.  But for them to become just that, our society has to change.  Our classrooms need to change.  Our language needs to change.

In how many classrooms are girls expected to follow the rules better?  To sit still?  To listen quietly?  If a girl runs around, full of energy she is “acting like a boy.”  If she does it on a regular basis then something must be wrong with her.  If a girl raises her voice, has high energy, then she must be having a bad day.  She is labeled “wild” and “unruly.”  Because that is not how girls are supposed to be.  It goes against their very nature.

The same goes for boys, except only opposite.  If a boy is quiet, if a boy shows emotion, then something must be wrong.  If a boy does not engage in rough housing he must have a problem or be a wimp.  We call our boys “sensitive” like it’s a swear word.

As educators, we must see our students as full human beings that can act in whichever way they choose, even if that means not being a “good” girl every day.  As mothers, we must protect our children from the language that is sure to shape their identity so that they can be what they want to be, not just the archetype of a woman that society has bestowed upon us.

We are raising the future so I raise my girls to be independent.  To be brave.  To be fierce.  I raise my son to be proud of his emotions and to say no when he wants to.  That he does not have to fit into any gender stereotype someone else has decided for him.  But most of all, I raise my children to be themselves, no matter their gender.  Our classrooms, our very language, should protect that.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!

aha moment, Be the change, education reform, Passion, power, principals

From Gotcha to Good For You – 6 Ideas for Cultivating a Community of Celebration

There seems to be a pervasive undercurrent of jealousy within education.  Ask most educators and they will have a story to share of how they didn’t tell others about about an accolade they got, an award they were nominated for, or even praise they had received.  Shying away from the positive lime light can sometimes feel like a national sport for teachers.  Yet, I am surrounded by people who want nothing but the best for each other.  I have been before.  So why is still that we tend to hide away our accomplishments, rather than share them with those we work so closely?  Why is it we downplay ourselves so that others may not get jealous?  But more importantly, how do we change the culture within our schools that seems centered on a “gotcha” mentality, a negative one where tear downs are the norm, to a “good for you” community where all receive praise, and no one has to hide what they do.

Working in my district, Oregon School District, that goes out of its ways to share the feel good, has given me a few ideas.  Some I have heard about from amazing colleagues, some I have experienced, and some I hope to experience.  All of these ideas are simple.  All of these ideas will make an impact.  It is up to us to change the culture within our schools.  It is up to all of us, not just administrators to create an environment where we genuinely are happy for one another, not wonder why that person gets all of the attention.

  • Taking 5 minutes to acknowledge.    When an administrator or colleague takes the time to stop by and say great job, congratulations, or I have noticed that…it changes the way we feel.  Taking 5 minutes to actually acknowledge someone else every day, or even just 1 minute to shoot an email, can create an incredible change, and it starts with the superintendent.  When my students and I were featured in an article in our very small paper, my superintendent sent me an email thanking me for shining a positive light on all of the great work that happens in our district.  I have never received an email like that before and I can tell you, it made me smile., and it made me want to pass on that feeling.  No matter how busy you are, take 5 minutes every day simply to thank people for what they do.
  • The staff restroom gratitude poster.  This idea comes from another school in my district.  Every Monday someone (perhaps the principal) leaves a poster in the staff restroom with a heading such as “Tell me all of the reasons we are thankful Mrs. Anderson is a teacher here.”  Next to it is a marker encouraging everyone to add their thoughts, and boy do they ever.  As one of my friends told, this little poster is a ray of positivity in everyone’s day as they get a chance to express their gratitude and see what others say.  Every week it is a new staff member, every week no one knows who put it there.
  • The sneaky student compliment paper.  Today, I had every class write compliments to one of our team’s teachers.  My team had no idea I was doing this which made it even better.  It took me less than a minute to explain to the students who then quietly circulated the paper around filling it with gratitude for that specific teacher.  At the end of the day, I gave each paper to their respective subject.
  • The “I have noticed…” Vox or email.  I know a lot of principal that are on Voxer even if their staff is not.  This idea is courtesy of Leah Whitford, an incredible principal in Lancaster, WI.  As she walks through the school, she will quickly vox herself (Voxer is a free walkie talkie app for your phone) whatever she has noticed about someone’s classroom.  At the end of the day she can then email the audio recording to that teacher.  They don’t even have to have Voxer to get it. If you are not on Voxer (which you may want to be), how about a quick two line email.  We often don’t know when someone sees something great happening, think of how powerful it would be to get a quick compliment like that.
  • The applause section of the newsletter.  This is an idea from my principal, Shannon Anderson, who is a driving force of positivity.  Every Sunday she sends out an OMS newsflash that includes information about upcoming events, her schedule, a great article, as well as an applause section where she highlights small and big things that people deserve praise for.  Anything from winning an award to helping others out gets highlighted, and she encourages us to submit names as well.  Too often recognition only comes from huge events that happen to few people, it is vital that all of the little things that make our school run also get their day in the sun.
  • The compliment cork board.  Hang a cork board in the office, put note cards next to it, add markers, and voila – the compliment cork board.  Encourage parents, students, or staff to leave a quick compliment for anyone they choose.  Think of the message that sends to any visitors that enters your school as well.

Be a model of praise yourself.  I try every day to thank someone, acknowledge someone, or praise something I have seen.  It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens more days than not.  Change starts with us, so if we want to work in a culture that celebrates the accomplishments of others then we need to step up to the challenge.  Remember; it only takes person to take the first step.

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.

being me, power

I Am the Job Creator

As the rhetoric fills the airwaves, I keep hearing two words over and over… job creators.  The job creators need tax breaks, the job creators have the right to be heard, we must focus on the job creators.  Well I am here to tell you something…

I drop my child off at daycare every day with a wonderful woman that teaches her how to be a member of this society – I am a job creator

I drive my car to work and sometimes stop for diesel at the local gas station, I am a job creator

I go to school and teach students the skills they need to be successful, I am a job creator

I shop for groceries to feed my family and try to stay local as much as possible, I am a job creator

I spend my extra money at the mall chasing the American dream, I am a job creator

When the economy dries up, my paycheck gets cut so that I can feel the pain of the real world.  Well I have felt the pain all along working a job that pays me little in money but much in love.  So don’t tell me I am not a job creator, because I am the one the spends the money that keeps the economy going.  I am the one that keeps it local, buys American made, and worries about how my actions in my community affects those who held the jobs.  I am the job creator with everything I do.

being a teacher, education reform, power

Every Day I Make a Choice

Every morning I choose how I see the day.  I could view it through the lens of most that I will not do enough to help my students, I will not be able to get them where I need them to be because the system is against us.

I could view the students as obstacles that need to be conquered and my colleagues as people who take up too much time or none at all.  I could view my administration as the enemy, and my standards as chokeholds around my teaching.  I could blame the system for my lack of progress and I could feel good that at least I tried.  But I don’t.

I choose every morning to believe in my own abilities as a teacher and as a human being.  I choose to be positive, thinking that today will be the best day I could ever make.  Today my students will conquer mountains and guide me on new paths.  My colleagues will inspire me if I reach out, and then will support me through my journey.   My administration will hold me to high standards because they believe I will soar.  The standards are simply guides and they can be worked with much easier than worked against.  The standards do no tell me that I have to prep my students for tests, or even how I should teach, but only what our goals should be and those can be reached in many ways.  I choose to fight the system from within and change it the way I can.  I do it for my own sanity and for the curiosity of my students.

Every day I have a choice in how I will view the world, and although I wake up grumpy (just ask my husband), and bogged down by all of the forces working against me, I slip on my teacher super power suit and I stay positive.  The last thing schools need is another person bringing it down.  The world is already trying to do that.  So what do you choose?

being a teacher, power, students

Know Your Place

I once was told to know my place.  And much like our students are asked to conform, fall in line, sit down and be quiet so we can fill these empty vessels with our knowledge, I was so hurt that it took months to recover. Funny now really, because I do know my place.

Sometimes it is that of an expert, most of the time it is of one who soaks up knowledge from the incredible people I learn with.  My place is in a team that is not afraid to speak its mind but does it with kindness and honesty.  My place is among the students because it is created by the students, for the students, and about the students.  My place is where dreamers dream and believers continue to believe.  It is one of positivity, humility, and passion.  Change, vigor, and failure.  My place is ever evolving, sometimes it goes in a straight line and other times it spirals back.  I would not want to change the way my place shapes me.

So when someone tells you to know your place, tell them that you do.  It is wherever we can teach and learn the best.  Wherever our dreams take us and wherever our imaginations go.  I know my place; do you know yours?

being a teacher, power

I Get To Teach

Every night, driving home I think of how lucky I am.  I get to teach 25 incredible students and be a part of their journey.  Sure my bag is heavy with books and things to do, but I get to teach.

I get to teach those kids that teachers don’t know everything.
I get to teach those kids that their voice matters.
I get to teach those kids that what we do in school is real life, not something we may need when real life begins.
I get to teach those kids that together we are stronger and that every person matters.
I teach them about failure, and hope, and inspiration, and daring to ask a lot of questions.
I teach them to trust themselves, their opinions, their inferences, and that they too are experts.
I teach them that life has started and it is time for us to live it.

So when the day ends and my daughter gives me her long awaited hug, I don’t take my good life for granted.  I cherish it, I embrace it, and I celebrate it because I get to teach.