Be the change, being a teacher, reflecting

You Asked For…

Perhaps it is because we woke up to yet more snow on Monday.

Perhaps it is because summer still seems so far away.

Perhaps it is because of too many late nights.

Too little sleep.

State testing.

Friendship drama.

Or simply because 8th grade looms and some kids are not quite sure what that means.

Whatever the reason, this week has been a long one and it is only Tuesday.

From students who are in a state of distress due to things outside of their circumstances.

To friendships cracking, breakups and misunderstandings.

To simply getting to work becoming harder and harder.

To taking more time to settle in.

To more redirections.  More jokes needed to get a smile.  More energy to get a response.

It is hard.  It is draining.  It makes me question why I seem to all of a sudden have lost whatever momentum we had and how can I get it back.  And do they even know how hard I try?  Because, man, I try, every single day to make it an experience worth their time.

Tonight as I pondered how I can help make it better for all of them, it finally dawned on me; they have little to no idea of what I have changed in order to help them.  Why should they?  I have never shared it.  I can hope that they pick up on it, but I wonder if they do, after all, they still have to go to school, they still have to work, and they still have to learn.

So as I pulled up their most recent feedback on our class, I recognized all of the changes made based on their words and then made a few slides.  A few visuals for them to see.  They simply started with, “You asked for….” and then I filled int heir feedback and then I followed it up with “You got/had…”

You asked for fewer projects, you had only two major projects last quarter.

You asked for less teacher talk, you got lessons that last less than ten minutes.

You asked for more choice in who you work with, you got some degree of choice every single time.

You asked for more choice in projects, you got more than twenty just in the last one.

Two slides filled with many requests all granted; more work time, less homework, less teacher talk, more choice, more freedom, less paper writing and such all filled the slides.

Tomorrow we start the day with a celebration of growth, of freedom, and perhaps even a reminder of just how much they have.  Not to elicit guilt but instead build awareness os that we can continue to capitalize on the community we have.  On the trust, we have built.  On the level of freedom, we may take for granted.

Perhaps we all just need a reminder of just how far we have come.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.


Reading, reflecting

So I Failed My Own Reading Challenge and Learned Something New

image from thedreamygiraffe

I thought this would be my summer of reading, that I would read at least 40 books maybe even more.  That I would read so much that I would have book recommendations dripping off of me for months. That I would be armed with books and the memories I have created with them.

I had the books ready, I had the recommendations, I had the desire and then…life got in the way.  Well, and “Storage Wars.”  I was going to do a summer reading challenge, not to prove anything, but just because I could.  I was going to get through those huge stacks of books that have been calling my name for months, clear them out and make room (for more books of course).  And yet, I didn’t.  I think I have read maybe 15 chapter books and some of them are really short.  Pitiful really.

Oh, I have felt embarrassed persuing my friends’ Goodreads accounts.  I have have cringed when I have foregone reading again, another night of lost opportunity.  Feeling like I failed at something bigger than me.  And I have felt like a fraud.  How can I proclaim to be a passionate reader when I chose to watch TV on most nights rather than read?  When I chose to write a blog post rather than read?  When I chose to eat an ice cream rather than read?  How can I calim to be an English teacher?

And yet, I have come to peace with it tonight.  I have realized that my brain has needed a break.  That my body has needed a break.  After all in the past year I wrote 2 books, moved homes, had a premature baby, and got a new job.  I think I have done okay in the busy life department.  So I realize that Storage Wars, and other not so fancy TV has allowed me to mellow out.  To get caught up in mundane situations rather than go, go, go.  That pushing books to the side is exactly what I have needed to get ready for a new school year.  To gear up for the amazing challenge that lies ahead of me.  

I have learned that although I have slowed down in my reading life, I am not a lost reader.  The wild reader, thanks Donalyn, still lies within waiting to wake up.  That wild reader won’t disappear just because it took a break.  I have learned that it is okay to take a break.  That I can still be passionate about books without reading at all times.  That I am not a bad reader if I don’t constantly read.  That life will be alright if I am not reading, (but maybe not as fantastic as it could be).

I can’t forget that in the classroom.  That even my most passionate readers need a break, are allowed a break, and that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with them or their reading habits.  That they will get back into reading as soon as they can, especially if I keep suggesting good books.  

I would love to say that I am ready to start up my crazy reading life again, but I don’t think I am quite there yet.  I think I have a few more nights of procrastinating before I attack the pile again.  I can hear my books calling, but not as loudly as they usually do.  And I am okay with that.  All is not lost just because we slow down or even stop reading, the seed of a reader remains, waiting for the right book to uncover it. 

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 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” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, blogging, connections, journey, reflecting

Not All Teachers Have to Blog or Even Be On Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I see a lot of posts and discussion about how we wish all teachers would get on Twitter or how all teacher should start a blog, and at first, I was a believer.  I know how much I have benefitted, in fact, how much my life has changed, because of blogging and Twitter.  And yet, now I falter on the belief of blogging and tweeting for all.

Blogging for me opens up a conversation that I don’t have the time for to have face to face some times.  It opens up debates, new ideas, and inspiration that I often cannot find in my every day doings.  However, it also removes me from seeking out those opportunities to have those same discussions “live.”  That doesn’t mean everyone responds that way, but I think many of us do.  Blogging is a tool for deep reflection, even though it is a public one, it is a time for me to put myself out there and to sort through what it is I really mean.  And that doesn’t work for everyone, and why would it?  We all have different comfort levels in how we share ourselves.

So instead of syaing that all teachers should blog we should hope that all teachers reflect.  Whether it is through a blog, throguh a conversation, through a journal; the reflection is what matters.  The reaching out to others and having those courageous conversations, putting yourself and your ideals out therefor debate, that is what matters.  Not whether you blog or not.

The same goes for Twitter.  I love Twitter because I can connect with others, easily, on my time.  Yet you can connect in other ways.  Twitter is not the only way you can learn something and again here I think it is the act of connecting that makes us herald Twitter as the best PD for teachers.  It is not Twitter that does the professional development for us; it is the way we use it.

So no, I don’t think all teachers should have a blog.  I don’t think all teachers should be on Twitter.  But they should all be reflecting and connecting somehow, somewhere, with someone.

Be the change, being a teacher, mistakes, reflecting

We Need More Courageous Conversations

I am wrong.  I made a mistake.  It didn’t work.  These are all words I have had to say frequently in all of the years of my teaching career.  They are not easy to say, nor easy to swallow, and yet those words are what have made me the educator I am today; someone who reflects, someone who realizes they are human, someone who admits fault.

In education we often put ourselves on pedestals, assuming no wrong.  We have all of the answers because that is what we need to have.  We have the solutions, the right ways.  We are trained professionals after all.  Except we don’t always have those answers, or the right way to do something.  Things may not always work and the students do not always get the best education.

We must learn to admit when we are wrong.  We must learn to reflect upon our mistakes and make ourselves better.  We must realize we are not perfect and that others don’t expect us to be.  We must have these courageous conversations about our own teaching, our grade levels, our classroom, and our schools.  We must reflect, we must discuss, and we must learn.  If we all fall under the illusion of perfection we will never change the way we do teaching.  We will never change to be better.  Our students will never learn from s that mistakes are glorious occasions that move us forward.  Start the conversation with yourself and then spread it.  All it takes is one courageous person to set the example.

And right after I sent this out Chad Lehman reminded me that we need courageous actions.  He is so right; take your courageous conversations and turn them into action.

being a teacher, blogging, reflecting

You Know You Are a Blogger When…

Being a blogger has nothing to do with how many people read your blog, so you know you are a blogger when….

While having a conversation with a colleague, you keep getting inspired to write another post about what they say.

When someone tells you a new idea, you think of the comment you would leave if it were a blog post.

You cannot help getting ideas for new post whenever you read anything.

You base your new technology purchases on whether or not your blog platform will be supported.
When signing things you almost sign your blogging name.

You constantly tell others about the incredible comments you have received or made on your blog.

Your students know the names of the top people that you interact with.

Your professional reflection has never been better.

Your PLN is a vital and important part of your life.

You are pretty sure your mother knows everything there is to know about your daily life through your blog.

What did I miss?

Be the change, classroom expectations, new year, reflecting

A Promise to Me

Yes, summer has just started and yet I am already thinking ahead to the coming year, perhaps because I am unable to enter my classroom at the moment due to its newly waxed floors. So I plan and prep from home and meanwhile get more and more anxious/excited about the new year. This year is my 3rd year teaching and I am ready to shake things up so these are my promises to me.

I promise to not be bored. The last 2 years I have stuck to what my team members have taught and developed and it honestly made me complacent. The lessons are solid but not my style, so this year, I am doing it on my own; out with the old and in with the new. After all, if I am not excited about the lesson, how can I expect the students to be?

I promise to not be scared. I have many ideas screaming for attention and every year I take a cautious step with one or two of them. This year because of my PLN and its support I have 100’s of ideas that all want to be tried. So I am going to try as many as I can without freaking out about the loss of control. So what if the lesson fails, at least I tried it.

I promise to be true to myself and reveal the techy geek I am. Sure, my students know that I like technology but not just how deep that love runs. So this year, we will make technology work for us. No more using computers just to type on, I am ready to get them sucked into the world of innovation just as I have been.

I promise to be quiet and listen, well sometimes anyway. When you have a lot of ideas like I do it can be hard to not want to share them.In fact, I can be like that annoying lapdog that barks and barks until you pet it. I have learned the hard way that sometimes people don’t want to hear about new ideas, and although confounding to me, I have to accept it. So I am not going to throw my ideas in someone’s face but try to entice them to come to me instead.

I promise to have more fun. Being a new mom and a new teacher can feel like you are carrying the weight of the world. But you’re not, you just feel like it. So I promise to loosen up a bit, not get so freaked out by deadlines, and continue to joke around with my students. After all, it is your personality that might just make them listen to you.

I promise to embrace the year no matter what it brings. I love to control everything; maybe that is why I am a teacher. So this will be the year that I learn to trust my students more and let them take some of the control. This is supposed to be a learning journey that we embark on, not a down-to-the-minute planned march.