being a teacher, being me, reflection

What I Take For Granted

image from icanread

I know I have a lot to be thankful for.  And yet, it seems to get lost in the every day.  The hustle and bustle we call life.  I try to be thankful, I try to give thanks, but some of the things I take the most for granted are the things that I forget about.  The things that if I didn’t have them in my life, my life would not be a happy one.  So why is it that we take so many things for granted when really we should be aware of how different our lives would be without them?

I think of the last few days in the aftermath of the not guilty verdict out of Ferguson and how I take for granted that my white son will never be accosted by police, unless he deserves to be.  It’s amazing what you take for granted when you are white.

I think of the millions of children who go to schools that are underfunded, falling apart, and riddled with inequities, and how I take for granted the incredible school my daughter goes to.

The couples who fight to pay their bills every day, whereas my husband and I certainly have to save and budget and not buy, but we are never faced with the choice of heat or water or which one we should pay.

I take that for granted.

Family and friends who get mad when you can’t see them enough because life is too busy and it has been too long.

Ugly mini-vans that are safe to drive in winter and can fit all of our crazy lives.

7th graders who are invested in our classroom, who think I am ok, who don’t hate everything we do.

Colleagues who actually like you and think you have worth.

Plenty of food to eat, to fit even the pickiest 2 year old’s appetite.

Health insurance that doesn’t stop, even when faced with more than $500,000 in medical bills because a baby decided to come 10 weeks early.

I take that for granted.

So today, I am thankful, but not for those big incredible things I get to do, but those essential ones that make my life my life.  Those tings I take for grated even though they should be the first in line whenever thanks is given out.  What are you thankful for?

being me, reflection, students

A Simple Lesson

image from icanread

Their words echo across the pages; see me, notice me.  Post upon post the kids’ voices rise off the pages; like us, love us.  Altogether they tell me again and again; what we love about school is not just our friends but the teachers that actually like to teach.  The teachers that have a little fun.  The teachers that seem to care that we showed up that day.

So why do we forget this when we plan?  Why do we forget to take time to notice kids?  For small conversation?  I look at my lesson plans and nowhere does it say; walk around and speak to students, smile at them, laugh with them, find out more about them.  Instead the standards are aligned with all of my goals.  This is what we must cover, this is what we must do.

Those who wrote the Common Core, those who write the standards, seem to have forgotten one small thing; without relationships none of it matters.  Without relationships all our fancy lesson plans will be are words floating through air, no anchor to bind them to the minds of our students.

So this week, I am planning for time.  I am planning for them.  Notice me, like me, laugh with me, show me.  Those are the goals of my lessons.

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.

Be the change, being me, kids, reflection, teaching

A Letter to My Daughter’s Kindergarten Teacher

image from icanread

To the woman who teaches my child,

Thea got off the bus today and asked if we could go back to school now.  She had not even taken off her backpack, nor had she told me about her day.  Not hello mom, not how are you, but can we go now?  Please?  When I told her we would have to wait until 5:30, when open house started, she got mad.  “But I want to go now mom, I have to go see my teacher.”

And my eyes got watery and I had to swallow for a second so she couldn’t see how I felt.

Then she showed me around tonight, so meticulously crossing off our scavenger hunt, asking me what next, what next. Proudly showing me the work she had done, her special places.  All the walls where her art hung, where she had made her mark, where she belonged.  But when she sat down and read me her stories, those same stories that you had so perfectly transcribed, I had to hold back the tears.  I didn’t want to be that parent sitting and crying in their kindergartner’s classroom.  I didn’t want to be a sentimental fool.  And still…

So to Jesse, who teaches my daughter every day.  I may tell you thanks but you just don’t know what it means to hear our little girl tell me she loves you.  This is the same girl who 4 weeks ago told me that she would never go back to school, that she had no friends, and that she would never learn anything.  The same girl who was scared to ride the bus.  The same girl who told me that no one cared.  That same girl who made us move heaven and earth it seems to try to get her a new chance.  And that new chance was you.  That same girl told me tonight that I had to keep all of her stories because her teacher told her so, “And what the teacher says means something, mom.”

We may think that a great school is what makes our child love school, but the truth is it is the teachers more than anything.  Those teachers we sometimes just expect to love our children, flaws and all.  Those teachers we just expect to make it work, to make everyone learn, and to do it with a smile on their face.  They make the difference, they change the world, but most importantly they change our world.

So to Mrs. H, I tell you you matter, I tell you that you are making a difference, but I will never be able to tell you how much.  You have made my daughter believe that she can, that she has a home.  You have not told her she needs to be perfect, nor that she will do everything right the first time, but you have made her feel that she can try, that she can think, that she can dream.

From one teacher to another; you are someone who makes me proud to be a teacher.

From a parent to a teacher; no words.

Thank you for loving our child, with all her craziness, all her ideas, and all her rainbow-colored stories.  We could never have made her love school like this.  You did that.

Best,

Pernille

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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, being me, reflection

Yes, I See You

image from icanread

Dear Mrs. Ripp,

      Today in FACE we were given a assignment that says we have to tell an adult in OMS that we are grateful for them and why. I want you to know that we were free to choose which adult we wanted to do. Out of choice I picked you. I also want you to know that I’m not just saying this because its an assignment, that’s half the reason. The other reason is  that it is true what I’m about to say everything I say is true. So here it is…. Mrs. Ripp I am grateful that you are my teacher, because everyday when I come into class you look so happy to see ME. No teacher I have ever had does this to me. Also everyday in class you are extremely kind to me (like every teacher should be) but when you do these things it makes each day better for me, and I hope for you too! In other words thank you for being such an amazing teacher!
And my heart stopped.
And then the tears came.
And then I called my husband to read it to him.
You look so happy to see ME
And I am.  Every day, I smile.  Every day I laugh.  Every day I get pushed harder than I have even been pushed before, not just by the kids who deserve so much, but by my own perfectionism that can be punishing indeed.  But I see them, and I call them by name.  I remember their troubles, I remember their lives.  I ask those questions that we sometimes forget to ask even though we know they matter so much.  I stop, listen, much like the people I work with do.  And together, every day, we try to see these kids, not just teach them.  And yet, whether this is my home has hung above me like a ghost.
You see, I have doubted myself so much.  I have doubted whether I deserved to be in the job that I have now.  Whether my words mean anything to these 7th graders.  Whether my passion would shine through, whether I could do it.  Even on the good days, and there have been many, that voice has torn away at me; do you deserve to be here?  Is this what you are meant to do?  Are you good enough?
You see 7th graders are tough. You think you have them figured out and a new kid shows up the next day, sometimes the next hour, and you had it all wrong.  They want you in so many roles that you often forget what you started out doing, just so you can help that one child in front of you at that very moment.  Who cares about what should have been done when this is more important?
So this note.  On a random Wednesday, from a child that I already knew I was lucky to teach, this note changed everything.  This note made it click, and for the first time I said those words aloud that have been sneaking into my mind these past few weeks.  Maybe I was meant to be a 7th grade teacher.  Maybe 4th and 5th were just the courage builders, the years I needed to find my feet.
Because I see them.  And they see me.  Every single day.  And every day I hope that they see how I smile, not because I have to, but because I can.  Because teaching these kids is what I was apparently meant to do.  I guess I just hadn’t realized it yet.
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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.
being a teacher, being me, reflection

The Downside to Being a Connected Educator

I have written a lot about all that being a connected educator has done for me.  I have written a lot about how I would not trade it for anything and that I hope others will choose to become connected as well.  I have written about how being a connected educator has enabled me to have connected students, which has radically changed the way I teach.  And yet, I have not talked about the downfall of being connected much.  Not like this, not in this way.

Yet, I think in honor of Connected Educator month, (which is a strange month anyway because aren’t we always connected?), I think it is time to discuss the downfalls.  Those things that I deal with from being a connected educator, because after all, if I am going to encourage others to be connected, I think I need to be honest about all that it entails.

  • You are no longer private.  Of course, you can edit what you put  out into the world, but the truth is the moment you open up your classroom and your thoughts to the world, people will have an opinion on it.  And sometimes that opinion hurts.  Other times it is completely false.  I carefully pick the words I put out there but at the same time, my skin has grown thicker, and yet, because I choose to put it out into the world it seems to carry so much more weight in my life simply because others know what I do.
  • You can get a big head.  It is easy to think that you are more important than you are because of the validation that comes along with being connected.  We are awfully good at praising one another, which is wonderful, but at the same time it can also lead to a false sense of accomplishment.  “I must be doing something amazing because all of these people tell me I am.”  What we forget is that we choose what we put out there, not many share their utmost failures or embarrassing mistakes, thus we look incredible online.  That can only grow as more people get connected with us; our ego ticks upward right along with our follower count.
  • You can get really jealous.  Michelle Baldwin wrote a blog post discussing the identity of teaching and wrote that a problem she had faced was that the more she did, the more she needed to do to feel the same way.  Part of being a connected educator means that you are not just comparing yourself to your local colleagues, but to everyone out there.  So if someone is writing a book, I feel I should write one too, if someone is keynoting a conference, I wonder why I am not.  It becomes this viscous circle of wanting to do more to get more, which is hard to break.
  • You feel you need to be perfect.  I choose to put a lot of my flaws out there because others need to know I am not a perfect teacher, nor do I think I am.  And yet, every time I publish a post discussing my mistakes or screw ups, I cannot help but cringe a bit.  Am I really putting this out there publicly?  What if it reaches some person that will hold it against me?  And yet, I am not perfect, none of us are, but stating that publicly is terrifying.
  • You lose time from other things.  Yes, I choose to be connected but I am well aware of how my habits have changed.  I Vox when I am driving in the car rather than listen to an audio book or podcast.  I check Twitter while my husband is driving rather than speak to him.  I read blog posts rather than books.  And then there is the feeling of constantly needing to produce.  Although I try to not pay much attention to what my site statistics are, I still wonder if they are dipping or if they are stagnant.  Being connected can sometimes feel like a job, and not in a good way.
  • You are perceived a certain way.  I remember when a close friend asked me where I was going with all of this writing about no homework, no rewards, no grades, and I looked at her confused.  Sure, I had written about those things (and continue to) but I didn’t feel like that was all I did.  Yet, the perception of me was starting to take shape and it was feeding itself.  I think this can be both a positive thing and a negative one, after all, we can somewhat control that perception, but from my own experience it is hard to change it once it is out there, and you can feel boxed in.
  • You may forget about your local PLN.  When I first became connected I couldn’t believe the online discussions, collaborations, and profound idea sharing I was having with educators all over the world.  Yet upon closer inspection I realized I wasn’t having those same moments with the people I worked with in my school.  Being connected to a global PLN had taken the place of the local connections because somehow the exoticism of the global collaboration seemed like it would be more beneficial, yet this is not ture.  Being connected does not just mean that you are connected globally, it also means that you nurture your local connections and include those people in your PLN.  Sure, I have had incredible moments online with people I have never met, but I have also had that face-to-face with people I get to work with.  Don’t dismiss the local just because it doesn’t seem as exciting.
  • You think there is a right way.  I used to think that all teachers should be on Twitter, that they should blog, that they should engage in a certain way with others because that is what was working for me.  But that’s exactly it; they worked for me.  Being a connected educator does not mean doing certain things or using certain tools, it means being connected, joining together with others.  Whichever way you are doing it, is probably the right way for you.
  • You may become a target.  I was told once that I had a bulls-eye on my back because I chose to be connected.  When I wrote about being bullied by a former colleague, I cannot tell you how many people reached out to me privately to share their stories.  The biggest thing we had in common was the fact that we were connected educators putting our work into the world.  That does not make it automatic that people who choose to connect will be targets within their districts but it sure does offer up ammunition if needed.

Don’t take this post the wrong way, I love being a connected educator, but I am not a fool when it comes to the downfall of it all.  I struggle with many of these things regularly and yet every time I run into something negative, I consciously reaffirm my decision to be connected.  The positive outcomes will always outweigh the negative, but let’s not fool ourselves that being connected is always a magical thing.  It can be, but it can also be hurtful, brutal, and time consuming.  And yet, I wouldn’t go back to how I used to be; the benefits have simply been too great.

PS:  To see great reasons for why you should become connected, check out Angela Watson’s post 

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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Be the change, reflection, Student-centered, writing

But We Hate to Write

image from etsy

“It’s just…”His eyes dart away and he stops talking.

I sit there quietly, waiting for him to finish his sentence.  I can tell he is down, I can tell he is unsure.

“It’s just…” he begins again after a long pause, “It’s just that I really hate writing, I’m sorry.”  And he gives me that look that only a child can give you, that “please don’t hate me” look that cuts straight through me.

A million thoughts fly through my head, mostly surprise.  I would never have guessed, not this kid, not him, he is too good of a student.  And yet, he waits, so I ask the only thing I can think of, “Well, when did that start?”

I don’t think I hated writing as a child.  It was something I did gladly, often delving into long stories filled with tragedy and drama as I worked through my own quiet life.  I remember all of the essays I had to write and how I had to wait until I was inspired or the deadline had passed and a teacher was asking me to hand it in before I wrote.  But hated it?  Nah, more inconvenienced than anything else.

But this child, with his courageous statement, is not alone.  More and more often I hear it from my students; “We hate writing.. We hate being told what to write.  We hate having to come up with something when we are not inspired.”  And I know I cannot be alone .

So what do we do as the teachers of the future writers?  How do we bring back the passion into our writing curriculum, much like we aim for in our reading?  How do we show these kids that writing is not a chore, not something simply to get through to get to the next thing, but the way for them to have a voice.  The way for them to make a difference from where they are right now?

We start with blogging.  By providing them with a platform for putting their voice into the world where they can see their words are being read, and their words carry weight.  Where others can comment and start a conversation.  We then add choice, authentic purpose, and declare our own passion for writing.  We show how writing makes a difference to us in our lives.  How writing matters and should be held sacred, much like we hold our reading sacred.

But then what?  Where do we go from there?  How do we convince our students that writing does actually matter?  That being a good writer is actually something worth their time and not just something they have to do because their teacher told them to.  Or something forced to fit into an already pre-determined box of thought.   How do we help them un-hate writing again or is it too late?

 

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” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.