aha moment, being a teacher, being me, MIEExpert15, Passion, word choice

Five Words For You

For five weeks, I have tried to find just the right words to preface the following message.  For five weeks, I have carried a tattered post-it around, waiting for just the right angle to present it to the world.  For the past 35 days, I have waited for inspiration to strike, for the moment to come where I could finally unleash the words and let them resonate with others as they have resonated within me.  For 35 days I have waited for an opportunity but that opportunity has not come.  So the words have finally told me that they do not need a story, nor a set up.  They just need to be said.

We must practice being brave.

There I said them.  Now let them sit with with you for a while and see what they do for you.

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.

assessment, being a teacher, discussion, word choice

Let’s Discuss Your Weaknesses and Watch You Soar

As someone who doesn’t hand out grades but rather assesses and has feedback discussions with students, I shudder at the word “weakness.”  I shudder at the thought of sharing a child’s weaknesses with them based on a test.  I shudder at the thought of pointing anything out as a weakness.  Now, don’t call me sentimental or foolhardy, but hear me out.  I know that all of us have weaknesses, I know that we all have things that need work and time and dedication.  And yet, how many of us soar to the challenge of overcoming a weakness when we are told those words exactly; this is a weakness for you?

Weakness tends to connotate something set in stone, a character trait that cannot be manipulated or changed.  Weakness means that a child fails in an area, that this is their achilles heel that can slay the rest of their results.  Weakness is everything opposite of strength.  You tell a cild multiple times that math is their weakness and yes they will believe you.  They will leave your classroom having resigned themselves to the fact that math is something they will never master, that it is a weakness, and totally out of their hands.

Why not flip the word on its head and tell them it is a challenge?  Why not discuss with students how they are still developing in some areas and they should focus on conquering those?  Why not be realistic but not demolish their learning?  We all have things we need to focus on.  We all have things/ideas/concepts that are not our strengths.  And yet, when we choose to call them weaknesses we accept them as such.  We are done fighting to change them and instead can hold up our badge of weakness and shrug, oh well, it is just my weakness.

Words have power, we know that, and the word “weakness” has so much power it can effectively slay a person.  Let’s use our words to build, to challenge, to be realistic but make it attainable.  Let’s not stop a child in their tracks.

being a teacher, choices, word choice

Our Limited Words

Image from here

One of my dear friends posted this as her Facebook status last night, I immediately asked her if I could post it on my blog as well.  Thank you Amy.

“For whatever reason, I keep losing things!!  I will walk around the classroom, put down a coffee cup or teacher’s manual absentmindedly and then have to search for it.  One of my students recently made an interesting comment as I was walking in circles looking for my misplaced items.  She told me that if our steps were numbered, and if we were only given a limited number of them in our lifetime, then we wouldn’t want to waste them.  I guess my walking in circles made her think I was wasting my precious steps!  She didn’t have a solution for me, but she did make me stop and think.

Although she spoke of steps, I thought of words…What if we were only given a limited number of words in our lifetime?  Do we choose them carefully?  Do we use our words to encourage those around us…inspire our family, friends, and students…brighten someone’s day?  Or do we use words that could hurt others without intending to do so?

I know I will waste words now and again, but I plan on trying my best to use them wisely from here on out…just in case my student is correct and they are limited.”

being me, life choices, word choice

Those Little Words

I am proud of you.
Look at what you did.
You can do this.
Explain this to me
What else can happen?
Thank you for today.

Small words, big meaning.  Those words we choose to share with those we surround ourselves with every day.  Those words we do not ponder or carefully measure out.  Those words we do not plan for, study, or write down lest they be forgotten.  Those are often the words that carry the most weight to our students, to our colleagues, to ourselves.

A smile, a hug, or even a look in the eye.  Those speak volumes every day.  The little things we do matter more than we know, so be aware and give enough of the happiness you should feel waking up every day knowing that you are part of the change, of the hope, of the incredible world that is ours.

being a teacher, power, word choice

A Lesson from "Awakened"

Words.  Big, small, meaningful, meaningless, words.  Everywhere we go words bring power, attention, and direction and yet they are just words.  Words by themselves are powerless.  Words are just letters jumbled together in a recognizable pattern and yet words hurt, words incite, words sadden and uplift.  Words make us feel loved, respected, listened to.  Words make us doubt ourselves, as teachers, as human beings.  Words are power.

We give that power to words.  Angela Watson reminded me of that.  Words by themselves cannot hurt us, we allow them to.  We open up the possibility for anyone to criticize because of the strength we give their words.  If you remove the power from the words you will see that they are nothing without it.

Reclaim your words.

PS: If you want to experience this book for yourself, here’s your chance!

being a teacher, learning, students, titles, word choice

The Many Titles We Bestow

Today I told my students they were geologists.  We started studying earth material in science and so my students now become budding geologists along with the other titles we have earned in 4th grade.  When I pointed out that we were no longer astacologists (someone who studies crayfish) they correctly informed me that they were still that but now were just adding another title to themselves.  I stood blissfully corrected.

So why this title endorsement.  Last week I read a book called Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston, in it he discusses the importance of our language when we speak to our students.  He details how we as teachers should not indicate to beginning readers that they must strive to emulate great readers, but rather tell them that they are readers and that all readers do certain things.  This really hit a chord with me.  I often have used the language of what “great writers” or “strong readers” do and have never realized that perhaps I am then boxing students in.  If I do place them outside of the category of being a strong reader through seemingly innocuous language use, then what stigma am I attaching to their reading skills?

So I have consciously broken free of my language.  Yes, it will take time and yes, I will slip up.  But it is worth it.  After all, we all know firsthand how incredible words can be when attached to our persona.  After all, how many of you got chills the first time you were called a teacher (or the 1,000th time for that matter)?  So think of the language with which we address our students.  Think of the power that we can invest in them just through better or more thoughtful word choices.

My students are no longer striving to be “like geologists,” they are geologists.  In fact, as they pointed out to me; they are many things.  My students are writers, poets, readers and illustrators.  They are filmmakers, commentators, scientists, and social study professors.  They are experts, they are learners, and they are teachers.  And there will be many more titles to come for them.