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Philosophical Meanderings

Allow Yourself to Dream

I do my best teaching while I dream.  Far away from my own cowardice that tells me to stick within the lines, follow the lesson plan, and to not deviate off the trodden path.  I do my best teaching right before sleep comes and envelopes me, right before the stress of the day falls away, leaving only time to think of what can be done.  That is when I think of how I will reach all of my students.  This is where the labels are cast aside and only ability and tenacity shine the brightest.  This is when I fully believe that they can all achieve everything.

In college, I was taught not to dream.  Dreams were for people without teaching degrees, people that might make a warm and fuzzy teacher, a softie,  but certainly not someone who made their students achieve.  Instead I was told to plan, plan, and plan some more.  Read the standards, correlate them, and throw in some spice for those students with minor special needs that may pop up in your classroom.  English language learners?  No problemo; just throw in some pre-teaching of the vocabulary and off they will go. I was ready to teach them all that school was fun and useful.  And then reality struck and I looked at the list of my not so minor disabled students, my english language learners that did not just need vocabulary, and even that one child that was just so angry at the world.  And so I planned some more.

After a year or two with glazed eyes and long, drawn out speeches about how important it all was, I dreamed a little.  I dreamt of a classroom that students wanted to come to.  A room where learning was loud, excited and maybe not always practical.  And so when I was dozing every night, I would think that maybe I could try one little thing, maybe that would not hurt my plans so much if instead of planning every minute of the lesson, I asked the students what they wanted to do instead.  Maybe they could dream along with me?

So I have become a dreamer, one who believes that children have a valid voice in their own education.  One that believes that parents should be involved in the school, one that believes we must drop the labels and see our children for what they are; dreamers just like us.  They do not dream of a school that talks at them, but one where there is engaging conversation.  They do not dream of being drones chained to desks being stuffed with information, but rather really learning through experimentation, thinking, and yes even dreaming.  So let them dream, or even more importantly, let yourself dream.  For it is in these dream that we realize just how powerful our classroom can be.  It is in these dreams that we shape the future and the future shapes us.  We are a world of dreamers, if only we choose to be.

About Pernille Ripp

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. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


9 thoughts on “Allow Yourself to Dream

  1. I love how honest, open and personal this is.

    I, too, feel that I do my best teaching when I give myself permission to dream and then follow it up with a dose of courage.

    Often it looks like I’m a dreamer, but I still hedge my bets. I toe the line. I’m too careful.

    Other times, I go for it.

    It’s too rare, I admit, but those are the most powerful, life-changing moments for me as a teacher.

    Posted by johntspencer | May 11, 2011, 11:31 pm
    • Thank John for appreciating the post, being a newbie here, I must have started 3 different posts and then just followed that spoke to my heart. As I sit here finishing my year I am getting inundated with new curriculum and more screams for testing and more pressure, I feel my dreams fading. So I wrote this mainly a as reminder to myself that we have to try, it cannot all be to the test.

      Posted by Pernille Ripp | May 12, 2011, 8:41 am
  2. One of my dearest teaching friends actually dreams workable solutions to the instructional and relationship-based problems she brings home from class. We are all very jealous of her superpower.

    Dreaming is at once easy and difficult. It’s so easy to see what we should be doing in providing kids with authentic, personally meaningful learning; it’s so hard to be told over and over again that we shouldn’t do that.

    I was talking about this issue with a friend earlier this week. Lately, most conversations at our school have been about the testing and its consequences. It’s hard for me to know how to participate in such conversations while I’m trying to effect a completely different enterprise in my classroom. I feel like I lose some sight of myself and my calling at this time of year, and, frankly, I feel guilty for asserting the vision of education I believe in when we talk about the ways scores can have a direct impact on our school. It’s a coercive, coercive, coercive system.

    It’s a weird time, but I hope the dreams keep coming.


    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 12, 2011, 8:30 am
    • Chad, Our conversations have mostly been about testing also and what to do with “those” students. As educators I understand the need for accountability but am frightened by how it has become the main focus for everything. Without dreams we wouldn’t have landed on the Moon or had a black president, we have to give our students and ourselves a chance to really learn and explore. I fear messy learning has all been banned in schools.

      Posted by Pernille Ripp | May 12, 2011, 8:43 am
  3. As a fellow dreamer, I love reading these types of post. Honestly the more we dream big and start to act on them even in little doses… we change the world for the better.

    I think the problem is too many teachers and educator have been stuck in a endless nightmare they don’t know how to wake up from and the others are sleepwalking without a dream in sight just hoping of their job continues until retirement.

    My work with IDEA has reminded me that while there are so many great things going on in education and schools around the country….many teachers, parents and students have only the energy to focus on their own school and the local battles. Testing has become a energy drain for almost everyone, but we seems to be at a road block in using that same energy to create alternatives…

    Chad, John and Pernille what stops you as a teacher from just boycotting the test or creating a alternative yourselves…? I probably know the answer but think these types of conversations are worth making public….

    What should I do as a incoming teacher to set myself up for success…so I don’t have to just dream at night and instead can teach in a school/learning community described in Pernille last paragraph?

    A dreamer of dreams…


    PS. Not to plug myself….but Pernille I would love to get your take on my big dream….

    Posted by dloitz | May 12, 2011, 2:39 pm
    • David, Thank you for a very lengthy comment, I will indeed be reading your piece so plug away anytime! I wish I could boycott, however, we are not given a choice, so I suppose my choice would be to either give the test or lose my job. Instead I choose to highlight how it is just a snapshot of that very day and that very hour of how my students are doing. I tell them it does not measure how happy they will be or how fulfilled their lives may become. We chew gum, we sing, and we do really cool stuff out of our desks in between the tests.

      I wish I could say that this alleviates their stress or anxiety over the tests, far from it, but at least we realize that this is not what school is all about. Tests are not school, they are not even learning, just something to survive. And then we dream afterwards.

      So trust yourself and ask yourself whether you would like to be a student in your on classroom, I did, and it prompted some massive changes in how I taught when I realized the answer was no. I wrote about on my personal blog, it can be viewed here:


      Posted by Pernille Ripp | May 12, 2011, 9:48 pm
  4. Pernille, One of the things I hear you saying here in this lovely post is that when you allow yourself to be guided by intuition, by the unconscious, in your teaching practice, you feel grounded and whole. And mostly we exist in classroom environments that allow very little of this, either for students or teachers. I hear you.

    And the place I come to worrying though, is that what if all your colleagues are not as reflective and thoughtful and loving and deep-rooted as you? How does a system encourage people to be better at their practice(s)–to encourage them to tap deep personal and professional knowing–if their understanding of their work is very thin?

    If you were in charge of professional development at your school, what would you do?



    Posted by Kirsten | May 16, 2011, 9:15 am
    • Hi Kirsten,
      I wanted to think about your comment for a couple of days before I replied. I cannot say I am any closer to a plan but here is what i wish we had in our professional development:
      1. Time! Time to meet, to discuss, to reflect. I often turn to my online PLN rather than my in-school colleagues because I can do it on my time. In school I am rushing around trying to get everything ready for everything I am planning to do. I wish we had more time to just sit and talk, without an agenda, almost an edcamp format within a district or just in the school.
      2. Trust. I think there is a sheer lack of trust within our school system, in each other, in the system, in administration. We need to have trust so that we can learn from each other and start believing in ourselves and our own capabilities. I think a lot of teachers are simply afraid of themselves and what others may think if they change their practice too much.
      3. Local experts. There are fascinating things happening all around my district but not a whole lot of sharing. If we have time and trust, I would hope that more would step up to share what they have been doing.
      4. Global experts. PD doesn’t have to be so rigid, it can just be a skype call with someone that has a great idea and then time to discuss. I don’t necessarily need a lot of rigidity or structure in my PD but rather conversation and inspiration.

      I am going to stop there because this is turning into a post by itself. Hmm, maybe that will be my next post! Thank you for making me think!


      Posted by Pernille Ripp | May 18, 2011, 8:49 am

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