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Philosophical Meanderings

A Definition of Success

As the school year ends and we ponder whether we have been the best teachers we possible could be by looking at test results, I wonder, what are we missing?  Are these results the only marker of whether a child has been successful this year?  Are tests, homework grades, attendance and all the other quantifiables really how we as a world want to measure whether we touched a child, whether we made a difference, whether we succeeded?

I define success as the child who wrote a 6-page fairy tale just because he had to get all his thoughts down on paper.

Or the child that asks to have lunch with me because they want to share their life.

How about the child that blogs back to us after circumstances tore him from our classroom and he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye? Now he checks in on a regular basis.

Is success defined as the child who memorized their math facts or realized why they were important?

Is it defined as the child who succeeded on all tests without our teaching or the one who was challenged because we realized they needed to be?

Or is it defined as creating a community of learners, that may be a little noisy, but are demanding, thoughtful, and eager to do more, to have more choice, to be a part of the teaching?

I define success as the child who is sad about school being over even though an amazing vacation is planned.  Who is mourning the fact that the year went so quickly and yet they are ready to move on.

I define success as the child who asks me to keep on teaching them even though recess has begun, even though friends from other classrooms are beckoning, even though the bus is waiting.

Success is what we are here for, but it is up to us, how we define it.  My students have all been successful this year, even if a test states the opposite.  They have all grown, some more than others, and they have all learned.  And that is what success should be; to take a child from one place and move them to another.  Or even better, to help a child move from one place into a better, deeper, and more successful place.  We are all successful as long as we believe in the power of our students, no tests can take that away from us.




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.


3 thoughts on “A Definition of Success

  1. Best definition of success I’ve heard for a long time!

    Posted by Ana Cristina Pratas | June 1, 2011, 1:45 pm
  2. Mrs. Ripp,

    I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. I am working on a double major in Secondary Education and Math. I am currently taking a class, EDM 310 where we are learning about new and emerging technologies. I was assigned your blog to read and comment on. In the future I will write a summary on it.

    I found your post very interesting. As a future teacher, this post gives me something to really think about and what I currently and will in the future define as success. Thank you for this post so that I can continue to work on my definition of success.
    I was wondering how long you have been teaching? As well as, has this been your view on success your entire career or was there a process involved?
    Thanks, Bobbi Jo Nelson

    Posted by Bobbi Jo Nelson | June 1, 2011, 6:18 pm
  3. Dear Bobbi Jo,
    Wow, I don’t think one of my posts has ever been assigned as homework before. I hope you find it worthwhile and not just another tedious to-do on your long list of to-dos. I have only been teaching 3 1/2 years but my first 2 1/2 were spent following what I thought I should do, rather than what I believed I should I do. I write about my journey and the change that had to happen on my personal blog

    I realized that the definition of success within my own classroom was something I controlled, and so when a child came to me, and I scorned them for failing set perimeters determined by outside factors, then I was not making that child feel successful. As teachers we have to lead by example, and I wanted my students to love to learn and to teach each other. I therefore had to set up a classroom that had room for that, where my voice wasn’t the most important or the one mostly heard; the students had to own it. I realized all of this after I stopped loving teaching, after only 2 years. I knew something had to change. So follow your heart and your common sense and allow yourself to grow and change your mind, because that is one of the best things about teaching.

    Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any help. Good luck and believe in yourself as a world changer.


    Posted by Pernille Ripp @4thgrdteach | June 1, 2011, 9:13 pm

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