English Language Arts Teacher (ELA) – Pernille Ripp
Pernille Ripp is currently a seventh grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Oregon Middle School in Oregon, Wisconsin. Prior to this, she practiced teaching at both the fourth and the fifth grade levels.
Tell us about your background and how you ended up going into teaching as your profession?
I never thought I would be a teacher, “ Ripp admits, “but knew I wanted to work with kids. It wasn’t until I had dropped out of college (once), that I realized that perhaps the one thing I had been running from was the one thing I really wanted to do,
Being an administrator has never appealed to me (even though I work for an incredible one),” she continues, “but once I knew that I wanted to work with kids, I decided on teaching.
I wanted to influence the future and I knew that being a teacher meant that I would always be challenged,” states Ripp. “My heart belongs with kids because they teach me as well. Working with kids is one of the greatest privileges I have and it is not something I take lightly.”
What does a normal workday look like for you?
“I get up at 5 a.m. so I can drink a cup of tea before waking up my oldest daughter, Theadora, who drives with me to school. We have a thirty-five minute commute where we devour audio books together; it has been incredible this winter to rediscover the Harry Potter series with her,” he states fondly.
“The students show up at 7:45, and then my day is a blur between teaching, meetings, emails, and trying to find the good in every situation. I teach five English classes and then supervise an independent reading class to end my day at 3:15 p.m.
I stay at school until 3:45 PM and head for home,” continues Ripp. “Once my kids are in bed, I go back to working; preparing, collaborating and getting inspired by other educators around the globe. I am grateful that I love my job but do realize that I work too much most days.”
That’s a big day. Do you feel like you are able to manage work and your personal and family life?
“I work a lot,” Ripp says. “There is no easy balance between having a full-time teaching job, writing books, consulting and speaking, and having a family with four young kids. But what I try to do is ensure that I am present wherever I am or whatever I am doing.”
Ripp continues, “The thing with teaching is that the job is never done; there is always another thing you could or should do to make it better for your students, but at some point you have to find peace with what you are doing”
How difficult was it to get to where you are now, and was it worth the journey?
“Absolutely, I think it was okay to get here but it is hard to stay,” Ripp admits. “Teaching can burn you out. You are not paid very well, you work a lot, and you are always working, but that’s not why we teach. We have to keep the focus on the kids, our dreams, and keep our passion for teaching alive. Otherwise the job is not worth it.”
What aspects of teaching are the most rewarding?
“There are too many to list them all; the fact that we get to work with kids and help shape them into adults is an incredible honor. To be surrounded by adults that are there trying to make school amazing for all kids is also a fantastic feeling. Getting to learn myself on a daily basis and push my own thinking to become a better teacher. And the parents that let us teach their kids. Being a teacher is immensely rewarding once we can focus on that and not all of the outside political things.”
So then, what gets you the most excited about your profession and why?
“The kids, always the kids and their reaction to what we are doing, their ideas, their dreams; their push back and how they can challenge us to become better teachers so they can learn more.”
What is one thing would you like to see changed in your field?
“The lack of respect teachers are faced with these days,” Ripp states. “While many of our local communities respect our profession, there is also a lot of teacher bashing as well as destruction of the field itself. Even just in the last five years, many decisions that impact students have been made not to help schools but instead to push them toward failing.”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
“To do it but to know that there will be days where you will feel incredibly low and like you have failed at your job,” Ripp advises. “Those days though are not inherently bad but instead will offer you the opportunity to grow yourself, to become a better teacher and that those days are far outweighed by all of the great days. We should never forget what an incredible experience it is to get to teach.”
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