Just Get Out of the Way Mrs. Ripp

So yesterday I finally did it…I started my first inquiry based project with strange new kids.  You see, I moved to 5th grade and my incredible team and I decided that we would shuffle our kids for math and a hybrid reading/social studies class.  What this means for the kids is that they are getting more attention, being taught at their level, and are being challenged appropriately.  It also means that I get to have all 73 5th graders, which has been wonderful, but very different.  I no longer just have my kids to support but all of these new ones.  So I have been a little hesitant to pull out inquiry based projects druing this reading time, after all, my kids know the expectations and how to do it well but the other kids are a gamble.

Yet, that voice inside of me kept urging me to do it, to trust the kids, to believe in them and their ability to be natural learners.  I could not quiet it or dismiss it any longer.  So the project is simple; they are in groups of 7 assigned one topic and within that topic there are 4 questions they have to answer.  How they answer them is up to them. They can create one large project or mini projects.  All I care about is that they present something to me within the next 10 days.

My fears faded immediately when I saw the excitement the kids had when I introduced the project, the concern over whether or not I really meant it when I said they could do anything.  Was this some sort of a trick?  Where are the restrictions?  How come this teacher isn’t telling them exactly what to do?  They were thrilled and they got right to work.  To step back and see these kids emerge as leaders and undertakers is truly magical.  I would never have been able to create that kind of excitement for this project without them taking control.

So once again my fears have been proven wrong.  Sure it may get messy and there will certainly be obstacles, but isn’t that what true learning is really about?  Trying, failing, and then trying again.  I am so glad that I shut myself up and got out of the way so these kids can have a chance to figure out, to try something, and perhaps even to fail because through that they get the chance to soar.


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.
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4 Responses to Just Get Out of the Way Mrs. Ripp

  1. Hi Pernille,

    I enjoyed reading this. I like the way the “voice” inside your heart overruled the logic of your reasoning. I identify with that. I had a similar experience with my 9th grade English as a Foreign Language students here in Chile. I walked in class one day and said, “Make a Movie”. They looked at me as if I were crazy – realized I was serious – and then set about making an incredible movie. Kids do what they perceive is our perception of them. Again, thanks for your article. It resonated well with me.

    Best regards,


  2. Thomas, thank you for your comment and the fact that you enjoyed reading it. I think we as teachers can get so caught up in what we think we need to do to be proper teachers that we sometimes forget to just let the kids learn. Your prompt of “make a movie” really has me thinking now.



  3. Abbie says:

    this post makes me feel better in more than one way. I have not done a lot of inquiry based learning so far this year. I have too many worries and doubts, and thats what been holding me back. I am glad that I am not the only one with these worries. i am also finding myself micromanaging more than usual. maybe i too need to turn off my inner critic, trust my abilities and my students, and take the plunge! Maybe these kiddos can get to really think, engage and collaborate!


  4. Abbie says:

    Prof baker- a-ha moment: “kids do what they perceive is our perception of them.” it’s true and kind of sad. Makes me wonder what my kiddos who struggle think of what I think of them? going to keep that in mind next time I have a doubtful voice in my head.


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