Welcome to THE ZEN TEACHER PROFILE. Here, experienced teachers respond to questions that explore their use of Zen-inspired techniques and concepts in their day-to-day classroom experience. 

 If you would like to participate in THE ZEN TEACHER PROFILE, please feel free to let me know by using the contact form on the website, which can be found here, or emailing me at teachingzen@gmail.com.  I offer you twenty-two questions and you choose the three you’d like to answer. 

1. How do you try to simplify/create space in your classroom?

I have felt for many years that the classroom has to have enough space for the students to flourish, and by that I do not mean enough desks or chairs, but actual physical free space.  It is important for students to feel they have room to move, to breathe, and to think so my walls are intentionally de-cluttered, waiting for students to fill them.  My desks are simple and can be moved by anyone (and they are every hour), and we have wall areas where students can sit and find a corner to tuck into it.  I know I get more stressed whenever I have clutter on work areas and so I pay a lot of attention to what the flow of the room feels like.  Will students be able to come in and fall in love with their book without being distracted?  Can they get comfortable?  Can they access what they need?  Our classroom does not look like anything special, but it feels like ours, and that matters more than any fancy furniture ever will.

2. How do you try to simplify/create space in your curriculum?

I have learned to plan backwards, starting with the end goal in mind, to plan with the students so that they have a voice,  and to cut out unnecessary small things.  I would rather that we have time and room to explore the sidetracks that crop up than feel dictated to stay at a certain pace.  I have learned to go with my gut while teaching and feel the mood of the classroom as we walk through our lessons.  I have also learned to tune into the overall vibe of the students and adapt lessons around them.  But more importantly, I have learned that if my students overall need a break then we take one and do something else.  There is no reason for us to forge ahead if we are only going to lose most of our students along the way.  

3. What does your “Radical Self-Care” look like?

My radical self-care is not very radical at all.  I have to feel happy and I feel happiest when I have spent a lot of time with my family and reading.  My family, and all of the other people I love having in my life, keep me grounded, focused, and very happy.  My husband and I make sure that we have time every night to connect and just spend time together. Sharing our lives and laughing has always been cornerstones of our relationship and it is something we both crave and cherish.  I have four amazing and crazy children under the age of six and so the laughter in our house comes naturally.  And we are a reading home, so books are everywhere; I carry books with me everywhere I go, and the kids are always asking for one more book.  Since I am an English teacher, I don’t feel guilty reading ever, since it is for my job.  These are the things i need to feel happy. Oh, and lots and lots of music and singing along.  What could be better than singing at the top of your lungs, even if you don’t know the lyrics?  TZT

Pernille Ripp is a 7th grade teacher from Wisconsin and is Creator of the Global Read Aloud. Her book, Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students – 2nd edition, was just released and can be purchased here.