Last year Pernille asked me to write the foreword to her first book, Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students. Although I am a reluctant writer, I was both humbled and honored to write for such an amazing educator (and human being, let’s face it, she really is pretty spectacular all the way around).
A little of what I didn’t write in that foreword is that I first met her at dinner in Madison, WI in October 2012. It was a rare moment when Will Richardson and I were presenting at different schools about a half an hour from Madison, on the same day. When John Pederson caught wind of this, he arranged a dinner for me, Will, Curt Rees, Pernille, Stuart Ciske (and if I am forgetting anyone I am a terrible human being). What continues to be interesting when your digital world meets in person, is that it isn’t strange. It should be strange, these are people you don’t ‘know’, but there you are trading jokes and sarcasm and stories like you’re old friends. Pernille was pretty quiet that night, but I was lucky to create some time to sit with her and Jen Wagner at ICE in February of 2013 and again at the Bammy’s last fall. That was when I was able to get the full appreciation for how fired up she is for teaching, committed to the work and incredibly thoughtful.
The way in which these relationships are created and fostered continues to intrigue me… Digital connections, made stronger by just enough in person chats over tea or a meal. I consider myself thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of her network and am thrilled to have had the chance to be play a tiny role in this wonderful publication. Congratulations, Pernille! (now go pick up your copy, it really is quite good)
Here are a few of my thoughts as I read through the early copy –
Passionate Learners is an important read for all people connected to teaching and learning. The narrative Pernille weaves is that of student, teacher and mother. Specifically, she makes transparent her own process of transformation as a teacher and lets us into the day to day life of a professional educator. While I believe all members of the educational ecology can benefit from reading Passionate Learners, this book holds a special power for the practicing teacher who looks at the faces of students every day, determined to create an engaging and caring learning environment.
Passionate Learners asks incredibly important questions of teachers. One of the most difficult pieces of the profession today is keeping up with the pace of change and adjusting classroom methods to reflect the tools and resources available now. Early on, the reader is challenged to consider one of the most important questions any teacher can be asked: Would you like being a student in your own classroom? Pernille’s own answer to this question cracked open the space to approach her students and the minutes of the day very differently. Her honesty and willingness to be changed is refreshing.
Passionate Learners also takes up the critical discussion about giving student voice a prominent role in the classroom. The days of students quietly sitting in rows and listening as the teacher talks are over. Pernille lays out exactly why and how a teacher must approach this important topic. She offers her reasoning for this necessary shift and provides practical examples and suggestions for achieving this goal of giving the classroom back to the students.
Giving up our total control of learning continues to be one of the toughest teacher conversations to have. Pernille has blazed a clear trail for us as we seek to honor student voice and choice and bring it into balance with our own classroom responsibilities.
Passionate Learners also considers the role of relationships with students as an integral part of any robust and healthy classroom. She recounts her own struggles to shift from teacher as lawgiver to teacher as relationship builder. This is not an easy transition and she heart-warmingly tells about her own journey, with its twists and turns, and how she found her way to a more caring and thoughtful environment.
Pernille does not pretend that these transitions are easy; instead, she inspires us by laying bare the struggles that led her to a better place in her teaching practice AND how that professional transformation impacted the students in her care.
What is glaringly apparent in Passionate Learners is the paramount importance that Pernille places on reflection as a core part of her professional growth. In each chapter, she invites us into her own thought processes and revelations as she considers her learning journey thus far. None of the work she has done over the past six years would have been possible without this deep and intentional reflection.
This book provides a framework to begin reflecting on our own classroom practices. It is complete with heartfelt stories, helpful suggestions for shifting our own practice, and the wisdom of an in-service teacher who recognizes the importance of sharing, connection and reflection as she continues to develop into a master educator.
We need more teachers in the world like Pernille, who question, challenge and sometimes break the rules – pushing all of us to be better versions of ourselves. She is a force to be reckoned with, and this book will give readers a close-up look at the energy and thoughtfulness she brings to all facets of her life.