rainbow in a cloud

What If You Were Guaranteed To Succeed?

What might happen if you knew that every day you were guaranteed to succeed?

 

What do you think would be different in your life? Would you be more adventurous? Would you check your vulnerability at the door, step out of your comfort zone and SEIZE THE DAY? 

Yep – cliches intended.

We talk a good talk about being successful. We say the right things, read the right books and make sure we have a positive mindset.

Or at least that’s what we say we do…

But we know when that shadow creeps in, that little voice that tells us it’s never going to happen. There’s a part of all of us that believes that our success isn’t limitless. That the boundaries between what that person does and what we can do are tall and unbreakable and topped with barbed wire. We might feel that it’s too late. That we don’t have the energy, time, resources…..fill in the rest of that sentence. 

We don’t believe in our own ability to reach our dreams.

succeed

I feel it too, that curse of the monkey mind. I battle the ‘fatigue demon’ all the time, feeling raw and frustrated and dubious and wonder if my limitations are going to get in my way.

And then I tell myself to shut up.

Or sometimes, I let it ride. I just sink under the covers with a lusciously written novel and shut off the world.

And then the next day, I tell myself to show up.

Have you ever heard Maya Angelou talk about being a ‘rainbow in someone’s cloud’?

I listen to her words all. the. time and treasure the moments I was in her presence, in an audience completely engulfed with her wisdom. The recordings of her words sustain me.

Teaching is one of those professions where it’s impossible to hide. We’re on display, performers expected to push down our outside lives and ‘turn on’ in the presence of our students. And some days, that’s really, really hard. It feels darn near impossible to believe that the world is truly designed for us to succeed. I often think about how so many of our children come to school feeling the very same way…and spend day after day wondering if they will ever succeed in life.

I had one of those days recently…when the kids started wiggling my classroom doorknob before I was ready to perform, one of those days when I had to take a deep breath, push open the door and smile.

No one comes in my classroom without a handshake, high five or hug.

rainbow in a cloud

I want to be the first contact my kids have before they enter our learning space. I started this routine the first day of school…and I don’t think I’ve missed a day of smiling at every kid as they pass the threshold; high fives are most popular, followed by handshakes…and then hugs.

There are some kids who come in for a hug every single day. Sometimes for more than one. Some do the side hug, or barely get their arms around me. And sometimes, they don’t say a word, just open their arms, tip their head slightly, and wrap themselves up. I love that they love to see me.

There was that day last week, a morning when I was feeling defeated and depleted and like I couldn’t make it til 3:30 without taking my pain out on someone else. It was a morning if I heard something nice I might just burst into tears… and they hugged me. Not every kid, but enough, and I transformed. 

“Prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” Maya Angelou taught us. I wonder if we all prepared ourselves every day if we might be able to guarantee success, even for just one someone’s cloud.

You might just be the rainbow that someone needs today. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to spend your day?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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comfort zone

Want to Dive Into Inquiry With Our Flipgrid Virtual Book Club?

Dive Into Inquiry With Our Flipgrid Book Club!

To be honest, I’ve struggled with the traditional book club model. Reading a book because I ‘have’ to, planning a meetup, bringing snacks, making it to the book club night on time…it’s not because I don’t WANT to talk about books. I love reading! It just always seems that life gets in the way…and most times, the book club turns into a drinking club (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but when you’re an English teacher and you love analyzing writing…well, not many people want to skip their Chardonnay to get into the intricacies of plot development and character dynamics.

I’m trying again, anyways. This time, I’m making my own virtual book club using Flipgrid. Wanna join my Dive Into Inquiry book club?


 

See, last summer I joined an online book club for Inquiry Mindset, the new book by teachers Trevor Mackenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt. It was AWESOME! We used Flipgrid to virtually share our thoughts, experiences, and lessons about developing an inquiry mindset in our classrooms – and within our own way of thinking as educators. I loved reading a chapter a week, thinking about Trevor and Rebeca’s chapter provocation, and then sharing QUICK thoughts with the Flipgrid group. Not only did I learn about how to promote an inquiry mindset, but I also met lots of new thinkers from new locations and backgrounds.

It’s also a perfect introvert kind of thing…

So…I decided to create my own Dive Into Inquiry book club to share the love with my middle school teaching staff in California as well as all of you! I’d love to have you join us for the next several weeks as we read and discuss Dive Into Inquiry.

dive into inquiry

The book is available in Kindle or paperback format…it’s 117 pages of thoughtful reflection on how to ‘amplify learning and empower student voice’ and I am POSITIVE you will love it. I’m not earning anything from this – I just love Trevor’s ideas and his clear, easy way of making me think about pushing my students to engage in their own thinking processes and create meaning in their own way.

Check out the author’s website: TrevorMackenzie.com.

If you want to join our Flipgrid book club, all you need to do is jump on our Flipgrid and share your first welcome post! I’ll be adding the Chapter 1 provocation and it’s all fun from there!

There’s even a Flipgrid app so you don’t have to use your computer…and remember, you can show up in your jammies for this PD – and no one has to know you’ve got your Chardonnay on your bedside table!

comfort zone

And honestly, if you’re scared to record yourself and would rather just watch from afar…well, it’s better than nothing. But PLEASE – step out of your comfort zone and join! If nothing else, you’ll read a great book and learn how to use Flipgrid in your classroom….but I have a feeling you’re going to get much, much more!

Come on over and join us on Flipgrid! Hope to see you on there today!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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thank you

Thank You, What’s Next?

Thank You, What’s Next?

Sometimes it really is the little things – like finding your favorite Peet’s Coffee kiosk next to your airport gate, or the Lyft driver who graciously carries your book-laden bags down the terminal to the curbside check-in, or the man struggling with his bag in the security line who mumbles ‘thank you’, but it’s loud enough for me to hear.

Or the kind Houstonians who remind you that their city “isn’t a place for walking, especially for a lady.” 

Or the Chronicle Books rep who takes the time to explain what books your middle school readers would like and then launches into a delightful chat about Sheepadoodles and Corgis. It’s the smile and the hug from bad-ass author and humanitarian Laurie Halse Anderson, reminding me that we’re making a difference together.

Read books. Drink coffee. Fight evil with bad-ass writer Laurie Halse Anderson.

You know – the little things in life that just make you happy to be here. And the little things that make you think, OK, Universe, thank you – but what’s next?

Gratitude

It’s gratitude season. We cannot escape the reminders on social media, shouting at us with cornucopia-charged memes about our blessed lives, our bountiful tables, and our beautiful homes.

Except for those who are struggling to find gratitude in the upcoming rain that offers relief from the smoky forest-fired place I call home – grateful for the easement of the flames, but fearful of living in a Walmart parking lot, huddling in a tent they now call home.

For me, it’s not-so-little things like this that keep me from fully falling into gratitude. It makes me wonder what’s next.

thank you

It’s hard for me to know what to do when I’m having a normal day, sitting amongst strangers on a rainy morning in an airport in Houston, Texas, waiting for a plane to take me safely home.

Home to my safe place, soon to be reunited with those who are most dear to me, where my most immediate issue is loading up my refrigerator and the lack of Wi-fi when I get back.

Over my shoulder, CNN flashes the rescuers raking through the rubble of Paradise, searching for bones.

How do we sink into gratitude now?

Should I really be spending this grateful energy on me, or on being aware of what’s around me?

My Lyft driver reminded me I should bring my own masks since I’m flying back into California. I’m not even sure they sell those in Texas. 

I know as soon as I step off the plane I’ll be back with those I love, and aware of those who aren’t. Raking through the rubble of what used to be their safe places, their shelter, their space for gratitude. Where they were just happy to be.

Thank you, Universe

Thank you, Universe, for keeping those I love safe. For bringing us home, and thank you for a weekend full of conversation, thoughtfulness, and invigoration. I’m full and ready to bring it all back to my classroom. Thank you for the bags full of books for children with eager minds and open hands. Thank you for the rain, the help, the time to sit and wonder and think about what we love.

I look around me in awareness of all those traveling with me, trying to get to where they need to be – want to be – for Thanksgiving. It’s raining harder now, drops obscuring my awareness of where I really am.

The strangers next to me are shaking hands, saying ‘thank you’ for sharing chargers and space to be here, now.

I whisper ‘thank you’ to the morning air, thank you to the writers and teachers and strangers who made this NCTE weekend so gratifying. Thank you to my angels, to my husband and to the Universe who reminds me I’m right where I need to be, doing what I need to do. With gratitude, I’ll bring back stories and books for my students, words of inspiration and hugs for my children, and reminders that my life is full of all the little things that make me happy and grateful to be here every single day.

Thank you, Universe. What’s next?

thank you

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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NCTE 2018

NCTE 2018: Raising Student Voice Through Blogging, Student Websites, Social Media and Tech Tools

NCTE 2018: Raising Student Voice Through Blogging, Student Websites, Social Media and Tech Tools

I’m super excited to be spending the weekend in Houston at NCTE 2018! It’s like Disneyland, Christmas morning and my birthday all rolled up into one awesome experience! For teachers, professors, writers, publishers…basically any and all book nerds, introverts or people who love sharing their love of reading and writing, NCTE is magical.

Got FOMO? If you missed NCTE 2018 this year, I’m sorry – but you can ease your anxiety by checking out my presentation with Katie Sluiter on Raising Student Voices Through Blogging, Student Websites, Social Media and Tech Tools – just click HERE to make a copy to keep!

NCTE 2018

Katie and I will be sharing what we know about building relevancy and engagement through real-world examples – our own published writing, blogs, websites, social media, and tech tools. Our goal is to help educators give students choice and voice by using technology in authentic ways to publish their work – and share our excitement for our work!

Honestly, the most important part of conferences like NCTE 2018 for me is meeting up with my ‘virtual friends’ like Katie – we met as bloggers years ago, both became writers for The Educator’s Room, and are now presenting together for the second year in a row. Katie blogs at her website, Sluiternation.com. You really should check it out. Katie shares honest, reflective stories about her life as a mom, teacher, and breast cancer survivor. She’s the real deal!

sluiternation.com

If you were able to attend our session, THANK YOU! We hope you have a few takeaways to raise student voices in your classroom – and please, keep in touch! We’d love to see how you use our ideas from NCTE 2018 with your students!

P.S. – if you’d like to see the presentation Katie and I did at NCTE in 2017, click here.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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refugee creative questions thinking

Thinking Routines: Developing Creativity and Critical Thinking In My Classroom

Thinking Routines: Developing Creativity and Critical Thinking In My Classroom

As I was walking out to hop on my bike after school today, I noticed a man leaving at the same time. I smiled, balancing my bookbag on my shoulder, and said, “Hello”. 

Flashing a huge grin, he replied, “You on your way home?”

“Yep,” I mumbled, not sure if I should recognize him. So many new parents…

“I don’t know how you do it; I couldn’t have your job. Clock in, clock out, I like not having to think about work at the end of the day,” he laughed back as I juggled my papers to grade, coffee mugs to wash and combination on my bike lock.

“Yeah, I would like that, too,” I responded instinctively, smiling as he walked towards his car.

Pedaling home, I thought about my response. What would I like about not having to think about work after the teaching day ends? Is it the constant reflection that happens on my 15-minute ride home? Would I prefer to have my boundaries so clearly drawn that my work and personal life never intersected? How is that even possible?

I’m a thinker.

I’ve been accused of ‘living in my head’ since I was a little kid. I’m a thinker, an introvert, an observer. In my childhood, I didn’t like to talk and only responded to certain folks in my small social circle. Part of it was definitely shyness, but also my discomfort at sharing my thoughts before I’ve had a chance to sit with them. My ‘thinking routines’ involve identifying a concept or topic, curiously digging in to find out more about it, swishing it around in my mind, comparing nuances, sorting through pros and cons, and then cautiously making my thinking visible.

Sometimes that comes out through my writing, and more often, lately, it comes out through my voice.

I’ve been working on making my thinking routines.

I think about those kids in my classes, who just like me, have difficulty blurting things out. They have so much more swimming around in their heads than they let show on paper. They would rather be misunderstood than push themselves to communicate publicly – often resulting in academic grades that are lower than they should be.

These students have inspired my work to help them make their thinking visible. I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the work of Visible Thinking, of Trevor Mackenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt (see below for their exciting new book, Inquiry Mindset), and Simon Brooks’ work on Thinking Routines. I nerd out reading research and strategies and wondering how I can create a student-friendly version to help my students flex their thinking muscles.

thinking routines dive into inquiryVisible Thinking

Visible Thinking stems from the research at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Project Zero, “Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom’ culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning.”

Thinking Routines Using Hyperdocs

Inspired by my brilliant HyperDoc creator friends Heather Marshall and Kevin Feramisco, I started using different versions of the 3-2-1 Bridge hyperdoc to help students build their thinking routines. Last year, I pushed my students to think about the concept of choice as we dove into our novel study of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Check out my Giver 3-2-1 hyperdoc here: it stimulated excellent conversations in my classroom and helped students think deeply about the choices they have. As one of my students stated, “I used to think that you have freedom and choice everywhere but now I know that there are many restrictions of choice and freedom at school. I also no understand better the phrase my freedom ends where your starts, it means that my freedom stops when it impacts your freedom.” I want these thinking routines to be part of part of the fabric of classroom’ culture.” 

thinking routines giver 321

It’s going to take some thinking on my part. I’ve got to be the ‘behind the scenes’ creator who is plotting, strategizing, and making it seem as if these routines were inside them all along.

It’s part of the magic of being an educator.

According to the Visible Thinking website,  “Visible Thinking is a flexible and systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students’ thinking with content learning across subject matters. An extensive and adaptable collection of practices, Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and, on the other, to deepen content learning. By thinking dispositions, we mean curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mindset, not just being skilled but also alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them.”

Thinking Routines for Refugee

My English 7 classes are reading Refugee by Alan Gratz as part of the Global Read Aloud this fall (a mind-blowing book, by the way), and after our initial dive into the topic of refugees, their brains were definitely more curious and primed for learning. The next step is harnessing that curiosity with another thinking routine called Creative Questions. I made a hyperdoc to help them explore their ‘wonders’ more deeply – you can check it out here.

refugee creative questions thinking

I spent hours on Sunday morning diving into the Cultures of Thinking I found on the Rochester Community Schools website. 

Educators in Rochester are doing some amazing, inspiring work on thinking routines that are pushing me to be more creative and intentional with my inquiry practice. Please say tuned for more thinking routines inspired by them, created by me, and shared with you!

You know, I’m realizing that I like this part of my job. I love this ‘thinking routine’ that I find myself in even when I’m not in my classroom. The essence of thinking routines piques my intellect, engages my drive and my love for “curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mindset, not just being skilled but also [being] alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them.”

Are any of you using thinking routines with your students? I’d love to collaborate/share/create with you! Feel free to adapt my hyperdocs to meet the needs of your students. All I ask is that you just share them back, please, so I can see how amazing you are! And please drop me a note in the comments, or message me on Twitter @mamawolfeto2 – we are so much #bettertogether!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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