make a difference

Could You – Would You – Help Make A Difference?

Could You – Would You – Help Make A Difference?

What would you do if it meant you could make a difference in the life of a child? Would you watch a video? Donate money? Eat a burrito every single day for a year?

make a difference

 

You’ve got to hear the story of my friend Kala Ebbe, founder of the Educator Chipotle Challenge. She’s the real deal.

Kala is in her first decade of education – she’s a school counselor, fantastic dancer, and all around kind and awesome human, and she’s DEFINITELY making a difference.

I love knowing that people like Kala are around to help our kids move into their futures.

make a difference

Do You Walk Your Talk?

Kala exudes positivity. She’s a sharp dresser (boy can she rock the bow-ties), she’s got a quiet and commanding presence (sometimes she startles me by just appearing outside my door), and she can really walk her talk.

Right now, she’s committed to eating CHIPOTLE for an entire year…to help raise awareness for the need for better mental health services for kids and teachers.

Pretty cool, huh?

What Could You – Would You Do?

Could you do that? Commit to one action for an entire year if it meant helping someone else have a better future?

She’s trying to raise awareness and raise money through her Educator Chipotle Challenge by sharing stories of important educators – those teachers who have inspired other teachers to become educators themselves. Teachers who have helped kids through hard times. Teachers who have made an impact.

Make a Difference

It would mean a lot to me if you could support Kala’s effort to make a difference by making the world more awesome, one Chipotle meal at a time. It’s hard to get young, inspired educators to stay in the education field. Just today I read a sad-but-true account in USA Today of what teachers deal with every day: low salaries, poor facilities, working ‘side-hustles’ to earn enough money to pay their bills and send their own kids to college – if we can support young people like Kala who WANT TO HELP KIDS, that’s one way to make a difference.

You can check out Kala’s website, www.educatorcc.com.

You can follow her Chiptole Challenge on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/educatorcc/

The Educator Shout Out Interview Video

I know you’re going to want to see Kala IRL. And it just happens that this week, she’s posting an interview we did together as part of her Educator Shout Out series!

We recorded this after a LONG day at school, hanging out at Chipotle. I could talk for HOURS about teaching, kids, and education, but thankfully Kala edited this down to twenty sweet minutes! I love Kala’s approach of asking teachers about who they would love to ‘shout out’ – is there a teacher you’d love to let know that they made a difference in your life?

Thanks in advance for checking out Kala’s project! Hopefully, you can support her effort to make a difference in the life of a child.

 

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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stories

These Stories, Those Words, and Powerful Tests of the Universe

These stories.

“Our intellects, our hearts, and our souls are constantly being tested by the universe. Life will create new challenges for you to face each time you prove yourself capable of overcoming the challenges of the past. What you deem difficult will always differ from that which others deem difficult. The tests you will be given will be as unique as you are. If you focus on doing the best you can and making use of the blessings you have been granted, the outcome of your efforts will be a joyous reflection of your dedication. ” – DailyOm.com

Our intellects….yes, constant testing right now. What I know in my intellectual mind about justice, equity, respect has been certainly put through a tremendous challenge in the last hours/days/week/1 year, 253 days, 5 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

Not that I’m counting. Ha.

Our intellects

stories

My intellect versus my heart trying to process words of the victim and abuser, feeling the pain of so many friends/females who could (and should) be telling their own stories of violation, of terror, of abuse. Knowing and fearing that things haven’t really changed, that the generations of women before me cried at Anita Hill’s dismissal and now, once again, are facing all that we couldn’t do.

It’s so enervating. It doesn’t feel like this which I deem difficult, is any more or less than they felt but now that we’re naming it, now that we broadcast and talk back and make THEM LOOK US IN THE EYE and still, they vote for the abuser…these tests given now are unique, to be sure. But different? I’m not positive.

My intellect AND my heart burn with these stories. I knew these boys and men in the 80s. I’m that girl who got her ass grabbed/screamed at/cursed at/called at/insulted/humiliated…there are stories I haven’t shared, stories I didn’t have words for and not quite sure that I do even now.

But it’s not even just about all that – it’s about surfacing the stories of all of us who have hed back, quieted down, and been silenced. It’s remembering that just because you’re bigger/whiter/heavier/smarter/richer/ or more privileged, powerful or any terrifying combination of elements that makes you think it doesn’t matter, that THEY don’t matter, that THEY deserve it because they are whatever you aren’t – it’s still not OK.

Our hearts

stories

Our hearts are tested right now, absolutely. I biked through my tears on the way to work, listening to her testimony….wondering what to say to my own daughter and son. How can I explain my disappointment, my hopes, and fears for both of them in a world so misguided in so many ways?

And these women, these sister-hearts that I’ve held as they cried and told me their private horrors. I believed them. I believe her. And I believe all those others who didn’t have the words to explain. I believe those who didn’t have the courage or confidence to say, out loud, “He assaulted me”. Even when they were drunk. Even when they knew the guy. And even when he laughed…

Our souls

And our souls, oh, our souls. Universe, you are pushing hard. Your tests are gargantuan, each touchstone searing us forward into action. They’re moving us away from anonymity and into elevators and courtrooms and classrooms and news studios; empowering us with the monumental charge of knowing better, and now doing better.

The blessings granted are mighty, the platforms plentiful. The outcome of our efforts will certainly put into the Universe words muffled for decades by the powerful hands of those who wish to silence our intellect. You may batter and bruise our hearts and stifle our souls from doing the work we know we are here to do, but still, we will rise.

stories

These words.

I say, “NO. MORE”. I say to those men who are fathers, to those women who are mothers, how dare you deny our stories. How dare you continue to empower those who already suffer from the endowment of more than most on this Universe? Don’t you dare use your power to reduce others, laughing and backslapping as you rise…

I share these words, today, as a reflection of my dedication to telling the narratives held inside. Never assuming that silence shrouds the lack of story, and remember that the wheels of justice may turn slowly, but that slow and steady wins the race.

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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clearing out

Clearing Out and Making Space For Creativity

I spent the summer clearing out.

Clearing In Springtime

It started in May, actually, when my classroom began to feel like the walls were closing in. I needed space. Every day after school I would open something, fill the recycle bin, scrutinize and smile and either toss or find a new home.

 

clearing
What a mess…

I turned my classroom inside out before leaving in June; when I came back in early July after the carpets had been scrubbed clean and all 900 square feet felt fresh and everything was stacked neatly on top of my tables. So of course, I flipped it all around.

The back went to the front, the sides swapped spaces. Bean bags and folding chairs stacked in the center of the room on tables as I worked on creating more structure. I worked from the outside in, rearranging bookshelves and my teacher desk. I nestled new/old coffee tables in nooks with books and stools, and created AVID corners and reading spaces.

clearing
Starting to take shape…

Old paper ripped from the walls, became new blank bulletin board spaces. Wonder walls and student shout out spots smiled in anticipation of what would come in August… and I worked nearly all summer clearing out my classroom space until I could close the door and know that when school began August 27, I would be ready.

Ha.

Clearing At Home

At home, it wasn’t much different. The day after school let out in June, literally and figuratively, I opened drawers I hadn’t looked into for years. I pulled out all the linens and papers and blankets and stuff….and then I gently lifted them, breathed in the scent of memories and either gently folded and returned them to a place of honor, or let them go.

I knew what was propelling me, that life was tipping out of balance and only by clearing, by bringing awareness to the places in my life that I habitate and nest deeply, would I embrace all the change.

Before the end of July, I cleared out nearly every room in my house.  It was messy, and yes, a bit incomplete. There were tears of joy and overwhelming washes of memories that brought me down. I couldn’t go one room at a time; rather, I seemed to spiral from here to there depending on how the spirit moved me. It didn’t make much sense, but inevitably after I completed one part, an ease came over me. A sense of completion, of control, of calm.

Vaclav Havel said, I am not sure one is capable of reflecting absurdity without having a strong sense of meaning. Absurdity makes sense only against a meaningful background. It is the deeper meaning that is shedding light on the absurdity. There must be a vanish point, a metaphysical horizon if you will where absurdity and meaning merge.” Shedding layers of ‘stuff’ allowed me to shine a light on what means the most – it allowed the ‘absurdity and meaning’ of 22 years of parenting to merge and push me towards what was not only meaningful but possible.

Every Single Day

It became a daily practice. Like an addict, I fed on the need to bring balance and order. To create space for the change to wash in and out while my baby, my teenage son, wandered in and out of the house as he relished his last few months in the only home he’s ever known.

I spent much of the summer alone, in solitude. Aside from the obligatory summer excursions with the family (which I loved), I stayed at home, happily filling my days with clearing. 

May Sarton once said, “There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone,” and for me, the intimacy brought with clearing out gave me time to think. What would this next phase of life be like, alone with just a husband and a dog and no children in and out all day? What would my teaching transform into? For 22 of my last 28 years of ‘first days of school,’ I’ve juggled being that teacher-mom, trying not to show how I was always feeling split in two.

Clearing and Creativity

And to be honest, I have no idea. Two weeks after dropping off C at college and starting the new school year the very next day, my rhythm isn’t there yet. I’m exhausted, edgy, eager, curious, nervous, and mostly cannot imagine how to jump-start creativity. Seems like with all this clearing, with all this open space I should be oozing with ideas and the time to bring them to the surface.

clearing out

It’s making me a bit frightened, actually. I want to force it into shape, to dump it all out and mold a plan that seems unmistakenly possible. Things need to fall into place before me, wide and clear and clean. I feel the call to creative work – the years and years under me, of thinking about this time and feeling the foundation that I’ve been building with this blog, with my PLN. with my pushing myself into something that while at times cloudy and obscure, it seems like might just be starting to glitter. 

Feeding The Call

The poet Mary Oliver wrote that “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” 

I don’t want to push down this clearing and cleansing and creativity that is opening right in front of my eyes. I want to jump in, feet first, and see where I pop up, to give myself permission to fill those empty shelves with new ideas and opportunities. And maybe, embracing the change for once, not shrinking from it. Just as the smoke is finally clearing from the summer skies, I know this will happen. Eventually.

Patience, Jen. Patience.

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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What To Learn When You Want To Grow

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…

learn

Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

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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Podcast In The Classroom With WeVideo – Get Started Today!

Podcast In The Classroom With WeVideo – Get Started Today!

I just finished filming a Google hangout with WeVideo for their Video Creator Rockstars group about how to use it to podcast in the classroom (blush) and it was so much fun, I wanted to share some of my podcasting tips with you!

The theory behind podcasting for students:

  • Give students a voice, choice, and agency
    • Teaching students require relationships, connections, and showing kids that you value what they are learning and how they learn it. Podcasting allows kids’ voice to come through on things they think are really important.
  • Teaching skills for the future
    • Podcasting is one of the communication tools of the future. Podcasts are a new frontier – and the possibilities are endless! Teaching podcasting allows students to practice the 4c’s of future-ready students: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.
  • Creating a platform for the entire year – and beyond!
    • Teachers could think of podcasting as a platform for sharing student thinking all year long – or in smaller chunks of units and lesson assessment.

The impact you see in kids making a podcast:

  • Excitement! Engagement! Creativity! Collaboration! Critical thinking! Communication! Fun!
    • When my class is podcasting it’s BUSY – and kids don’t want to leave the room! Don’t be afraid to have the whole class recording all at once – you can make inexpensive recording studios (see below), create a sign up sheet, scaffold in stations, use a closet for recording, or just accept that it’s not going to be perfect studio quality sound – it’s real-life background noise!
  • The belief that they could ‘do’ this – confidence building
    • When students can show what they know in different ways, it turns them into possibilitarians – they believe in themselves and their ability to shine.
  • Pride – positive peer feedback
    • When kids can share their thinking, with pride and control over the final product, and receive feedback from their peers, they are PROUD of their learning!
  • Storytelling – thinking through concept, creating an outline, following narrative arc
    • It’s important for kids to start with some sort of idea rather than just going off the cuff in their podcast. The trick is to not OVER SCRIPT – which happens. I like to have kids listen to and analyze podcasts for the storytelling elements, and see what they like and what they could duplicate in their own podcast.
  • The realization that it isn’t/doesn’t have to be perfect the first time – revision, doing it the best they can
    • Growth mindset? YES! Using their phones, WeVideo, and creating take after take helps strengthen the idea that life isn’t always done in one ‘take’ – redoing, rethinking, and revising are future ready skills we want our students to adopt.

Low budget ways to set up a recording studio:

  • Cardboard boxes and packaging tape
    • This is seriously low budget, but I think if kids start here they could come up with creative ways to modify their box to meet their needs.
  • Plastic milk crates with 12×12 foam
    • This method involves a bit of money, but not much. Amazon sells foam squares that are perfect liners!
  • iPhones, microphones, headphones
    • Not necessary, but if you’re doing long-term podcasting it’s a nice investment.
  • Beanbags as buffers
    • Something about covering their box in beanbags (pillows would work, too) not only made for better sound quality but provided a safe space for insecure first-time podcasters!
  • Tablecloth or sheets for kids to ‘hide’ under when recording
    • Some kids really like no one seeing them…and helps a bit with the sound quality.

Coming up with topics:

  • That’s up to the kids – it needs to be generated by them.
    • I like using our essential questions as a springboard, and then let them take it in any direction they like. They really should have ownership of the content!
  • Let them listen to lots of podcasts to engage their interest and teach them what a podcast IS.
    • Common Sense Media has lots of good suggestions for all grade levels.
    • Consider taking a poll on a Google form with any podcasts they currently listen to (see my hyperdoc for some ideas).
  • Consider making a year-long podcast that they can add to at intervals
    • I’m considering using podcasts as a requirement for them with each literature/novel unit. I could also see adding to it with their book recommendations, suggestions for next year’s students, or just sharing exciting news about being a teen!

The impact I saw on students:

  • Students were excited! Empowered!
    • They felt like they were really getting their voice out to the world…to other students. They said it was the best assignment they’d ever done!
  • Collaboration
    • I had a group of four who divided work into script writing, recording, being the ‘special guest’ and one doing most of the tech work
    • Another cool thing that happened was students who wanted to work alone ended up finding guest interviewees- their parents! I thought that was a cool way to expand the project.
  • Gives students a different avenue to show what they know.
    • Showing their passions really gave me insight into them as a person, and in fact, inspired me to encourage them to keep their podcast going!
    • It makes your textbook come alive! Use podcasts for assessment – use the tips in your textbook teachers edition for ideas, and then go from there!

Tips and tricks:

  • Don’t be afraid to start.
    • It doesn’t have to be perfect – making mistakes and figuring things out is part of the process.
    • Let your students teach you (and other students) all the tricks and tips THEY learn!
  • Better listening if it’s conversational – not too scripted.
    • Use an outline (see my hyperdoc for an example) and break it up into different segments. Long talking/reading gets boring. Encourage them to break it up with music, sound effects or switching topics.
  • Pairs are better than singles.
    • Most kids who worked alone tended to read a script and it sounded like an audiobook, not a conversational podcast.
  • Use Padlet to share links
    • This allowed all students to listen to their peers and ‘see’ what others were thinking. You could require them to listen to For long-term curation, consider using a Google Site that can be accessed publicly. You could also create a Google classroom and share the link with the kids to add their content.
  • Try a Podcast hyperdoc – (click the link to use mine!)
    • Hyperdocs gives the examples, an outline, scaffolding ideas, a rubric, opportunities to share publicly, and most importantly, a reflection form. Letting kids share what worked, what they would change, what they learned is crucial to help them think through the learning process.
    • Mini-deadlines are key!
  • Graphics are not needed
    • Unless they’re going to submit for RSS and syndicate their podcast publicly.
  • Let kids play with voices
    • For emphasis, for creativity, for adding interest to the topic being discussed!
  • Try a podcasting ‘field trip’ – 826 Valencia is one option
    • Submit kids podcasts to ‘real-life’ podcasters – and ask for feedback!
  • When kids get stuck…
    • Encourage them to problem solve it themselves. I like the “3 before me” rule…

Overcoming fears:

  • Kids don’t like to hear their voices…get over it
    • Honestly, this was the only fear I heard. Some struggled with workflow (they got so caught up in their ideas they didn’t get started). 
  • Keeping the momentum going
    • Divide up the responsibility. Create the podcast as a backchannel, and let the kids take over!

Rallying other teachers at your school:

  • Get it started
    • The other teachers will join you when they see your students excited!
  • Start a book podcast
    • Get the librarian or other English teachers to take it over and have genre months, author spotlights
  • Start a whole school podcast
    • Different departments could take over each month
  • Start a podcast for your program
    • AVID, SPED, GATE – share your specific stories

Excited to do a podcast? Here’s a link to my first blog post: http://jenniferwolfe.net/2018/05/podcasting.html

Here’s a link to my ‘Approaching Adulthood’ Padlet of podcasts: https://padlet.com/jwolfe14/x3u4y3gxt4or

Remember: Happy teachers will change the world! When you’re happy, your students know it – and it’s contagious. You’ll have a fun job and you’ll be giving students real-life transferable skills. You’ll show your students that they matter, that you SEE them. Our students have a voice – creating platforms for our kids to share are the best gift we can give our students!

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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