hovering

Hovering: Touching Down Gently For Endings and Beginnings

I feel like I’m hovering.

Early spring

It started a few months ago, back in the early spring,  when I did a huge garden cut back. Two huge buddleia bushes cut to half their size on the advice of my mom, who reminded me they could take a good pruning. Moms always know best.

I’ve waited and watched them respond, starting with small green buds springing out from the narrow branches. Eventually, they began bending in the wind and then gently bursting forth into regal purple bloom just like mom said. I’ve watched what I’m pretty sure was a Swallowtail and a Monarch lightly land on the cone-shaped blooms, taking what they need and moving on. The bushtits (yes, it’s a type of tiny bird) and doves flit above and below, using the foliage to mask their presence.

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May hovering

In May, I traveled to Utah to be part of Lily’s college graduation, yet constantly felt just on the edge of the celebration, the ceremony, and the photos. I hovered in her first non-college apartment, her first with her boyfriend, not wanting to make too much of my imprint on their space. I met her first dog. After graduation parties, drinking games, the late night jaunt to the neighborhood pub – I found myself in each space, hanging on to my be-here-now mantra, yet feeling part of and not belonging all the same.

Ellie the Doubledoodle, Lily, Cam and me after graduation.

End of the school year

Wrapping up the end of the school year in June, my “purge party” that somehow felt so necessary – a desperately needed state change, flipping everything that I’ve had for the last 16 years of being in that cozy orange-walled room, my students hovering not wanting to see the school year end – and me not wanting to face the change the next year would bring.

I’ve always struggled with endings and beginnings.

Graduation

The next night, sticking to the plastic seats on my alma mater’s field, I was waiting, watching, hovering on the edges of the photos and hugs as Cameron realized his official end to what he’s required to do – and poised to adventure off into what he wants to do. Lily’s graduation I was far from hovering – full of tears and pride and laughter, I missed being in the moment as she walked across the stage. This time, I wanted to be there. And I was there, yet not fully present. Suspended, not needing support, poised for tears and surprised at the lack flowing down my cheeks as I watched him take his place among the graduates.

At the last minute, I tried to snap a photo of the two of us – this is all I got.

I chaperoned grad night, felt proud of my former AVID students celebrating their first phase of education. Not wanting to be accused of hovering over my own son as he sank into his own joy of endings and beginnings, I kept to myself.

The next night I dipped down into Cam’s grad party, to the visit with my daughter and the Google Boot Camp I was somehow teaching. Suspended. Hovering over my emotions, knowing if I gave in I couldn’t stop.

Like the buddleia, I’m cut back. Lost half my frame, stripped down to bare bone. I’m tired. I’m raw from stuffing emotions down to make it through one more day, one more event. I’m tired of dodging yet another milestone zooming towards me.

hovering

August

So bare, it turns out, that I couldn’t put my thoughts out for consumption until now. I needed to linger with my feelings for two more months, to push them in and pull them out until now. The final ten days are laid bare before me. Now, when the empty nest is exposed. When I really no longer have the luxury of hovering. I really needed to be present and here, not anxious in the background. When I’ve recovered from pruning, and feel bloom bursting forth once again.

The buddleia is in full bloom now. The hummingbirds have taken over the bush, dropping in to take what they need. Like helicopters they hover, waiting for the precise moment to touch down – to hit the target and lightly brush the surface, just long enough for release, then in a burst of lift, take off sideways, moving skyward towards their next stop.

Whoever said life went in a straight line…I guess maybe I’m a helicopter parent after all.

hovering

primark

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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kids

Kids, School, and Stress – 4 Tips That Will Help

Back to school is closing in fast – and while we may all agree that education is one of the most important factors in any child’s life, more and more we’re seeing our kids’ mental health at risk. For kids, going to school can often feel as though they are merely learning to take tests. This in itself can make school a very daunting environment.

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It doesn’t have to be that way, though. With the right plan of action, it is possible to make life less stressful for students. And when they feel calmer about school situations, it’s likely that they’ll perform better too. Ready to get started? Check out these four tips to help your student prepare for a new school year:

#1: Focus On Effort Rather Than Attainment

Teachers and parents want kids to be successful – but what does success look like? Finding a way to successfully encourage kids to try their best is an achievement in itself. Incentives and rewards are excellent starting points. In truth, the most crucial factor is for them to gain a sense of perseverance. After all, the occasional setback is inevitable.

When the effort is there, the attainment will come. Success may look different for one child compared to another, but reaching those personal summits is the ultimate triumph.

#2: Remove The Sense Of Unfamiliarity

Most children are wise enough to know that they are preparing for tests and assessments. Unfortunately, the vast majority enter test situations without truly knowing what to expect. This can be the worst issue of all – the anxiety created by feeling unprepared can be paralyzing.

One way to remove the sense of unfamiliarity is to visit www.writingsamurai.com to access some truly wonderful test resources. Remember that it’s not all about preparing for the questions, but also preparing children for the test conditions. Trying to get them to follow the exact routine that will be used on the test day will greatly enhance their self-confidence. When the element of surprise is removed, kids can focus solely on the questions themselves.

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#3: Encourage Kids Towards Interactive Learning

Different children respond to varying types of learning. Regardless of the delivery method, there is no doubt that they will retain more information when they are actively interacting with the content.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun while learning. Introducing podcasts, videos, and physical activities to the classroom can all work wonders. They can soak in the info needed for tests without even realizing that they are actively revising. Additionally, these activities can encourage the development of many other real-life skills.

#4: Change The Environment For Kids

New surroundings can have a telling impact on educational development and can be linked up with interactive learning.

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Arranging field trips can be highly beneficial. Visit www.owlcation.com for a step-by-step guide on how to handle this task in style. Field trips are so memorable that kids strongly retain the things they learn, which can be crucial when assessment day arrives. If nothing else, a break from the norm can reset their minds, reducing the stress that may have built up over recent weeks.

These four tips are just the beginning of helping kids connect to school, feel confident, engaged and reduce their stress. I’d love to know what you do to help your students get back to school successfully!

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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field trip

Plan A Class Field Trip – The Results Will Be Transformative!

Hands up – who wants to take a whole class of kids on a field trip to New York, also known as the Big Apple? No? What about another big city?

field trip
When my daughter was in my class, we took this overnight field trip to Monterey, CA!

Field trips ARE a lot of work, and even more stress, but you can run an educational trip to New York (or modify this for any location, really) effectively, and I’m excited to show you how. In fact, to help you get everything right, I have come up with the guide below:

field trip

Risk Assessments and Paperwork

Before we get to all of the good stuff like choosing where to go and what to see, its vital that you get all of the paperwork done. Yes, I know that paperwork is the bane of teachers’ lives and field trip paperwork is the worst of all. However, it is essential both to ensure the kids have as safe a trip as possible and to cover yourself as well.

In particular, make sure you have completed a risk assessment and submitted it to the school or group leader that approves them well before the trip. Also be sure to have information on kids that have allergies and other illnesses, as well as emergency contact details for all. You’ll be confident that even if something does go wrong, you will be able to deal with the most straightforward way possible.

field trip
Field trip to NYC!

Plan Your Field Trip

Once you have all the dull paperwork out-of-the-way, it’s time to consider your field trip in more detail. In fact, it’s a good idea to think about where you would like to take the kids and what educational benefit each site or venue has.

Want to link your Big Apple visit directly to a class project such as immigration or population? If so, then sites like the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, as well as Lady Liberty herself should be on your agenda.

Of course, you don’t have to have a direct link to a particular project for your visit to New York to be educational. After all, there are many cultural sites to visit as well that can link to the curriculum such as a visit to MOMA, and even taking your class to see a show on Broadway, an activity that would be good for young musicians, dramatists, and dancers alike.

field trip
Even riding the subway is fun on a field trip!

Major Sights On Your Field Trip

Of course to be able to plan your field trip effectively you need to know what is available for educational visits and experiences in New York.

Luckily, you will find that the major sites such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and One World Tower all have specific sections on their website that you can get access to ahead of time to find out more information and get some resources like lesson plans to use. Similarly, many have guided tours led either by professional tour guides or recordings that will make sure that the kids will get the most out of their visit while they are there.

Field Trip Cultural Attractions

In term of cultural attractions, New York is brimming with options too. Firstly there are ‘the big three’ Museums: MOMA, The Met, and The Guggenheim that host a wealth of exhibitions and workshops that would be an excellent educational experience for kids.

Then there is the theatre district in Manhattan, with its famous playhouses and a range of musicals, plays, opera, and more modern shows.

Of course, it can help a great deal to pick a piece for your class to view that is suitable for their age range and topic interests. For example, you can see the musical Kinky Boots in New York City now on Broadway, a production that could be great for students that are studying music, the 1960’s, gender roles, and even British culture.

There are of course plenty of other show to choose from as well including Disney’s The Lion King, Wicked and The Book of Mormon, among others.

Emphasis On Fun

Lastly, but not least, if you are in New York for more than a day with your class and you have done the educational ‘big hitters,’ you may want to take them to some of the more purely fun places too.

For the younger kids there is now a Legoland Discovery Center in Goshenand for kids of all ages, there is Luna Park on Coney Island. Bronx Zoo is another excellent choice that is both fun and educational as there are many exotic species here including giraffes, sea lions, and even polar bears.

My best advice is to think of something that makes your destination a fantastic choice for your class and might even change your whole teaching experience when you return home from your educational field trip!

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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hyperdoc PD

Hyperdoc PD: It’s What’s Happening This Summer!

Hyperdoc PD – have you heard of it?

It’s summertime, with days free from bells and lesson delivery and grading, maybe you have a little more time to catch up on PD? Personally, I love ‘pajama PD’ – PD I can do from my backyard garden table, while waiting to catch a plane, or at night in my jammies before I go to bed. Honestly, there are so many options for teacher PD that don’t involve going anywhere (although that’s super fun too); during the open days of summer I love utilizing Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to learn and create new ways of engaging my students – especially around hyperdoc PD.

Next year, I’m moving from 8th grade English (16 years…) to 7th grade (haven’t taught 7th graders since 2001)…and this is a perfect opportunity to up my lesson planning game. I’m excited to look at new strategies to go with my new content, and figure out ways to best create English classes that are hands-on, exciting, noisy and FUN!

hyperdoc PD

Hyperdocs?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, Twitter channel or Facebook page, you’ve heard me mention hyperdocs and what a game changer they’ve been in my teaching. I’m a self-taught hyperdoc creator – meaning I’ve worked and collaborated and read and modeled my hyperdocs after the pedagogy created by the Hyperdoc girls: Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis.

hyperdoc PD

 

Do you need some hyperdoc PD? Hyperdocs are NOT just docs or slides with links – they are a way of utilizing current educational pedagogy to help kids engage, explore, explain, apply, share and reflect on their learning….and they’re AWESOME and HIGHLY ADDICTIVE! They are a way of packaging learning and teaching through sound educational principles – thinking through lessons and units from beginning to end, considering any curriculum standards and assessments through creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication strategies. Hyperdocs can be created for ANY content, ANY grade level, and best of all, ANY type of learner.

Curious?

Another cool resource for hyperdoc PD are the HyperDoc Hangout ON AIR; check out mine that was filmed in February 2018 with Kelly and Lisa. We invited a special guest student to testify about the power of hyperdocs, building relationships and engaged learning, too!

Want some FREE ideas?

So, are you ready for hyperdoc PD? Want to see some hyperdocs to use in your classroom? Check out my teaching/parenting resources page for some samples. I’ve also written a few posts about hyperdocs:

 

Also, for templates, tons of SHARED FREE hyperdocs, and lots of ideas to get you thinking, you need to visit Teachers Give Teachers, a website created by the Hyperdoc founders to create a community of sharing where teachers aren’t paying each other, but creating, collaborating, thinking and communicating together for no motive other than improving education for our students. If you haven’t checked out their website, hyperdocs.co –  go there NOW!

I’m excited to share with you – drop me an email if you have something you’re looking for. If I don’t have a hyperdoc for it, maybe we make our own hyperdoc PD session together!

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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backstory

Understanding Our Backstory – A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way

Understanding Our Backstory – A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way

“It is quite true what philosophy says; that life must be understood backwards. But one forgets the other principle: that is must be lived forwards.”

– Soren Kierkegaard

I was the second person to board the very early morning flight from Chicago to Raleigh – and the flight attendant took one look at me and reacted with what I believe to be genuine kindness. “I need you to answer one question for me,” he said. His eyes scanned over my shoulder, searching behind me on the gangway for the rest of the passengers. I really wasn’t in the mood for games. Travel isn’t easy, and I was tired. Teacher tired. End of the school year teacher tired.The kind of tired that only teachers – or new moms – know. The kind of tired where you’ve been caring for someone else at the expense of yourself.

I must have looked as dumbstruck as I felt because he continued. “The question is, what can I do to help you?” Wait – what? YOU want to help ME?

Honestly, I could only focus on the origin of his accent. Russian? Australian? I seriously questioned who he was talking to, stunned as I was. “Why don’t you just take a seat and let me take your bags?” he questioned, patiently waiting for me to step into the empty plane. At this point, I’m still having trouble processing and it’s getting embarrassing. This is Southwest Airlines, after all. Coach. Flight attendants are usually friendly, but NO ONE ever treats me like this. Gently he eased my carry on from my tightly gripped fingers and instructed me to sit anywhere.

Finally settled into my seat, he came up behind me and whispered “Remember – just leave all your stress back at the gate,” and kindly helped my husband and hundreds of other tired travelers prepare for their flight.

backstory

Choosing Kindness

How many times have people in my life chosen kindness at just the right moment- and I don’t remember them. Playing this all back in my mind, I hope he knows what a difference he made to me that day. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering or tragic that was going on, but I was spent. He had no idea, I’m sure, about anything having to do with me or my story. But taking those few moments to check in with me, to pay attention, made all the difference.

I’d just finished reading a fabulous novel, All The Missing Girls, before boarding and couldn’t get it out of my mind (be sure to check out my upcoming review and ‘Best of 2018′ book list to be posted soon). I struggled a bit with the narrative as it started with the ending and worked backward. In had to think, to get used to the reverse cadence of the plot and really pay attention to the details.

It really made me think about the backstory of my life – of my children’s, my students’ lives. How elusive it can be, even when we try to not hold onto it. How it can squeeze up at the most profound, unexpected times, only to whiplash our thinking.

Our backstory can frame the plot of our lives, even when we don’t pay attention to it; it can chart our course.

What is the backstory of your life?

It’s probably not a question we can ask directly, but one we should directly pay attention to. Just imagine what life could be like if we knew more about each other. Would we be more empathetic? Compassionate? Or less tolerant, figuring we should know better?

What’s the backstory of my life?

Thirty-six years after my parent’s divorce and I still feel that chasm they created. There’s no blame. No right or wrong. It just is. How many of my students are dealing with their own divorce backstory that I don’t have a whisper of information about? Have my own children learned about life and love from watching me and their dad? How has my divorce backstory influenced me from living my parenting life forward?

Twenty-eight years after my first day of teaching I’m once again changing course with my career. I started before NCLB – and still, I shudder at the idea of teaching like it’s 1991. It’s only by looking at my teaching backstory that it comes into focus. I know I haven’t been a perfect teacher; I know I’ve made mistakes. But I can’t stay there – that would be too easy. I can’t keep one foot in the past and expect to make it into the present…I’m just not that flexible. I have to live my teaching life forward.

backstory
Early parenthood, 1996.

Twenty-two years after my first child, I’m definitely understanding life in reverse. She finshed college, launching now into her adult life. My baby is leaving soon, moving across the country. I’ve almost got an empty nest…isn’t that a perfect excuse for understanding life backwards? Second guessing everything I didn’t do? Seeing where a + b didn’t exactly = C, but realizing that it’s ok? I understand fully Catlin Tucker’s comparison of teaching and parenting as a ‘delicate dance’. Suddenly, I’m realizing that the 22 years of parenting have really become the backstory of my teaching life.

Life must be understood backwards.

That one, short moment of kindness by a flight attendant – a moment like so many others that we don’t even realize can define our future selves and inform how we see ourselves. And as parents how many of those moments define our children; how does our back story cause our children’s reflection to shimmer or shatter?

backstory

Life must be understood backwards, yet lived forwards. I don’t think we can avoid it – or embrace it. It just is. It’s the gift of aging. Maybe all we can do is just choose kindness – simply asking someone what you can do for THEM. You never know whose story you might be changing.

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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