Category: Home Feature

It’s Hard Not To Feel Sad Right Now

Posted on April 22, 2020 by

Are you finding that it’s hard not to feel sad right now?

It’s lingering right there, all the time. Some days life feels somewhat ‘normal’ – we’re adapting to the new routines, becoming used to the safety of our homes. And then other days…it’s just hard not to feel the weight, the enormity of what is unfolding in our world.

For the first week of the shelter at home orders in March in California, I slept. A lot. 12 hours or so a night. That counts the time I lay awake around 2 am, wondering how this was all going to play out. That was before I really understood what safe at home would be like. How distance learning and virtual teaching would transform education – and my job.

It was awhile before I realized how very, very sad this would make me.

Routines

I tried to get up ‘on time’, tried to cut back on coffee, to write my daily gratitudes, to reach out. I filled bird feeders and pulled weeds and watched my backyard slowly grow and give me a new space to just be. Never venturing too far from home I took twice-daily walks, just looping around and around my neighborhood, staying in the familiar, close territory to home. I switched out educational podcasts for audiobooks, responding to my need to hear and read stories, letting myself loose in the narrative. I made myself pull on a pair of well-worn jeans every morning, just to start some sort of routine.

Over the following three weeks, I dove into training teachers. I’m prepared for this – and I love being able to share my skills and excitement for educational technology with educators who feel scared, vulnerable, and yes, sad.

There’s a grief factor to what’s going on now if you’re an educator. The ‘old’ way of teaching and running a school died with the decision to close the buildings, to pivot into Google Classrooms and WebEx and Zoom to deliver curriculum and connect with students.

We hardly had a moment to take a breath. We had no time to be sad. Educators had to act fast, come together and figure this out.

We’re good at that – the quick decisions, the thinking on our feet.

And now…

And now, two weeks into our virtual classrooms, it feels a bit more routine – a bit more ‘normal’, whatever that means. I’m waking up earlier – too early, in fact. I’m starting my days outside, coffee and journal and birds and blooms. My walks are longer, taking me on new paths, new landscapes. I’ve had a few moments, even, where I feel almost settled.

But, despite my heroic attempts to push it aside, to break it down and not deal with it, I’m finding the sadness creep back in.

The postponements started trickling in, the canceling, rescheduling, the pushing-back on things that we’ve been looking forward to. Graduations. Weddings. End of the school year projects. Family trips. Funerals. College.

We’re flattening the curve, most definitely. But we’re flattening ourselves at the same time. Days blend into each other. The routines that helped me make it through the day feel comforting and monotonous simultaneously.

The dark side

I start to let the dark side crawl in. The spiraling, swirling sense of never-endingness. Of worry. Of wondering.

I’ve been using a ‘Weekly Check-In’ form with my students to build community and maintain relationships even when we’re not in the same physical space. You can see a copy of it here. They have options to tell me how they’re doing – ‘’I’m happy”, “I’m silly”, “I’m stressed”, “I’m angry”, and “I’m sad”. You can make a copy of my form here.

And guess what – sadness topped the list this week.

When a 7th grader shares their sadness on a digital form, it hurts. The impact of knowing they’re isolated at home, away from the structures and systems and community that we’ve created in our schools makes me sad.

How do I respond to that? Ignore it? No way. Brush it aside? Nope.

I agree.

I am sad. THIS is sad. Challenging. Scary. Unsettling.

I want them to know I feel it, too. And that it’s ok to feel sad.

What I do

I ask them what they do to feel better and I tell them about how I go outside every morning, curl up under a fleece blanket on my patio, and sip my coffee.

I write to them about how I walk around my garden first thing, looking for new blooms. About how I take photos of my flowers and post them online, just to bring a smile to someone who is looking out the window at the snow.

When I feel sad, I say, I take a walk around my neighborhood. I look at the little things, the trees, and flowers and try to notice changes from the day before.

Sometimes I share how I look up at the sky, searching for birds and butterflies and clouds, and how I smile at other people as we walk towards each other, and then step out of the way. Sometimes I cross the street, just to keep my distance.

I still smile, even though it makes me feel sad.

I tell them about how I pick grapefruit off my backyard trees and leave them in a bag on my front lawn with a sign that says, ‘Take some for your family. I’ll keep sharing. Stay home”. And how I smile when a few hours later, the bag is empty.

Wishes

I’m sad, for sure. I wish my mom could drive here and spend the weekend. I miss being able to jump on a plane and visit my daughter. I’m sad that her wedding is being postponed, colleges are shutting down, that trips and graduations are canceled and that people everywhere are sick and dying.

This loss of control over our lives, the lack of feeling like life (and we) aren’t moving forward, leaves us feeling like wanderers in a dark, dense, forest. We know there is a path, somewhere -it might be overgrown or trampled down, or we might have just taken a step too far to the side to stay on track. We know that once we get through this part, the scary, solitary steps we make will eventually lead us to…somewhere. Better than this. Definitely a different landscape.

I think I need to just leave it here, to be with the sadness and sink into today – to what is right here, right now. Robin Wall Kimmerer says, “If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.”

I’m ok with that kind of doorway. I’m ok with weeping a little bit now and then – I’m pretty sure our tears are just a lens to magnify the stars, anyways. With that kind of grief – that sadness that we can fix with love – I trust that we will find our way.

Do you?

http://www.pasta-recipes.com

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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I’m Grateful For Birdseed Today

Posted on April 9, 2020 by

I’m grateful for birdseed today. I’ve found that spending the early morning outside, first thing as the sunlight streams along the path, listening to the birds sing and the world wakes up, helps me center and feel calm. It’s beome a favorite ritual to help me in these days of stress.

I’ve got three feeders in the view from my back patio, each full of birdseed – well, four if you count the hummingbird feeder, sparkly red and inviting. Right now, though, the bold White-crowned sparrows feast every morning. They flit in and out, up and down, trilling their welcoming call. The chunky Mourning doves come by every so often, eating what’s leftover on the ground. Sometimes alone, their plaintive call for their mate echoes in the morning hush.

https://youtu.be/hoBkOrZ7LzA
Play and listen as you read!

All they need

I’m guessing the birds don’t really realize what’s happening either, how obsessed I’ve become with keeping them fed. Or maybe they’re just confident that they have all they need right here at my feeder.

I’m grateful for iris bulbs today, planted over the last few decades I’ve lived here. For the last 28 days, I’ve been watching them every morning, watching the birds dig around at their strong base looking for discarded seeds. The purple iris always appears first, followed by pink. I’ve noticed their dagger-like leaves sprout strong stalks, morphing from the base like diamond-shaped arrows to the sky. They always amaze me, these iris, how the powerful bud pushes forward, wanting so much to bloom.

Today, I’m grateful for space right outside my door, the red used bricks beneath my feet and the honey locust trees above barely budding, the sky open vast and royal blue. I’m grateful for the jasmine vines tangling in treetops to my left – so grateful that I never got around to pruning them. The grass is growing high and green waiting expectantly for attention. Grapefruits and oranges drop abundantly from the trees along the fence line, opening up space for next year’s fruit. The Calla lilies don’t seem to mind quarantine either; they know it’s time to bloom, no matter what’s happening in the world.

These days start with gratitude

These days start with gratitude, with reminders that this, too, shall pass. I’m finding the time moves just as before, but now there’s no reason to rush. I’ve no control over the unfolding of time anymore now than before – and when the time is right, this unbelievable journey will unfold and life, maybe not as before, will resume.

The sparrows are done feeding now, moving to their game of tag between the shelter of the buddleia and pittosporum. They’re small enough, these slight little creatures, to take shelter quickly, their tweets taunting their hidden friends. The menacing blue jay squawks and pops in, grabbing a sunflower seed and tapping it open on a branch above my head. He wipes his beak side to side, determined. Simultaneously, one half of the pair of doves waits on the wire overhead, snatching bits of sunlight.

It’s time for the last sip, closing my morning pages and getting on with the day. I’m grateful for these small moments of ordinariness – the silver linings of sheltering at home. For the birdsong, the beautiful, distant symphony of sound, each sharing their gratitude for simply being alive.

The hug of the Universe

I’m feeling the hug of the Universe, wrapping me in safety and beauty in this extraordinary time. I know I’m being taken care of, being reminded to slow down and turn inward. When everything in the world seems to have gone sideways, I find serenity in the extraordinariness around me – and the joy of giving thanks and feeling peace.

And the gratitude for the birdseed that draws it all into focus.

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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thinking routines

3-2-1 Thinking Routine

Posted on February 22, 2020 by

My 7th graders have been exploring perceptions and reality using thinking routines. We started out with a 3-2-1.

Have you heard of thinking routines before?

Thinking routines take all sorts of forms – and while they’re not all necessarily digital, I love using Ed-tech tools to help students make their thinking visible.

This 3-2-1 thinking routine template was originally made by the masterfully creative Heather Marshall. I’ve adapted it several times over the years to match the learning outcomes my students are working on.

You can get a copy of my Perception and Reality 3-2-1 Thinking routine here.

How thinking routines work

In my class, I’m a fan of building engagement through curiosity and exploration of a topic BEFORE I do any sort of instruction.

When students ‘buy in’ to the topic/concept with exploration (have you seen my posts on HyperDocs?) energy just starts to flow all over the classroom.

We started our latest unit of study with a MMTS ( I shared a post about that here). Next, we followed up with a more directed 3-2-1 thinking routine which focused on our next mini-unit on meeting our pen pals from Spain, letter writing, commas, adjectives, and communication skills.

Using this thinking routine feels a little bit like lifting the cover off of a new sculpture or work of art. The students understand bit by bit and by the time they have written their ‘bridge’ statement, they are DYING to get started!

We began with a topic:  kids from Spain/kids who don’t speak English. Next, my students wrote three ideas they immediately bring to mind on that topic, two questions, and one analogy. The analogies are the hardest part for sure. The cool thing is that they just keep getting better with the repetition!

Next, we explored the topic by reading personal letters from our pen pals in Spain. My 7th graders were absolutely GIDDY with excitement! Many immediately wanted to know if they could continue to write to them AFTER the assignment was over. When does that ever happen?

On a side note – I connected with a teacher in Madrid through my work with TGC and the Fulbright program that took me to Indonesia in 2012, but there are other ways to find global pen pals.

The next step

thinking routine

Then, it was back to the 3-2-1 for one more repetition of thoughts, questions, and analogies. This time my students were more directed towards the pen pal they ‘met’ through their letters. They were 100% more invested in their questions, as they knew the next task was to respond to the letters and add their own inquiries!

Then, my 7th graders eagerly began their letter writing. Many of my students are bilingual, and asked if they could write in Spanish – how cool is that? The class discussions were on fire – kids sharing what their pen pal wrote, laughter at the commonalities between Davis and Spain. They were in awe over discovering the Spanish school had a pool (of course, we searched their website, too). They had an overall joyful spirit of excitement and connection. And on top of it all, they were writing with an authentic, genuine purpose.

After their letters were completed, it was back to the 3-2-1 for one more repetition of thoughts, questions, and analogies. But this time, we utilized tech tools to make their thinking visible. Answergarden helped share their thoughts. We documented our questions on Google classroom, allowing kids to earn a different perspective on ALL the pen pals.

The final step to the 3-2-1 thinking routine is the bridge. Students complete this statement: “I used to think ________________, but now I think __________. By using Padlet, all my students could share their perspectives and comment to each other. Their understanding of the topic took off!

thinking routines

Why thinking routines are so amazing

thinking routine

To me, using these tech tools makes ALL the difference. Instead of continuing to hold only their own perspective, by making their thinking visible my 7th graders are able to deepen their critical thinking about the topic. It’s a beautiful way to learn to value others’ opinions.

As of today, we have sent our letters to Madrid. The next rotation will involve actually ‘seeing’ our friends via video communication! I hope you follow along to see the next steps in our exciting global classroom experience!

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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Best Books of 2019

Posted on February 16, 2020 by

I had intended to create a ‘Best Books of 2019’ every quarter or so, mainly to share my joy of reading and create a community of readers here and in my social media channels.

It started off OK-I got this I post done with the first chunk of 2019’s reading.

And then the year just sort of exploded – in some ways great, with lots of new professional opportunities (hello AVID Staff Developers!) and others personally challenging (saying goodbye to my dad).

But books were my constant companions, even if I wasn’t sharing. In fact, I met and exceeded my Goodreads challenge despite all the turmoil and turnover in my little part of the world.

So today I’m sharing the books that made a difference to me, the books that were by my side, and the books that you may enjoy, too, as 2020 challenges us to move forward. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you’ve read, what you’re reading now, and also follow you on Goodreads. You can find me on Goodreads here.

A Year of Daily Gratitude: A Guided Journal for Creating Thankfulness Every Day by Lorraine Miller

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver

The EduProtocol Field Guide: Book 2: 12 New Lesson Frames for Even More Engagement by Marlena Hebert and John Corippo

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher

Educated by Tara Westover

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

The Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod

DON’T Ditch That Tech:Differentiated Instruction in a Digital World by Matt Miller

Donna Has Left The Building by Susan Jane Gilman

The Designer by Marius Gabriel

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Miriam

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

I read 62 books in 2019, and have set my goal for 70 this year. I’m six in…one book behind schedule.

Reflecting on my book choices in 2019 I noticed I pushed myself out of familiar genres. I hope that these titles spark some interest for you, and you find (and share) your favorites. I always love talking books – find me here, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – @mamawolfeto2!

Happy reading, everyone! And remember, ‘You can’t buy happiness but you can buy (or borrow) books, and that’s kind of the same thing.”

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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I Breathe In When The Sirens Scream By…

Posted on January 19, 2020 by

When the sirens scream by breaking the silence, I tell myself to breathe in. Especially when I’m home alone, feeling small in a big big world. Where are you? Are they stopping on my street? Quickly I count – 1-2-3 are you all here?

Maybe it’s a trauma response. Maybe it’s because my babies aren’t living at home anymore, and the sirens are just a reminder. Some days I worry that they will stop next door, lights flashing through the fog, helpers running into my elderly neighbors’ house. I know those days will come for all of us – just like they came for my dad when I wasn’t expecting it.

Meditation

I started a regular meditation practice last summer. I wanted to train my mind to slow down, to be more present and appreciate what is right here. The breath. The love. And the joy that I have no excuse to revel in, really. In meditation we’re taught to acknowledge the distraction from the breath, to be ok with our minds going to sounds and thought that intrude. I’ve learned to let the bell bring me back to myself, to my breath and my practice.

Just like the bell, the sirens always shake me from my ‘daily life’ practice. Maybe it’s because I love having my windows open, just a crack, so I’m able to keep the world on alert.

Or maybe it’s because, in the last six years, the world has changed. My nest has emptied. My safety nets have torn holes, and I’ve found myself bouncing on the ground more than a few times. I hear birds outside – geese high above, and is that a robin’s chirp rising up from under my bird feeder?

My world is changing…

I know my love is in the mountains, doing what makes him shine. I try not to think of the avalanche dangers, the injuries I know too well what can happen when one is out on the mountain, at the mercy of the Universe.

And my girl, well, she’s hundreds of miles away, alongside her fiancé and her double-doodle and nesting before her marriage next summer. She’s a risk-taker, too, but now teaches others how to be safe, how to avoid getting caught up when the cascade of snow buries everything in its path.

Right now, I know my boy is sound asleep just downstairs, one more night under our roof before he takes off for Boston and the snow and studying for four more long months. Maybe I should tiptoe downstairs and gently open his door, checking his breath as I used to when he was three.

Oh, how he’d hate it if I woke him. Better to listen for the silence instead.

When they came for my dad, the sirens were silent. They crowded into his room, the helpers trying to assess amidst the confusion we were feeling. He didn’t want to go. We didn’t want him to go, either, but needed someone to help us find a way back to center. To what was normal, to what we could control. A way out of the silence of his form, still and sideways in his bed.

Breathe in

We didn’t know that was the beginning of the end. We didn’t know that sometimes, the silence can be worse than the siren. That the breath can go in, in, in, in…and that sooner than we think, it won’t go back out.

The sun is struggling to burn through the morning fog now, fog that makes the siren’s scream slightly dampen. But even though I can’t see it, I know it’s out there. I pause, count my blessings and whisper a prayer for whoever beckons for help this morning. I wish you didn’t need it, but I’m glad you’re getting it.

Soon I’ll head to my cushion. I’ll sit up straight, cross my legs and breathe in…out…in…out…and settle silently. I’ll count to ten, then start over again and again until my mind is at rest and the sirens outside the window fade away.

breathe

I’ll listen to the silence. And I’ll try to breathe, and remind myself that with sadness comes joy.

Breathe, Jen. Just breathe.

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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