grow

Grow: One Word For 2019

Grow is my one word for 2019.

I’m not into resolutions. At all. I’ve broken them far too easily in the past, and I’d guess that most people have failed at one already in 2019 – and we’re only 11 days in!

Resolutions are a setup. We make decisions at a time when we think we’re supposed to change as if what we are already isn’t enough. We think in a scarcity mode – ‘if only …. I had more money’, or ‘if only…I worked out more’, ‘if only…every day at 6:00 a.m. was journal time’.

And then, you miss a day. Or forget what you set out to do and make excuses for yourself. Inevitably, resolutions break when you’re too tired to get off the couch, apply for that new position….you know how it goes.

Five years of words

In 2014, my word was change. I explained my strategy for no resolutions to my son in this post – and he decided on a word for the year, too.

In 2015, I declared an intention to practice courage. It was my first year of living without one of my children at home, and I was kind of a mess.

2016 told me to trust the journey after Cameron skied into a tree and sustained a serious concussion.

I needed/wanted to do less, to focus, to simplify in 2017, so I chose the phrase ‘Be here, now’

And in 2018, I decided I needed to embrace change as I transitioned from partly-full to empty nest.

My one word for 2019

Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness.

These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind.

The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow.

Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow.

When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy.

When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry.

The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

The quality of my life, of my children’s lives, and the lives of the students in my classroom depends on my ability to grow.

I know what it feels like to not have children at home to care for.

I adjusted to the empty nest, mostly. I’ve now got to transform into my next self. As e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Grow. The quality of my life, of my children's lives, and the lives of the students in my classroom depends on my ability to grow.

Change is hard, scary, messy and often, exhilarating. I’m going to grow parts of me that haven’t been watered in a while – or ever.

I’m going to grow peace of mind. Happiness. Adventure. Novelty. Love.

It’s not a resolution. I’m not tracking it on my calendar or measuring my success. To me, my one word means when I’m at a tipping point, or when I feel like I don’t know which way to go, I’ll pause, breathe, and decide to GROW.

I can’t wait to see what happens! What’s your one word for 2019?

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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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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boundaries

Boundaries For Strong Self-Care: Creating and Keeping Yourself Happy and Healthy

Do you struggle with boundaries?

This morning I woke up to a tweet from one of my favorite educators, Pernille Ripp. She asked, “What is one thing do you to take care of yourself as an educator?”

I was the first to respond.

I quickly tweeted, “Set strong boundaries between home and school”, and she immediately replied, “I need to do that”.

boundaries

Wait – what? This educator/mom/ author agrees with me? I just assumed someone as accomplished as she would have figured that out, but then, I remembered – when my kids were young, it seemed impossible to set (let alone keep) those boundaries.

Teaching can feel like a 24/7 job.

And while dedicated educators always seem to have their next-most-awesome lesson idea simmering in the back of their mind, or are hoping that one special kid has a decent afternoon/night/weekend and comes back to school the next day, just like the old cliche about the oxygen mask, we really MUST practice strong self care to be at our best for our life-altering jobs as educators.

boundaries

Life can be tough, there’s no denying it. There are so many negative things in the world that can really get us down – even turning the tv on nowadays is depressing enough. Having said that, there are also so many incredible things around us that unfortunately, we miss because we are so preoccupied with the bad, but that’s where we need to focus and engage. Don’t let yourself be consumed by things that don’t deserve your time and attention. Instead, learn to unwind and do something that is worthwhile, like finding a hobby – something that you are truly passionate about.

It didn’t take teachers long to share their self-care tips; here are some of the best ideas:

Creating Art

Art is a tool that allows us to capture things and freeze them in time, in our own unique way. The beauty of this is that there aren’t any rules. Essentially you can do whatever you like, and no one can tell you whether it’s right or wrong, because that just doesn’t exist. You are in total control of what you do, so let your creative juices flow out onto a blank canvas with colorful paints and see what you’re able to create. Free your hands from tension and let them sculpt and mold clay into a structure that makes sense to you. – Whatever your form and medium may be, express whatever you are feeling at the time. Be honest and open, as that is when true magic happens.

Create & Construct

Listening and Playing Music

Music is a beautiful thing that not only stimulates our ears but our soul. It has the strength to bring back fond memories from a time that feels like centuries ago, even smelling the air from that very day. It’s exceptional, and it helps us to get through some of the best times, and some of the worst times in our lives. So think about being able to create that very same experience by playing an instrument yourself. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you may imagine either, for example, there are sites out there like easyukulelesongs.com that give access to what you need so that to play your favorite tunes. Why not stretch a bit, explore the world of music and pick up an instrument?

Music is a higher revelation...

Read, Read, Read

Reading is an underrated hobby that everyone should adopt. It allows us to delve into a world that is so different to our own, giving us the chance to live vicariously through the characters in books. People don’t realize how far stories can take them until they pick one up, only to find themselves not being able to put it down unless absolutely necessary. It’s a way of escaping reality for a while and drift off somewhere else. The best thing about it is the fact that reading can happen anywhere: on the sofa at home, on a bench in the park, under a tree in the forest, on the bus to a destination, in the bath eating strawberries, or in bed snuggled up (my favorite).

boundaries books

Another one of my favorite educators, Kelly Hilton (a co-creator of #hyperdocs), shared this hyperdoc lesson focused on TEACHERS, not students – but I can see the possibilities for making it apply to kids, too. Heck, every person who struggles with boundaries could benefit!

Why not share this with your teaching staff/friends/favorite educators who need a reminder to find ordinary things in life to discover the extraordinary pleasures that are right in front of us?

boundaries hyperdoc

Click HERE to make a copy of Kelly’s “Self-Care for Educators” hyperdoc, including a self-care plan, compassion-satisfaction-fatigue self- test, and self-care ideas.

What do you do to practice self-care and set boundaries between work and your personal life? Please share your tips below, or tweet me at @mamawolfeto2 .

I’d love to learn from you, too!

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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weakness

What If We Re-frame Weakness?

Re-framing Weakness

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

Niccolò Machiavelli

 

Weakness

a fine line in a marble statue

not deep enough to crack,

but penetrating enough to create a story…

weakness

or a vulnerability like a chink in a coat of armor

or strength of character

and trust in those who love you?

weakness fault line

Weakness

a fault line in the earth

reminding us of the fragility of our existence

and yet sturdy enough to walk on…

weakness snowflake

or indecision like a snowflake wafting in the air

or certainty that the world will continue

even when we falter?

weakness peach

Weakness

a soft spot in an overripe peach

reminding us to taste, quickly, before it’s too late

and savor the sticky nectar dribbling down our chin…

or imperfection like a mountain range

erupting from a tranquil valley full of crevices and pitfalls

or offering a majestic view from the top?

January prompt-a-day from write alm – today’s prompt is weakness|strength

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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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