Podcasting: Why You Really Need To Try It!

Podcasting definitely pushed me out of my teacher comfort-zone.

It’s not that it’s unusual for me to take risks in the classroom. It seems like every other day I’m announcing to my students that today they will be my ‘test pilots’ for something or other.

Since I dove headfirst into digital teaching and learning six years ago, I’ve learned that it’s best not to over think what I want to do; rather, I make a plan, jump in, and modify as I go.

And I learn a ton from my students along the way.

I write often about my obsession with #hyperdocs and how creating and implementing this future-ready teaching pedagogy has transformed my work – and my students’ learning experiences. It’s true. I am having the BEST year of teaching ever, in large part due to my willingness to listen, learn, create, and trust in my students. I want them to be curious, life-long learners, and by intentionally using technology to enhance their learning experience I hope I’m not only being a strong role model, but also piquing their interest in things like blogging, video, and most recently, podcasting.

In my personal life, I’ve found podcasts to be soothing, intriguing, and revelatory; my favorites include Super Soul Sunday, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, NPR’s Code Switch and Up First, Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist history and On Being With Krista Tippet.

Most recently I’ve been hooked on educational podcasts as I bike to and from school, or when I’m puttering around my classroom in the afternoons – programs like The 10 Minute Teacher, The Google Teacher Tribe, The Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Teachonomy and The Ditch That Textbook podcast fill me with such hope and excitement that I often have to stop pedaling to save an episode or text it to someone!

So naturally, I decided my students needed to get hooked on podcasts – but not the ones I like…that’s not cool. Rather, they needed to CREATE their own podcasts!

How I Started Podcasting

I thought about this for three months. I went to several EdTech sessions on video recording and searched everywhere I could think of for ideas to get me off the ground with this project. I just wasn’t finding as much as I expected, and I began to think I’d never get it accomplished.

podcasting
Sometimes podcasting requires whole-body concentration and focus!

Thanks to the power of the internet (thank you, Twitter), my #hyperdoc friends Lisa Highfill, Scott Padway and Lisa Guardino, and a tech fairy (thank you, Brian) who showed up in my classroom mid-project, my students became legit PODCASTERS!

Of course, I had to create a hyperdoc to explore, explain, and apply the concept. I had to tie it to our ‘Approaching Adulthood’ end-of-unit performance assessment. I challenged myself to figure out the technical pieces, which mainly occurred when a kid ran into an obstacle (like background noise or echoes) and we had to get unstuck – and create soundproof recording spaces on a teacher’s budget!

podcasting
My attempt at creating a sound booth – Pinterest fail?

You can make your own copy of my Podcasting hyperdoc HERE.

Podcasting Results Were Awesome!

But I swear, I taught with a huge grin on my face for two weeks as I watched my students go from “eew…we have to hear our voice!” to “OMG this is my most favorite thing I’ve done in school!” And you know you’re onto something good when your students don’t even blink at the end of class bell and stay for 30 minutes after class recording and editing to get it just perfect!

podcasting
Creative sound booths…

Honestly, I’m sure I learned as much – if not more – than my students did during this podcasting experience. I learned to trust my instincts. To take chances even though there is a high chance for ‘failure’. I learned that my students are capable of extraordinary things (actually, I reinforced that), and I learned that teenagers have a huge VOICE and need platforms to show the world what they’re thinking.

Most students used WeVideo to create their podcasts.

Here’s a link to one of my favorites: The Difficult Lemon podcast

These kids came up with amazing ideas and thinking around the topic of ‘approaching adulthood’. Some did research about voting ages, driving ages, and drinking ages. Some interviewed their parents. One discussed the inaccurate portrayal of teens in young adult novels. Some thought about the impact of gender stereotypes, and others wondered about equality, rights, and identity crises.

Many were so good I strongly urge them to continue – wouldn’t you love to hear what teenagers are really thinking?

This team was the most technical – their podcast was titled “It Really Do Be Like That Sometimes” and was hilarious! Thank you, Brian Briggs (who has an awesome ed-focused podcast called “Check This Out” ), for the loan of the foam and microphone!

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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authenticity reflection

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.

At least not more than once or twice.

The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.

I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.

And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.

And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.

I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”

authenticity

I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.

Authenticity: loving fiercely

And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”

authenticity

Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.

Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.” 

I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?

I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.

Authenticity: Being enough

I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.

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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Doing Good When People In The The World Are Doing Bad Things

Doing Good When People In The The World Are Doing Bad Things

Our connectivity is a wonderful thing – but with all the good, also comes the challenging.

Last week, listening to the terror and violence of another school shooting left me frustrated, angry, and so very sad. At times like this, being a teacher, it takes a tremendous amount of positivity and trust to walk into a classroom each day, wondering if like so many others, this ordinary day will end up going down in history.

It makes it hard to focus on the good – but in the end, that’s what I have to do. I have to trust in the beauty of people, in my desire to make the world a better place.

doing good

The world may, overall, be a beautiful, positive place that has more good than bad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better. Most people have a desire to do good in the world, especially if they’ve been watching the negative news, but don’t really have an understanding of what they can do. Well, there’s good news: there’s plenty of things that you can do. Indeed, the potential stretches across many different facets of life, such as our careers, hobbies, and roles in the community. Take a read of some of the ways you can make a difference below:

What Can You Bring?

Everyone has something they’re good at. Discovering what you’re good at will be key to figuring out where you can make a positive impact. For example, if you’re a master organizer, then you might want to consider organizing local groups. Campaigning is one of the most effective ways to make a positive difference in your local community, but not everyone wants to play this role. Are you a good writer? Then start a blog, and educate other people about the world. find some platform to use your voice to make a difference.

Looking at your Career

Of course, how much time you can spend making the world a better place will depend on how much free time you have. You do, after all, need to make sure that your job is well taken care of first. But what if your job enabled you to make a positive impact? Take a look at careers in public safety, education, healthcare, or social work, and it will. People tend to think that doing good is something that you can only do in your spare time, but this isn’t true; many jobs allow you to earn a living and make a positive contribution at the same time. If you make doing good a priority, you will find a way to integrate it into all aspects of your life.

Small Acts

We’ve talked so far about the big things you can do in life. But the truth is, you don’t have to over complicate your desire to do good things. Indeed, some of the most powerful contributions are the small ones! Giving up an hour of your time to volunteer, or agreeing to donate a percentage of your income to charitable causes, or any other small gesture can have a ripple effect that stretches beyond the initial deed. If you don’t have the time to do more or don’t know where to start, then just start small and see where it takes you.

Being the Change

Finally, remember that make the world a better place doesn’t just mean going out and affecting other people. It starts with you. Gandhi taught us to “be the change we want to see in the world.” It’s a simple phrase, but oh so effective. Think about the global issues that you’re most affected by, and make sure you’re not contributing to them. You never know who else you might influence just by being the best version of yourself.

You’re not going to solve all the problems by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try: you might solve one of them! And along the way, you’ll be setting an example for those around you, building momentum, and doing good. Together, we can achieve great things!

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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school shootings

I’m Tired Of Writing About School Shootings

I started writing about school shootings shortly after I started publishing this blog in 2011, and sadly, they haven’t stopped. In February 2012, I wrote for Yahoo news on the Washington state school shooting. On December 19, 2012, I shared my tears for the families of Newtown, and then three days later  I wrote a eulogy for the children of Newtown.

I wrote about the Arapahoe School shooting in December 2013. I wrote about gun reform in 2013, and again in 2016 when I wrote about joining Moms Demand Action and protesting to end gun violence.

I’ve been in lock downs before – many times, in many schools. The one lock down that was real was one of the most terrifying days of my life. Afterwards, I wrote about it so you could feel what I felt – you can read part 1 here: This is what a school lock down feels like part one.  I wrote it in June, 2015. I wrote This is what a school lock down feels like part two the same month. I was interviewed on school violence on a podcast in September 2015.

After the Oregon school shooting in October 2015, I wrote about arming teachers.

I wrote about Orlando in June, 2016, and then again a few days later when I couldn’t shake the sadness.

I wrote about Charlottesville in August, 2017.

And I’m writing about Parkland, Florida today in 2018 – the 19th school shooting of 2018.

Sadly, I could write about shootings and fill my blog and social media with my anger every single week. And equally sad are the school shootings I didn’t write about. Sometimes it’s just too hard – too real.

I feel helpless, paralyzed by fear and sadness, so I write. I share my grief over the children who have died and been injured, my empathy with the teachers facing the unthinkable decisions about protecting their students, and the absolutely unimaginable, unthinkable, life-altering pain of the parents who sent their kids to the safest place they knew, only to have them not return.

I’m tired of writing and crying about school shootings.

I’m tired of using the only little platform I have to shout out about how wrong it is to be forced to devote teaching time to prepare for school shootings.

I’m tired of worrying about the outside door to my building being left open, and wonder if someone has snuck in.

I’m tired of putting on my poker face to my students when I get an alert that another school shooting has happened.

I’m tired of looking out my beautiful classroom windows and wondering if I’d be the first on campus to see a shooter come to campus.

Yes, those are the things I think about as a classroom teacher – not just on days like yesterday, when an enraged student returns to their school carrying an AR-15 and takes their fury out on their classmates and teachers.

I think about this every single day. I do. I think about if I didn’t lock the door to my classroom when I quickly run down the hall. I think about the students who gather in my room at lunch to relax and read and laugh and find a safe space to just be. I think about this when I’m alone in my classroom after dark, working on lessons or cleaning desks or making copies in the staff room on the other side of campus.

And I live in a ‘safe’ area – just like Parkland, Florida thought they were safe. I live in an area where people go to huge lengths to send their children to our school district for the quality of education and the safety.

And no – I’m not paranoid. I’m alert. I’m ready to act when the lock down alert comes, or when something doesn’t feel safe. I’m no different than any other teacher that you’ve heard about on the news – except that no one has been shot at my school. And just like them, I will practice and prepare and hope that the day never comes when I have to figure out where to hide my students in my classroom – I don’t have a closet that we will fit in, but I do know what to do.

school shootings

Today, I’ll stand outside my classroom door like I always do. I’ll smile and greet kids by name. I’ll give high fives, fist bumps, and hugs to those who need them. I’ll shut the heavy metal door, leave it unlocked, and create as much love and safety and learning as I can in 50 minutes before the bell rings, the students leave, and I do it all over again.

At 3:30 I’ll pick up the stray pencils, gently fold sweatshirts left behind on the floor and re-shelve the beloved ‘relax and read’ books. I’ll pick up my beanbags, push in chairs and turn off the twinkle lights sparkling around the front classroom wall. And I’ll lock the door with me on the inside, just because. My classroom is a safe space – and it’s up to me to keep it that way.

school shootings choose kind

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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can parents go back to school

Can Parents Go Back To School?

I write frequently about education and college – mostly from the point of view of teenagers. But can parents go back to school successfully as well? Going back to school for adults certainly has unique challenges,  and yet plenty of people do it and manage to juggle studying, their family and sometimes even working too. If you’re thinking about doing it, don’t rush into it. There are a few things you might want to think about first to help make it a success!

can parents go back to school

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #1: Find a Flexible Way to Study

One way you could choose to do postgraduate studies when you have a family is to find a flexible way to do it. This could include finding an online course, which often allows you work at your own pace or at least makes your learning and study times more flexible.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #2: Take on the Challenge as a Family

If you’re going to go back to school, you need to get the whole family on board. They don’t all have to love the idea, but it can require everyone to pitch in. Maybe the kids are going to have to take a bit more responsibility for themselves or your partner is going to have to be there to support you.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #3: Find Out How Your College Can Help

A lot of colleges can offer support and resources that help to make things easier. See if your local college has a family resource center or something similar that could help you out. Many colleges offer blended distance learning and occasional face to face contact that are perfect for parents.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #4: Focus on Your Future

If you’re ever unsure or ready to give up, think about what your studies will be doing for your future. The right choice of degree could have a huge impact on your life. At this point in my career, going back to school may not be monetarily sensible, but I’ve been able to channel my love of learning in different ways!

I love this little infographic – hope it inspires you parents to go back to school!


Infographic On SBU Online’s Graduate Degrees

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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