What I Can Do Right Now: Spread Love

Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own home. 

Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor…

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.

Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

~ Mother Teresa

Every morning, right after my first cup of coffee, I struggle with checking my Facebook feed. Lately all it does is make my heart catch in my throat, speed my pulse into triple digits and leave me feeling….well, a bit helpless.

I hate feeling helpless. It goes against everything I profess about ‘walking the talk’ and teaching audaciously. Feeling helpless is like taking no steps forward and ten steps back.

That’s simply something I’m not willing to do at this point in my life.

In my classroom, I see a microcosm of our world; children from different backgrounds, races and religions. College interns come to my classroom every day,  struggling with student debt and affordable housing, all while trying to work and study and figure out what they want – or will be able to – do when they graduate.

I feel it all around me – the tension, the fear in the eyes of those afraid of what is to come, and the rising sense of a societal acceptance to speak out unkindly, to group together and cast sideways glances at each other. I don’t like it. It scares me, it worries me and wakes me up from a deep sleep.

Last week, I created a ‘hope’ wall for my students. I wanted them to feel safe sharing what they hope for in their life, and I wanted to be able to make it visible.

From the hope wall:

“to make new friends”

“to do better each day”

“to make my parents proud”

“to be nicer to everyone”

“to help others to the best of my abilities”

Every day a new anonymous ‘hope’ appears. Hope for good grades, for friendship, for acceptance. Someone is hoping for a tattoo….one to be a pilot, and another to meet Alex Morgan.

I felt like this was one thing I could do to overcome feeling hopeless: I could grow hope and simultaneously, I could spread love.

For me, teaching is a service job as well as a profession where I utilize my creativity to first connect, then instruct. I’m constantly striving to creatively connect with my students, to get them to trust me – and themselves. I want to teach my students how I want my own children to be taught – I want to use this platform, this opportunity, to spread love in whatever small (and hopefully large) ways I can.

These small steps, this little bit of teaching audaciously, helps me feel less hopeless. I imagine all of us just doing a little bit, every day, to help our country move forward in love and kindness. If you’re feeling like I am, I urge you to just find one thing you love to do – take one small step forward each day to spread love wherever you go, however you can.

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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Feeling Depleted

I’m feeling depleted. As much as the rich brown earth of my backyard garden is bursting with new green growth on the rose bushes, brilliant red and yellow tulips, and creamy white fragrant freesias, my mind and my heart are drained. Dwindling. In need of refueling.

Freesia ×hybrida Freesias Photo by Jean Tosti ...
Freesia Photo by Jean Tosti License GFDL

The last several months have depleted me, left me questioning – often those big sticklers, like, Am I really doing the job I’m meant to do, and Is this right and fair and just, and what can I do about it?

I definitely have moments of extreme despair as I watch things that I love dissolve in front of me. I’ve watched injustices before my eyes, children confused at the choices other adults have made, and I must remain painfully silent.

I don’t like to be silent. I grew out of that years ago.

As I stuff the reasons back inside, the depletion festers and stirs and sometimes erupts in rage, fear and indignation.  It feels unsettled. Unfair. Sad.

My mind spins it around and around until I’m dizzy with the thought of it all. Logic, rationales and what seems to me to be ‘right’ is losing to…what is wrong. Illogical. Irrational.

My heart-it cracks. It oozes with the pain of relationships built purposefully over time, suddenly tossed into the turbulence of what someone else thinks should happen. It blends into a muddle of someone else’s perspective, someone else’s control.

The silence depletes me.

june
june (Photo credit: the past tends to disappear)

I tell myself that it really will be ok. That this is temporary, and in June I will breathe again. I can tell the real truth about what pushes me deeper and deeper into introspection and despair. I tell myself to listen, to watch, and to look for openings for light to shine through. I know now to look for change, for help, for a guide to lead me out of this moment and into a new space.

I tell myself to be patient, and that surely truth will show itself.

But the silence. It slows my breathing. I clutch the pillow to my chest, exhale, stretch, and really feel it. I feel it engulf me, slow me down, and surprisingly, give me a moment of hope.

My hope grows in the sunshine, in the vibrant pinks of the primrose, still fighting to share their fading beauty. It grows in the dusky red pansies planted in stone pots, their faces following the sun. And the iris, strong, tall and majestic, who remind me that beauty comes from deep within, despite the conditions.

In the silence I hear the doves calling to their partner, the dog barking in the distance, and the call from my son announcing he’s home. At least one of my questions has been answered.

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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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What Can President Obama’s Inaugural Address Teach America’s Children?

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White House, October 2012

I watched President Obama’s inauguration, on the birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a delicious sense of happiness. Parents, educators and American citizens easily make the connection between the two leaders; I began to think about how Obama’s inaugural speech’s messages will leave the same lasting impact on our children as did MLK, and how his ideas of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character can be used to educate our children.

Obama’s speech sent a message of freedom and ‘limitless possibilities’ for America’s children. He believes that each generation has an obligation to peacefully work towards freedom, and that by working together, using new responses to what was set before us in the Constitution, we can create change. His statement that we can turn enemies into friends represents the essence of how children can begin to learn to create freedom for all.

To create change, Obama asks Americans for commitment. Our children may not understand the ‘it can happen to you’ message, but they do understand that the world is ours to share. Learning about climate change, new ways of creating energy, developing and using new technologies are all ways that as adults we can adjust to our time, and create a future that is sustainable for our children and our children’s children. Obama’s message that ‘together we are stronger’ is a way our children can learn to work together to solve the challenges of our future.

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JFK Center for the Performing Arts, Wahington, DC

Citizenship is something we profess to teach in school, but Obama’s speech highlights the necessity of working together as American citizens. As we teach children allegiance to American ideas set forth in the Constitution, we must teach them to work together to understand the power of this obligation, and the hope that can be realized through action. Teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree, but they do have to listen, collaborate and work together.

Children understand the concept of fairness. Obama’s speech addresses the concept of equality as a way to grow our country, and an necessity because we are Americans. He said, ” Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.” Each of us, regardless of gender, religion, belief, disability, sexuality, or race deserves equality because we are Americans.

Finally, Obama’s inaugural address can teach America‘s children about the concept of character. Our children will inherit the errors and successes of this generation, but by learning the concept of hard work and responsibility will have the necessary tools to conquer the challenges of tomorrow. Obama said, ” And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”

What better message can we send to our children: that by working together, and understanding and acting on the concepts of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character we can not only improve ourselves, but better our future as a nation.

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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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What do Kids, Parents, and Dreamers Have in Common with MLK and President Obama?

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I’m sitting in my study on an overcast Monday morning.  The sun came up a while ago, but went unnoticed by me as I busily wrote in my new journal, sketching out writing goals for 2013 along with ideas, hopes and worries.  I’m trying to move forward, you see.

As I covered the fresh, lined pages with scribbles, clusters and words coming from deep inside, the pre-inaugural images played alongside, just intriguing enough to catch my attention occasionally.  I watch video from FDR, Reagan and Obama’s past inaugural addresses, and  the words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” catch my ear, just enough to cause me to leave my dreams and listen more intently.  JFK flashes, his memorable, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

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And then President Obama, reminding us that, “This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence. The knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man, whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant, can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

These great statements came from men of differing backgrounds, political parties, races and religions.  While they varied greatly in their presidencies, they all share the common message of ordinary, everyday courage.  I drift away from my own goals, and begin to toss this idea around in my mind.

As today’s American parents, we grew up in the shadow of these words.  We trust our children will be safe and return to us as they leave the house each day.  We agonize over how to handle their failures and successes in order to nurture them into compassionate, confident human beings.  We work hard and try to make good choices to steer our children in the right direction.

Daily, we ask our children to do their best.  We ask them to go to school, follow the rules, and face down peer pressure.  We believe they will handle puberty, relationships, and their sexuality with maturity.  We expect they will work with all teachers, complete projects and assignments with above-average scores, and show their inner warriors on sports teams.  They will go to college, graduate and have a career.

And the dreamers – the writers, the musicians, the artists that enhance and elevate our thinking through their imaginations.  We are in awe of those spirits who have the audacity to believe that someone else will listen to them, read their words, or look at their dreams as they lay them before us in all their unprotected glory.

12 10 trip DC 086As I walked Capitol Mall in 2012 for the first time in my life, images from history books swirled through my mind. I became lost in the stories, the events, and the courage of so many men and women who had stood precisely in my location.  Their stories are not all famous, and many have gone unknown amidst the pomp and circumstance of our nation.  As I gazed up at the MLK Memorial and read the inscriptions of hope, I realized that they are all there with me, really.  Their desires to live and die for their convictions.  Their courage in the face of unknown consequences.  Their belief of living in the present, and their audacity to hope that somehow, their very existence in this world could bring change and move us forward as a country and a people.

Turning back to the news, I realize I haven’t missed much.  The rituals continue, the reporters recall each move of everyone-who-is-anyone in Washington.  The people along the parade route cheer, wave, and smile as they catch a glimpse of the President as he drives by. This time, they vow, we were not going to miss it.  We will do whatever it takes to be a part of history.

What I think they’re missing is that they already are.  Kids, parents, and dreamers who line the Mall today are not only the past, but also the future.  FDR, JFK, MLK and Obama are simply the embodiment of the collective courage of America.  They are one of billions who walk out their door each day and face extraordinary, everyday courage.  It is what we have in common, and what will move us forward as a country.

Have courage.  Do what Martin Luther King Jr. asked, and remember, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

Have courage.  Make history.  Move forward.

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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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Friday Photo: A Stone of Hope

I didn’t sleep much Monday night.  I imagine there were many American moms, fathers, teachers, women, men, children, immigrants, gays, lesbians, and people of all races who couldn’t slip into a peaceful slumber, knowing that the next day their life could change dramatically.  I knew I had done all I could – I read, researched, walked the talk, and even whispered a plea to the universe, hoping that all would be well, and that goodness, honesty and right would prevail.
My prayers were answered.
Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.
Truth reigned over falsehood.  Honor over accusation.  Good over greed.
I didn’t sleep much Tuesday night, either.  My tears of gratitude, relief, joy, dripped onto my pillow.  My heart exploded, and my dreams lifted with hope again.
My prayers were answered.
For American mothers.  Fathers. Teachers.  Women.  Men.  Children.  Immigrants.  Gays.  Lesbians. People of all races.
Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.


photo credit: Sunrise on Rannoch Moor via photopin (license)

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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