What To Learn When You Want To Grow

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…

learn

Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

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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Kindness Matters

Six months ago, I wrote an essay about my son’s injury at Mt. Hood. I called it “Broken”, and you can read the original piece here. It was hard for me to write; I was going through some emotional times during the summer, and, as with any time a parent sees their child injured, his accident really shook me up. I needed to figure it out.

As with all my writing, I wrote it for me. I wasn’t out to impress anyone with his injury or our story. I didn’t intend to make my life seem harder/more painful/more dramatic or fill-in-the-blank with whatever word you would like. I was simply telling my story, my experience, and sharing how it made me feel. No judgement, no pity party, nothing but sharing my love for my son, and no evaluation or proclamation that our situation was more traumatic than any other.

My story was about healing, change, and adapting to the ‘new normal’ – something I was dealing with on several levels in my life. At the same time this happened, I was reading a blogpost by one of my favorite writer/bloggers, Katrina Kenison, who so eloquently pens the exquisite agony we feel as mothers adapting to different experiences with our children. It felt like the Universe was speaking to me, sending me ways to cope with my situation.

I ended my story with healing, with gratitude, and with thoughts of moving forward.

Today, the Huffington Post published the same story, with the title “The Phone Call No Parent Wants To Get”. Provocative title, I agree – that’s what happens when stories get published online.

Within minutes, there were dozens of comments. Surprised, I clicked over. I didn’t think it was the kind of post that would garner much commentary at all. It was just a retelling of an experience of motherhood.

What I saw was full of hate.

I fully realize that the Universe deals out trauma much more intense than what we were experiencing. No one wants to see their child – or any other child – experience pain, fear, or injury. I know that some have more than their share of heartbreak, suffering, and agony. I would never presume to understand the pain of losing a child, or watching a child suffer through any trauma.

But that’s not what my essay was about.

It’s too bad that those people who clicked on my post were “infuriated”, as one reader expressed. It’s too bad that they felt they just wasted their time reading it, or that they somehow had to insert their ego/story/opinion into mine.

Why they would waste more of their time spewing hate and vitriolic comments to me is amazing.

Kindness Matters

Kindness matters, people. Read closely:

You absolutely have the right to say what you think, just like I do. But please, think about how you say it.

This essay wasn’t a piece about politics or religion. It wasn’t a controversial topic. This was a reflection, a memoir, a snapshot of time. It was my experience, not meant to be evaluated or judged against anyone else’s. What would be the point in that? How could one possibly believe that their pain is any greater than another, that their suffering is any stronger? We never know each other’s back story.

While the internet offers an amazing opportunity for people to communicate and connect, why not do so with kindness and seek to understand and be understood? Why hide behind anonymity, freely condemning people for their ideas? Would you yell at me like that in person? Would you hunt down a book author, and plaster your words all over their home?

I’m not impressed by your hate. I’m not even agitated enough to write back and engage in any sort of debate. It’s pointless. I’m even laughing at much of your poorly written, ignorant assumptions you make about me and my son. You have no idea. You don’t know me, you don’t know my story – and to engage with you would be to proclaim that I know yours. Your assumptions make you look like an ass, and give you no credibility. Who are you to judge me?

Life is hard. We all have different challenges. In no way would I equate my son’s accident as anything even close to what many parents deal with on a daily basis.

THAT’S NOT THE POINT.

We are all on this life journey together. We all have a voice. I use mine to communicate, to understand others, and to make the world a kinder place to live in. By spewing your commentary, it makes me wonder what else you do in life that pushes us all backwards in anger, instead of forwards in compassion.

Remember, kindness matters. Maybe I could learn from you – but not if you try to teach me with your hate.

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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How You Made Me Feel

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s up to you…how did you make someone feel today?

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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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Education Reform: Three Ideas for the Next Four Years

ID-10076117There is no doubt in my mind: the American education system is in deep trouble and needs reform.  According to a recently published report of the world’s best education systems by the education firm, Pearson, the US ranked 17th of 40 developed countries.  Finland and South Korea, leading the study, received high rankings because they “tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have a “culture” of education.”

As a 22-year veteran California teacher, I live this every day.  In recent years, I have witnessed the decline in the culture of education in my community as well as nationwide.  While some might think funding is the root of all problems, I have some other ideas about how we can start to tackle education reform in America:

  1.  Put students first.  We need to start every discussion around the concept of what students need, not what the district needs, the state needs, or the federal government needs.  Students are our clientele, and we need to make decisions as if we were creating reform for our own children.  Thinking about kids first, and creating reform that is best for educating, nurturing and protecting ALL students is the first step.
  2. Create opportunities for student engagement.  America needs to reform our thinking about the primary purpose of schools: is it to churn out a citizen who is proficient at bubbling in answers on a test, or to develop creative, innovative, collaborative citizens?  By prioritizing the arts, humanities, and sciences equally, we allow children opportunities to learn in a variety of disciplines.  Honoring student exploration and discovery alongside standards will help develop confident, creative adults who can tackle the global issues facing their generation.
  3. Invest in teacher training.  Like any profession, teachers need relevant, high quality training to move forward.  America needs to support teachers by providing professional development as part of a teacher’s contract, with time to implement and refine throughout the school year.  Training that is focused on student-centered strategies, led by qualified educators with like-minded goals, will strengthen our workforce and help bring American schools back to the top of the world’s education systems.

So what can we do?  Do we sit back and watch our systems disintegrate, watch quality teachers leave the profession, and see our students stifled, bored, and falling behind? I think not. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. Stand up for education reform – our children deserve it.

*image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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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Struggle

NPR’s recent story, “Struggle for Smarts: How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning” really got me thinking.  I’ve spent 22 years teaching junior high, and 16 years parenting, so the question of how do I teach kids to tackle struggle resonates in my everyday life.  The NPR story focuses on struggle and intellect – how that looks in the classroom and at home.  It made me think about the bigger idea of struggle, determination, and perseverance – traits that as a mom, I find creeping up in my life every day.

As a parent, I’ve tried to show my kids the easiest path – I’ll be honest.  Does anyone like to see their kid make painful mistakes, or take the twisting road rather than the straight? Watching our children collapse in defeat or cry in frustrations makes us feel helpless and wish we could change the outcome to spare them the agony of defeat, frustration, and yes, struggle.

No one mentions struggle in the parent handbook.

With babies, we think we will do it right.  We’ve read the books, watched, the videos, and for me, I had seen enough rotten parenting in my first six years of teaching to know I would do it differently.

None of that prepared me for those moments of struggle.  The moment when my daughter cried in exhaustion after her first weeks in kindergarten.  The moment when she had to understand her math problem – in Spanish.  The moment when she fell off the balance beam at a gym meet, or had to deal with ‘mean girls’ for the first time.  The moment when my son struck out in a baseball game, crashed in a ski race, or tested for his black belt.

I felt utterly helpless.

But in those moments, something came to me.  I suppose it was that same tingling feeling that comes to a boxer when they’re down, or a scientist on the brink of a cure.  It felt that profound, that important.  It was that split-second moment when struggle could tip the scales.

Parents know that moment.  It feels like your heart will tear out of your chest, wanting to protect, run away, shield them.  It plows through your head like a tsumani, spilling your thoughts and emotions all over and eventually, hopefully, turning you upright, to the air pocket, and in the right direction.

Don’t give up.  Persevere.  Fight.  Push yourself.  Never quit.  You can do it.  Come on, peanut.  Stick it.  Ski fast, buddy.  You’ve got this.  Run fast.  Indomitable spirit.  Study.  Don’t be afraid.

Mama loves you.

In the end, struggles happen.  Our world thrives on them.  We look to Eastern cultures and marvel at their test scores, their focus, and their determination.  We look to Western cultures and are inspired at their individuality, their creativity and problem solving.  We wonder if we’re doing the right thing.

We look to our children and know that struggle will not escape them, no matter how much we wish them safe travels down the yellow brick road of life.

So parents, what are we going to teach them?

If you’d like to read more of my analysis of the NPR story from a teacher’s perspective, please click over to my Yahoo article, “Are American Students Getting Through School Too Easily?”


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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