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What If You Were Guaranteed To Succeed?

What might happen if you knew that every day you were guaranteed to succeed?

 

What do you think would be different in your life? Would you be more adventurous? Would you check your vulnerability at the door, step out of your comfort zone and SEIZE THE DAY? 

Yep – cliches intended.

We talk a good talk about being successful. We say the right things, read the right books and make sure we have a positive mindset.

Or at least that’s what we say we do…

But we know when that shadow creeps in, that little voice that tells us it’s never going to happen. There’s a part of all of us that believes that our success isn’t limitless. That the boundaries between what that person does and what we can do are tall and unbreakable and topped with barbed wire. We might feel that it’s too late. That we don’t have the energy, time, resources…..fill in the rest of that sentence. 

We don’t believe in our own ability to reach our dreams.

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I feel it too, that curse of the monkey mind. I battle the ‘fatigue demon’ all the time, feeling raw and frustrated and dubious and wonder if my limitations are going to get in my way.

And then I tell myself to shut up.

Or sometimes, I let it ride. I just sink under the covers with a lusciously written novel and shut off the world.

And then the next day, I tell myself to show up.

Have you ever heard Maya Angelou talk about being a ‘rainbow in someone’s cloud’?

I listen to her words all. the. time and treasure the moments I was in her presence, in an audience completely engulfed with her wisdom. The recordings of her words sustain me.

Teaching is one of those professions where it’s impossible to hide. We’re on display, performers expected to push down our outside lives and ‘turn on’ in the presence of our students. And some days, that’s really, really hard. It feels darn near impossible to believe that the world is truly designed for us to succeed. I often think about how so many of our children come to school feeling the very same way…and spend day after day wondering if they will ever succeed in life.

I had one of those days recently…when the kids started wiggling my classroom doorknob before I was ready to perform, one of those days when I had to take a deep breath, push open the door and smile.

No one comes in my classroom without a handshake, high five or hug.

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I want to be the first contact my kids have before they enter our learning space. I started this routine the first day of school…and I don’t think I’ve missed a day of smiling at every kid as they pass the threshold; high fives are most popular, followed by handshakes…and then hugs.

There are some kids who come in for a hug every single day. Sometimes for more than one. Some do the side hug, or barely get their arms around me. And sometimes, they don’t say a word, just open their arms, tip their head slightly, and wrap themselves up. I love that they love to see me.

There was that day last week, a morning when I was feeling defeated and depleted and like I couldn’t make it til 3:30 without taking my pain out on someone else. It was a morning if I heard something nice I might just burst into tears… and they hugged me. Not every kid, but enough, and I transformed. 

“Prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” Maya Angelou taught us. I wonder if we all prepared ourselves every day if we might be able to guarantee success, even for just one someone’s cloud.

You might just be the rainbow that someone needs today. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to spend your day?

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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poetry

It’s Poetry Month! Writing, Reading, Teaching and Sharing Poetry

True confession: I haven’t always been a poetry lover. When I was younger I collected poems, intrigued by the connection I felt with a complete stranger’s expression of my emotions. I copied poem after poem into spiral notebooks, savoring every word. And in college, I fell in love with Blake and Dickinson and Maya Angelou and so many other voices that spoke to me from the pages of their slim, hardbound books. I developed a love for words less linear, less formulaic, and less predictable.

Then I started teaching middle school, and wasn’t sure how to share my love for language with my students – kids who were hesitant to approach text that looked different, and were afraid of getting the meaning ‘wrong’.

So I backed off.

Textbook poetry bored all of us to tears. I couldn’t find a balance between helping them build the scaffolds they needed to understand how and why poets wrote, and where poetry was relevant or even just found in their lives.

This poetry month has been my favorite out of 25 years of trying.

Getting started with poetry:

I decided to just jump in and start writing. I used this Blackout poetry hyperdoc because it seemed to be so accessible and so simple. What kid couldn’t just select words and black out the rest?

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Well, it turns out that some kids think WAY too hard. Instead of just relaxing and circling words that were beautiful or powerful or simply stood out, they tried to turn it into a sort or upside down word search. And some kids STRUGGLED.

I found myself flitting around the classroom reminding kids to ‘let their creativity flow’ and not to think too hard. I told them to not pay attention to font size or location of words. I suggested they just circle, and see what happens.

And of course, some came up with their own methods. But whatever they chose, I was happy that they were starting to see the beauty of language, and how words could bring power to a page.

This student was inspired by an image alongside the words and ended up creating a beautiful poem with a combo blackout/sketch effect.

Some kids decided they wanted to combine columns to create a more complex poem.

I’m pretty confident that the finished products shocked them – especially when I read them aloud to the class.

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Finished blackout poems.

Using hyperdocs:

Once I had them relaxed and hooked with the blackout poems, I started slipping in mini-lessons using foldables in their interactive notebooks. I LOVE the series from Lovin Lit – her Interactive Poetry Notebooks have really helped me balance the poetic structure practice my 8th graders needed with learning how to annotate and write poetry, too.

My next step is to slip in some instruction about how to read poetry. I’ve been using this poetry hyperdoc as part one of this lesson. I’m a huge fan of hyperdocs, mainly because it allows me to differentiate instruction while giving my students choice and voice about how they learn. It’s ‘hands-free’ for me; I work to create the hyperdoc up front, but during class time I’m free to wander around, talk with students and coach them through the harder parts. Hyperdocs have transformed my teaching.

Writing odes:

We’ve moved through types of rhyme and learning how to annotate, so I threw in writing odes. I got the basic idea from Interactive Poetry Notebooks and created an outline to help them create some of the figurative language components.

This has been hilarious.

You might think middle school students would think odes were silly – I mean, adults usually think of odes as serious declarations of love, right?

So what do you think middle schoolers declare their love for?

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Dogs. Water. Waves. Netflix. Flowers. Minecraft. Twenty-One Pilots. Lots of students write odes to their pillows and their beds. One student wrote an ode to his ill grandmother, and another to her mother. Some wrote odes to each other, some wrote about ice cream and tacos and one even wrote about Donald Trump.

I’ve also created a Poetry hyperdoc part 2 to help give students more practice and choice about writing and publishing poetry. I don’t want to drag the unit out too far – just enough to have them feel confident and curious about reading and writing poetry, and have some fun along the way.

One thing I’ve learned is that I actually CAN teach kids to love poetry, and to have confidence that they can read and understand the sometimes abstract messages poets create. For 13 year-olds, I’d say that’s pretty great.

I love to share my favorite poems and poets here, usually once a month. Do you love Mary Oliver? Thich Nhat Hanh? Maya Angelou?

I’ve even written some poetry – and I know first hand it’s harder than it seems.

I’d love it if you’d share some poetry with me in the comments. And if you have fun poetry ideas, share them in the comments, 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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Aren’t You Tired Of Seeing People Die?

White America, aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

I made a mistake of watching the news today. I tuned in to see the first videos released of Alton Sterling being put to the ground and shot to death

I made a mistake of watching the news to see his widow behind a podium speaking about raising her children knowing they had watched every moment of their fathers death. They couldn’t escape it.

And I made a mistake of watching when I saw Alton Sterling’s 15 year old son collapse in grief and cry out for his daddy.

I wanted to wrap my arms around his sobbing body and whisper that it’s going to be OK, even when I know for him, that is a long, long way away. He’s just one year younger than my own son. And the differences between them? He’s black. My son is white. His daddy is dead. My son’s daddy isn’t.

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Why are these American boys living such polarized lives? Why, in 2016, are we watching a repeal of the work of the Civil Rights Movement?

Why are we waking up once again to another story in our news feed about a black man being stopped by police and shot? Aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

Why are black lives so expendable?

I’m well aware of my white privilege. I’m aware of my ability to walk down the street without fear, of being able to shop without suspicion or drive down the street in my safe suburban oasis.

I’m aware of my ease in parenting two white children who don’t need to be taught that people in their country will question their worth. I know I have nothing on black mothers who not only have to teach their children they are worthy just for being who they are, but also must figure out how to teach their sons and daughters to be aware that others think just the opposite. And that their opposition could get them killed.

Oh yes, I understand. I just don’t know how to balance it with what I see on the news. I don’t know how to make the black community see that I’m devastated, horrified, embarrassed and ashamed for what I see happening to them.

I’m also well aware of my ability to speak out. I know I have a voice, and a platform, and an ability to use my words to make public this insanity that we can become numb to what is going on in our black communities.

I’m aware that by speaking out I may offend someone, but to be honest, I don’t care. Maya Angelou taught me that to be silent is to accept, and I surely don’t accept what is happening in Baton Rouge, or Minnesota or South Carolina…at this point, I could name every state in the country.

So here I am, laying it out. A white woman speaking out for black women, for brown women, for all women who are trying to figure out how to raise our children to understand that their lives matter, that they are worthy, and that their life is not expendable.

Teaching children is my specialty, but I cannot fathom the challenge these mothers have when trying to teach their children in the racist world they see around them. .

But, honestly, the children aren’t the ones doing the killing – the adults are. That’s who we need to focus on now. The kids I teach tell me they are comfortable with the topic of race- they don’t judge or define or see it as a factor in how they treat each other. We’re doing a good job raising them.

But aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

Now, we need to speak out to the adults in our lives who don’t understand. To the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters who make racial slurs and then shrug it off as a joke. To the neighbors and people in the grocery store who carelessly comment with a protective code of white privilege. To politicians and powerful people with an audience much larger than mine, who with one tweet or post can share their ignorant  vitriol with equally ignorant followers.

Oh yes, I understand my power. I understand my privilege. And I understand I must use it to speak out, to start the conversations and end the racism in front of me.

And I understand there are many people in America who will disagree with me- the data shows that. I am aware that I will start disagreements, lose friends and anger people who view the world only through their privileged lens.

Thanks too bad, but I’m willing to risk it. Just imagine, if we used our power and our privilege together, what a difference we could make.

What can you do? What can WE do-white America, how can we stop racism if the majority of Americans think it doesn’t exist?

All you need to do is check the news to know that is 100% NOT true.

Enough is enough. Speak out today. Start by listening to what these women have to say about their experience mothering in America.

Just do something. And do it today.

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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2015: A Year of Courage

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My word for 2015 was courage – courage because I knew that coming off the significant changes in my life from 2014, I would need fearlessness to remember that when one door closes, another door opens.

I would need courage to really look at myself in the year before I turned 50, hoping to find some place to simultaneously settle into life as it is, while keeping an open heart and mind for new opportunities.

Courage opened my eyes to parts of my life, right here, right now, that I wanted to pour energy into, and parts that I wanted to shut down. Courage helped me to look at relationships, to identify friendships that were worth investing in, and to feel confident that putting family first was the right choice. 2015 helped me to examine my teaching, my commitment to my career, and most of all, to have the bravery needed to put up strong boundaries to create the life I want to live. And it took a bit of courage to admit that when I turned 50 in early December, I was officially ‘middle-aged’.

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It surfaced in my writing, too. Courage allowed me to blog on my own schedule, to share with you, my readers, parts of my life that I was trying to decode, to comprehend, to adapt to. Today I’d love to share some of my favorite posts from last year, most of which reflected on this theme. I’m still thinking of my word for 2016; as many of my readers know, I’d rather focus on the broad expanse a word allows than to create a list of resolutions that somehow never seem to manifest.

Thank you all for reading and commenting and supporting my blog in 2015. I look forward to a prolific year in 2016, and to grow our mamawolfe community of lovers of thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously.

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My top posts of 2015:

Letter To My College-Bound Daughter

5 Things You Probably Don’t Know Teachers Are Thinking

What Teachers Really Want For Teacher Appreciation Week

3 Fun And Easy Ways To Encourage Your Child To Write

Flipped Learning Using Edmodo

She’s Nineteen, And She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

A Letter To Parents Leaving Their Kids At College

Finding The Teacher Mom Balance

Into The Fog: The Sweetheart Murders

A Year of Accidental Life Lessons

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My favorite posts about courage in 2015:

No New Year’s Resolutions: Just Courage

Being Normal

Love Makes Your Soul Crawl Out

It’s The Last Day of School – So Why Aren’t My Students Leaving?

Living In Courage: Three Vignettes Vlog

 

What are your reflections on 2015? Which were your favorite mamawolfe posts? Happy new year, to each of you, and thank you for being a part of my world.

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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No New Year’s Resolutions – Just Courage

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions – one only has to visit a health club in February to see my point. Resolutions don’t work – but intentions do.

In 2015, I intend to practice courage – turning hopes and dreams into action, changing possibilities into probabilities. Choosing love over fear, presence over absence, to push forward over holding back.

As I move forward into 2015, I’m inspired by the words of one of my heroes, Maya Angelou. She says: “One isn’t born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things—in the way that if one sets out to pick up a 100-pound bag of rice, one would be advised to start with a five-pound bag, then 10 pounds, then 20 pounds, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to lift the 100-pound bag. It’s the same way with courage. You do small courageous things that require some mental and spiritual exertion.”

Yes, Maya, I am ready to work hard, to build muscle, to exert myself mentally and spiritually. 2014 was a year of change, a year of possibilities, a year of setbacks, and a year of possibilities.

2015 will be a year of courage.

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What is your intention for 2015? I’d love to share your energy – leave a comment on what you’re looking for 2015.

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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