What Are Your Early Morning Rituals? How To Wake Up Right And Make A Difference

What Are Your Early Morning Rituals? How To Wake Up Right

I’m not much interested in New Year’s Resolutions – I’ve written before about my preference for following a mantra for the year and seeing how it unfolds rather than creating some arbitrary list of actions that, if I don’t complete, will make me feel worse than I did when I started. One new year ritual I do follow, however, is starting a morning book as one of my early morning rituals. This year I chose Jennifer Louden’s A Year of Daily Joy: A Guided Journal to Creating Happiness Every Day. It’s a book I’ve used before but never quite finished, but since our Universe somehow keeps on spinning, I’m able to start again. Fresh. So on January 7, when the prompt was to think and write about my early morning rituals I felt inspired – actually, I felt like I was going in the right direction, since before I turned to the page, I had already been  musing about how I love what I do in the early morning that helps me wake up right and have a happy day.

My early morning rituals include…

  • Going to bed early. Yes, starting the day off right means getting to bed early the night before. Years ago when the kids were little I’d fall asleep next to them, so exhausted from days of mothering and teaching I couldn’t wait to snuggle up with my head on a soft pillow, knowing that sleep would be interrupted but oh, so heavenly while it lasted. Now, with young adults living at home and out of state, I could stay awake as late as their body clocks want them to, but I’ve found that falling asleep by 9:30 p.m. (and setting an alarm for their curfew as needed) affords me at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. Oh – and no screen time after 9 helps immensely, too!
  • Waking up to an open window and natural sunlight. During the work week, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. Yes – it’s dark, but having my bedroom window cracked just a little bit not only keeps me cool all night but also allows nature sounds to be my wake up call. Just this morning I was greeted by a lovely owl announcing itself, and doves cooing on my back fence while finches chattered on the bare tree branches. Getting up early to see the dawn break over the treetops while listening to my live nature soundtrack reminds me of my small place in this great big world, and is one of my favorite early morning rituals – even in the cold California winter months!
  • Candlelight. I love lighting one, two, or sometimes three candles when I wake up. Easing myself into the light of day with natural sunlight and the flicker of meditative candlelight allows my mind to rest, to contemplate and prepare for the busy day ahead.Coffee. I had to add this one – for me, having moments alone with my first sips of a warm coffee with cream in my favorite mug is such a simple pleasure; I feel so strongly about my early morning ritual of calm and coffee that I travel with my own portable french press and favorite beans – there’s always hot water in hotel rooms, and it’s so much better to honor my need for caffeine than put up with a poor substitute.
  • Calm.com. Have you heard of the website calm.com? It’s full of beautiful, meditative music and visuals that I not only use in my early morning rituals, but my middle school students love it as well! You can use the app or desktop version, and I love being able to set a meditation timer or just let the music play softly in the background as I go about my rituals.
  • Writing and gratitudes. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some sort of journal…I’ve handwritten decades of my life in spiral notebooks and cloth bound  books, telling stories and sharing memories, documenting quotes, writing to do lists and always starting with gratitudes. I try to write at least five gratitudes every morning – some days, yes, it is challenging to not fall back on those deep core values, but on those days when I am digging deep and reminded of the power of love, home, kindness, and nature, I know I have at least started my day remembering that some things never change. Lately, I’ve been adding a focus for the day – at least one daily goal that I can achieve.

early morning rituals

As the season change and my life evolves, my early morning rituals adjust with the times. No longer do I find myself nursing a baby while balancing a steaming mug, or being jolted awake and rushing to a ski hill. This time of life is evolving towards more time for self-care, allowing for more choice and control over how I start my day. Surprisingly, my core early morning rituals still hold up…calm, quiet, nature, soft light, coffee and gratitudes are what start each day off right for me. Bringing positive early morning rituals into your day is one way I know for sure to go out into the world ready to make a difference.

What are your early morning rituals? Do you find they change and evolve, or are you, like me, holding onto what is tried and true?

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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recapturing the love of teaching NCTE

Recapturing The Love Of Teaching: NCTE17

Greetings from St. Louis! I’m presenting about recapturing the love of teaching at NCTE17 today!

recapturing the love of teaching NCTE

Since starting my blog in 2011, my life is so different!

I’ve been on adventures around the country and the world. I’ve met amazing writers and educators. I’ve been published on websites, in books, and in magazines. I’ve even been on TV!

Today I’m presenting at #NCTE17 with two women I met through blogging – Riina Hirsch and Katie Sluiter. We’ll be presenting on how social media and blogging helped us recapture our love of teaching at 11:00 in St. Louis – if you’re at NCTE, please message me, stop by the presentation, or comment back and connect!

Click HERE to view our Recapturing The Love Of Teaching presentation.

If you’re at home, please take a look at our presentation – we’ll share our blogging stories, some teaching anecdotes, and a bonus presentation on setting up a blog for your classroom and your students – links are included so you can do it from home!

Sending you all my gratitude and thankfulness to my awesome mamawolfe community – you mean the world to me.

~Jennifer

recapturing the love of teaching ncte17

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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Why Moms Make Awesome Teachers

I was at a school district meeting tonight, surrounded by mostly women, many of them my age, give or take a few years. In response to a request to ‘list five aspects of our identity we would like to share with the group’, it took me less than a second to reply. “Mother”, “woman”, “writer and teacher” quickly topped my list, and I discovered that for most of the women I talked to, ‘mother’ was easily the most common descriptor. I honestly didn’t think much about it. I’m mamawolfe, mom to two, teacher to thousands, writer of stories about life in and out of the classroom.

moms make awesome teachers

It hit me first after talking to the teacher-mom of a kindergartener who identified herself as a ‘friend’ first – and after talking to me, she wanted to change her mind.

And then another woman spoke up, surprise and a bit of concern in her voice. I recognized her as a middle school teacher, and I was startled by her surprise at the numbers of self-identified mothers. She appeared stymied by the idea that we educators would not only be shouldering the responsibilities of mothering our own children but of our students as well. The overwhelm in her voice and the shake of her head struck me.

Isn’t that what mothers do best? Isn’t that why moms make awesome teachers?

Being a mother is my top priority, my deal-breaker. It’s nothing to hide behind or even consider some part of myself that would tie for first place in my identity line-up. It’s not that I always imagined myself as a mom or a teacher for that matter; I never really imagined myself as much of anything when I was younger. But after spending the last 27 years with other people’s children – then going home to my own – I slowly discovered that being a mother has not only brought out the best parts of me, it’s brought those best parts to my classroom, too.

I was a teacher long before I was a mom. I remember barely being ten years older than my students, mystified when their parents would ask me for advice about how to manage their teenage children.

Honestly, I had no idea. I remember thinking, Aren’t parents just supposed to know that stuff? Ha! Little did I know…

By the time I became a mom I was six years into teaching but kept on going. I remember 9/11 and wondering what would happen if I was off to work and never came home again. I thought often about how hard I worked to teach other peoples’ children and wondered if I  put as much energy into my own.

I struggled with the teacher-mom balance for years – until I embraced it. I am a mom first, then a teacher.

A first-year teacher recently asked me for advice on managing life and teaching, and the first word I thought of was BOUNDARIES. To be a successful working mom, to not feel as if I’m successful in the workplace without sacrificing my kids, I realized I needed strong boundaries – barbed wire type boundaries, with “NO TRESPASSING” signs dotting every five feet or so. Teaching children, serving families, is all-consuming for me. Keeping clear that my own kids come first, then my school kids has eased my guilt about not being able to always be everything for my students. But over the years, I’ve discovered that the lessons I’ve learned from being a mom have shaped who I am as an educator – and I’ve realized precisely why moms make awesome teachers.

Why Moms Make Awesome Teachers

Moms make awesome teachers because that they live the most important part of the job: moms know what it means to put kids first. Moms know how to wrap their arms around their child and make them feel safe. Moms know that nothing good happens when kids are tired or hungry or feeling sick. Awesome teachers know when kids feel loved, they do better at home and in school.

moms make awesome teachers

Moms know that being first isn’t always best and that sometimes we all need to take a breath and try again. Moms know that sometimes life gets in the way, that the dishwasher doesn’t always get unloaded and the printer runs out of ink right around bedtime the night before an essay is due.  Flexibility is a huge part of life; awesome teachers look at the big picture, not the setbacks.

Moms make awesome teachers because we know that kids come first, always, that all kids are still learning, and there are lots of ways to tie shoelaces and they all keep shoes on feet. Awesome teachers know there is not only one “right” way to do things, and individuality keeps us thinking.

Moms know that kids can be raised in the same house by the same parent with the same rules and come out to be entirely different humans and that oftentimes gender has very little to do with identity. Awesome teachers love their students unconditionally and teach them where they are.

Moms make awesome teachers because we know that sometimes the best thing to do is close the textbook and get a good night’s sleep. Awesome teachers know when to push and when to look in students’ eyes and tell them it’s OK, let me help you.

Thank you to all the awesome moms, amazing teachers and brave students out there – you make a difference in my life every single 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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flexible classroom seating chair

Flexible Seating: Something Cool From My Classroom

I don’t know why it took me so long to jump into flexible classroom seating. After 27 years of dodging clunky desks, tripping over backpacks and watching kids fidget uncomfortably in their hard plastic seats, I had had enough.

I’ve had classes as large as 38, and it just was too hard to fit that many desks in my small classroom.  I needed more space, and so did my students! This year, my middle school students came back to school with flexible classroom seating, and it’s been amazing! To help you jump in, I created a how-to list for flexible classroom seating.

Step One: Start small.

flexible classroom seating beanbags

When I first began teaching a reluctant reader class years ago, I noticed how physically uncomfortable my students were when I asked them to read for an extended period of time. Middle school kids come in all shapes and sizes, and I figured if I could create a more comfortable space to relax and read, I’d at least get them in a good mood! I ended up purchasing four Big Joe bean bag chairs from Amazon – they’re designed for dorm rooms, and fairly durable.

The first year my kids fought over them every day, so I came up with a ‘bean-bag rotation’ chart which did the trick. At the end of the year, I asked the PTA for funding for a few more and built up my first flexible seating. When other teachers saw the way the kids would relax and focus, they even brought in old bean bags from home that their children never used. I’m up to at least a dozen this year, and they still are the preferred place for reading and collaborating.

Step Two: Look for deals.

flexible classroom seating chair

I started scouring the internet for cheap, functional furniture and seating. I found these foldable chairs for $5 each and discovered these stools on Amazon. My local Goodwill has been an amazing source for items such as clipboards, pillows, and various durable furniture. And since I live in a college town, there are always discards around for free! I’ve heard the free pages on Facebook are a great resource, too. I put an ad out on our Nextdoor Neighbor app and had a few donations trickle in that way.

Step Three: Ask for help.

flexible classroom seating

When I thought about getting rid of 20 desks and replacing them with tables, I got a bit nervous. I knew my students would be more comfortable with tables as flexible classroom seating, but how would I find enough? I started asking family and friends if they had anything they weren’t using anymore or wanted to donate to my classroom. I was surprised by the number of people who had old folding tables and chairs in their garages!

Also consider asking your custodian, the principal, and your students’ families for donations – once you put your wishes public, I know you’ll be amazed at what turns up. Remember, you can always replace a table or chair if something better comes along. I even put contact paper on an old card table I was given and it looks awesome!

Step Four: Watch what the kids gravitate towards.

flexible classroom seating chair

Just like with the bean bags, I started small and watched what the kids did. I noticed who liked stools, who needed a spinny chair, and who wanted to plop or flop on the bean bags. Not only could I determine some learning tendencies (the kid reading on his belly every day clearly needed some tactile stimulation to focus) but I also could see who was assertive (they usually claim the folding chairs) and who was easy-going (they just sat wherever there was space). I have one upholstered armchair that rotates and I’ve noticed certain kids really like to sit there and gently move as they read and write, so I’ll look for more of those. I’d also like more two-seaters for those who like to constantly collaborate.

Step Five: Decide what battles you want to fight, and let go of the rest.

Like anything new, there are going to be challenges and unexpected events – and awesome surprises. Many people thought I was a bit crazy to attempt flexible seating in middle school, but I did it anyway. I established expectations around the beginning of class (students must be at a table for attendance/mini-lesson) and that I would announce when flexible classroom seating was ok. I created a seating chart – I actually let students choose their seats for the first month, and then I’ll rotate them around once I get to know them. I advised that they should try multiple locations and seats.

flexible classroom seating beanbags

I carefully organized the room into learning spaces – I have an AVID college corner, a row of bean bags by the classroom library, boxes of clipboards and headphones near the back, and even turned an old shelf board into a lap desk. I stationed a fan by the spinny chair and let kids sit there and feel the cool air when they need to calm down. At first, I thought I would arrange the seats with certain desks, but I noticed the kids moved them around during the day, so I let that go. Sometimes kids have been under tables, and sometimes they whisper more on the bean bags. Occasionally they crowd too many bodies onto the ottoman, but we’ve made it work. I think on my feet a lot, but I’m also able to really get more connected and it feels less teacher-dominated and much more student-focused since I’ve used the flexible classroom seating.  I’ll never go back!

This post was first published on The Educator’s Room website. Visit The Educator’s Room for the latest and greatest hot topics in education.

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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lifelong learner

Are You A Lifelong Learner?

As a parent, you know the importance of providing your child with a good education, both in school and out. But what about your learning? Do you strive to deepen your knowledge, take courses, and continue your education, or are you finished with textbooks, tests, and teachings? Don’t you want to ‘walk the talk’ you give to your own children? When kids see adults in their life harnessing curiosity, reading to learn, and striving to improve, their motivation to do better and work harder increases. There are some incredible benefits of becoming a lifelong learner for everyone, not just for kids.

lifelong learner

source

Are you a lifelong learner?

Higher wages

Money isn’t everything – far from it, in fact. For many professions, including mine, teaching, if you want to raise your earning potential, learning is the route you need to take. I worked hard to increase my salary by obtaining as much post-grad education as possible. Time and again, research shows us that continuing your education improves your chances of earning a higher salary, winning more promotions, and having a greater level of financial security. You will never reach your earning potential if you don’t prove yourself with learning, so whether it’s doing a degree as an adult or taking up a workplace offer of training, consume every opportunity that comes your way. Not only will you be more employable, but you will feel more comfortable in your role, happier at work, and have the skills and knowledge you need to achieve great things. The more I learn, the more exciting teaching becomes! It’s infectious!

Develop natural abilities

Everyone has a talent hidden somewhere within them. But these innate natural abilities will never get the chance to come to the fore without an education. Learning helps you understand your talents, and gives you the tools you need to use them properly. Education refines you in a similar way to how a rough diamond is polished to create beautiful jewelry. You’ll never know what you might bring to the world if you don’t take the time to indulge your curiosity!

A healthy, active mind

It’s never too early to start thinking about life as we grow older; if you want to stave off the threat of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s, you need to keep testing your brain. While diseases such as Alzheimer’s are biological, the simple truth is that you can delay its onset and preserve your quality through lifelong learning. We’re not just talking about reopening the school books again, either. Learning a new instrument or embracing highly skilled challenges on a regular basis can all help by a significant amount. Have you ever thought about taking guitar lessons, or learning how to paint? Trying something new is a great way to grow a healthy, active mind.

lifelong learner source

A chance to be different

I ask my children this question often:  “If you are an employer and have two equally experienced, likable candidates that impress in an interview, what will tip the balance in giving them a job? Is it the person who is bilingual? Will you choose the one without the college qualifications or the one who embraced learning and achieved a master’s in business administration?” Make no mistake about it, lifelong learning can help you stand out front the crowd. And if you have ever pondered the question ‘are MBA degree programs worth it or not,’ ask yourself who you would choose if you were that employer. It’s never been harder to stand out than it is today, and if you want a competitive edge, you need to combine your experience and motivation with an education to prove yourself. I love the app Duolingo – I’m learning Spanish so enhance my ability to communicate at work and as I travel.

Self-fulfillment

People love to achieve things, and if you are looking for genuine self-fulfillment, learning is the only way to go. Whether it’s academic education, traveling the world and experiencing new cultures and ideas, or just stretching your perspectives by reading a challenging book, it all counts as an achievement. You will expand your awareness, knowledge, and create a multifaceted, multidimensional life that actually means something. It’s something you can continue all through your life, too. Your capacity for learning needn’t diminish as you get older, and, in fact, will be improved by educating yourself in your younger years. Your children need role models of adults who practice self-care and self-fulfillment – education is the perfect example to show them you’re never too old to learn something new!

Unique, electrifying experiences

Have you ever felt that sense of pride when you have completed a hard crossword, math problem, or finally read the last page of a tough book? Even these minor accomplishments can give you a major thrill. It’s human nature in action – we are hardwired with a capacity for learning and advancing ourselves intellectually. So, if you want a lifetime of electrifying experiences on a regular basis, push yourself to learn and educate yourself as often as possible. Bear in mind that even if there were zero economic advantage in learning, humans would still do it – and an educated mind is an entirely worthwhile way to express your unique personality and knowledge.

lifelong learner
I’m a lifelong learner through EdTech!

Develop deep relationships

Humans are social animals, and it’s vital that we have the opportunity to connect with other, like-minded individuals. You will meet new people, develop new relationships, enjoy an active social life, and start getting used to having deep conversations with others on a regular basis. The internet has enabled me to build so many professional relationships and cultivate strong friendships with people in my areas of interest – don’t shy away from creating a professional learning network online.

Become a contributor to society

No one wants to become a burden on their family, community, or society as a whole. And lifelong learning – especially when you approach retirement – can help you feel like you are still making a contribution. It will keep you active, sociable, and ensure that you aren’t feeling like you are a drain. Whether it’s learning new skills to help your community or going back to college and writing a Ph.D. that helps humans understand more on any given subject, there are thousands of lifelong learners who are huge contributors to the world – and continually educating yourself is the best way to join them.

Become a person of wisdom

When you commit to lifelong learning, you will develop a thorough understanding of why, how, and what life is really about. You will begin to realize what works – and what doesn’t. You will also develop a deep understanding of yourself, and those around you. Money can’t buy you this kind of wisdom, to become a lifelong learner you have to go through it all yourself to have the ability to put your life into perspective.

Become hungry for more
lifelong learner

The more you learn, the more you want to learn. It’s a mindset that you will grow into when you embrace continual learning and one that you will never fully sate. The beauty of being a lifelong learner is that you can go down any route you like and still learn a lot about yourself and life in the world today. I’d love to hear about your lifelong learning – feel free to leave your comments in the section below!

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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