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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For All The Little Girls Who Are Watching This Election

my dreamers, 2000
my dreamers, 2000

For all the little girls who are watching this election,

My 20 year-old daughter voted in her first election this year. She’s practicing ‘adulting’ – she learned how to register, how to complete her ballot and vote early.

She grew up in house with vocal, political parents but in her own quiet way, she listened and absorbed the importance of using her voice.

My son is just shy of voting age. When he was little I remember him arguing with adults against George Bush. He used to hum the NPR song, and like so many children, developed views that similarly aligned to his parents’.

Last night my daughter began texting me about the returns. Although she knew her state would go red, she was scared. I tried to be optimistic, but my own fears were beginning to cascade and eventually, I dozed off. I couldn’t take it anymore.

It was unbelievable.

I slept fitfully, wondering if when I woke there would be some chance that the election would have gone our way. I wished for an intervention, for a collective ‘coming to our senses’ that never happened.

Her early morning text woke me up.

I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to convince her that everything would be OK. I scrambled my thoughts together and reminded her of all the kind people in the world. To surround herself with friends, and to work harder to help those up that others want to take down. I told her to watch Hillary’s concession speech; I thought it might help. I hoped. I reminded her that not everyone voting for him voted for his racist and sexist and bigoted policies, but that they voted for what he thought he represented, despite how he has shown us who he is.

My 17 year-old son stumbled into the room, hair tousled from sleep. He told me that last night, just as he was going to bed, he heard commotion from the nearby college campus. He heard changing: “F-D-T” and Snapchatted a college friend who confirmed the protest march happening. He said he had wanted to go, but didn’t. And as grateful as I was that he hadn’t left the house at midnight, secretly I would have understood.

I told him that as a white male he has privilege, not necessarily deserved privilege, and if there was any time to protest, it was now. I reminded him that he must work harder now to show kindness and compassion and prove that he isn’t aligned with the bigot America elected.

I’ve always been a listener, a people watcher. I grew up in the same idyllic California town where I now raise my own children. I wasn’t raised by especially political parents, and for most of my childhood I was reluctant to use my voice. I was shy and quiet and would much rather watch than participate.

It was the 1984 elections that woke me up – the moment when I realized what Reaganism really was and that I had to make some adult decisions about who I was and what I believed in. And my opinions lost, by a landslide.

I realized that adulting was hard, and that people didn’t always agree with me – even in my own family.

But I kept on voting, and talking, and standing up for what I believe in. I knew my children were watching.

So today, I’ve been letting the election news sit with me. I’ve been thinking about how to put my thoughts down in a way that might do justice to the overwhelming sense of sadness and fear I have. I’ve been scanning Facebook and online news and trying to think about what meaning I can make of all this.

And I’ve realized that so much of my sadness comes from the loss of a dream – a dream that my children would grow up always seeing our values validated in our country. That despite working and raising children for two decades, I could launch them into adulthood with confidence that the world would be somehow different – that my children wouldn’t feel the same sting of sexism I’ve felt, or live in a world where one of them would be paid more than the other. I’m grieving the lost ideals I had that not only would they grow up in a country that operated on shared beliefs of equity and fairness and Supreme Court decisions that could impact them and their generation. I’m sad that this election won’t show my children that the world they will be adulting in isn’t moving forward, but that half of America is merely showing them who they really are – and that they should believe them.

Watching Hillary’s concession speech did help us. As expected, she showed us who she really is – and that’s when my tears began to fall. But they weren’t tears for her, of for me, or for my mother or grandmother. When Hillary began to close her speech I cried tears for my children – for all children – who are learning to be an adult the hard way and I cried for “…all of the little girls who are watching this, (to) never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

We didn’t get to watch the glass ceiling being broken. We didn’t see our family values upheld, nor did we see a tough mama elected – and we didn’t see that love trumps hate –  not yet.

                                               

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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I’m Just Feeling Sad Today

I couldn’t get out of bed this morning.

It wasn’t because it’s my first official day of vacation, or because I stayed up too late last night – my days of all nighters are long gone, to be sure. The air was cool, the mockingbirds were announcing the dawn, and I knew my children were safely asleep.

After laying there for awhile sipping my coffee in bed, I realized that I’m just feeling sad today.

Before I went to bed last night I couldn’t pull myself away from Twitter and Facebook. Post after post captured my attention, even though I struggled to read the stories about Orlando.

It was a particularly unhealthy thing to do right before bed-I know that. But all day I’d been thinking about what happened, and trying to process what seemed impossible to fathom. I’d been reading blog posts about how to talk to your children about mass shootings, and hearing the angst from the LGBTQ community and their allies.

But what really sent shivers down my spine was the story from Eddie Justice’s mom. Did you see it?

Yesterday, while Eddie’s mother waited to learn if her son was one of the victims in the shooting, she released the images of the last conversation she had with him – via text.

As Eddie hid in a bathroom of the nightclub, knowing the shooter was coming closer and closer, and finally in the bathroom with him, he texted his mom.

“Mommy I love you”.
And later, “I’m gonna die”.

These words haunted me. The vision of this 30 year-old man, cowering in a restroom hoping against hope that he would make it out alive washed over me with a wave of sadness. Thinking of his mother, awakening from sleep to receive this text, I wept.

And when I woke up this morning, I found out that he was right. He did die, along with 48 other young men and women. And I’m just feeling sad today because of it all.

My friend Alexandra Rosas posted on Facebook today that “How can any of us not feel the good fortune of returning from a weekend to a Monday morning’s normal life…The return to normalcy, what so many in Orlando do not have today, and my heart breaks for the weight of the loss they wake up to.” Her words shook me; here I am, in my normal life, knowing my children are safe – and there is Eddie’s mom, knowing he is not.

I’m just feeling sad today. I’m tired of writing my reactions to mass shootings in schools and movie theaters and churches and nightclubs. I’m exasperated by politicians who won’t look at common sense ways to reduce gun violence in our country, and instead take to the airwaves to say how sorry they are children have died. I’m weary from imagining all the ‘what if’ scenarios involving my children and loved ones. I’m drained from having to drag myself to my computer one more time to speak out for ending gun violence because I don’t know what else to do. And I’m sick of prayers, especially from those who prevent policy that could prevent sons from dying in a restroom, texting their mothers.

I'm just feeling sad today

Eventually I pulled myself out of bed today. I did all sorts of normal things: fixed my son a smoothie, watered the garden, and texted my daughter. I cleaned out the laundry room, thinking of things she would need to set up her new apartment. Later, as my son and I walked the dog, I asked him if he’d heard the news about Orlando. He’s sixteen now, and while part of me was wishing he was younger and we could avoid this conversation, I knew it was important we talked. Because even though I’m feeling sad today, I know it’s nothing compared to the sadness of 49 other mothers who would give anything to walk alongside their son, having the hard conversations, and hearing their voice just one more time.

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?

12 10 trip DC 085
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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Warriors, Quiet Wonders and Gun Reform

13 1 Mammoth and Tahoe 086

“Remember the quiet wonders. The world has more need of them than it has for warriors.”

– Charles de Lint

Quiet wonders…when do you feel like one of those?  Or are you more the warrior in life, fighting every battle?

After this week’s announcement of the White Houses’s gun reform plan, it makes me think that we need both.  Or better yet, maybe a combination of quiet wonder and warrior.

We need to listen to each other, quietly, to think beyond ourselves, and work for the children.

We need to have the strength to put aside our own agendas and pay attention to the messages in the Universe.

We need to use courage and conviction, intellect and emotion, perseverance and politeness.

We cannot stay quiet.  We cannot go to war with each other.

We must find the balance.  We must work for the children.

Quiet wonders.  Warriors.  Together, we can create gun reform.

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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