authenticity reflection

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.

At least not more than once or twice.

The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.

I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.

And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.

And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.

I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”

authenticity

I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.

Authenticity: loving fiercely

And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”

authenticity

Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.

Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.” 

I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?

I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.

Authenticity: Being enough

I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.

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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online learning

How To Maximize Online Learning As An Adult

Have you taken an online class yet? The first time I did (in 2011) it was a struggle. Many of my traditional study methods didn’t transfer easily to learning and reading online, and I had to really step out of my comfort zone. It was good, though – it gave me a huge insight into how I teach my teenage students and also adult learners, and once some of the basic studying structures are re-examined, online learning is a powerful method for furthering your education.

Online learning has become one of the most popular options for studying at home, but it’s also surprisingly difficult if you’re not used to studying on your own and it’s not as effective as most people think especially if it’s the first time they’ve tried it. If you’ve never tried to learn on your own and you jump right into an online university degree, then you might be disappointed at your lack of results. To help you get the most from your online courses, we’ve put together some handy tips that will change the way you approach online learning.

online learning
Creating a distraction-free workspace is key for online learning!

Coping with realities vs expectations

Contrary to what many people believe, studying online is no easier or more difficult than studying the course at a college or university. For instance, getting a Masters in engineering management online is virtually the same as trying to get it from a prestigious college. Sure, the resources you have available to you are different, but you’ll still be able to speak with lecturers and other students and the course itself isn’t any easier because you’re studying the same things.

The reality is that if you’re not committed to your online course, then you’re not going to get anywhere. Just because you study over the internet, it doesn’t mean you can forgo a schedule. Make sure you wake up on time so that you have plenty of time to get ready for your online lessons (much like you would if you’re going to university) or at least set some time aside in the day so that you can sit down and study in peace. If you’re not invested, then you’re not going to get anything out of it and you’ll be wasting your money.

Having a dedicated place to study

When studying at home, it’s important to put together a study area where you can relax and focus. For example, you might want to use your home office as a study area, or you might want to take over your bedroom as a dedicated home classroom where you can put all of your equipment, stationery, and books.

Another good reason to use a dedicated study place is so that other members of your family or your roommates understand that, when you’re in said room or location, you’re in learning mode and others should respect that so they don’t disturb you too much. People that work from home have the same issue that they’re easily distracted by their family members or roommates, which is why setting up a dedicated learning space is ideal.

As long as you stay positive and take your online studying seriously, it’s actually fairly simple to get the most out of your course so that it’s a successful endeavor and not a waste of money that you’ll regret later in the future. Just keep your expectations in check and remember that online studying is just as difficult as studying in a university. It’s just a little more convenient, but it does mean you’ll need to invest more time and effort into making it work for you.

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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helicopter parenting

Helicopter Parenting: Are You Giving Your Kid Enough Space?

All of us want the best for our kids. We want our kids to be happy, healthy, and to succeed. One problem with this is that many parents, whether they realize it or not, to try and be in control of everything their child does. Teachers call it “helicopter parenting,” and it can be pretty destructive. The motivation behind this can be pretty understandable; parents want the best for their child, and they aren’t necessarily going to know what’s best for themselves, even as they get older. However, helicopter parenting can often cause more issues than it solves. It leaves a child feeling smothered and under too much pressure which can have serious consequences further down the line. With that in mind, here are a few signs that you might be helicopter parenting and what you can do to give your child a little bit more space.

You dictate their schedule.helicopter parent

Do you know what your child is doing and where they’re going every second of every single day? When they’re young this is pretty understandable; you need to dictate what they do in order to keep them safe. However, as they get older, this might become more and more of an issue for them. After all, no teenager or college student wants their schedule to be in the hands of their parents. This kind of strict scheduling is a tough habit to break, but if you can’t break it, then you could end up with some serious issues at home. Kids are hard-wired to rebel if they feel trapped and putting too many limits on what they can and can’t do is going to make that much more likely.

They rarely have their own time.

It’s great to give your child a lot of things to do. Whether it’s sports, dance, or any other activity, it’s tempting to fill up their time with as many “productive” things as possible. Kids love trying new things and keeping busy is a great way to help them avoid getting bored. But there’s a point where it becomes too much. It’s important to remember that kids need totally free time as much as they do structure. Being able just to sit around, read a book, talk to their friends, or watch TV is something that every kid needs, especially as they get older. Once they get to college, that kind of time is not only fun but crucial for their overall wellbeing. If they’re doing too much, they’re going to end up burning out from stress and exhaustion.

They feel a lot of pressure.

It can often be hard to see whether or not you’re putting too much pressure on your child. What you see as support and enthusiasm might be making life a lot harder for them. Kids want to impress people, especially their parents, and if you base your impression of them on all of the things that they can do, they’re going to start putting huge amounts of pressure on themselves that simply isn’t healthy. Make sure that you remind your child that they don’t have to be some kind of high achiever to win your approval and that you love and care for them just the way that they are.

Are you a helicopter parent?

What can do you?

helicopter parenting

Give them some space.

This is the most important thing that you can do, especially as kids get older. Make sure that you’re giving your kids space to do whatever like from time to time. Even if it’s just something like lazing around all day long in front of the TV. Sure, it’s not how you would like them to spend their time, but it’s often something kids, and especially teenagers, like to do in order to recharge their batteries. By giving them space, you might think that they’re going to forget all of their responsibilities, but there’s actually a pretty solid chance that your child is going to keep up with things like work and chores, it’s just that they’ll feel much more motivated to do it because they don’t have someone else putting pressure on them, and they’re doing it entirely themselves.

Provide them with help from a distance.

Of course, just because you’re trying to give them the space that they really need doesn’t mean that you’re going to abandon them. It’s incredibly important that you’re there for them and that you’re providing help when they need it, it’s just that you might want to try doing so from a bit of a distance. Doing things like sending care packages to your child at college or pointing them in the direction of services like GradeBuddy can be incredibly helpful to them without making them feel like you’re hovering over them. The truth is, if your child really needs your help, then there’s a pretty good chance that they’re going to just ask for it. It’s your job as a parent to be there when they need you.

Offer them emotional support.

The most important thing that you can do for your child is to be there for them emotionally. Kids have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on themselves. This is true for kids both young and old, and it’s your duty as a parent to make sure that they know that they don’t need to. Make sure that your child is always sure that you are there for them and that you love them no matter what happens. It might feel as though that’s something that they should obviously know, but it’s always a good idea to remind them that you love them unconditionally and that you’re in their corner every step of the way.

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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6 ways to help your child get good grades

6 Ways To Help Your Child Get Good Grades

Grades aren’t everything. There’s a lot more to life than getting an A+ on every paper that a student hands in. In middle school, however, students need to know that grades are important in terms of career and the college that they’re able to get into. That is why, as parents, we should be doing all that we can to help our children to get good grades. So that when it comes to it, they have the future that they deserve – that’s what education is about, getting to where you want to be.

6 ways to help your child get good grades

To help your child get good grades –  there are a few simple things that you can do. The key to helping your kids understand that their education is important is the attitude you take to it. With this in mind, here are six ways you can help your children to get good grades.

  1. Make reading a part of family life

Reading shouldn’t be something that your children hate doing; it should be something that they enjoy. If you make reading a part of family life, this will help your children to enjoy it. Reading is important when it comes to grades as kids who are able to read confidently tend to do better on assignments. Have a quiet space in your home for reading where there’s a bookshelf and comfortable seating. This will encourage your children to read for pleasure, as well as for school.

6 ways to help your child get good grades

  1. Offer them help with homework

A lot of the time, kids who struggle at school do so because they don’t have the support that they need. When homework looks daunting, a lot of children get themselves into a state about it. However, if you offer to help your kids with tricky homework, you can help them to get the grades that they need. Sometimes, all kids need is a helping hand. When homework looks too hard, children don’t always know where to start. This can put them off doing it and affect their grades. That’s why offering them help is so important. Whether they struggle with fractions or the different types of essays, being there to support and help them is important.

  1. Incorporate educational toys and games

At home, have lots of educational toys around. This doesn’t only work for younger kids, but older ones too. Have sudoku puzzles, word searches, and crosswords lying around, as these encourage brain power. You could also load tablets with educational games, to help your children to develop their skills. Once children understand that learning can be fun, they’re a lot happier to put effort into their school work. This is important as without hard work; they’ll never get good grades.

  1. Make learning part of life

Learning isn’t just for in the classroom. If you want to help your child get good grades, you need to make learning part of life. Whether you practice fractions with chocolate cake or teach spelling with rhymes, it doesn’t matter. If you want your children to be eager to learn, then making learning part of your everyday life is essential. To get a few unique ideas for how to do this, have a look online. There are plenty of ways you can do this, you just need a little inspiration, that’s all.

6 ways to help your child get good grades

  1. Reward good grades

Make sure to praise good grades. To encourage your children to work hard at school, always make sure to reward good grades. This is important as it teaches your kids that getting good marks is something to be proud of. The rewards don’t have to be big, just little things that say well done. It could be a trip to the cinema, dinner out, or a little gift – whatever you think they deserve.

  1. Encourage their dreams

The best way to help your child to get good grades is by encouraging their dreams. Whether they want to be a firefighter or a school teacher, by telling them that they can do anything, you will drive them to be successful. When your child shares with you what they want to be when they grow up, tell them that to do that they need to get good grades. This will encourage them to try hard at school so that they can go where they dream.

Make your child’s dreams come true by helping them to get good grades. Whatever they want to be when they grow up, having a good education will come in handy throughout their life.

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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Teaching Middle School is Not Insanity: How to Change Behaviors Einstein-Style

Albert-Einstein-Insanity-Quote-300x253

I started teaching 22 years ago, full of energy and sure I could make change happen.

Twenty-two years later, I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but ultimately I’ve had more success than failure.

I guess that’s why I keep teaching middle school.

Middle school teaching isn’t for everyone. Some say it’s the worst possible age group, but I disagree. I love it.

Challenging? Yes. Frustrating? Often. Fun? Usually. Rewarding? Definitely. Insane? Sometimes.

For the last five years I’ve been building up the AVID program in our school. AVID is an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and is a nationwide program to ‘level the playing field’ for students stuck in the academic middle.

I love it.

In fact, I’d bet that Einstein would have been a perfect AVID student.

Einstein's high school transcript
Einstein’s high school transcript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes students are stuck through no real fault of their own-their family situations, socioeconomic status or access to education may have caused them to slip behind their peers. Sometimes, however, it’s just good old fashioned stubbornness, with a dash of insecurity, that results in their underachievement.

That’s where Einstein comes in.

His definition of insanity is one I share over and over with my students, as many times as it takes for them to believe me.  Sometimes is takes all year. Sometimes two years, depending on their stubbornness factor.

Middle school kids, especially eighth graders, like to think they know it all, and their parents know nothing. Teachers usually hover somewhere above or below parent status: we often are listened to a little bit more by virtue of not living with them, but sometimes students see all adults in the same light.

When my AVID students arrive at the beginning of the year, I lay down some basic rules about school: organization, responsibility, collaboration, and critical thinking are high on my list.  And always, there are the kids who say they like it ‘their way’, despite the fact that ‘their way’ hasn’t been working for them. They want to hang on to what they know. They are afraid to change, even when what they’re doing isn’t getting the desired results.

I know some adults like that, too.

It almost always happens the same way: the kids who try it ‘my way’ find that it works better, and their grades improve. The stubborn ones who won’t change, and have parents who don’t know how to support change usually take a very long time, if ever, to get where they want to be.  Their binders stay messy, their planners incomplete, their homework missing, and their grades below average.

So, ironically, I keep insanely repeating Einstein’s words, knowing that deep down, kids will realize that just because an adult suggests change, it isn’t all bad. Sometimes the kid has to hit bottom and decide for themselves to try it another way.

I say, whatever it takes. I know that my way gets results, eventually.

I’m pretty stubborn, too.

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This post was written as part of the Saturday Sayings series on:

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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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