47

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.”
– Abraham Lincoln
My Indonesian ‘dress cut’ experience

I took this seriously last year; breathing some life into areas that have been dormant, neglected, or otherwise overlooked.  Another year of happiness, laughter and lessons learned – here are some of my favorites:

Go big.

This year was really about trying something new-all the time.  I forced myself in directions I never knew I was interested in or qualified for.  I wrote-a lot.  I threw it all out there and watched where it landed, pushed a few pieces into place, and found some that had gone missing.  I learned that going big is often scary, but always worth it.

Let go.
My kids officially grew taller than me this year.  It actually was a humbling experience when my baby boy passed me up.  Watching my daughter drive away from me for the first time chipped a piece off my heart, reminding me  I had to let go and trust that everything has a way of working itself out.  I released some habits and situations that weren’t working for me, looking for more positive instead of negative.  I learned that letting go is growing forward.
Work hard.
I surely did that this year.  I pushed for my best and tried not to repeat what wasn’t working for me.  I showed up.  I tried.  I learned that working hard is exhausting, but creates energy in the right places.
Be humble.
I went places this year that I never imagined I would.  I felt outnumbered, out of place, and out of control.  I remember the calls to prayer, the fears, and the deep sense of respect at how small a world we live in, yet what a large part I can play.  I learned that being humble can bring safety and comfort, and that relinquishing control can reveal a whole new perspective.

Say no.
Learning to stand up for ourselves can take a lifetime.  Watching bullying, in our community, our country, and our world gave me the power to practice saying no.  Daily, I listened to one of my college interns call out ‘Make good choices’ to my students as they exited my classroom door, and tried to do the same.  I learned that saying no allows me to say yes when I want to, and that going with my gut is usually takes me in the right direction.
Be grateful.
Obama’s elementary school in Jakarta

I saw people and places this year that shattered my heart and made me fearful for our future.  I met people who lifted me up, taught me about hope, and reminded me to make peace with what I have, where I am, and who I’m with.  This year, I learned that blessings come in a multitude of ways, and that happiness and gratitude hold hands.

As I end 47 and open the chapter of 48, I think of all that I’ve experienced:  the children, parenting, family, teaching, education, memories and motherhood that blended themselves together and brought such lessons to me.  Typing this, I’m reminded of all that I hold close, and all that is yet to come.  I’m happy about 47, and watch out 48- I’ve got big ideas waiting to throw at you.  This is definitely not the time to feel old!

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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Glimmers of Hope

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”

I always share this quote with my eighth and ninth grade students at the beginning of each school year.  In August, they’re filled with promise, with messages of hope and faith from their parents, and confidence that this will be their year.  That change will happen.

Progress grades after four weeks usually show improvement.  They can commit to change, and are seeing results.  They are starting to feel good.  Their parents are proud.

Four more weeks go by.   Tests, projects, essays, and life start to blur their focus.  They’re not getting enough sleep, and it’s hard to see the end of the quarter.  October is a hard month.

Eight weeks later, when quarter grades come out, their little balloons burst.  Some have slipped back into old habits.  Their calendars are sparse, their backpacks stuffed with paper, unfinished assignments, and smelly gym clothes. parents have begun to nag, panic, and in desperation, sometimes blame the teachers.

It’s my job to pick up the pieces.  Rebuild their shattered hopes, and cheer them towards the finish line.  You can do it!  Look at your progress in the long run!  You’ve come so far!  Don’t let that one test/paper/homework/detention slow you down!

I often wonder what really holds kids back.  Is it the fear of success?  Are they more comfortable in that middle place of a “C” or “D” grade, when they’re still passing but no one puts too much pressure on them to be ‘perfect’?  Is it a lack of trust that what teachers and adults are suggesting will really work?  Or maybe it’s all a natural developmental phase; kids trying things their way, regrouping, and trying again?

Is school really getting that much harder?  Or are we just approaching it differently?  Are the stakes raised for kids, families, teachers, and colleges?  What exactly are we expecting from our children?

Finding a balance for teachers and parents is tricky.  We want to hold up high expectations, knowing that they have ‘potential’.  We want them to strive to do better, work harder, and get into a ‘good’ college.  We hire help – economics tutors, SAT prep, math courses, and whatever we can do to say we’ve done our best.

I always come back to the kid, and that intangible, unteachable asset that seems to mark those that make it through the bumps, hurdles, and hard times of middle school: intrinsic motivation.  I saw it during my trip to Indonesia last summer – those kids wanted nothing more than to learn English and make it to the U.S. for college.  They understood, “No Pain, No Gain” like many of my students cannot.  They couldn’t afford tutors-they just had to work hard.

The bottom line is, the kid has to want it.  They need to have a supportive base, caring people who will encourage and not accept responsibility for their actions.  They need to have people who are firm, consistent, and unconditionally love them.  They need to celebrate the small victories and regroup after the defeats.  They need to see the glimmers of hope for their future – to see who and what they can be when, diploma in hand, they walk into adulthood.

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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Be Yourself

Just imagine how many problems we could solve it we all took Emerson’s advice.  I certainly see this every day in my classroom, where 13 and 14-year-olds posture and prepare themselves with the ‘right’ answer, or the appropriate reaction.  I see this with adults, when they try to say the ‘right’ thing, afraid to speak their minds for fear of retribution. 

We see it in the media, when celebrities do what it takes to get noticed, land the next big role or ink an endorsement contract.  Have you noticed the difference between men and women who try to be themselves?  It seems fine, as long as we fit into the stereotypical gender roles, but when we step out of them….labelling, here we come. 

Bullies see this, too – and they pounce on those trying to find themselves, calling out what they see as weakness when if you really think about it, should be seen as strengths.  They prey on the ‘unique’ kids who show up their own fears about letting their true selves shine brightly. 

Voters notice who is trying to be their true selves, and we wonder if any of the sensationalism that swirls around politicians has any grain of truth at all.  We see the bickering, name calling, and sometimes shallow decision making of our country and wonder if there is anyone we can really believe.

So if there is one thing we can do in our day, with our students, our children, or our friends and colleagues, I would wish that we look at each other for who we really are, not who we believe the world thinks we should be. 

Just imagine what that kind of day would feel like. 

Do you struggle to be yourself?  Who does the world think you should be?

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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Teach-That’s What I Do

I’m really getting tired of education being a dumping ground.

I’m tired of politicians who think that money doesn’t matter – we can decrease funding for schools, freeze teacher salaries, or worse – impose salary cuts because there isn’t enough money in the budget.

I’m tired of class sizes getting larger and faith in schools getting smaller.

I’m tired of hearing about all the things teachers should do instead of hearing about all the things we actually do.

I’m tired of unpacking standards during the only free time I have in my day.

I’m tired of staying late for meetings, or eating lunch over a stack of papers.

I’m tired of ‘officials’ who get paid more than me but know less about what really goes on in the classroom.

I’m tired of thinking about everything else except the children.

What I’m NOT tired of is the children.

I’m excited to see their faces every day, looking to me for a plan.

I’m excited to help them with their challenges and watch their success unfold before our eyes.

I’m excited to show them a new book and talk about what they love.

I’m excited to laugh with them, learn with them, and send them out into the world.

I’m excited when the fire is ignited, their passion is found, and it shows.

I’m excited to teach.

That’s all.

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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Part of the Whole

As I wake up I hear the rhythmic tick of the sprinkler outside my window.  The coffee drips in time to the clock, and although the house is quiet, my brain jumps wide awake.

It’s not official yet – summer really still has four more days before I should be mourning the end of long nights spent wrapped around a novel, mornings lingering over another coffee with cream, and being alone.

But I’m part of something.  I contribute to a system, a group, a team of people who cares beyond measure about children.  We get up early, we plan, we laugh, we smile, and we create a whole unit designed to pull each other up and out of ourselves.

The sprinkler subsides outside my window.  The coffee dwindles to the last drop, and my house begins to stir. My body must jump awake, engage, and prepare to take part.

They’re counting on me.

Who’s counting on 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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