Hurry Is Beside The Point

hurry is beside the point
Hurry is beside the point

Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction.
The thing is to be attentively present. 
To sit and wait is as important as to move.
Patience is as valuable as industry.
What is to be known is
always there.
When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it,
it is by chance.
The only condition is your being there and being
watchful.
                                                                                             
~ Wendell Berry

I love how the Universe sends me these gentle reminders – just a few evenings ago I was biking home from teaching my home hospital student when I snapped this photo. The air was cool (we’ve had a string of days reaching into the 90s), the last bits of the sunset glowed over the trees, and, looking ahead, I saw these four letters: S-L-O-W. I listened, remaining diligent to my quest for picking up clues when they are presented to me. Somehow, the bike home was just a little more magical.

During the last few weeks of school there are so many emotions churning…students stressed and tired, teachers stressed and tired, the bittersweet anticipation of summer coupled with the sadness of leaving a community we so gently created all year long. I find myself breathing deeply, letting go, smiling more, and looking into the eyes of the children I’ve spent the last nine months with. I’m trying to be there for them, trying to be watchful to their emotions – trying to give them a safe space to be honest, to cry if they need to, and as one of my kids asked yesterday, to take a nap on the beanbags at lunch if they need to.

It is in these ordinary moments that we must remember to sit and wait, to practice patience and kindness, and to remember to trust the journey, wherever it may lead us.

The Universe sent this poem to me via First Sip.

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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STEM in Education and The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

If you haven’t heard, STEM in education is all the rage. Training in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is our 21st-century challenge in schools, and all educators are responsible – even English teachers like me. According to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly, “Employment in occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. That’s an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012 employment levels.” In the next decade, STEM jobs are projected to grow more quickly and pay higher than any other type of employment- many in technology.

And that’s my job – helping to produce young adults who are educated, confident and employable in the new work force, preparing them for jobs that are likely not even in existence right now.

No big deal, right?

Wrong.

STEM in education

After 25 years in education, I’m learning a whole new way of teaching kids to read, write, speak, listen and collaborate – crucial skills for this generation of future workers. It’s not easy. It requires dedication, time, and an ability to open my mind to new ways of thinking – just like we’re asking our young men and women to do when they study STEM subjects in school. It’s not just about becoming skilled in math and science, however, learning how to think critically and communicate effectively are necessary skills for workers who will have to collaborate on long-term projects and communicate their findings upon completion.

Teachers like me need to help this generation advance STEM in education using the tools we have available. We need to train teachers to use technology in the classroom and how to step away from the teacher-dominated lectures towards a student-centered inquiry-based class. We need to encourage kids to develop grit and determination, and how to explore the ‘what-if’ and ‘I wonder’ questions rather than bubbling in a predetermined multiple choice answer. Our

This is no small task, to be sure.

One way teachers and parents are able to encourage kids to develop a love for STEM in education is through The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation’s premier science competition for grades 5-8. Through the program, young inventors have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work closely with a 3M Scientist Mentor, compete for $25,000, and earn the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.” The mission of the Young Scientist Challenge is to foster a new generation of American scientists at an age when interest in science generally declines. In 2008, Discovery Education teamed up with 3M, one of the world’s most notable innovators – to cultivate the next generation of problem solvers and give students an opportunity to receive mentorship from 3M scientists.

How the Challenge Works:

• Call for entries is currently open through April, 20, 2016. To enter, participants must submit a one-to-two-minute video describing the science behind a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem.

• Judges evaluate the entries through April and May based on creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation. Videos will not be judged on production skills and may be recorded on cell phones or basic digital cameras.

• Ten finalists are announced in the summer. These participants will be challenged to develop their innovations that positively impacts lives (including them, their family, their community or the global population). The students will participate in a mentorship program during which they will get the opportunity to work one-on-one with renowned 3M scientists as their mentors.

• Each finalist will also receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., to compete at the final event in October 2016. The grand prize is $25,000 and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a Discovery Network taping.

• Since its inception, the Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student scholarships and prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country. Previous winners have met the President of the United States, addressed Congress and been featured in Forbes magazine’s annual “30 Under 30” list.

• The 2015 winner, Hannah Herbst of Boca Raton, Fla., created an energy probe prototype that seeks to offer a stable power source to developing countries. She entered the contest because she wanted to help her 9-year-old pen pal living in Ethiopia who lacks a reliable source of power and electricity.

Other recent winners include:

o Sahil Doshi, 2014, who created a battery cell that uses carbon dioxide and other waste materials to help clear the atmosphere of greenhouse gas emissions. His project was spotlighted in the U.S. State Department’s Exhibit at the UN Conference on Climate Change, and he presented his project to President Obama.

o Peyton Robertson, 2013, who created a more efficient sandbag to reduce salt water flood damage. Peyton has since received a Notice of Allowance on his first patent.

For more information on the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge:

For more information on the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, including submission guidelines, tips from previous winners and complete rules, please visit www.youngscientistchallenge.com. Submissions will be accepted through April 13, 2016.

 This is a sponsored post on behalf of 3M. All opinions stated are my own. 
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34402227@N03/9080098737 via photopin (license)
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34402227@N03/9080098737 via photopin (license)

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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Words For Working Moms

working momI’ve been a working mom for nearly 20 years, if you count teaching-middle-school-while-pregnant (not an easy feat, believe me). I have to say – it’s made me a better mom.

I’m not trying to judge here. I wouldn’t assume to know your story – I’m just sharing mine.

I strongly believe we all make choices in life, and sometimes we choose things that we realize aren’t in our best interest – but I don’t believe they are wrong choices; instead, they’re opportunities for learning more about ourselves and choosing another path.

I could have chosen to stay at home – I just would have had to choose everything that went along with that. For me, being a working mom was what offered me balance, a center, and a way to indulge all aspects of my self.

As a teacher, being a working mom created definite problems – papers to grade during every karate class or gymnastics meet. An inability to feel like I could always be open about what my kids were experiencing while enrolled in classes taught by colleagues. A lack of salary increase, no 401k to retire on or work ‘vacations’ they could tag along to interesting places.

However,  being a working mom had certain perks – similar schedules to my children, an understanding of what their days were like, and, since they went to my school, an opportunity to know all their friends and classmates.

With 25 years of teaching and two teenagers later, I still feel the pull for balance, I still feel the urge to create boundaries and keep my priorities front and center. Today, I’m sharing my words for working moms on The Educator’s Room in hopes that my experiences can connect with yours and that together we can find strength in this parenting journey.

“I’ve always been a working mom. I guess I should qualify that – I’ve always been a work-outside-the-home mom. Since I was in my thirties before I had both children, I spent several years teaching before they rocked my world…and to be honest, it was a struggle to figure out how I could balance it all. I loved being a teacher.”

http://theeducatorsroom.com/2016/03/balancing-teaching-mothering/

 

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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5 Ways To Create A Love Of Reading With Children

Harry Potter

I’ve been helping kids create a love of reading for 25 years.

Some days, I think I’ve nailed it. Others, it’s more of a struggle.

Yesterday, for example, my 8th graders rushed into class babbling about the first chapter of The Pearl; they couldn’t believe it when the chapter was over, and how fully Steinbeck had loaded it with intrigue. And it’s an assigned text.

That’s a win.

Over the last month, though, I’ve been helping one of my struggling readers build up his confidence. He fought me. He pretended to read. He insisted he understood what he was reading. And one day, he broke down in tears.

We had a talk. We found books that were at his reading level (four grades below) and that had interesting topics. And he reluctantly started to read.

He didn’t stop until he had blown through three books and asked if he could try something longer.

This week, he’s pushing himself.

The struggle for the win.

Finding ways to get kids to love reading takes some tenacity, some audaciousness, and a bit of luck. I’ve noticed that the faster we’re accustomed to acquiring information, the less interested many kids become in persevering through a text. They want the answer now, the ending fast, and want to be entertained all the way through.

Kind of like a video game.

So as a middle school teacher, figuring out how to hook kids often makes me feel like an entertainer, a magician, and a task master all rolled up into one tired teacher.

It’s a good thing I like a challenge.

I’ve come up with 5 ways I’ve found to create a love of reading in children. Some are simple, some will take more effort on your part. But all of these will work to develop children who love to read.

How to create a love of reading:

  1. READ every day.

This is sometimes easier said than done, but it really is the number one way to create a love of reading. Think of reading as part of your routine. If your children are pre-readers, read to them. If they are independent readers, schedule blocks of reading time. Teach them that reading time is relaxing, not rigorous. Let them choose what they read, and watch what happens:

It all adds up. Supposing a kindergartener reads/is read to for one minute a day. By the time they reach 6th grade, they will have read for a total of three school days, 8,000 words per year.

If they read five minutes per day, they will total up to 12 school days or 900 minutes and 282,000 words per year.

But if they read my suggested amount of 20 minutes a day, between kindergarten and 6th grade, they will have read for 60 school days, 3600 minutes, or 1,800.000 words per year.

With all those words and all that time, they will be hooked.

     2. READ all types of text.

Read all sorts of things – not only books but also show them print in all forms. Re-read their favorites over and over – when they (and you) have it memorized, they’re internalizing story structure, language skills, and feel successful. Read greeting cards and magazines and board game directions and recipes. Don’t worry if they’re not reading ‘classics’ – just keep trying until they get hooked. Older kids are quickly engaged by graphic novels and books about sports or hobbies. Whatever they’re interested in, find something about it in print and READ.

     3. LABEL everything.

My kids went to a Spanish Immersion school, and to increase vocabulary in their kindergarten class, everything was labeled in Spanish. Do the same thing in your house. Start in their room, and write labels for their boxes of Legos and art supplies. I used index cards and covered them with packaging tape to make them durable. READ the labels as you move around your house. You don’t have to do everything at once – make it a game, and see if every day they can spot the new labels. Pretty soon they will have a huge vocabulary of sight words!

     4. Go to the library.

Make library visits a regular part of your calendar. Schedule a day each week, if you can, to spend an hour browsing and playing. When your kids are little, have them pull out a stack of books and find a cozy spot to read together. As they get older, you can bring your own book to read while they look around. Find out about storytimes or programs you and your child can participate in. Create a ‘library play group’ with a few other kids and take turns being the parent in charge. Celebrate the day they’re old enough to be issued their own library card. Going to the library will open the door to a world of opportunity – and it’s all free!

     5. Create your own books.

Staple together a few pieces of blank paper (or better yet, purchase a bound sketchbook) and help your child draw pictures of their day. Cutting up magazines is also an option (and often old magazines are free at the library). If they’re able to write, have them create a caption. If not, they can dictate it to you. Creating books is a fun way to document a trip, a special day, or just the extraordinary, ordinary life of being a child. Make sure to date the pages- you’ll appreciate that when they’re older. Teens will enjoy having a special journal to draw or write in – a spiral notebook works just fine, and they can customize the cover with cut-outs, stickers, and photographs. Cover with packaging tape to make it durable, and they have their own personalized book.

Even if your child already has a love for reading, adding in new and exciting opportunities to explore text will enhance their abilities and open up new ways for them to learn.

photo credit: A Look Back At Harry Potter via photopin (license)

photo credit: Reading for baby via photopin (license)

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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Excuses Are Useless In Middle School

excuses are uselessI get really tired of excuses. In fact, in my classroom when my 8th graders try to excuse their behavior, lack of homework, or unpreparedness I tell them kindly yet firmly, “Excuses are useless.”

Initially quizzical looks form on their faces, and then they start to stammer…which is exactly when I interject my reasoning. Everyone has issues. Everyone is busy. Everyone can blame someone, something, or some “whatever” for anything. But what’s the point?

Last week I had a day ‘off’ to attend a workshop. For teachers, attending workshops is equivalent to taking a course for a day, except that we have homework before (lesson plans) and after (fixing up messed up lesson plans). I knew I’d have a mess to fix up when one of my college interns texted me to tell me how horribly things had gone in my absence. She was absolutely devastated.

I wasn’t surprised. Kids don’t always make the best choices with substitutes, right?

To find out what happened next, please visit The Educator’s Room, where I share stories about education and life as a middle school teacher – it’s a terrific site full of thoughtful and well-written articles by a diverse group of educators from around the United States.

http://theeducatorsroom.com/2016/03/teaching-teens-making-excuses/

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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