Tag: teaching

An ‘aha’ moment

Posted on September 11, 2013 by

Clarity

Clarity (Photo credit: fs999)

I had an ‘aha’ moment the other day – you know what I mean? That moment when some obscure part of your reality clicks into some sort of connection with another seemingly obscure part of your brain, and for just a brief second – longer if you’re lucky – you experience clarity.

I just started into my 23rd year of teaching middle school, so actually, the very idea that I could see anything clearly at this moment is something just short of miraculous. But it was in that early, pre-dawn moment when in an attempt to combine first sips of dark roast with some sort of sense of center, that I stumbled on an article on Daily Good about Gary Klein’s book, “Seeing What Others Don’t”. My sleep-deprived eyes fell into focus and I enlarged the article to ‘read more’….and what I saw really made sense.

Gary Klein believes that we can ‘train our brains’ to see, providing us with insight into, perhaps, something that the poor soul sitting next to you at the cafe might be blind to. Klein broke up his insights into five beliefs, and as I devoured the article, I realized my ‘aha’ right there in the dark morning.

Be Curious.

Ah, this speaks to my academic soul. Perhaps that’s why I’ve loved teaching middle school, the age many think is unteachable – because curiosity hasn’t been killed in their early teenage minds. I’ve realized lately that I place a high value on curiosity. My friends are curious – not necessarily about the same things as I, but they move through their days questioning, wondering, thinking. And they make me do the same.

Candle

Candle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let Your Mind Wander.

Right now, my life is stuffed to the brim. I teach, I mother, I write, I serve. I often feel exhausted at the end of the day. The curious part is, when I start (and hopefully end) my days with a moment of quiet, of stillness, of centering, somehow the overwhelm retreats. Often it happens out in nature, either on my bike on the way to work, a walk with my son at dusk, or digging in my flowerbed. I remember a professor at Cal who first exposed me to the idea of ‘centered-ness’, and my grateful soul goes back to her on a regular basis.

Pay Attention To Coincidences.

I used to just say, ‘huh’ when I had those moments of coincidence-until my babies, husband and I got smashed into by a drunk driver. At that moment, I realized that not only was there a reason we all weren’t more seriously injured than we were, but that it was no coincidence that my injury kept me from going to a job I was becoming frustrated with. When I stopped and realized that the ‘smashing into’ that happened literally was a sign that I needed to wake up and take control over my life’s direction. Once I started paying attention, looking closely, and thinking about what was happening in my life, I realized that those coincidences were really messages in disguise for me to puzzle out.

Look Closely At Contradictions.

One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” When people present themselves in contradiction to what I know, or what I thought I know, I’m training myself to look closely. It’s a fine line between thinking about one’s options and living in a state of ‘what if’, but I’ve found that when I really stop and pay attention to that which doesn’t seem to be logical, somewhere in the mess of hypothesis and doubt comes clarity.

Act On Your Insights.

Tree reflection silhouette

Tree reflection (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

This is perhaps the most challenging, yet powerful, step of them all. Self-reflection, centering, thoughtfulness, and curiosity can all take a solitary form – but if these insights, these ‘aha’ moments are to really become powerful forces in our lives, we must walk the talk. For me, it sometimes takes a supreme leap of faith to act on what I’ve discovered-and sometimes, a huge dose of courage as well. Insights aren’t always easy, I’ve learned, but using my voice, using my writing, modeling for my students and my children what I know to be true has gently layered a ladder of confidence that breathes power into my every step. I know I can act. I know I can change, and I know that when I do, I feel the giddiness of slipping into my true self.

So as Gary Klein shares, I believe we can train our brains to see what other’s don’t. We can harness curiosity, relax into wonder, and pay attention to that which at first glance, might not make sense. If we look closely at what’s going on around us, pay attention to the signals, and act rather than react, amazing things can happen.

Go with your gut. Step off the curb, and trust yourself. You might just be amazed with the results.

 

 

 

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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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My Best Life-Growth: August, 2013

Posted on August 12, 2013 by

From my first day teaching to mothering in Nicaragua, living my best life means embracing growth in all it’s subtle forms.

I first felt like a grown-up…

when I started teaching, back in early 1991.

Jen first day teachingCollege wasn’t easy for me, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was and where I was going. Ultimately, I found myself in a credential program teaching 7th grade. To my great surprise, I loved the kooky age group, and when I was offered a job teaching 7th grade English at a brand new school, I was thrilled. I remember my first day so clearly-what I wore (purple, because it was the school colors – ugh!), my nervousness, the over-planning, the exhaustion, the adrenaline, the absolute weirdness of being called “Miss Mason” by groups of kids not much smaller than me! Over the 22 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve experienced tremendous growth, but still get that first-day-of-school tingle when I know I’m meeting kids for the first time!

If I could make anything grow on trees, it would be…

time.

Cameron age 2I’d like to be able to pick a few minutes or hours or days off branches right outside my study window. I’d love to be able to go back to those lazy summer days of my childhood, when it seemed like all I had was time and couldn’t wait to go back to school to fill up my days. I’d love to stop time and buy those minutes back from my babies’ childhoods, those times when they were screaming and fussing and I didn’t know what to do, just that I wanted it to stop. Their growth as humans measures my time as their mother; now that they’re plugged in and heading into their lives independent of me, I’d love to have more time to be with them before they head off into the world without me.

My last growing pain was…

this summer, when I had to stretch outside my proverbial box and trust that everything would be OK.

Nicaragua Lily and CameronIn Nicaragua, I had to trust that my kids were strong, smart, and capable of traveling in a foreign country without me hovering all the time. I needed to let myself grow into trust, knowing that all would be well, and that they were learning valuable lessons right along with me.

I use my “green thumb” to…

bring beauty into the world.

gardenI can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a garden-first it was at my parent’s one-acre lot, where my dad would plant rows and rows of vegetables. I remember spending so many summer days happily moving hoses and scampering around in the dirt. My grandma Flossie was the consummate gardener – so much so that she carried around pruning shears in her purse to take slips of plants that she found on her daily walks. When I finally purchased my first house, the first thing we did was plant and landscape a blank plot of dirt into a beautiful Monet-inspired garden, complete with a brick patio and retaining wall built by hand. Today, as I write, I look out my second-story window and see hummingbirds feasting on Buddleia bushes and Stargazer lilies, old-fashioned roses blooming alongside gorgeous, droopy lavender Russian sage. My morning blooms make me happy, and digging in the dirt centers my soul.

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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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Taking Time To Relax Along The Road Trip of Life

Posted on August 28, 2012 by

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop”
 – Ovid, Roman Poet (43 BC – 17 AD)

What Ovid said thousands of years ago really rings true to me today. I have to think about, plan, and prepare for relaxation. It doesn’t just happen for me. It takes work, but it’s worth it.

When we stop to relax, we realign ourselves. Suddenly we aren’t the passengers in our life anymore – we are in control of the car. We get to decide where we want to go in life, and we create new openings for things to happen.

Think of your life right now as a road trip. Are you jumping on the highway, car loaded down with everything you think you might possibly need? Do you have reservations for each leg of the journey, each night and every waking moment?

And then you get a flat tire. Or an engine that just quits. Maybe even a fender bender.

And then what? Road trip disrupted. Detour.
It’s the start of the school year. For most parents, that is something to look forward to – life gets a bit easier when the kids are out of the house, we’re not twisting our brains to come up with an exciting adventure for the day, and the nagging of teenagers who would rather sleep in than do their chores is a thing of the past.

For teacher parents, though, it’s a double edged sword. We don’t get to enjoy quiet moments anymore – when the kids are home, we’re rushing back from our classrooms, trying to get a fabulous meal prepared while simultaneously driving kids to sports, walking the dog (who is the most excited family member to see you), switching laundry, unloading the dishwasher and answering emails. Exhausting.

The way to survive, I’ve learned, is to plan some fun. Sometimes it’s something easy – taking an evening walk with a good friend or sharing a cup of coffee downtown. Laughter and snacks with a good glass of Sonoma biodynamic wine gives me something to look forward to after a long day of teaching middle school; if I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze a weekend trip to Sonoma, Sutter Creek, or Santa Cruz, even. I’ve been thrown by that ‘lack of AAA Roadside Life Service’ way too many times. I’m a natural born planner, I live by a schedule, and spend most of my day following a lesson plan – I can even tell you what the plans are for the entire week ahead. But that’s only at school.

I’m back on the treadmill. It’s not a bad workout – I kind of like it, actually. As long as I can train myself to stop once in awhile, jump off, get into the driver’s seat, and take off. Take a rest. No plans, just looking for a friend, some fun, and a great glass of wine.

images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 


Santa Cruz on Dwellable

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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Indonesia Morning

Posted on July 23, 2012 by

Sitting in my western style hotel room, sitting in a comfortable bed sipping coffee and watching CNN, I might think I’m at home in America.  Then I hear the faint strains of the morning prayers broadcast outside, and am instantly clear that outside this window is a completely different world than what I’m used to.

After only 76 hours in Indonesia I’m beginning to understand some of the systems.  The Indonesian people are all about hospitality and helpfulness, even when they don’t speak my language.  I’m having a hard time learning Indonesian phrases – for some reason, they don’t hit my ear correctly and I cannot memorize even the simplest words.

I’ve learned not to take photos in a grocery store, to use my hand in a downward flat palm position when I need to push through a crowd (personal space is very limited), and that cold Bintang beer tastes great after a day hanging out with a Komodo dragon in the 91 degree humid weather

I’ve learned that teachers in Indonesia worry about many of the same things we do in the US – how to celebrate and teach diversity, how to engage students who are more interested in social media than school, and how to preserve their cultural identity, all on a salary of $150-$300/month.

Today I begin teaching in a religious boarding school.  I’m hopeful that I make easy connections with the students and can understand what we can do to make our world a little bit better by working together.  I know the Indonesian people are as eager to learn from us as I am from them!

Please follow my adventure on travels with mamawolfe – you’ll realize that we’re really more alike than we are different!

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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Truth, Love and Despair

Posted on March 20, 2012 by

“When I despair, I remember all that through history the way of truth and love have always won.  There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.  Think of it – always.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Truth and love.  How do those ideas manifest themselves on a daily basis?  Do they frame our days, or are they simply reminders that hang out there somewhere, waiting to be knocked about when things get rough?

LOVE

Truth and love.  Do they cram themselves into our every movement, our every thought, our every action?  Do we wear them on our sleeve, or bury them deep in our chest?

Truth and love.  What about when deceit and hate smack us in the face and knock us down without offering a hand up?  What then?  Does the tyrant smirk and turn their back, not worried about us finding the strength to attack back?

Truth and love.  Do the emails, the rejection letters, the pink slips, show us?  They think they’re doing the right thing, following the protocol, but they are neglecting to see the human inside, the person that feels the sting and disappointment.

They forget about my fire.

truth love and despair

Truth and love.  When I despair, truth and love have shown me what to do. To think of our children and what is best for them.   To do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.  Assume positive intention.  To look into another’s eyes and see how we are all more similar than we are different.
When I despair, I remember they may seem invincible.  They may seem to have won.
But when I despair, I think of the power of truth and love and know they are wrong.
I have won.

I am the one who is invincible.

Always.

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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