thank you

Thank You, What’s Next?

Thank You, What’s Next?

Sometimes it really is the little things – like finding your favorite Peet’s Coffee kiosk next to your airport gate, or the Lyft driver who graciously carries your book-laden bags down the terminal to the curbside check-in, or the man struggling with his bag in the security line who mumbles ‘thank you’, but it’s loud enough for me to hear.

Or the kind Houstonians who remind you that their city “isn’t a place for walking, especially for a lady.” 

Or the Chronicle Books rep who takes the time to explain what books your middle school readers would like and then launches into a delightful chat about Sheepadoodles and Corgis. It’s the smile and the hug from bad-ass author and humanitarian Laurie Halse Anderson, reminding me that we’re making a difference together.

Read books. Drink coffee. Fight evil with bad-ass writer Laurie Halse Anderson.

You know – the little things in life that just make you happy to be here. And the little things that make you think, OK, Universe, thank you – but what’s next?

Gratitude

It’s gratitude season. We cannot escape the reminders on social media, shouting at us with cornucopia-charged memes about our blessed lives, our bountiful tables, and our beautiful homes.

Except for those who are struggling to find gratitude in the upcoming rain that offers relief from the smoky forest-fired place I call home – grateful for the easement of the flames, but fearful of living in a Walmart parking lot, huddling in a tent they now call home.

For me, it’s not-so-little things like this that keep me from fully falling into gratitude. It makes me wonder what’s next.

thank you

It’s hard for me to know what to do when I’m having a normal day, sitting amongst strangers on a rainy morning in an airport in Houston, Texas, waiting for a plane to take me safely home.

Home to my safe place, soon to be reunited with those who are most dear to me, where my most immediate issue is loading up my refrigerator and the lack of Wi-fi when I get back.

Over my shoulder, CNN flashes the rescuers raking through the rubble of Paradise, searching for bones.

How do we sink into gratitude now?

Should I really be spending this grateful energy on me, or on being aware of what’s around me?

My Lyft driver reminded me I should bring my own masks since I’m flying back into California. I’m not even sure they sell those in Texas. 

I know as soon as I step off the plane I’ll be back with those I love, and aware of those who aren’t. Raking through the rubble of what used to be their safe places, their shelter, their space for gratitude. Where they were just happy to be.

Thank you, Universe

Thank you, Universe, for keeping those I love safe. For bringing us home, and thank you for a weekend full of conversation, thoughtfulness, and invigoration. I’m full and ready to bring it all back to my classroom. Thank you for the bags full of books for children with eager minds and open hands. Thank you for the rain, the help, the time to sit and wonder and think about what we love.

I look around me in awareness of all those traveling with me, trying to get to where they need to be – want to be – for Thanksgiving. It’s raining harder now, drops obscuring my awareness of where I really am.

The strangers next to me are shaking hands, saying ‘thank you’ for sharing chargers and space to be here, now.

I whisper ‘thank you’ to the morning air, thank you to the writers and teachers and strangers who made this NCTE weekend so gratifying. Thank you to my angels, to my husband and to the Universe who reminds me I’m right where I need to be, doing what I need to do. With gratitude, I’ll bring back stories and books for my students, words of inspiration and hugs for my children, and reminders that my life is full of all the little things that make me happy and grateful to be here every single day.

Thank you, Universe. What’s next?

thank 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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field trip

Plan A Class Field Trip – The Results Will Be Transformative!

Hands up – who wants to take a whole class of kids on a field trip to New York, also known as the Big Apple? No? What about another big city?

field trip
When my daughter was in my class, we took this overnight field trip to Monterey, CA!

Field trips ARE a lot of work, and even more stress, but you can run an educational trip to New York (or modify this for any location, really) effectively, and I’m excited to show you how. In fact, to help you get everything right, I have come up with the guide below:

field trip

Risk Assessments and Paperwork

Before we get to all of the good stuff like choosing where to go and what to see, its vital that you get all of the paperwork done. Yes, I know that paperwork is the bane of teachers’ lives and field trip paperwork is the worst of all. However, it is essential both to ensure the kids have as safe a trip as possible and to cover yourself as well.

In particular, make sure you have completed a risk assessment and submitted it to the school or group leader that approves them well before the trip. Also be sure to have information on kids that have allergies and other illnesses, as well as emergency contact details for all. You’ll be confident that even if something does go wrong, you will be able to deal with the most straightforward way possible.

field trip
Field trip to NYC!

Plan Your Field Trip

Once you have all the dull paperwork out-of-the-way, it’s time to consider your field trip in more detail. In fact, it’s a good idea to think about where you would like to take the kids and what educational benefit each site or venue has.

Want to link your Big Apple visit directly to a class project such as immigration or population? If so, then sites like the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, as well as Lady Liberty herself should be on your agenda.

Of course, you don’t have to have a direct link to a particular project for your visit to New York to be educational. After all, there are many cultural sites to visit as well that can link to the curriculum such as a visit to MOMA, and even taking your class to see a show on Broadway, an activity that would be good for young musicians, dramatists, and dancers alike.

field trip
Even riding the subway is fun on a field trip!

Major Sights On Your Field Trip

Of course to be able to plan your field trip effectively you need to know what is available for educational visits and experiences in New York.

Luckily, you will find that the major sites such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and One World Tower all have specific sections on their website that you can get access to ahead of time to find out more information and get some resources like lesson plans to use. Similarly, many have guided tours led either by professional tour guides or recordings that will make sure that the kids will get the most out of their visit while they are there.

Field Trip Cultural Attractions

In term of cultural attractions, New York is brimming with options too. Firstly there are ‘the big three’ Museums: MOMA, The Met, and The Guggenheim that host a wealth of exhibitions and workshops that would be an excellent educational experience for kids.

Then there is the theatre district in Manhattan, with its famous playhouses and a range of musicals, plays, opera, and more modern shows.

Of course, it can help a great deal to pick a piece for your class to view that is suitable for their age range and topic interests. For example, you can see the musical Kinky Boots in New York City now on Broadway, a production that could be great for students that are studying music, the 1960’s, gender roles, and even British culture.

There are of course plenty of other show to choose from as well including Disney’s The Lion King, Wicked and The Book of Mormon, among others.

Emphasis On Fun

Lastly, but not least, if you are in New York for more than a day with your class and you have done the educational ‘big hitters,’ you may want to take them to some of the more purely fun places too.

For the younger kids there is now a Legoland Discovery Center in Goshenand for kids of all ages, there is Luna Park on Coney Island. Bronx Zoo is another excellent choice that is both fun and educational as there are many exotic species here including giraffes, sea lions, and even polar bears.

My best advice is to think of something that makes your destination a fantastic choice for your class and might even change your whole teaching experience when you return home from your educational field trip!

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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bring joy

Bring More Joy To Your Life: Happiness Hacks November 2017

Bring Joy To Your Life: Happiness Hacks November 2017

November FLEW by – one minute I’m sneaking Halloween candy, and the next I’m boxing up cornucopias and hanging outdoor Christmas lights! Despite the speed with which I flipped my Hay House affirmation calendar pages, November definitely was a month that brought joy to my life! Surrounded by new adventures, old friends, and loving family, I found joy from California to Washington D.C., and I do wish that my November happiness hacks bring a little joy to your life, too.

Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Time To Travel

bring joy
Sunsets on Carmel Beach are always spectacular.

I love traveling. I hate airplane flights – especially ones over water. This has been my discomfort spot for as long as I can remember, and definitely where I need to put growth mindset into action.

bring joy
Presenting on Hyperdocs at the TGC Educator Summit in Washington, D.C.

This November, I took trips to Carmel, California, Washington D.C. and St. Louis, MO. One of my happiness hacks, when I travel, is to take something from home that makes my day start on the right note: coffee. I travel with either a plastic pour over drip coffee filter or a portable French-press in a travel mug. All I need is a baggie of my favorite ground coffee, some hot water and I’m starting my day off just like at home! Note to self: check hotel cups carefully before heating water in hotel microwave. I nearly evacuated the 24th floor in St. Louis after smoking out my microwave at 6 am – who knew there were metal bands around PAPER coffee cups?

st louis view

Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Happy At Home

bring joy
My babies = bring joy to November.

It’s my daughter’s senior year in college, and so far I’ve been able to get her home for every Thanksgiving. Having her live far away has had its challenges, for sure – but the blessing of devoted family time when she comes home definitely takes a bit of the sting out. Besides our daughter coming home, we filled our house with special aunts and uncles and cousins and dogs…nothing fancy or elaborate, just time together to laugh and share the small moments of life since we were last together. One thing I’ve learned is not to sweat the details about family gatherings, and to accept all the help that is lovingly offered. There is plenty of time during the year when we are lost in our daily routine, and to just relax into the comfort of loved ones is an easy happiness hack to accomplish.

Happiness Hacks For November 2017: A Bit Of Reading Time

I met my Goodreads goal of completing 37 books in 2017! Making reading for pleasure a priority has brought so much simple joy into my life-it’s like channeling all those comforting childhood moments when I would find a space to read and immerse myself in imagination. This month I completed Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve got several of Pam Houston’s novels on my shelves and considering she’s a local UC Davis author, I jumped in. Her realistic fictional short stories about love and life in and out of complicated relationships were easy to read, and just the right size to complete one or two in a sitting. And don’t worry if you’re not a cowboy fan – the emotions are relatable despite any longing for campfires and horseback rides! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of those books that has been recommended by so many people that I was getting embarrassed to say I haven’t read it. Like so many, I whipped through her tale of two French sisters battling during WW2 in vastly different ways. I can’t say that the writing itself was anything too breathtaking, but Hannah manages to carry the reader along an expansive track of the WW2 timeline without losing interest or momentum.I’m currently reading:  Homestead: Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility by Jane Kirkpatrick (love her pioneer stories) and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (must read her latest, too!) – with a dash of Wonder by R.J. Palacio ( I so need to read more YA lit!=) just to mix it up. I’ll finish these three by the end of 2017 just so I get to an even 40!

Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Wise Words

bring joy
St. Louis sunrise over the Mississippi River from my hotel room – a perfect reminder to be present.

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers/writers – Katrina Kenison. She writes her blog, A Gift of An Ordinary Day, at www.katrinakenison.com. I’ve read all of her books, and absolutely absorb every word she writes. This month her post, “A Blessing For Deeper Knowing”, really made me stop and think deeply about who I am and how I integrate into the world around me. She writes, “This work of knowing begins anew each day, with our own quiet recommitment to the truth of the present moment. And truth, of course, begins with me: the truth of who I really am, the truth of what I say and do, the truth of the consequences of every choice I make. So it is for each of us.” Definitely, check out her words-I just know you’ll feel inspired.

Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Teacher Hacks

Along with a month of travel, November was a month of presentations – for my district on Inquiry Learning, for the Teachers for Global Classrooms cohort on Using Hyperdocs, and for the National Council For Teachers of English on Recapturing The Love of Teaching Through Blogging and Social Media. You can see my presentations here:

Inquiry Learning

Using Hyperdocs

Recapturing The Love of Teaching Through Blogging and Social Media

I’m loving working with teachers and districts lately – if you’re interested in having me come to your area, please contact me.

I hope these happiness hacks help you add a bit more joy to your month – have a happy holiday season, and I’ll be back with more in December!

~Jennifer

**A little background on my Happiness Hacks series:

Years ago I started a gratitude journal – just a daily addition to my morning pages that documented the ordinary things that I was grateful for – simple things that made me happy.

During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here. 

In June 2017 I started with my first set of ‘happiness hacks’, and loved the responses I received on the post and on social media. Turns out, you do things to make yourselves happy, too. 

You can read my past monthly “happiness hacks” posts below:

Happiness Hacks For October 2017

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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world travel

World Travel: The Ultimate Learning Experience For Kids

world travelParents know that learning does not start and end in the classroom. Raising your kids with an awareness of the world around them, its many different cultures and the wondrous variety architecture, art, society, religion and of course foods outside of their comfort zone is a hugely important learning experience. World travel is not just a fun adventure, it’s an integral part of raising a child to be an enlightened adult. The rise in digital technology has enabled kids to get a tiny snapshot of life in other countries from the comfort of their home but there’s nothing more formative than immersing one’s self in a completely different culture.

world travel

Yes, I know, I’m a teacher and also advocating for taking kids out of school for travel. While a vacation is useful in gaining an understanding of different cultures there’s really no substitute for living among them for a few weeks or even months; some parents take their kids out of school for a short time to live and work abroad. I’m continually impressed with the students I meet who are brought to our town by parents studying at the university, or relocating in search of better life opportunities. If world travel or moving abroad is something that you’re considering there are some key considerations:

The benefits for kids

All kids have a combination of different learning styles and total immersion into a foreign culture can appeal to them on a visual, audial and kinesthetic level. What better learning experience is there than being surrounded by different styles of architecture, new languages and a whole new range of foods? I love watching my kids take chances on new foods and living situations!

world travel

Many parents use their kids’ summer break as an opportunity to undergo this travel experience but if you’re taking your kids out of school, you’ll need to find appropriate activities to supplement their learning. Finding galleries and museums through which they can absorb some local culture and history is always a good idea; learning to converse with locals in their own language is not only a great way to get kids to learn by doing, it is hugely appreciated. 

Keep your home safe without compromising your finances

Cost is a prohibitive factor for many parents when it comes to taking their kids overseas, but don’t let it put you off. This family of four managed it on just $130 a day. However, nobody wants to compromise their travels by worrying about how the mortgage is going to get paid. Many families rent out their home to a tenant and keep their stuff in storage while they’re away. Getting in touch with a local company like MyBekins local moving services will help to make the arrangement less stressful. Most companies will even come and collect your stuff, too! Of course, it’s important to ensure that a secure lease agreement is established between yourself and your new tenant for everyone’s protection.

Plan around your kids

world travel

Since world travel requires you to take your kids away from their school and social circle for months you owe it to them to tailor the experience to their particular needs. Your choice of locations should be age appropriate for your kids and allow them to engage with the culture with confidence and in safety. Given how negatively developing minds can react to change you can mitigate this effect by selecting countries that your kids have an interest in. It is surprising to me when my students share that they had absolutely no participation in (or knowledge of) their travels- planning the trip is such an important part of the experience!

WIth proper planning and consideration, not only will your kids learn a great deal from world travel, you’ll become closer as a family for the experience. It’s a win-win!

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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There Is No Controlling Life: Poetry by Donna Faulds

Last summer, my son and I made our third adventure to Nicaragua.

If I tried to tell you why I keep going back, I don’t know that I could.

It isn’t an easy trip, physically, emotionally, or mentally.

It isn’t a place many people travel as tourists or find their hearts pulling them towards – unless you’ve experienced the magic.

The first time I decided to go, back in 2010, I couldn’t explain the pull. I brought my children and traveled as part of a group of strangers. Everything about the experience was pushing me outside my comfort zone.

And when I came back, my life changed.

I discovered this poem that comes the closest to expressing the visceral pull I felt, and still feel, to travel to Nicaragua. Each trip I’ve wondered if it will be my last time gazing out into the green mountainsides, the final time walking the dusty roads. I wonder if I’ll ever wake under mosquito netting to the sound of roosters, church bells, and fireworks at midnight, or if I’ll ever again taste the sweetness of a freshly picked mango after hiking through a finca.

I know there is no controlling life, but boy, do I hope I find my way back again.

I share these words as a gift of beauty, tenderness, and hope amidst dark times in our world. May you always remember the extraordinary, ordinary moments of every magical day.

 

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.

 

There Is No Controlling Life

Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.

Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.

There Is No Controlling Life

The only safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures, and success.

There Is No Controlling Life

When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice becomes simply bearing the truth.

There Is No Controlling Life

In the choice to let go of your known way of being, the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.

~ Donna Faulds

I found this tender poem on the website, A 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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