“Afterlight”: Found Poetry

Posted on February 28, 2023 by

In the process of slowing down, it is infinitely simpler and easier to notice the beauty around me. The grey rainy skies blend into the rooftops and bare-branched honey locust trees in my backyard, afterlight echoing a hollowing, a sense of endings and beginnings shifting in and out of each other.

I found these words in music as I journaled on one of these winter mornings, finding myself instinctively guided to listening, shaping, shirting, and creating how I am feeling in this present moment.

I hope you pause a moment, look around, and see what speaks to you, too. Creating found poetry is simple, calming, and creative.

“Afterlight”: Found Poetry by Jennifer Wolfe

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

To Be A Writer Today Is To Have Lived

Posted on October 18, 2022 by

“We have lived! Our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history.”
― Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Nearly a year ago, I stopped writing. It wasn’t a conscious decision – no date circled on the calendar determined the last post. I didn’t change my mind about being a writer. I don’t think I was even aware that it would be the last writing I would do.

It just simply stopped.

Instead of writing being what got me through, helped me understand, and kept me grounded in ritual and routine, it changed into worry, tension, rumination, and simply hard work.

Writing is one of those threads of life for me, weaving in and out of decades of journals and essays. Through school assignments, work creations, poetry, social media, blogs, and abandoned book drafts, I can see the ebb of my writing energy is almost predictable with the firsts and lasts. The thought of getting out of my journal and into the public space seizes me and shuts me down.

It took me four decades of writing to publish publicly; now, another decade later on this blog, it’s nearly dried up.

It’s frustrating to feel like I’m moving backward, that the effort, energy, and practice that became routine was so easy to release. The rigor and ritual shifted outside of me, distracting me from the inner voice that knew I could do better.


The last ten years have seen rapid-fire firsts and last, some part of the expected rhythm of life, some more like a sneaker tsunami, catching me off guard and knocking me flat.

It would be easy to pass the blame around like a bad game of gin rummy – I mean, who hasn’t felt the overwhelm of the last few years knock them flat once in a while?

Feeling like everything we knew that was solid suddenly shifted to muck, mess, mud, and madness will do that to us.

In those moments of hopelessness, I panicked when I knew I should stretch the muscles instead of retreat when easing myself back into a place of writing for myself and you would be the right move. I couldn’t follow through, so I stopped.

In these times, maybe that’s just how it is. Perhaps the lure of high hopes merely triggers the descent into a plate of salty french fries, sticky and decadent. Telling ourselves that next month it will be better…next year it has to change. Forgoing new year’s resolutions as bullshit, especially for folks like me who fight perfectionism, the invisible ruler measuring us up against some other sparkly face.

Stories and reflections on life became lists of gratitudes, rigorously challenging me to find a daily five. I forced myself into the softness of my leopard print meditation cushion, resting back on the red pillow. Falling snowflakes in my mind followed me through my days, twinkle lights lit the walls of my writing-room-now-home office. My refuge, my sacred space covered with butterflies, wood, and painted, feathered, and blue-blown glass, was not enough to lure me back to the published page. I lost what it feels like to be a writer.

Butterflies and journaling

I like the idea of a writer ‘living twice’ – once in real-time and again on the page. The idea of living life again through words reminds me time is valuable, fleeting, and glorious. That holding on, carefully cradling words and moments is not bad – it is a writer thing. Carrying the slow person inside me who needs more time is exactly what I need to do right now.

Time to breathe, read, meditate, pet my dog and chat with a friend. Be mindful of time to journal, exercise, eat, and clean the kitchen twice daily.

I need to write and get grounded, starting when it’s time for me – not for some invisible clock ticking inside my heart.


Recently I dreamed I was on an epic journey, an escape from one country to another. I was told it would be hard and dangerous, but if I followed directions I would make it.

Immediately, my glasses malfunctioned, and I had to trust others to lead me. I had to leave everything behind except a diamond hidden in my pocket. Crawling through the tiniest of tunnels, prone and trying not to panic, simply trusting that if I kept going I would come out the other side.

Somehow I did, but the danger was not over.

As I exited into the light, the enemy came and taking a risk, I went down another tunnel alone. This tunnel was much wider and more open, with no light at the end.

I felt the enemy behind me, scraping the soggy ground as I moved forward…into a joyful place.

The writer’s journey

Maybe this is the writer’s journey I’m on. Perhaps the path to writing, to living our moments as they are, as we want to, and remembering there is movement and energy behind us is what life’s rhythms are all about right now.

I don’t know where I am with writing. Looking back through that tunnel feels like another life, a letting go.

At this moment, writing is like carrying that diamond in my pocket. Trusting that all I have is all I need right now. Like lifting the lockdown and giving myself the time and permission to let my mind loose, wander, think, and connect.

To start over again, one word at a time, and see who’s still with me.

Wandering with Cameron

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

teacher tired

Teacher Tired: When November Feels Like April

Posted on November 21, 2021 by

Teacher tired is a real thing. I’m not going to argue the details here – I’ve shared thoughts about why teachers need the summer off, and how hard it is to take a sub day pre-pandemic.

I’m talking about November 2021 teacher tired – an overwhelming, frustration-laden, overworked, and undersupported teacher tired where educators feel like the first eight weeks of school feels like eight months. Where this November, when classrooms typically get into their sweet spot of systems in place, positive vibes all around, we have educators sick, tired, and telling us that they are not all right. That they don’t see how they will make it to the end of the school year intact.

Teachers I know are asking questions they know there isn’t an answer to, like “How can I teach the content when they won’t sit down?”, “Why are juniors in high school running around campus playing tag instead of going to class on time?”, “How can I plan engaging lessons when I’m being asked to sub for classes during my prep time?”, “Why won’t my district pay me overtime to attend professional development workshops after hours”, “How do I teach freshmen high school level curriculum when their reading level is 3rd grade?”, “Where do I even start in the classroom if students are physically and sexually assaulting each other?”, “How do I find enough adults to supervise the bathrooms so they aren’t vandalized?”

Yep, I heard all those questions during a two-hour support visit with one school this week. And I heard them the day before, and the day before that.

It’s the stuff of teacher nightmares, folks. And we’re asking our educators to live them every single day.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? Wondering how I could be telling the truth, knowing that I’m not standing in my own classroom every day? JUST ASK A TEACHER.

I haven’t met one that tells me that this year is better than last year – a year when we couldn’t see our students face to face and were spending hours digitizing, posting, re-creating, and supervising our own family situations while managing to teach to a screen of black boxes for 8 hours a day.

Yep – this year is worse. And teachers are TIRED – and it’s November.

When I wrote my post “The Teachers Are Not All Right” I was expecting that teachers would agree – and hoping that teacher allies would share, that parents would get a glimpse into what’s happening at schools. I was wanting to make this crisis visible.

What I got was all that – and also so much sadness. It honestly leaves me searching for what to do, how to respond to those questions I get every day. As a coach, I’m doing a lot of listening, looking teachers in the eye, and telling them I hear them. Telling administrators that they, too, have a nearly impossible position of supporting their staff without really having a great way to solve the challenges going on.

I just keep thinking of Finding Nemo, when Dory’s solution is ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.’ But Dory wasn’t in a tsunami of trauma.

Are you a teacher? How are you feeling right now?

Opening my Twitter feed I see teachers in such pain, making choices they didn’t imagine: “Well, that’s me done. My 15 years…ending with me crawling away, broken and damaged…I tried, but wasn’t strong enough,” “It’s everything else that comes with teaching that makes me wonder if I want to spend the rest of my life doing it,” and “Teachers are exhausted because we’re trying to uphold and teach humanity during a time of intense dehumanization…there are many things that exhaust us physically and mentally about the job, but that’s the one that’s exhausting my soul and spirit.”

What are we doing to teachers? How is this in any way ok or sustainable?

The answer is, it is not. The teachers are not all right. And folks, if you don’t care about that, or if you think teachers should stop complaining, let me tell you – if the TEACHERS are NOT all right, the STUDENTS are NOT all right.

There’s more – read and really listen to comments from my last post:

“Thank you for writing this. I am in. Year 32 at my school and I am NOT okay, and neither are my colleagues.”

“In my work with teachers, I have had so many of my district’s quality veterans questioning if they will return after this year – some have even suggested Christmas break would be the end for them. It’s a complete mess out there.”

“I don’t know how to get myself out of this cycle. I could go work any number of trade jobs, and probably make at least as much money (and maybe better benefits). I don’t know that I will make it as a teacher after this year.”

“I love my students. I love my colleagues. I love my classroom and I love teaching. And yet, it is hard to focus on these things with the weight of everything behind the scenes that is now getting public attention. No one pulled back the curtain – the behind-the-scenes has just gotten so big it’s spilling out everywhere and is exhausting and overwhelming.”

“My school is a mess. No accountability leaves teachers and students at risk. We had one teacher just give two weeks’ notice…it makes me so sad to see how broken our schools are. It is unfair that teachers are scapegoats. TEACHERS ARE NOT ALL RIGHT! Nail-head. BAM!”

What is it going to take to fix this? It IS going to get worse before it gets better. But seriously, can’t WE do BETTER?

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

The Teachers are NOT All Right

Posted on October 30, 2021 by

It’s been eleven months since I ‘closed’ the door to my classroom and left teaching in my public school district. Thirty years of working with middle school kids, sharing my love of reading, writing, and supporting the social and emotional needs of kids ended during the pandemic, during remote teaching and learning, leaving a big hole in my heart.

I left that teaching job because the teachers – including me – were not all right. We were overwhelmed, overworked, under-compensated, and misunderstood, attempting to keep education going in a time when everything else was standing still, when workers were being pushed to the limits everywhere and families struggled to figure out how to keep it all together. Teachers went from being ‘heroes’ in March 2020 after moving from in-person to remote learning basically overnight, to scapegoats for all the stress and disruption kids were experiencing. We were in families living rooms, at their kitchen tables, and, judging from my experience, often left wondering what was really happening behind those black Zoom boxes we taught to.

Sadly, since leaving that teaching job, not much has improved for teachers. In fact, it’s gotten much, much worse.

The media doesn’t see what I see now – and they certainly don’t focus on what’s really happening. Districts aren’t reaching out with praise for educators, they’re not ‘pivoting’ towards innovation that might alleviate stress. In my current position supporting AVID programs in eight Northern California school districts, I see it loud and clear.

The teachers are NOT all right.

So let me take a moment to share what I DO see, and then let’s have educators share what it’s really like to be a teacher in October 2021:



I see FEAR.


I see feelings of INADEQUACY.


I see teachers leaving the profession they trained for, dreamed of, committed to, and are now wondering ‘What else can I do because I cannot do this one. more. day.”

Teachers are walking out of schools

Teachers are walking out of schools – not resigning with two weeks’ notice, not taking ‘mental health days’ – just leaving.

And teachers don’t quit easily. We’ve shouldered education on our backs for generations, quietly putting in the extra hours, the money out of our pockets, and sacrificing our ‘personal time’ to do what needs to be done.

Pre-pandemic I wrote about the misconception of ‘summers off’ – ask any “TK” (teacher’s kid) about the overtime worked during the school year grading papers during soccer practices or on the weekends, the after-school meetings/conferences/classroom cleaning/lesson prep/mental preoccupation we all battle with. Teachers are NOT quitters – far from it.

But this year, 99% of the teachers I talk to every single day have told me that this year, 2021, is THE HARDEST year of their careers. In June 2021 no one expected school would be struggling with COVID quarantine protocols, lack of subs, job vacancies, and the student challenges of ‘doing school’ again – to say we had an optimistic outlook is putting it mildly.

In October 2021, what is actually happening in education is:

  • multiple classrooms are without permanent teachers
  • A huge lack of support staff – bus drivers, cafeteria workers, yard duties – all the people that make school run smoothly and safely outside the classroom. Districts cannot hire people for these positions.
  • NO subsititutes, anywhere
  • teachers working on their preps to cover classes, or taking in extra students to compensate for the lack of staff
  • administrators, district office staff, counselors ‘teaching’ classes instead of doing their jobs
  • teachers attempting to teach kids who have missed learning for 18 months, leaving gaps that require extreme differentiation in overenrolled classes
  • schools striving to attend to students’ social and emotional needs in order to have a chance at implementing a rigorous curriculum this year
  • students who are suffering from the trauma of COVID, from inconsistency in systems and personnel, and a lack of time and support for teachers to learn, design and implement lessons to meet them where they are.

To be very clear – this is NOT the teachers’ fault. And yet, they are dealing with the brunt of it every single day.

Tragically, I’m seeing teachers apologize for not doing or being ‘enough’. Teachers make choices between their mental health and their students. Sick teachers feel unable to take adequate time off to heal because with no subs, the class coverage defaults to their colleagues and that’s unthinkable.

Teachers battle the same personal challenges as everyone else – parenting, divorce, physical and mental health issues. They’re being asked to plan, teach, assess and perform as normal pre-pandemic expectations, which were unsustainable then, and impossible now.


If this blog post alarms you, then I’ve done my job. We need to acknowledge what is going on, to stop beating up school districts and barraging board meetings with arguments about mask mandates, and we need to protect educators and kids from becoming sick and help them feel safe, happy, and productive in our schools.

We need to do what’s best for kids to be EDUCATED.

The teachers are NOT all right. The administrators are NOT all right.

And most importantly, the KIDS are NOT all right.

I challenge you to speak up, speak out, and share what’s really going on in education right now. Leave a comment and tell us what you see, or what you can do to make a difference.

This work isn’t going to be easy. But it’s going to be worth it.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

What Have You Made This Year?

Posted on May 16, 2021 by

Three months into my new job, I’ve made some discoveries about teacher and students and education – and myself. Now that I’m no longer in the classroom every day, I’ve had some space to think about the larger education community, and the impact the pandemic, remote learning, and now hybrid teaching have had on us.

I’m noticing a HUGE sense of exhaustion, regret, looking to the past and focusing on what “normally” happens that didn’t happen in the last fifteen months.

Educators are having trouble making themselves feel successful about education. It’s understandable – what we’ve been asked to do is unprecedented, undervalued and over the top of what any teaching contract outlines.

Educators – teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff – have all given everything they have to make this year come close to “normal”.

And, with the grind of “pivoting” their instruction, digitizing lessons and books and lab materials, engaging students hiding behind black Zoom boxes since March 2020, and now facing the ‘learning loss’ that will be documented for us thanks to standardized testing, educators are struggling.

So what do we do to support each other? To create a space of safety, community and acceptance for educators?

That’s what I thought of as I opened Katrina Kenison’s March 16, 2021 post, asking “What Have You Made This Year”?

If you don’t know Katrina’s work, you’re in for a delightful experience. Katrina, a published author of several books, a mother and wife, and a believer in “celebrating the gift of each ordinary day” has brought clarity and thought-provoking writing to me. And in the March 16 post, I responded in the comments with this:

This year, I made space for my self. Amidst all the cramped physical and mental space of the shelter-in-place, I found the space to be still. To turn off the Zoom classes and stop grading papers, to make space to meditate, to watch the squirrels try their best to upend my birdfeeders, and to see my adult children strive to adapt to the changes in college, wedding plans, and living spaces. Through it all, my self has been given wings to try out – and the space to fly.

I didn’t respond not only because I wanted to read the book Katrina was offering. Rather, I wanted to be part of the magic I saw in her simple acknowledgement of what she HAD made, what brought her ordinary joy and beauty despite the tragedy exploding all around us.

And surprisingly, I won the book anyways.

Katrina writes of author Beth Kephart, who published a memoir titled “Wife/Daughter/Self: A Memoir In Essays”:

How do we become the people we are?  How are we shaped by those we love, by those who hurt us, by those who see us more clearly than we see ourselves? How do we choose one path over another, releasing our grip on old dreams even as we’re compelled to envision new ones?

How do time, pain, love, and loss finally pare away all that isn’t needed, leaving behind the essence of a self, a truth, a way onward? Is it possible to write one’s way into understanding and acceptance, into healing, into faith that who we are and what we do is enough?

Being in community with Katrina and Beth makes me feel like making something is possible, even now when like so many educators, I’m feeling drained and depleted and need to mentally and physically coerce myself to my writing desk every morning. It’s not easy, putting aside the tumult of the world and allow for words to flow out, to go back through journals and posts and manuscript drafts to make sense of decades of thoughts about teaching and parenting. But that’s what I’m doing, inch by inch.

I’m trying to make something positive out of this year. Are you?

A few things I’ve made along the way:

  1. I made videos for my students to say hello when we started remote learning in March 2020:

2. I made bread..lots and lots of bread:

3. I made vases of garden flowers to bring the outside in:

4. I made time for exploring:

5. I made yard decorations for graduating high school seniors:

6. I made extraordinary discoveries on my walks:

7. I made masks:

8. I made new teaching spaces:

9. I made a new way to do the first day of school:

10. I made surprising discoveries in new books:

11. I made opportunities for kids to collaborate and have fun online:

listen to the joy!

12. I made a trip to the beach to see my mom:

13. I made time for sunsets in favorite places:

14. I made Christmas memories:

15. I made a job change:

16. I made myself happy:

17. I made myself present:

18. I made a road trip to see my daughter…finally:

19. I made coffee…lots and lots of coffee:

20. I made promises to myself:

It turns out, the last year wasn’t a loss at all. I made more than I thought…and I’m feeling courageous about the future.

What about you? What have you made in the last year?

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp