Category: Home Feature

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Why I Left The Classroom During a Pandemic

Posted on March 1, 2021 by

On January 25, 2021, I closed my classroom door for the last time. After 30 years, during a pandemic, I decided to stop teaching junior high.

It wasn’t because I’m retiring, and it wasn’t because I had to. The pandemic itself wasn’t why I left the classroom either. I’m not moving, there’s not been a major crisis in my life or family; nor has there been a major event that would require me to leave a job – a calling – that I’ve dedicated the majority of my life to.

During the Pandemic

March 13, 2020, was the last day students walked into room A-1. They had a substitute that day – I called in sick, challenged to handle the anxiety the as-yet-to-be-named pandemic was causing. I felt vulnerable, unable to protect myself from what I sensed was a bigger issue than my district was acknowledging. They said they were ‘cleaning’, but I was skeptical of the degree that was really happening. I couldn’t risk bringing home any virus. I felt unseen. Unheard. Expendable.

My initial supplies, purchased by me, Ha.

The sad part of that day, for me, was not knowing that it would be the last one I spent face-to-face with my students. We were finally in our rhythm; teachers savor the last third of the school year when we see all our efforts at establishing systems, trust, and building relationships really bloom. It’s the time of year when I feel change is really happening, in a good way.

Gift on the last day from a new student – not because we were leaving, but because she knew I cared about her. I wonder how she’s doing now…

It was a time when 2020 still felt hopeful.

March 2020 calendar quote

Life interruptions happen. We might think we are going with the flow of life, moving in and out of the weather patterns that some days have us throwing our arms wide open to the sun, and others that force us to stay inside, hunkering down, waiting for the sky to clear.

It definitely wasn’t the first time in 30 years that I’d thought about leaving the classroom. When my babies were born, I felt the shift, the push and pull between career and motherhood. I did step away, actually, three different times when L and C were little. But what was different then was that I felt like I’d always come back. The door wasn’t closed on the part of me that was meant to be a teacher.


What made it feel so different this time was not just the pandemic, not just teaching virtually, not being asked to pack it up and turn decades worth of instruction, experiences that relied on the human connection, to magic behind a screen. “Pivot” became an over-used, annoying phrase – how do I ‘pivot’ the eye to eye instincts that develop when I’m greeting kids at the door?

It was all that – yes – and also an affirmation that our country lacks support for teachers. That it’s really a lot of talk, with teachers not in the conversation, and when it comes down to it, many of us are left to improve our craft on our own time. We are forced to just do it, to jump into an educational space without any safety nets. To ‘pivot’ into the unknown. To orchestrate a symphony without ever playing an instrument.

And ultimately, when the notes become off key, and the rhythm breaks, it’s on us.

Pandemic Games

It’s not a team sport, this career of teaching. As we rounded the virtual bases last spring, some of us were greeted with standing ovations, overwhelming thanks and gratitude. It was all over the media, this honoring of teachers. And as the applause faded and pandemic reality set in, grudges replaced gratitude. People wanted somewhere to place their anger, frustration, and yes, grief.

Come September, we were demoted to rookie status again. The star players became the people behind the desks, not the screens – the easy hitters who determined how we would do our work without every picking up a bat. The ones who told us they were doing everything to protect us – everything except coaching us through.

Forget about spring training. Forget about spending the summer cutting our losses and muscling up for the game we knew was coming in the fall – school districts like mine expected that somehow teachers would do it all on their own time. They refused to think outside the box, to support teachers with professional learning and expected that it would simply be ok.

And it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

I’ve been training myself – and any teacher who would listen – on how to use educational technology in the classroom for nearly a decade. I’ve attended conferences, read, listened, watched, tried, and failed repeatedly. I did it because it was the right thing to do – to continue to develop my craft. My students and I have seen success and challenges with digital integration. And that still didn’t prepare me to accept the heavy workload of teaching virtually.

The Pandemic Teaching Reality

It didn’t prepare me to see the stress, the anxiety, the tears and rage teachers felt.

I saw teachers giving up. Exhausted. Paralyzed with the fear of what they didn’t know.

I saw teachers pounding their desks in frustration, sobbing into breakout rooms and coaching sessions.

I felt the joy leak out of teaching. And consequently, the joy seeped out of my life, too. I’m a ‘do-er’. I like to help, to solve problems, to make life a smoother path for those around me.

And the Universe opened a new door like it always does. I walked through, and into a place I didn’t expect yet always hoped to be. Not in a classroom.

You know how sometimes when you feel everything fall into place? When the big scary things holding you back before somehow melt away, and all you’re left with is what’s right here, right now, and you know exactly what you need to do, and you feel the ease and flow of the world gently moving you along and it is just. So. Right?

And Then, I Was Out

I took a month to close up my classroom – to sort through the memories, to pack the parts of teaching that I wasn’t quite ready to recycle. I smiled a lot. Alone in my room, I walked through thirty years of voices, of words, of emotions and energy and let it ride in and out and through me until I knew I was done.

It was surprisingly easy to let ‘it’ all go. I think when we get still and silent with ourselves, we find our direction. Even when we’re sheltered in place.

Goodbye, Eagles

On the way out for the last time, I paused and snapped one last photo. I didn’t want a selfie – I wanted to remember the door, the space that opened to me and so many others that joined me in love and learning.

Walking down the hallway, I didn’t look back. Not once. I didn’t cry, or laugh, or shout.

Taking a deep breath, I closed the door and walked outside. The sun was starting to set. There was a young man, practicing his skateboard ollies in the parking lot. He looked over at me, and I smiled.

Teaching isn’t about what’s left in there, I thought. It’s about what’s left in me.

And I’m not quite done.

I have a feeling I’ll be writing more about this – leaving a job you loved doesn’t come without it’s own internal power struggle. It doesn’t come without questions. What I’ve done in the last year, like so many, feels still out of focus and unfinished. Dreamlike.

Like being in the same chair, the same space, the same me – with a different Zoom.

Front yard surprise decorations from former students on my last day

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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