Tag: education

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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Anti-Racist Teaching and Justice

Posted on January 30, 2021 by

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s tough to think about the damage done during the last presidency. I remember in 2017 being devastated at the election results and then deciding to choose optimism.

That didn’t last long. Watching people I love, and people I don’t know, live in fear, anxiety, and pessimism is heart-wrenching and exhausting. What Trump impacted on our country hit us hard in education; we teach developing humans who watch and listen and sometimes question. We teach everyone who walks through our door, and for the last year, we did it during a pandemic that didn’t have to happen.

Mostly, the kids I taught struggled with understanding why there was so much hate, injustice, and blatant cruelty in America. To kids, it’s much more obvious in some ways – they learn right from wrong, they learn to be kind and share, and when they don’t see that reflected in their world it’s hard to comprehend. And extremely hard to explain to them – especially from one side of a computer screen, not able to look them in the eyes, give them a hug or high five, and reassure them that they and their family will be ok. That people really ARE good at heart.

And now again with a new president, a female woman of color for our vice-president, and a cabinet that looks more like MY America, I am once again optimistic. I feel a bit lighter. A bit more hopeful that we can be better than we ever have been. That we can begin to break down the systemic racism in our country. That we can all be anti-racist.

I’m not naive – I know what we are seeing in the news really IS our America. It’s not the America I want to live in, but it is where we are now. We have work to do – hard work – and educators can – and should – be huge players. Education IS political. We need to teach our children about racism, show them how it has shaped our country, and expose them to how it impacts our world today. We need to confront it, not conform to it. We need to challenge our young thinkers to make sense of what they see and experience and create opportunities for kids to make change happen – one small step at a time.

Are you an anti-racist teacher?

Not sure where to start, or how to keep going? I’ve been thinking that sharing some simple strategies and lessons that have worked in my classroom might just help “implement the demands of justice”. Here you go!

Start with books

Read alouds: My 7th graders LOVE to be read to, both during face to face learning, and even more during the distance learning we’ve been in. I use a combination of picture books and chapter books. I start my back to school read alouds with picture books – I focus on diversity of voice and the themes of empathy and inclusion. Here’s a link to get you started: Back to school read aloud picture book list.

I’ve typically followed the Global Read Aloud suggestions for chapter books in the last few years – last year we loved The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, and this year’s choice, Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park was a perfect fit alongside the backdrop of the pandemic and racial justice issues in the U.S. Check out my Wakelet collection to help you build your classroom stack.

Another strategy is to try First Chapter Friday selections – I choose books from all genres with a focus on writers telling stories of marginalized groups in society. I’ve found that using clips of the author reading their work, when available, adds impact – when my students see people that look like them reading their stories, they are inspired to read – and WRITE!

And of course, offering choice – getting kids to learn to love reading means allowing them to have access to a diverse classroom library and agency over what and how they read – any genre, any format. Audio books and graphic novels ARE READING!

Use this link for Pernille Ripp’s Favorite Reads of 2020 – she’s always inspiring and spot on with her recommendations.

Build and maintain positive relationships

Kids need to be able to feel safe and trust that they can express themselves in order to do anti-racist teaching and learning. It starts by listening to your students – what are they passionate about? What’s at the top of their mind?

Ask for reflection and feedback – always. It’s one way kids know you care about them. And be SURE to act on their responses so they feel heard. I love to use this SEL check in form with my students – it’s their ‘do now’ at the start of class and gives me a quick glimpse at how they are, and who needs a deeper check-in.

Teach Empathy and Justice

My first unit of the year is always about empathy. This All Are Welcome HyperDoc allows students to gently understand the concept of empathy and explore how they see it in the world around them. The application of their learning in a collaborative picture book cements the validity of their perspectives while at the same time elevates picture book status in their eyes!

Lisa Highfill offered some Anti-Racist HyperDocs – take a look at Nadia Razi’s  lessons as well as two live shows recorded by the HyperDoc girls on the topic of justice and anti-racist teaching:

Keep learning

Teachers need to be active learners. The world is changing – we cannot rely on outdated textbooks and teaching strategies. Just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right for right now.

Do your research. Read CURRENT information on anti-racist teaching pedagogy. Read books – biographies, memoirs, non-fiction, poetry, and fiction written by BIPOC. The following are a few resources I find helpful:

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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distance teaching

Distance Teaching & Learning: The 4c’s for Making It Successful

Posted on August 2, 2020 by

Distance teaching and learning is different from face to face teaching and learning. It’s the truth.

I’ve spent the entire summer facilitating courses for educators on Digital Teaching and Learning. I’m seeing many educators start to panic about not knowing how to start thinking and planning about beginning a new school year online.

The COVID chasm I wrote about a few weeks ago is real, and it’s terrifying. Teachers everywhere are trying to rethink, remake, redo all that they’ve ever known about teaching. We know this may go on for a semester at more.

What are the 4 C’s of distance teaching?

In California, most districts are starting the year virtually. This requires us to reimagine our back to school routines. I believe there are 4c’s to define the best practices of distance teaching and learning: community, connection, collaboration, and competency.

Taking a look at each of these will help teachers breathe more easily. It will help parents trust the school system and ensure students have the best possible start to the 2020-21 school year.

Distance Teaching = COMMUNITY

So many teachers are frightened about never having met our students face to face and trying to create a classroom community. But think about it – how many virtual spaces are there where we connect with people we don’t see every day? Do you participate in social media groups? Have you taken online classes or done Zoom yoga groups? Did you ever use a VCR to do a workout, or maybe you’ve even done online dating?

Today’s kids see virtual communities differently. Fanfiction groups thrive and survive on the social connections and dedication of members. Classrooms can be the same! Social-emotional learning is important at the start of the year. It’s also crucial to embed into EVERY SINGLE lesson and student contact.

What does SEL mean?

Check out the CASEL competencies for detailed info, but in summary, pay attention. Ask questions. Listen to your students. Comment and give feedback. Show your personality. Crowdsource feedback and ideas from your students. I’m a huge fan of HyperDocs. I make sure that as I design every learning cycle I’m embedding deliberate entry points for student choice, voice, and feedback.

In synchronous meetings, use icebreakers, polls, discussion questions, photo sharing, read alouds, videos and games EVERY TIME.

It’s a ‘pay it forward’ way of thinking – that first five minutes you spend intentionally connecting with students as they enter your virtual class, while they’re ‘getting ready’ and as you end the session will PAY OFF BIG TIME! The conferencing space IS your classroom space – do what you’d do face to face.

Distance Teaching = CONNECTION

Connection goes hand in hand with SEL, and also should be extended to TEACHER connection and PARENT connection.

Teachers need to feel supported. They need to learn self-care strategies, how to set work/home boundaries, how to develop routines, and where to share their glows and grows. One way to create teacher connection is to curate spaces – my favorites are Google Classroom and Wakelet. Using Google Classroom to set up a safe space for virtual PD allows teachers to enter on their own or during virtual meetups. Housing articles, videos, tech tips, and discussion threads help teachers focus on pertinent topics while having access to resources and reflection time.

What’s Wakelet?

Wakelet helps curate collections of resources and can be shared, and/or curated as a community. I love sharing my collections on Assessment ideas, Google Classroom Tips, HyperDocs, and Diverse Reading Lists.

An added bonus of using Google Classroom and Wakelet is allowing teachers to explore new systems that can then be transferred to student use or creation.

Parents need connection, too – Wakelet would be a powerful tool to share tech training how-to videos, Google Calendar appointment sign ups, websites – really anything that you want parents to use to ‘see’ inside your classroom!

Distance Teaching = COLLABORATION

Distance learning shifts the way we collaborate. Students NEED to connect with others – collaboration on projects allows for shared critical thinking, communication, and a deeper connection with school – as long as WHAT they’re collaborating on is engaging, relevant, and rigorous. consider tech tools to foster collaboration like Padlet and Flipgrid. Check out this fabulous collaboration resource created by Steve Wick!

For teachers, collaboration through Professional Learning Communities, not just in your school but worldwide, offers opportunities to share academic, pedagogical, and personal ideas. Many social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are turning to groups and hashtags to connect educators; my favorite collaboration site is Twitter.

Educators find ideas via hashtags searches, groups, direct messages, and Twitter chats – in fact, I hosted a WeVideo Twitter chat on ‘Podcasting and Student Creativity” in hopes of sharing and collecting new ideas for student podcasting projects!

If you’re interested in podcasting you can see the archive of ideas here.

What else can teachers do?

Taking an online class, webinar, or book study helps teachers connect and collaborate over topics of interest. Also, it puts teachers in the point of view of students – what better way to ‘feel’ what it’s like for our own students to be in a virtual classroom! Consider getting Google Certified (Kasey Bell has great resources here) or taking tech tool certifications. Perhaps join your local CUE affiliate, or attend virtual conferences or edchats – all ways to not feel so all alone in distance teaching while making new friends at the same time (see, I told you community is built online!).

For students, authentic collaboration needs to happen in synchronous and asynchronous time. In web conferences, consider using breakout rooms, if possible. Many face to face strategies, like give one, get one, can be done in with the chat feature. Utilizing UDL lesson design with HyperDocs allows the teacher to build in collaboration within a lesson or unit using a variety of digital tools. Sarah Landis created a compilation of UDL resources in this slide deck!

Distance Teaching = COMPETENCY

Competency means taking a look at how we not only train teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff in best practices for digital teaching and learning, but also onboarding our students and parents with digital basics. We need to intentionally TEACH structures, tools, and systems to ensure student success. Also, creating a standardized design for students to access assignments in your LMS, writing, and recording directions for each assignment helps create strong organizational systems. Creating a teacher website to share access points also helps students achieve systematic competency.

Then, ensuring consistent lesson design that features frequent, familiar strategies like those found in EduProtocols can help students move from feeling overwhelmed with new strategies and content every time. Students know when a teacher says “Iron Chef” how to approach content. One of my favorite sites is using Google’s Applied Digital Skills. I can either use or modify their lessons, embedding digital tools into the curriculum, and building up my student’s digital toolbox.

How many tools do teachers need?

Teachers don’t need to have a new tool for every lesson. Just like cooking meals for the family, you don’t have to try a new recipe 365 days a year. Take the one you like, use content in a new way, and continue to modify. And always have a solid fall back – I call that lesson the ‘macaroni and cheese’ for when I need something solid and tasty to fall back on, that doesn’t require a lot of creativity on my end.

I hope sometime we can stop calling this experience ‘distance teaching and learning’ and just remember it’s TEACHING and LEARNING. Yes, our methodology may look different, but we need to remember that we have good strategies we already know – the trick is to switch them into a digital space. Trust your instincts. You can do this. You WILL build community in your virtual space. Your students are looking for you to show up and SEE them…whether it’s through a camera, on a screen, or face to face.

We’re teachers – it’s our super power!

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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Podcast PD- Twitter Chat #whatsyourstory

Posted on July 26, 2020 by

#whatsyourstory poddcast

Are you wanting some PD before school starts? Wondering how to do projects in distance learning? Would you like to podcast with your students?

I’m inviting you to a Twitter chat I’m hosting on Monday – I’ll be working with WeVideo to share podcasting ideas on their #whatsyourstory chat at 4:00 p.m. PST. You should join us!

Here’s a peek at the questions – if you can’t make it live, please schedule your responses starting at 4:05 and every 5 minutes after we’ll start a new question! You can also search #whatsyourstory later to see the amazing dialogue I’m sure we’ll have!

podcast WeVideo

If you’re looking for some pre-created free podcasting lessons, check out my links below:

Podcasting Project HyperDoc

Kids Take Action Project HyperDoc

Can You Hear Me Now podcast intro project

Another great resource for podcasting as well as other video projects is WeVideo’s book called “WeVideo Every Day: 40 Strategies to Deepen Learning in Any Class” by Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad, and my podcasting lesson is featured!


I’ve written about podcasting on mamawolfe before – check out some of my previous posts for more ideas and detailed walk throughs of how I podcast in my classroom!

Podcast In the Classroom with WeVideo

Podcasting: Why You Need To Try It

WeVideo: Creating Audio and Video Projects on Chromebooks

I sure hope to see you on the Twitter chat, or to connect with you afterward on Twitter or Instagram!

Miss the live check? Here’s my curation of tweets!

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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It’s Hard Not To Feel Sad Right Now

Posted on April 22, 2020 by

Are you finding that it’s hard not to feel sad right now?

It’s lingering right there, all the time. Some days life feels somewhat ‘normal’ – we’re adapting to the new routines, becoming used to the safety of our homes. And then other days…it’s just hard not to feel the weight, the enormity of what is unfolding in our world.

For the first week of the shelter at home orders in March in California, I slept. A lot. 12 hours or so a night. That counts the time I lay awake around 2 am, wondering how this was all going to play out. That was before I really understood what safe at home would be like. How distance learning and virtual teaching would transform education – and my job.

It was awhile before I realized how very, very sad this would make me.


I tried to get up ‘on time’, tried to cut back on coffee, to write my daily gratitudes, to reach out. I filled bird feeders and pulled weeds and watched my backyard slowly grow and give me a new space to just be. Never venturing too far from home I took twice-daily walks, just looping around and around my neighborhood, staying in the familiar, close territory to home. I switched out educational podcasts for audiobooks, responding to my need to hear and read stories, letting myself loose in the narrative. I made myself pull on a pair of well-worn jeans every morning, just to start some sort of routine.

Over the following three weeks, I dove into training teachers. I’m prepared for this – and I love being able to share my skills and excitement for educational technology with educators who feel scared, vulnerable, and yes, sad.

There’s a grief factor to what’s going on now if you’re an educator. The ‘old’ way of teaching and running a school died with the decision to close the buildings, to pivot into Google Classrooms and WebEx and Zoom to deliver curriculum and connect with students.

We hardly had a moment to take a breath. We had no time to be sad. Educators had to act fast, come together and figure this out.

We’re good at that – the quick decisions, the thinking on our feet.

And now…

And now, two weeks into our virtual classrooms, it feels a bit more routine – a bit more ‘normal’, whatever that means. I’m waking up earlier – too early, in fact. I’m starting my days outside, coffee and journal and birds and blooms. My walks are longer, taking me on new paths, new landscapes. I’ve had a few moments, even, where I feel almost settled.

But, despite my heroic attempts to push it aside, to break it down and not deal with it, I’m finding the sadness creep back in.

The postponements started trickling in, the canceling, rescheduling, the pushing-back on things that we’ve been looking forward to. Graduations. Weddings. End of the school year projects. Family trips. Funerals. College.

We’re flattening the curve, most definitely. But we’re flattening ourselves at the same time. Days blend into each other. The routines that helped me make it through the day feel comforting and monotonous simultaneously.

The dark side

I start to let the dark side crawl in. The spiraling, swirling sense of never-endingness. Of worry. Of wondering.

I’ve been using a ‘Weekly Check-In’ form with my students to build community and maintain relationships even when we’re not in the same physical space. You can see a copy of it here. They have options to tell me how they’re doing – ‘’I’m happy”, “I’m silly”, “I’m stressed”, “I’m angry”, and “I’m sad”. You can make a copy of my form here.

And guess what – sadness topped the list this week.

When a 7th grader shares their sadness on a digital form, it hurts. The impact of knowing they’re isolated at home, away from the structures and systems and community that we’ve created in our schools makes me sad.

How do I respond to that? Ignore it? No way. Brush it aside? Nope.

I agree.

I am sad. THIS is sad. Challenging. Scary. Unsettling.

I want them to know I feel it, too. And that it’s ok to feel sad.

What I do

I ask them what they do to feel better and I tell them about how I go outside every morning, curl up under a fleece blanket on my patio, and sip my coffee.

I write to them about how I walk around my garden first thing, looking for new blooms. About how I take photos of my flowers and post them online, just to bring a smile to someone who is looking out the window at the snow.

When I feel sad, I say, I take a walk around my neighborhood. I look at the little things, the trees, and flowers and try to notice changes from the day before.

Sometimes I share how I look up at the sky, searching for birds and butterflies and clouds, and how I smile at other people as we walk towards each other, and then step out of the way. Sometimes I cross the street, just to keep my distance.

I still smile, even though it makes me feel sad.

I tell them about how I pick grapefruit off my backyard trees and leave them in a bag on my front lawn with a sign that says, ‘Take some for your family. I’ll keep sharing. Stay home”. And how I smile when a few hours later, the bag is empty.


I’m sad, for sure. I wish my mom could drive here and spend the weekend. I miss being able to jump on a plane and visit my daughter. I’m sad that her wedding is being postponed, colleges are shutting down, that trips and graduations are canceled and that people everywhere are sick and dying.

This loss of control over our lives, the lack of feeling like life (and we) aren’t moving forward, leaves us feeling like wanderers in a dark, dense, forest. We know there is a path, somewhere -it might be overgrown or trampled down, or we might have just taken a step too far to the side to stay on track. We know that once we get through this part, the scary, solitary steps we make will eventually lead us to…somewhere. Better than this. Definitely a different landscape.

I think I need to just leave it here, to be with the sadness and sink into today – to what is right here, right now. Robin Wall Kimmerer says, “If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.”

I’m ok with that kind of doorway. I’m ok with weeping a little bit now and then – I’m pretty sure our tears are just a lens to magnify the stars, anyways. With that kind of grief – that sadness that we can fix with love – I trust that we will find our way.

Do 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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