To Listen

As a high school teacher, the things that you hear from students are often more heart felt, heart warming, heart wrenching, and heart breaking than the things you see. My eyes are continually opened to the soul of many students, those in my classroom and those not, those thriving and those struggling.

My class is currently doing extensive research on controversial topics in society. This research is in preparation for a large debate, showcasing their persuasive and argumentative skills. Throughout this research, I have merely been a facilitator, allowing the teams to determine what information and skills are necessary to ultimately provide the strongest case on debate day.

Allowing such controversial topics into my classroom has allowed me to really sit and listen. Listen to their opinions, their stances, their beliefs, their outlook. These topics impact my students in a way that I would never know unless I let the real world enter into my classroom. My students may not be able to vote, may not be able to drive a car (just yet), may not be able to run the dishwasher (or pretend they don’t know how), but they sure do have a lot to say about what is going on in the world around them. These kids are knowledgeable and curious to learn more about topics such as: abortion, human cloning, the death penalty, Planned Parenthood, immigration, ISIS, is Donald Trump going to deport everyone…you name it, they want to talk about it, research it, formulate an opinion, look at the disturbing images, talk about it again, and take action.

“This is disturbing.”

“I’ve started a petition to ban abortions in our county.”

“Global warming is not a terrorist threat. Here are my facts to support this statement.”

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.”

“Immigrants are people, too, ya know, people who need America’s brotherhood. Whether they’re from Syria or South America. But, is the US law upheld?”

“The legalization of this drug is going to encourage youth to become addicted.”

“Are you really telling me that taxing our parents more is worth a free education?”

“Since our population is growing, we need to encourage people to accept  employment anywhere to avoid looking to other countries to support our jobs.”

“I’m struggling to find a reason to agree with this.”

“How can I get involved?”

“Can you put me in touch with this organization so I can help?”

“This hurts my heart.”

This is just a small, small portion of what I hear. There is honest concern and compassion here.

This time in our school year is one of the most active and participant heavy units. As a teacher, I don’t want to tell them to stop talking. Stop researching. Stop formulating an opinion. Instead, we need to look at your data to tell you that you still can’t write a strong introduction paragraph. We need to learn how to put footnotes in your Google doc. We need to practice navigating the online testing system so you can actually finish the test this time. These kids are more than a traditional public schooling pathway. They are citizens. They are members of society and this time of the year in my classroom is real, authentic, honest, emotional, and eye opening. For me. For the kids.

Yes, they are teenagers. Yes, the complexity of teaching teenagers is often undefinable, exhausting, and sometimes impossible. Often society rolls their eyes at them or demands excellence of our teenagers in the classroom and on the field. But, being a teenager, they have a lot more to say and a broader understanding of their world than what you might expect, if you let them explore and listen to them. Listen to how passionate they want to be. And yes, they are passionate.  Listen to how compassionate they want to be. And yes, they are compassionate. Listen to how much they strive to make a difference. And yes, many will make a difference that none of us ever will.

Listen. Your ears will thank you.

xx- Jenna

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Wanderlust

Wanderlust – “A strong desire to travel”

In my existence, I’ve done the occasional traveling. Nothing major, nothing unique. I’ve traveled by car to neighboring states, traveled by plane to opposite coasts, and traveled to our foreign neighbor, Mexico.

With this more simplistic and not ridiculously adventurous travel, I’ve realized that I have this gnawing desire to go and see. To go and see things that others will never adventure to do. Things that others dream about. I want pictures to show my family when I’m elderly that look like something out of a National Geographic magazine. I want the memories most of all.

And I’m currently that dreamer. I’ll often find myself on Instagram or travel websites in deep imagination about what these exotic and rare destinations could hold for me, for my mind, for my heart, for my soul. I’ll pick flights, look at travel reviews on TripAdvisor, and even on occasion contact my travel agent to get their feedback.

Most recently, I became obsessed with Norway. I’m not Norwegian (at least I don’t think I am) and had no inkling to ever travel there, then enter the pictures of the breathtaking fjords. The scenery in pictures alone is enough to make the most indoorsy, anti-sun gal want to venture outdoors. Instagram is where my obsession began. Check out the beauty in the images on these Instagram accounts: I Love Norway and Visit Norway. Also, here are some things I’d love to experience:

Hotel: Sommaroy Arctic Hotel

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Dining: hos Thea

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Adventure: REI Adventures-Norwegian Fjords Kayaking and Hiking

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If anyone has ever traveled there, I’d love to hear your experience. As I save up my few pennies, this is one of the many “destination before I die” countries. Maybe one day, in a future blog post, you will see me in this amazing Norwegian scenery and culture!

xx- Jenna

The Falcon Life Book Club: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

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I read “Wild” several months ago. I typically go for fiction, but after seeing that Reese Witherspoon raved about it, thus taking the lead role in the film, I decided to read it. And if you don’t follow along with her novel choices on Instagram, you should. That woman has some great insight into a fantastic read. As always, I read in paperback. No e-reader for this gal.

This memoir was a tough read for me. The loss and pain that Cheryl felt, ultimately leading to her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, broke my heart. The writing itself made me feel what she felt. Sometimes to the point I wanted to put the book down. For good. I was always hoping for some happiness and success to evolve out of her struggles. This didn’t happen until the closing of her journey.

I do have reader bias to this text, simply because it shows a real woman. A woman that was immersed in her life, dealing with some serious stuff, trying her absolute best to maintain some type of existence. The beauty of how nature brought her such unique experiences, meeting such eclectic people, and eventually becoming emotionally “healed” in a sense, was so personal. I didn’t realize this until I was done reading. She lets the reader in on a journey that I think most women might keep a secret.

My rating: 4 out of 5. It is an emotional read…I struggled with how raw the emotion was. Nonetheless, the beauty of the journey is worth it.

Now, onto the next read!

xx- Jenna

The Generation Of The “Ear Bud”

I love my job. Being an educator is something that gives me breath. Being a part of the educational experience with students is beyond words. Watching them grow academically and personally is something that extends beyond the feeling of “rewarding”. Watching them overcome a challenge, watching them interact with a new student in class, watching them draft and revise, draft and revise, draft and revise, watching them argue text analytically, watching them stand up for their generation, all of it is what gives me breath. They are our future. The good, the bad, and the “miss, I don’t get it.”

As time moves forward and technology makes my classroom go round, one thing that seems to have become engrained and expected for my students is their “ear buds”.  The thought of working, focusing, being productive, collaborating, succeeding, can’t seem to happen without those little nubs sticking into a kids ears. Why? No clue. But, this is what gives them breath. Is this phenonomen cultural? Is it their generation? Is it the teenage trend? Is it something American culture has enabled somehow through the use of technology at such a young age? Is music that necessary all the time? Is this good or is this bad?

Time and time again, the battle has been waged in my carpeted classroom with the AC blasting year round at 70 degrees, apple pie scentsy in the warmer, class activities and funny meme projected on the white board, objective written for the day (We will, I can), materials posted on Google Classroom, greeting every.single.kid at the door with a smile on my face, giving advice to the tear filled child, talking about the future with the soon-to-be graduate, the sticky note with an encouraging message secretly slipped to the student who will never talk to you but it’s obvious they need something positive.

“All technology away.”

“No headphones, cellphones, any device with an on/off switch should be around your neck, on your lap, in your pocket…”

“I can see the ear bud behind your hair.”

“That is so loud I feel like I’m there.”

“Stop trying to FaceTime under the desk.”

And the battle is endless. No matter how I spin my verbage, this is every day, every class period. I can offer no concrete suggestion or accurate reasoning for this generation of the ear bud. From conversation and sometimes argument, students are clear it helps them focus. It helps them get in the zone and stay there. It helps them. As an adult that didn’t have this luxury, I need peace and quiet to read and even hear my own thoughts. Noise distracts me, especially when it comes to something that for me is extremely important and not worthy of a mistake.

But, not my students. Noise is where they live. Where they thrive. Where they breath. Where for them, they feel successful. This makes me question if my constant battle of the ear bud is worth it? If it makes them feel successful and accomplished, why fight it? Why fight what could lead to educational development in the brain of a teenager?

After thinking of my own students in my own classroom and the world I am preparing them for (high stakes testing, college acceptance, critical thinking, a global economy, technology changing every 5 seconds), the battle is worth it. I don’t know of any employer who would agree that ear buds make their employee more productive, more aware, more hard working, more knowledgeable, more promotion worthy, more “at the job”. No place of employment worthy of a well-paying, long lasting career, anyhow. As students plug in the ear buds, I often find myself on the verge of yelling their name clear across the classroom to get their attention. At that point, they look up. They pull one ear bud out. They say one word, “huh?”. There is a total disconnect. A total alternate reality they’ve entered into. A reality that is designed to fit the necessary outcome the teacher expects in the classroom. Enter ear buds. Plug them in = completion of the work from the teacher, even if they have no clue what it means and the relationship to their growth as a human.

With all this observation and no solution, I need my students to be in it. Be an active member of their learning, their growth, their education. No distractions. I want them to understand the necessity of what happens in my classroom. What happens in ALL classrooms. No drone-like state producing a product they really know nothing about. My vision I try to create in my classroom is a bridge to the world that awaits after the diploma is handed over, cheers from the crowd ring out, and the camera captures an image that will only happen once. The image should show not only a happy face entering the next phase of life, it should reflect the growth and development that happened in that unique brain, of that unique student, of that unique path paved and the one unpaved ahead, the gains that brought the student to that point in time.

So, dear students, unplug the ear buds. Don’t let music hinder, even if there is “nothing playing on them, miss”. Your generation is not defined on music. Your generation is defined on YOU. You, the unique human, the student that yearns for acknowledgment. The student that yearns for acceptance. The student that yearns for more than a trend. The student that breaths the moment of uncertain excitement. The uncertain excitement of publishing the 8 page essay, shedding a tear over a characters death, watching your homemade rocket fly for 20 seconds, and most importantly holding the diploma that signifies that breath. That breath of growth and accomplishment and development and knowledge of knowing YOU can DO. You, my friend, are more than an ear bud.

xx- Jenna

What’s In My Grocery Cart

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In the past, I used to run to the grocery store several times a week. At that time, I would generate a list of necessities and ingredients for recipes/lunches/dinners/non-perishables/staples, you name it. But, for some reason, food was not being consumed quickly, spoiling, and burning a big hole in my wallet. After time, I realized a lot of what I was adding to my grocery list could only be used for one recipe or I wouldn’t make a meal including that ingredient fast enough, resulting in spoiled food. Needless to say, I was buying too much of the wrong stuff.

At the new year, my good friend Kayla and I, vowed to venture toward eating healthier. And when we say healthier, we mean whole, natural, as unprocessed as possible, healthier. As my teacher colleague, Kayla and I often would buy “treats” to eat during our planning period. This usually (and sadly) went beyond our planning period and would spill to before school and after school treats. I’m talking snacking on the family pack of Target’s Nestle chocolate chip cookies…in a few days…but, they are oh so good! Needless to say, our habits at work were infringing upon our healthy habits at home and our waistline.

With this pact,  grocery shopping has become something I look forward to each week. And with my goal to eat as many “whole” foods as possible, my budget thanks me and food is not spoiling because it is being consumed. I would say I’ve cut my spoiled food issue by 75%. I really think this is because EVERYTHING I buy (well, about 85% of it) must be consumed within a few days to a week or it will go bad. And these whole foods taste too good to go to waste!

Now, what I mean by “whole” foods is simply buying foods that are in their most natural, untouched by human hands, state as possible. Obviously, it can be nearly impossible to avoid some type of processed food, unless your goal is a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. But, overall, I’m buying non-processed items 85% of the time. Here are some staples in my cart these days. Even though these items change occasionally due to quality and what is in season/reasonably priced, they can be used a variety of ways: cooked, cut, dipped, consumed raw, you name it. If you’re interested, I can create a blog post all about my daily meals, let me know! For now, enjoy this list (several of the items can be seen in my cart above) and I encourage you to add these items to your cart if you haven’t already. They’re versatile, tasty, easy to store, and so good for you!:

  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bell peppers
  • Avocado
  • Red potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Whole carrots
  • Raw broccoli
  • Raw green beans

Happy grocery shopping!

xx- Jenna

Teachers Hear The Darndest Things

During my student teaching experience in college, my cooperating teacher gave me an empty notebook. She said that throughout her 25+ year career, there were moments she wished she had documented. Moments that were special and unique. Moments with her students that she now wanted to reflect on and enjoy. Listening to her intently and literally doing everything she suggested, because, well, she was the most influential, kind, caring, demanding, encouraging teacher I had as a senior in high school. And as she was now guiding me as I began my career as a teacher, I vowed to use this notebook. Now having taught high school English for several year, I have some precious and somewhat ridiculous notations from students, past and present. My notebook has become a place the last several years to write down the hilarious moments, the rather non-educational moments. It has become a place that I store the little notes students give me. And every time I open and read, I’m taken back to the moment and can smile about how these kiddos allowed me to be part of their years that are the most impressionable, the most important.

So, if you are a teacher, new or seasoned, I encourage you to grab a notebook and write down moments you want to cherish. It is something so special. Here are a handful of my gems:

“Speak forth my vocal brother!” -a student commanding a peer to contribute a very thoughtful response to a socratic seminar

“I’m not immature, I’m in-tell-i-gente.” -a student telling any classmate that would listen about his mental prowess

“If you were going to die from a heart attack, right now, is this what you would want hear last!?” -a student in response to the very realistic cat noises a peer kept making

“Someone farted in the hallway and they need to own up to it!” -this is self explanatory…

“Miss, I have to tell you something that is bothering me. My grandma is on Farmer’s Only and she isn’t even a farmer!” -a student disturbed by their grandmother’s decisions

“You make English fun. No one can do that. I love coming to your class because of this. You are special and I think you are a wonderful teacher.” -anonymous letter

“You have taught me more than just English. You taught me about life. I love you.” -a former student

“You are great. Remember that. That’s it.” -a former student

“You always inspire me to be better and do better. Thank you. Seriously. Now, be pregnant at graduation so I can take a picture touching your belly.” -a former student

“Miss, I wanted to tell you that since I started at this school a few weeks ago, I’ve been really scoping out my teachers. Ya know, seeing who I like. I wanted to tell you that you are my favorite. Ever. Of life. I love you already.” -a new student

—And this is why I love my job. These kids are what make everything worth it. They deserve the best. Period.

xx- Jenna

The Resolution – Part #1

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. –Margaret J. Wheatley

My “resolution” for 2016 is to hit the recharge button with purpose. And in the pressing of the button, there are a handful of things I wanted to focus on. One in particular, is to celebrate. Literally everything. However, I’m finding it rather interesting in how I’m celebrating. I had this structured picture in my head that I was going to celebrate things literally as they were happening, living in the moment, taking mental pictures of the scene for future remembrance, pausing to look at the entire thing with an open heart while taking a deep breath and really “feeling it”. But, in traditional resolution fashion, that is not the case. Hence, the decision to reshape my resolutions to begin with (funny how standards are hard to break, huh).

My celebrating this past week has been happening more in reflection. That reflection happens when I’m not in production mode. When I’m not the one doing. When I’m not the one creating. When I’m not the deciding. When I’m not the one participating. It happens when others are doing all of these things: producing, doing, creating, deciding, participating. When I can observe, take a back seat. I watch. I reflect. It only can happen when I’m not “in it”. The mind is too busy when you’re “in it”. And celebration this week has had nothing to do with me directly. It had to do with watching my students discover things about culture that I could never teach them. They had to do it on their own, with minimal structure, my reassurance that they could, and my eyes watching as they grew in their knowledge and I took a back seat, observing. It had to do with my husband driving us to church Saturday night. Taking the lead and planning where to get coffee on the way, holding the door and letting me enter before him (before him), encouraging me to offer my gloves to the man sitting in the cold and watching as I did. It had to do with others. Nothing to do with me. Those things, those moments, those acts, included me, but were not just me. People that I pour myself into, gave celebration back to me. Unknowingly. I was able to be a part of things that were about others. That is where the celebration comes from. It came from my relationships this week, no matter the duration, 5 seconds or 5 years. Those relationships allowing me to take time as I sit here typing, reflecting, and enjoying, and celebrating those moments that if not documented, would probably have been the tiniest part of my entering 2016 with purpose.

This, my friends, is what I really wanted out of that “celebration resolution”. If I had a cake, candles, balloons, champagne, I would celebrate my relationships this past week. But, even better, I have my reflection. My remembering of these awesome things. My involvement, no matter how minuscule, of really being there. Really feeling it. Even if it took me a few days to reflect and celebrate those blessings. How blessed 2016 already has become. How smart a decision to hit the recharge button with purpose.

Reflect. Celebrate. You won’t be disappointed.

xx- Jenna

**A rather discolored picture of the drive to church Saturday at a stoplight. And a resolution in motion: taking more pictures. And that picture relives part of that celebration just mentioned.

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2016, As I Know It

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Happy New Year, folks! It has again become that time to hit the “refresh” button in the hopes of changing/fixing/altering/adjusting/realizing what our existence should be the next 366 days (hello there, leap year!).

As I get older, and I assume with age comes more accurate realizations, I’ve understood that yearly “refresh” button isn’t what I thought it was. For me, it no longer means grandiose planning, massive lists of things to accomplish, personal and professional things to obtain in unrealistic deadlines…it actually, simply, plainly means to live. Living a life that celebrates. Living a life that honors. Living a life that serves the common good. Living a life that fulfills.

I want to live a life that fulfills.

And what I mean by that, I’m not exactly, totally sure. But, I know that I want to live my life in a way that fulfills me: emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally. Not a life that stresses me out because of deadlines I’ve set that are supposed to make me feel fulfilled when reached. Seriously, I’m 31 years old. Whether you consider that young (you’ve got plenty of time) or old (you need to get it together), there is no time like the present to really think, really feel, really sit down with yourself and evaluate what that “refresh” button is capable of. Really capable of.

My “refresh” button looks different this New Year than in years passed. The short time that I’ve sat down with myself and done some evaluating has raised the curtain on my 2016 resolutions…not just a few days in January, not just the year, but long term, life long. As I continue to sit down with myself, I’m sure that these things will change and evolve and develop. With life comes highs and lows and this “refresh” will tune accordingly.  And I’m hoping that it tunes itself to a life that fulfills. A life that celebrates. My refresh button is looking something like this:

Refresh #1: take more photos. And I’m not talking about professionally, but with whatever camera I’ve got handy. So many wonderful things happen. Things that should be celebrated long after they are gone. Document…because one day it will need to be relived. 

Refresh #2: read the Bible daily. Whether it is 1 verse a day or a whole book one morning. Those words. Just, those words. Those words alone should be celebrated for their honesty and outlook for what we should be striving for.

Refresh #3: just be in it. The moment. The relationship. The job. The laundry (hehehe). All of it. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Breath it. Feel it. Give in to it in order to give back to it. 

I simply, if you can call it “simple”, want to live in celebration and fulfillment of everything that happens upon my path while on earth. Why stress when you can enjoy? Enjoyment travels with a suitcase that has opportunity, that has smiles, that has positivity, that has a life that cherishes all the good, not all the bad. Not saying my life prior to 2016 was some horrible, made for TV, drama fest…it was blessed beyond belief! But, I know my life for 2016 and after, is a flashing green light dying to be pressed to “refresh”.

If you’re still reading this, and you are already celebrating and living fully, you are my inspiration. And if you aren’t celebrating and living fully, can we try it together? I’m jumping in. Leaving the life vest on the boat.

xx- Jenna

2015 Beauty Favorites

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It is about that time to say HASTA to 2015! Ringing in a New Year is always exciting…there is a sense of mystery and wonder awaiting your life for the coming 365 days. But, before I say PEACE OUT, I want to share my 2015 Beauty Favorites! These are items that I continued to use throughout the year, and will use until they are discontinued or the formula changes. They are THAT good!

Face: Benefit POREfessional Face Primer

Price: Depending on size, anywhere from $10-$42

Appeal: Covers pores of all shapes and sizes like a GEM! Doesn’t irritate my super sensitive skin. Won’t wear makeup without it. Period. Worth the price. Worth the hype.2219868

Eyes: Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara

Price: $8.99

Appeal: Comes in waterproof (and non), dryer formula doesn’t weigh down lashes, amazing brush, truly lengthens and allows the eyelash curler to actually keep lashes curled. Holy grail mascara right here.  

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Lips: Burt’s Bees Refreshing Lip Balm in Pomegranate Oil

Price: $3.29

Appeal: Doesn’t burn my super sensitive lips. Smells great, has a slick application, no tint, no taste…just feels luxurious, like I’m doing my lips a favor, especially in the harsh winter months.

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Body: Soap & Glory Breakfast Scrub

Price: $15 (large, resealable tub)

Appeal: Amazing maple syrup scent, gentle scrub that actually scrubs (if you know what I mean), perfect for dry/sensitive/bumpy/thirsty/eczema/keratosis pilaris skin…yum in a tub. I didn’t see the point in a body scrub until I tried this. My skin loves me for it.

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Nails: Sally Hansen Cuticle Oil

Price: $6.99

Appeal: Wasn’t sure it was doing anything, until I stopped using for several weeks. Obviously softens cuticles and prevents hang nails and irritated skin, but nourishes my fingernails. It helped *fix* my nails from all the harsh polishes and removers I use weekly. Can’t go to sleep without putting this on my cuticles/nails.

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Happy New Year! Wishing you a fabulous 2016! Thanks for stopping by this year. I’m excited for what the New Year brings, where life takes me with this little blog, and what adventures are in store! See you on the other side!

xx- Jenna

**all opinions are my own

**all images from ulta.com and Google images, all prices and links from ulta.com

Big Organic Salad

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I enjoy a fresh salad. It helps me get in some more servings of veggies and the ingredients are always fresh. You can add dried cranberries, onion, raw broccoli, sunflower seeds, shaved almonds…the list goes on and on. These are the ingredients I had in my kitchen and together they created a pretty darn good salad. Don’t forget your deep bowl with high sides…it makes your forks job easier and allows for more healthy ingredients.20151124_115311

Ingredients:

  • organic romaine lettuce
  • organic cabbage
  • organic spinach
  • about 5 slices of organic cucumber, stacked, and cut into fourths
  • 1 organic carrot, peeled, and cut
  • 4 organic cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 6-7 black olives
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of organic chia seeds
  • Hidden Valley Ranch (What was on hand. Extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt/pepper is a fabulous dressing!)

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Enjoy!

xx Jen