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Octavia Wolf's fifth grade students.
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'Make Your Bed Every Day' and Other Advice From My Students

The best advice Octavia Wolf received has always come from her students. Here, her fifth graders share advice for keeping the faith, coping, and getting through this tough moment together.

April 23, 2020

Octavia Wolf

Octavia Wolf

Do you remember your first year of teaching? 

If you’re anything like me, those days feel like a distant memory. The copier knows better than to jam up when I enter the room. I know the difference between the student who "needs" to go to the bathroom and the student who needs to go to the bathroom. I'm able to make informed decisions on the fly based on the plethora of experience and lessons I've taught, honed, and mastered.  

Usually, spring means I’m in my element as a teacher. I know my students well and I have enough tools in my toolkit to address the unexpected. It’s a magical season where the successes sometimes appear to outweigh the failures. This year is different. The pandemic has robbed me of that season.

In an instant, I’ve found myself transported back to my first year of the corps. We have more questions than answers, not enough resources to go around, and we’re underprepared to instruct our students in this context. But, it’s that same growth mindset that we developed during year one that will allow us to overcome this new challenge.

If ever there was a time to give ourselves the grace and space to “fail forward” it’s now. Teach Like A Champion: Distance Learning Edition doesn’t exist (yet), but our passion, imperfect presence, and persistence are stronger than ever.  

The best advice I’ve received throughout my teaching career has always come from my students. So, I called on the experts in my fifth-grade class to share their advice for keeping the faith, coping, and getting through this moment together: 

“Go outside. My sister made up for picking on me by taking me to the woods in Rock Creek and I liked it because it felt like back home in Ethiopia—the only thing missing was waterfalls.”


“Don’t give up, okay? One thing I'm going to change is to not give up when I can’t do something. First I’m going to ask someone. Then, if there is no one to help, I’ll just go and try myself until I get it.”


“I have gained some anxiety when I stay alone at home because my parents are working, but I have a bunny stuffed animal that I hug and that makes me feel better.”


“Make memes. How do people make something sad into something funny and relatable? I don't know how but it helps me feel a little better about the situation.”


“What I’m doing to help me deal with this is reading more books. Because I love the feeling when I finish a book because it makes me feel good about myself and that I did something that will help my brain. My goal is to read over a thousand books in five years and maybe even more.”


“Be great today by making your bed because it will encourage you to do another task to help out your family in the house. It will also make you feel like the next day will be better. Also, it will give you hope for the rest of the day. Hope will make us strong.”


“Stay Healthy. Before I go to sleep and when I wake up, I brush my teeth and wash my face. A way to stay calm is to take warm showers. I love to take warm showers because it helps me relax.”


“Be creative. Homework is way better than the homework you would get physically from your teachers because you get to watch videos sometimes and have fun little tools that the website gives you.”


“You can learn a new dance (appropriate dances please) and you can clean your room so that you discover a new world under your bed (I've done that and I discovered Narnia...)”


“All you have to do is remember we will get through this eventually. I have hope that if people follow the precautions given, all will once again become well. That is what we’re all hoping and striving for.”


Octavia Wolf is a 2014 D.C. Region alum and teaches fifth grade at West Education Campus in Washington, D.C. She is currently raising funds through Teach For America's Direct to Community Giving page to provide grocery store gift cards for families in need at her school.

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