Posts with tag: "Teaching"


Are you Mom to a teenage daughter?  

Are you looking for connection, encouragement, and tips on how to navigate these crazy teen girl years?

Then grab your camera and your coffee, and join us! 




By Jennifer Lebo
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About five months ago, I hit rock bottom, healthwise.  I was overweight, out of shape, exhausted, and just plain old sad over having lost the athlete I once was.  I knew I had to do something to get strong and healthy again, but the thought of trying again was daunting.  I’d climbed this mountain so many times before.  Self doubt and fear loomed.  Why try again?  Wouldn’t I just fail… again?

I decided that I needed to try a new way, so I sought the help of a professional.  I called a trainer who I’d found online, one who specialized in health and fitness for those of us in the “over forty” club.  One phone call with Dave McGarry and I knew I had found a gem.  He helped me set goals, and then he helped me crush them!

I think the most important thing that I learned from Dave was the very first lesson he taught me.  He had me sit down and write out my “why”.  Even beyond that, he had me write down several layers of “whys” so that every reason I had for wanting to get healthy had a deeper “why”.  I would consider a goal, say to lose 20 lbs, and I would write down why I wanted to lose that weight.  I wanted to be able to spend a day at the pool with my kids and be comfortable in my swimsuit.  But why?  I would continue to write, contemplating that I didn’t want to miss out on any more pool days with my kids.  But why?  Because my time with the kids was too important to waste.  Layer upon layer upon layer.  


He had me continue this several times over.  Then he had me print out my “whys” and put them up somewhere where I would see them everyday.  


Four months later, they’re still up.  And I’ve crushed every one of my goals.  Because of those “whys”.


So why am I sharing this story?  (you see what I did there?!)



With this recent health and fitness journey, I stayed focused on those “whys”, and I reached my goals with purpose and passion.  So I started to use this same method for other areas of my life, including my business life.  As I stated in my last post, I had come to a fork in the road concerning my work life, and had realized that it was time to put my dreams and plans first again.  


But then came the daunting task of setting business goals, and of staring up at the mountain of self-doubt, of fear, of uncertainty.  I wrote out some concrete goals, and then remembered Dave’s advice, and started writing out my whys.


Why do I want to try again?  Why do I want to crush these goals?  What is my purpose?  What is my why?


Turns out in this case, my WHY is a WHO.


I want to try again because there are too many women out there who struggle with seeing their beauty, and I want to show it to them.  I want to teach moms how to take photos because we moms need concrete skills to connect with and empower our daughters.  I know this because I am that mom.  I know this because I’ve been that daughter.  Because I now have that daughter.  Perhaps we’ve all been that daughter, or have that daughter now.


Simply put, she’s my WHY.


I have a tween daughter.  I have a skill set that is allowing me to capture her beauty and pour my attention and love into her.  I can teach YOU how to do the same thing.


You’re my WHY, too.



My goals are centered around you, your daughters, and my own daughter.  My goals are to create blog posts that guide you through photography and help us navigate the world of teen daughters together.  Online courses are coming.  Workshops, both online and in person, are coming.  Community, encouragement, and empowerment are coming.  


Next time, I’ll be sharing about how to set mom goals, and how to write out your own WHY.


See you soon!


PS- if you’re in the “over 40 club” too, and want to know more about my gem of a trainer, Dave McGarry, visit him at or  


By Jennifer Lebo
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Ever have a moment where everything around you just seems to freeze, and you hear the voice of your heart speaking as clear as day to you?  I had that moment early last month, and it’s the reason why I’m back here blogging.


Let me back up a bit.  To the week when everything came to a head.  The week when my 12 year old daughter shared with me some of the struggles she’s been having at school.  (isn’t middle school just the best???)  The same week my teaching contract came up for next year, and the question of whether to continue in the classroom or return to my passion resurfaced.  The week when all three of my worlds collided, and then settled into a peaceful clarity.


I’m sure many of you can relate to the truth that being a mom is insanely hard!  From the moment our kids arrive, we are a basket of emotions, in love with them in a way we’ve never known, exhausted to a degree we’ve never experienced, worried like we never knew we could worry.  But this.  This tween and teenage phase, particularly with a daughter.  Well, this is a whole different kind of beast!



My mother warned me about this (a story for another post), but I really had no idea.  Raising a young lady is hard!  One minute my heart is aching over whether she is happy or lonely or afraid, and the next minute I’m doing everything in my power not to lose it on her as she sasses me for absolutely no reason!  Who is this girl?  Where did my sweet baby go?  Why does she hate me?  Oh, wait, now she loves me?  Why does she think she’s ugly?  Who told her that?  Why doesn’t she see what I see?  


The questions, the uncertainties, they are endless.


I know you know what I’m talking about.

So during that week, when the perfect storm of parenting, passion, and profession erupted, I was able to see it for the gift that it was.  Earlier in the week, when my mind swirled around the question of whether to continue teaching or not, I had jotted these thoughts onto a Post It note: “Had no plans to teach.  What’s changed?  Is this an opportunity?  Am I afraid of business or of trying?”

Not one day later, my daughter stood crying in my arms sharing her experience of loneliness at school.  I stood in our kitchen, holding her, and crying with her, and I felt so thankful that I could at least just be there in that moment.  Then I remembered that I was free from teaching the next day, and suggested I take her out for lunch.  The relief on her face, and relaxing of her body in my arms was instant.  I was able to rescue her, even just for a moment, and we were both grateful.


It was just a brief rescue, but it was precious.  We grabbed a quick lunch the next day, smiled and laughed a lot, and I was able to bring her back to school fill with love, and the assurance that I’d be waiting for her after school.  We hugged and she hurried off, knowing this would not be an everyday thing, but that it was in perfect timing.  It reminded me of how much my kids still need me, and how much I want to be there for them.




While organizing past business files, I came across some brainstorming I had done less than one year ago, titled “Fifty Questions to Find My Passion”.  About halfway through the list, I found it.  The answer to a question about what I dislike doing.  It said, “I don’t like staying up late for dorm duty, although I like the girls.  I hate teaching English, never want to do it again.”  


Woah.  When did I forget this?  


In that moment, it all sort of fell together, my passions, my purposes, my plans.  Somehow I had found myself doing something I never intended to do again.  I knew why I had accepted the job, agreed to help out my community when they needed help.  But why was I going to pursue it further?  I don’t care for the subject I teach.  No, what draws me to teaching is always the students.  I don’t love teaching English.  But I do love teaching.


This revelation, coming on the heels of time spent with my daughter, following the hesitation over walking away from my business, was peaceful yet powerful.  I knew I was ready to try again.



Which brings me here with you, today.  Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to just try one more time.”  That’s what I’m doing, with my business, with my parenting, with my life.  I’m just trying again.  


My passions in life are simple.  I love my family, and my sweet sassy daughter.  I love taking pictures of people.  And I love teaching.  I do.  I don’t love teaching English, but I love teaching.  I love sharing what I know, what I don’t know, what I’m learning myself.  So here I am, doing all three.


Trying each day to be a mom, a photographer, a teacher, a woman, a friend.


If that resonates with any part of who you are, then come take this walk with me.  Let’s learn about parenting our daughters.  Let me teach you how to use photography to empower your daughter (and yourself!).  Be encouraged to try along with me.


Let’s never be afraid to fail.  Let’s just be afraid to not try.


Looking forward to our journey together.



By Jennifer Lebo
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It’s been awhile since I sat down to write a blog post, and even longer since I tried to write one this meaningful.  Perhaps, like so many others, I have come to the end of one year, preparing to start the next, and have these deep moments of reflection and planning.  This year seems so similar to past ones in that sense, and yet it feels so completely unlike anything I’ve felt in past years.


The last time I wrote here, I spoke of a new journey I felt led to start.  At the time, I had very little idea about that journey, only that it involved a desire to give and to serve.  That was about five months ago.


A lot has happened since then, both in my business, in our home, and in our country and world.  I’m sure you could say the same.  Five months gives a person a lot of time to think, to live, to experience, to grow.  Our family experienced the joy of moving into our “long term” home.  We lived through a few bumps and bruises, and were grateful for nothing too serious.  Business got busy through the beautiful autumn months, and we celebrated another holiday season together, thankful for each other and for the many gifts we all gave and received.  


We also witnessed a lot in our city, in our country, and throughout the world.  We watched the news, like all of you, and we discussed politics and current events with each other, and with our children.  We saw wars continuing around the world, suffering endured by too many, and poverty striking everywhere and anywhere.


Throughout the past months, I have come to recognize a few things.  Our lives are so blessed.  Our children are healthy, we live in a beautiful home, in a beautiful community, with wonderful people- a place where our children run safely, and are free to speak their mind and be whoever they want to be.  We are rich beyond our needs, so much richer than so much of the world.  We never want for a meal, or for a bed, or for medicine when our babies are hurting.  


Unlike so many, we are never questioned because of who we are, because of the color of our skin, or who we love, or what God we serve.  We are free, safe, rich.



This is a gift, to be sure, but one that has led me to question a lot of my blessings.  Why me?  What can I do?  How can I take who I am and what I have, and use it to serve those who are not as fortunate as I?


These are the questions that have met me on most mornings, the questions that have kept me from writing.  Instead of writing, I’ve been reading.  A lot.  I’ve been praying.  A lot.  I’ve been studying, and seeking.  After all, the God that I trust promises me that if I seek, I will find.


I am just at the beginning of this journey, but I have discovered this.  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)


I believe there is a reason why I’ve been given so much, why we’ve all been given so much.  We are not blessed simply to enjoy what we have.  We are blessed so that we might become a blessing to others.  We are given gifts so that we might then give to others.  We are loved so that we might love others.  Life is so much more wonderful when we give more of what we have.



So how?  How can I use what I have to give to others?  How can my gifts, my skills, my passions be used to help others, particularly with respect to my craft and my business?  


First, I would like to change the way I run my business, logistically.  My hope is to create a business that works to serve moms- all moms.  There are too many moms out there who long to have beautiful portraits of their precious families, but who simply cannot afford the luxury of professional portraits.  My desire is to create a way for ALL moms to have the portraits they can treasure.  My heart longs to serve those moms who have never enjoyed the portrait experience, who could never afford such an indulgence.  I have a plan to make that happen, through a complete commercial and production restructuring, and through special monthly events.  More details are coming, but I have never felt better about the future of JLP.  People will probably think I’m crazy, but maybe that means I’m heading in the right direction.


Next, I am planning to incorporate more of my teaching and coaching into the business.  In the coming months, I will be working overtime to create a variety of teaching pieces for specific groups of women.  Why women?  More on that in the next blog post, but anyone who knows me knows that I have a heart for my girlfriends, young and old.  I was made to connect with other women, and my heart longs to encourage my sisters.  What specific types of women?  Again, more in the next post.


As for what kinds of resources I’ll be creating, well that’s the exciting part.  Again, looking to serve women who can’t afford the luxury of expensive portraits, fancy workshops or courses, my plan is to offer loads of free resources, along with plenty of invaluable yet affordable workshops, courses, communities, books, and more, all online and easy to access, all available to anyone.  I can serve women, both locally and globally, by teaching them the things that I know.  This idea makes me giddy!  I can create, I can give, I can help.



I have already begun organizing my ideas, and I can’t wait to get started.  I can't help but believe this is only the tip of the iceberg in what I can do to serve those around me, and I hope to come up with more and more ideas as the months go by.  I anticipate a lot of late nights (or rather early mornings!) in the future as I begin writing and creating, but I’m so excited to give my time, my skills, and my knowledge to serve others, rather than myself.


Would you like to join me on this journey?  Perhaps you might find help in what I hope to offer.  Perhaps you might be inspired in some way to serve others in your own unique way.  Or perhaps you’d like to come alongside me so we can serve together.  Either way, come join me.  Let’s help, and serve, and give to others so that we might all enjoy our gifts.


And don’t forget to check out the next blog post, where I’ll share a little more about the “why” and “who” behind my “what” and “how”.



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I look around the room at the sea of teenage faces, and I sometimes think "What am I doing here?  How did I get here again?"  Eleven years ago, when I walked out of the classroom to become a "stay at home mom" I didn't really think I'd ever return.  Yet, here I am, back in the classroom, teaching high school English to juniors and seniors.  Some days I wake up in a cold sweat.  They're going to know I'm a fraud.  They're going to see right through me.  They're going to end up worse for having had me as their teacher.  But on most days, I wake up nervous but excited for the day ahead.  I happen to teach some of THE GREATEST teenagers on the planet (I know this for a fact), and so the nervousness usually gives way to joy (and some fatigue!).

Going back into the classroom this year has taught me quite a bit.  I love that.  Teaching has taught me!  Here's what I've learned.



This is so ironic because the one thing I remember teling people as a child was that I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I just knew I did NOT want to become a teacher.  How crazy is that?  And yet here I am in love with teaching.  Now to be honest, it's not the lesson plans that set my heart a flutter.  Not really loving all the grading either.  But I love being surrounded by young, sometimes eager, faces.  I love being part of a group of adults who desire so much to empower young people.  I love the atmosphere of the classroom, whether it's first period and my students are half asleep, or whether it's hearing innovative and passionate ideas come pouring out in faculty meetings.  Yes, those meetings can sometimes be really inspiring (as long as I bring my coffee)!  Being a teacher is inspiring, scary, purposeful, crazy.  And more.



Going back into the classroom initially sent me into daily anxiety attacks.  I admit, they still come now and again.  This was mostly due to how long it had been since I taught about verb tenses, or about foreshadowing and symbolism in American Literature, or about how to write a five paragraph essay.  Yikes, I'm breaking out into a sweat just thinking about it.  But I'm learning this year- or remembering rather- that teaching is so much more than the material on the syllabus.  It's encouraging that quiet student to take a chance and speak her mind.  It's reminding my class about respect when they get a little heated in their class discussion.  It's celebrating successes with them, both in the classroom or elsewhere.  Or maybe supporting them through struggles, be it with the novel we are reading, or the workload they are carrying, or something all together different.  Often times, it's the moments before or after class where we teachers can make the greatest impact.  This is what I love about teaching.



I said it before.  I happen to teach some of the greatest teens on the planet.  No joke.  These kids are better than a good cup of coffee before first period.  I love their energy.  I love their laughter.  I love when they get heated over the characters in a novel we are reading.  I cannot wait to see how they react to Tom and Daisy Buchanan when we start The Great Gatsby this month!   I am discovering the joy of being in a classroom with these kids.  They make teaching so fun!



And I don't mean they smell (although maybe sometimes they do!).  No, I mean they can be less than wonderful.  They can show up to class unprepared, unmotivated, unaware, unresponsive.  Yes, I am for real!  Do you believe it???  High school students can be a real pain in the you-know-what sometimes!  I know.  Shocker!  But the thing is, both points can be true- even about the same kid.  I've got students who can knock it out of the park one day, and the next day are not only tuned out but disruptive or disrespectful.  And that's ok, right?  Aren't we all guilty of this?  I know I am.  One day I'm on top of the world, professionally, personally, emotionally.  The next day I'm a hot mess.  Maybe not even the next day.  The next hour sometimes!  What a tremendous revelation to discover through teaching.  Kids are unpredictable.  Life is unpredictable.  We are all unpredictable.  And that's ok.



I write this blog post in the spare time I have between reading Gatsby and preparing for my Sports & Literature class this week.  Most days if you need me, you will find me in the school library with my head in a book, taking notes on what to cover in class, or grading in-class essays, or replying to emails from advisors, or parents, or students themselves.  Some days I feel like the actual class periods are a disruption from the academic flow I have found myself in.  Other days, it's a much needed break from the monotony of grading endless tests.  But being in the classroom is never the end.  Ask any teacher.  To be successful in the classroom, there is much to be done outside the classroom.  I love this lesson.  It's a hard lesson to accept, but it has taught me so much about the rest of my life.  Being a good wife doesn't just happen when I'm with my husband.  Being a good mom doesn't just happen when I'm with the kids.  And being a good photographer is so much more than being "at the portrait session".  Being successful at anything really happens during all the hours "behind the scenes".  The more work we are willing to put into the "off hours", the better we'll be during our "on hours", be it marriage, parenting, friendship, work (of any kind?), you name it.  Wouldn't you agree? 



As I write this, a few wonderful faces come to my mind.  As I mentioned before, this return to the classroom has brought with it some tremendous anxiety.  But it has also brought with it some tremendous blessings- in the way of some amazing colleagues.  It was not easy to re-enter the classroom after 11 years at home, but it might have been even harder to re-enter that faculty workroom.  The fear of being seen as a fraud by my peers was strong.  The anxiety of lunchroom conversation.  Would I have anything to contribute?  What would they think of me?  I was way out of my comfort zone.  And then it happened.  One morning in the library (while I was pouring over a book- trust me, I live in that library), a wonderful colleague of mine came and sat down.  She told me how excited she was for me, and that she understood my fears.  She had been in my shoes not too long ago.  She encouraged me and inspired me.  Then a few weeks later, another colleague offered to help me in any way she could.  She had years of experience and wanted to help.  A month later, someone else offered me a tremendous idea for a classroom lesson.  What a hit that class was!  Slowly I began to see that my colleagues wanted to HELP me, not put me down.  We were in this together.  What a discovery.  I am learning to trust those around me, to ask for help, to accept encouragment and support.  I cannot teach alone.  And you know what?  I cannot do life alone.  I am learning to ask for help in every area of my life.  And I am also learning to give it.  Support and collaboration are huge- no matter what side of it you find yourself on. 



I've mentioned before- several times- that teaching has brought some anxiety in my life.  That might have been an understatement.  It was worst in the fall.  I actually broke out in hives one week.  That was a new one for me.  Going back to teaching has not been the most comforting experience of my life.  Learning (or relearning) new material.  Being in front of new faces.  Joining a group of new colleagues.  The job seemed to come with more fear than faith, and I often envisioned disaster.  But disaster never struck.  Sure I have had a few "less than stellar" moments, but it was never as bad as I made it out to be in my head beforehand.  And isn't that always how it is?  We step outside our comfort zone, take on something new, and panic sets in.  We're going to fail.  This is going to be a disaster.  I'm going to get laughed at, yelled at, spit at (ok, maybe not spit at- but with high schook kids you never know).  And those fears turn out to be nothing.  We find a new joy.  We find a new passion.  We find success in a new way.  Going back to teaching has taught me that doing something scary can be wonderful, and that in most cases, there is nothing to be afraid of.  Going back to teaching has made me brave.  I'm ready to tackle new things.  



I like to think of myself as fun.  Not "life of the party" fun, but maybe fun in a cheesy, dorky kind of way.  I love to laugh, I love to be silly, and I love to have fun.  So naturally, this comes out in my classroom.  I swear, some days my kids really must think I'm nuts.  Truly.  But that's the way I want my classroom.  When I was a sophomore in high school (we're talking more than 25 years ago!), I had a crazy fun English teacher.  Mr. Bernard.  One day, he actually threw a piece of chalk into the corner of the classroom to help us SEE what was happening in a short story we were reading.  I never forgot that.  I never forgot him.  Almost three decades later, I'm that teacher.  Or I want to be.  Teaching is so much better when it's fun.  So is learning.  So is life.  It can't always be fun, but if I can make it fun, I will. 



As you read this, I'll be on a plane, returning to my students after having spent the last few days as a student myself.  This year has renewed in me a passion for photography, for my business, for learning.  I have discovered, by being out of my element, where I am most IN MY ELEMENT- and that is behind a camera, connecting with families, moms, and with high school students (just without the classroom).  And so I committed to learning more about my craft, about my business, about my clients- starting with the photography conference I just attended.  There is something about finding your passion and purpose in life.  It makes you want to learn!  What about you?  Are you still learning?  What kind of student are you?  What "classroom" do you long to find yourself in again? 



I told you before that I discovered how much I love teaching.  Despite the anxiety and all the fears.  But I left out a little tiny detail.  What I've really discovered is WHAT I love teaching.  And I've discovered WHO I love teaching.  I LOVE TEACHING PHOTOGRAPHY.  I LOVE TEACHING CONNECTIONS.  I LOVE TEACHING FAITH, AND BEAUTY, AND STRUGGLE.  I LOVE TEACHING YOU.  This journey into the classroom has opened my eyes to a different kind of classroom.  The blog.  My business.  Life.  I am learning as I go, just like we all are.  And I have so much to share.  And you do, too.  So don't be afraid teach what you know.  Don't be afraid of failing.  You have something to offer those around you.  Don't keep it to yourself.  It's a gift. Share it.  Be a teacher.

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Seventy minutes can be a long time!  That was pretty much the first lesson I learned upon returning to the classroom this year.  At our school, classes run (for the most part) in seventy-minute blocks.  That's seventy minutes of my kids listening to me drone on and on about vocabulary (drone was one of their words last week), or how to write an essay outline, or what Ralph Waldo Emerson was trying to say in his essay, Self-Reliance.  I don't even want to hear MYSELF talk for that long, so I certainly know they don't want to listen for that long.

And so I've discovered the joy of small groups!  I try to break up a portion of every long class block into some sort of small group work.  Some days my students discuss questions I've given them.  On other days, they may be compiling evidence for a mock trial they'll have in class.  Some days I might even bring in markers and poster paper and let their creativity take on colors as well as words.  But no matter what it might be, I try always to break them into smaller groups.

Small groups are wonderful.  First of all, students can no longer hide!  Even my quietest students are encouraged to contribute to whatever their group is working on.  Students who aren't comfortable sharing with the entire class are more comfortable in smaller settings, and those slackers who didn't do the reading?  Well, they're busted.  It's hard to fake it in a small group.  

I love walking around my classroom, or outside on the quad, listening to the laughter, the spirited conversations, and the thoughtful questions that my students come up with during these times.

Watching my students shine in their small groups is also a great reminder of the importance of our small groups in life.  When we are together in small circles, we can feel safer to share, to be more vulnerable than we might be in the big, scary world.  When we drop the ball, or head in the wrong direction, being part of a small group allows those who know us well to lovingly call us out and help us get back on our feet.  And when we walk our faith in a small group, we gain tremendous insight and power as we share God's word with each other.

I love small groups!  My students enjoy learning from each other, laughing as classmates, and growing as thinkers.  And the more I watch them grow, the more thankful I am for the small groups in my life.

What small groups are you a part of?  What do you love best about your small group?  Do you feel free to shine there?  Or does being in a small group make you nervous?  Share with us!  Let's encourage each other today!