Code the Life You Want

3:08 am. How did we get here? I stretch and I yawn into the morning. Into the new day as I give thanks and am filled with gratitude to see another day. During the pandemic, I was deeply moved and inspired to move. To change. To dig deep within myself. I just needed a shovel. During the pandemic, we went virtual as we taught and learned online.

Some grown up students loved it and some did not. Some children loved it and some did not. For instance, I had a student who loved typing on the keyboard. He inspired me to dig deeper within myself. He gave me a shovel without even knowing it. While many times, I push and cheer others on, deep down I knew it was time to push and cheer on myself as well.

I noticed something. Literacy in action as he typed. We were singing Dem Bones and he started typing the sounds of the song out. Not because I told him to but because he wanted to.

What do we do in a world where computers and technology are a part of it. We embrace it and work alongside of it, learn to work with it and even create it. As I am learning coding now, I think about the past languages I learned and recognize coding as a language. Another language to communicate in.

Commas and quite frankly, punctuation matter in the code. You miss it or make a mistake then the code will not work. It will be null and void.

As we started returning to “normal” I didn’t want the old normal. I craved a new normal. So, here I am coding, creating and writing the life I want. The life I need. One that is far from normal. Love and light leads me. We are life. It is now almost 4:00 am on a Tuesday and this will be reaching you at 8:26am. on May 26. Happy reading. Happy living. You are life. Remember that.

The Power of Our Stories

You are powerful. We are powerful. Most of all, together our collective voice screams our power and our courage. Where does this kind of powerful energy come from? And, where does it live and manifest itself? I get to see it manifest in the stories of our students from children to grown ups.  Who we are and who we are in a process of becoming is just as important as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

By telling our stories we create powerful connections.  How do you show and share your story? How is your voice heard? Where does your voice resonate the loudest? The softest? Seriously think and reflect on this. Is it through poetry? Spoken word? Is it in art? Is it found in a conversation? We recognize through our stories and our lives just how connected we are and that we are all in a process of becoming. None of us really know anything and when we think we do, change occurs and to grow we must grow and go with the change. This is how we grow and evolve. This is how we become. This is how we create our real and authentic identities. Tupac Shakur said, “I am coming out 100% real and I’m not compromising anything.”

We are found in a single sentence. We are found in a line drawn and extended magnified or minimized like an MC Escher sketch. “Every line means something,” said Basquait.  If every line means something in a drawing, then that also means every curve, every freckle each and every part of us means something too. Every “line” in this life means something.  Each action or inaction affects all of us even when we don’t think it does, it does.

What’s your story? Who are you? Why are you here? How do you want to make your vision a reality and your voice resonate and connect? What are you doing right now to make your vision come to fruition? Where are you? When will you share your story — your voice?

We’re all waiting for you to become you and even when you become you, you will still change and grow. You will get growing pains and experience hurts. What will you do with it all? You will change. You will evolve.  We are all in a never-ending process of becoming.  Over and over and over again.

Leveling up or leveling down and around like a run on sentence or drawn out lines. We never come to a complete end and when we think we have reached the end we are reminded again and again that we are only just beginning.

Read more here: https://worldforumfoundation.org/2019/09/17/the-power-of-storytelling-jill-telford-united-states/

Show and Share: A Soul Story

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your soul. Who are you surrounded by? How are you feeling? Are you inspired? Are you drained? Are you anxious? Are people talking about ideas or about other people? That is the question. And, when people answer…when people show you who they are, believe them. No judgment. Accept it but don’t you ever settle.

Our life’s work is what and where we go each and every day. Most of all, it is who we spend the most time with. I am grateful to be an educator and life long learner. It is a major part of who I am. We are in a constant process of becoming. Constant change. Each morning is a new morning and a new day. I yawn. I wake up. I stretch. I meditate. I breathe. I remember who I was, who I am and who I am in a process of becoming. I get to see who children were, are and are in a process of becoming. I get to see who families were, are and in a process of becoming.

I learned a lesson, a major valuable lesson this year during the Coronavirus. If you don’t like something, say it even if your voice trembles. Speak up even as old trauma reopens because you’ve been triggered by someone’s behavior. Always stand up for those who are not present in the room even when you’re afraid to. Follow your gut. Your instinct. It will never ever steer you wrong. Ever. We are always in a process of becoming never reaching the final product. Movement is life.

I am thankful. I am grateful for all that I have experienced. I learned a lot and will continue to. I forgive but I don’t forget. I use it to propel even further holding hands of others on the same route.

Healing from Trauma:

  1. Time: Give yourself time and hugs
  2. Journal: Write a lot
  3. Journal: Create an art journal *Bonus: Paint some canvases/cardboard and give it away!
  4. Write a letter *your choice to send it or not*
  5. Reach out to those who care about you
  6. No need to respond to toxicity: Let it go, let it go, let it goooo!
  7. Cut out negative+toxic relationships
  8. Stop making excuses for people and hold them accountable. If they don’t change. You leave. Let it Burn as Usher would say lol

Ego Sum. Tu Es.

Ego sum. I am. I am many things. You are. You are many things too.

I am a teacher and have been teaching for a decade. During my ten years, I have witnessed and experienced so much turnover in this field. Most of all, our children and families experience it. It feels like salt to an open wound. 

We leave due to financial, most of all due to lack of support and freedom to do the right thing for our students. Our children. I hear the following phrase often, “I close the door and do what’s developmentally appropriate for my students.” What does this mean? I dare you to read 3 books: Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Much More than the ABCs and the fable The Animal School written in 1940 BUT still applicable to today and if I have time I would love to read it. We’re so busy readying our children for the next thing that we forget to meet them right where they are. We need to ask, “Are we ready for them? Are we doing the right thing for children by putting our research into action?” 

An over reliance on test scores and teaching to a test is burning teachers and children out. How is it that standardized testing is linked to funding and performance? Relying solely on data and scores all the while telling our students you are more than a test. Meanwhile at private schools such as Sidwell Friends…project based and expeditionary learning are taking place. The right thing happens. I ask when you choose a school do you look at scores? Or do you walk inside to “get a feel” for the climate and culture. Instead of asking schools for our scores ask us how we’re feeling. Nationally: How are our schools feeling? What are our children showing us? 

Our schools are sick. This is an egregious problem! 

There is an article published by the Learning Policy Institute for policy recommendations.

To stem teacher turnover, federal, state, and district policymakers should consider improving the key factors associated with turnover: compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions. Click the link below for some of those recommendations:

https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report

I graduated high school in 2004 and that’s when the PSSA was rolled out in Pennsylvania. We were like guinea pigs. We were the first class where it would count. I was already accepted into college. I scored above average on English and writing but scored below basic in Math. I took the math part 3 times. I went to tutoring everyday. As a result, I would not get a seal on my diploma. My math teacher tried to help me cheat and I said, “No, that test is showing my strengths and it is not math!” She pleaded. I never changed my answers and it turned into a huge dilemma for my school as I threatened to call the news stations. I was adamant that that showed my abilities. I reflect on this thinking, if changing answers and fudging scores happened then then it most certainly is happening now. 

It is not okay and we are a part of the system. We need change. Change happens from within but we need better and effective policies. Teachers would stay and not quit when listened to. Children and families would want to go to school if we did the right thing that is appropriate. Each and every child, family and school is different. It’s time we did the right thing. Teacher turn over would stop and I’m sure teachers long and gone would no longer be turning and rolling in their graves at this catastrophe and what I believe is a national crises.

Teaching is an art form. So is learning especially life-long learning.

There are a lot of factors contributing to teacher attrition but by far the three major ones as mentioned are testing, fringing on teacher autonomy (creativity) and devaluing education. At some point we lost our way or have been lost and now are finally waking up. 

There is a bigger picture occurring. We are pushing children to get ready for the next thing meanwhile failing to meet them where they are and supporting them during their process of the next. Ever since NCLB and state standards and all of this testing. I feel and know this to be true: children are showing us and have been showing us all along what they need. We need to listen. Why can’t we have a style of learning and teaching that meets all.

Collaboration, connection, creativity and caring. When we care and children care then the rest handles itself. Instead emphasizing tests or scores, I want children to focus on connecting with another on a project that they care about. Find and issue and create a solution. There is so much learning in that one project alone that takes place and connects all subjects. Most of all, it connects our children.  It connects us to make an impact on our world.

The More We Zoom Together, the Happier We’ll Be?

Wait. Will we be happier? Who loves zooming? Is it trueeee? I do, I do, I do, I do, ooooo in the reminiscent Kenan and Kel series when asked if he loves orange soda. Is zooming good for us? While yes, it keeps us connected does it aid in burnout and result in frustration? Is in-person real life interaction(ing) better than zooming?

Yes and no. Yes, as teachers, we see real life home environments and children in their first and most important learning environment. Then no, as we know children’s learning is play and hands on learning in the real natural world. However, technology is a part of our real natural world now isn’t it?

As an advocate for literacy, I must admit and say that I am now an advocate of digital literacy for children especially as they are growing and will turn into grown ups who need to be prepared for professions not even created yet and jobs that they indeed will make up themselves. Our future coders and developers must have the capacity of critical and creative thinking which is opened up through natural world and online digital learning.

Being able to see digital literacy and book literacy is incredible. Some students are using the chat feature to type and sound out words. Some are hacking banking systems. Seeing the stages of emergent reading and writing online is incredible aka as drawing.

Learning to Write and Draw happens in stages and now think of the following stages digitally accompanied by text and emojis.

  • Stage 1: Random Scribbling (15 months to 2½ years)
  • Stage 2: Controlled Scribbling (2 years to 3 years)
  • Stage 3: Lines and Patterns (2½ years to 3½ years)
  • Stage 4: Pictures of Objects or People (3 years to 5 years)
  • Stage 5: Letter and Word Practice (3 to 5 years)

Thank you to Zero to 3 for the above stages! For more go to:

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/305-learning-to-write-and-draw

*Please also click on, see and take a closer look at the images above. My student sounded out Charlotte from Charlotte’s web as “sleet” and used emojis as symbols from the story. My student also did so much more up there. Coding. Lot’s and lot’s of coding.

If we use technology in meaningful ways our students will grow in book literacy and digital literacy simultaneously. Using technology in meaningful ways is necessary for children’s growth and development as they grow through the stages of life. They can use it to tell their stories and that is powerful in itself.

So, what else can you do to encourage children’s literacy aka the process of art and writing skills *creative and critical thinking*? Let’s add to the list: emails, messaging, creating videos, drawing digitally, podcasts, chatting, zooming and coding as these are all a part of our real lives. If we know children imitate us and watch as we do not as we say then let’s embrace it in meaningful and appropriate ways.

Reading the Rainbow

I dream in rainbow technicolor. My dreams are vivid hues and shades where we are all connected as one. It’s not a dream. I am literally living this in my life. I’m thankful and full of gratitude.

Each color of the rainbow symbolizes something special.

June is pride month. Remember Stonewall. Always. It was a riot and uprising to be treated as human beings. Riots and protests are our language. It is the human language especially when no one is listening. Yea, they hear us but they are not listening and not taking action. This month I’m honoring the Black Lives Matter movement. Their lives matter too.

Remember that.

For advocacy work please go to:

https://www.momsrising.org/

https://www.childrensdefense.org/programs/cdf-freedom-schools/

https://naeyc.org

Hoops, Books and Alley Ways

“That hoop will bring nothing but drugs and crime.”

I replied, “No disrespect but we already have drugs and crime here.”

Unit 4. Washington DC. Our nation’s capital. We had prostitutes, guns, drugs and crime in our neighborhood. We also had amazing individuals come together to do something about it. We also had people go against the change. But we all well most of us, came together.

Most of all, we did something about it. Read previous blogs to find out.

You know what else we had? A very high illiteracy rate.

Research shows when you don’t have reading literacy or math literacy you most likely will end up in jail. And, guess what? It’s true and that’s why more jails are built. People recognize the power in book literacy and financial literacy.

We need to change the game of education and life. We need to be creative, collaborative, compassionate and chance takers. Most of all, we need to empower one another to be bold and daring.

Don’t ask permission – ask forgiveness.

For approximately 90,000 of DC’s adults, low literacy skills are a barrier to just about everything – completing their education, getting and keeping a decent job, and staying out of poverty (Washington Literacy Center).

If you want to find out more of how to help with illiteracy please click here:

https://www.washlit.org/#:~:text=For%20approximately%2090%2C000%20of%20DC’s,and%20staying%20out%20of%20poverty.

Do We Have to Wear a Mask? A Poem

As told to me by children.

“Do We Have to Wear a Mask?”

“Do we have to wear a mask when we go back to school?”

“The world is filled with germs”.

“Stay home!”

“If we go outside we will die.”

“You can’t see the germs with a magnifying glass!”

“You can’t see it with a microscope or even a telescope either.”

“How will we eat our lunch if we have masks on?! That’s so silly!”

“Do you want to see my mask?”

“I had to put it on when people came too close!”

“Our president is trying to kill us! He told us to drink chemicals.”

“When the germs go away you can come to my house for a playdate!”

“When the germs are gone you can come to my house, too.”

Moment of silence.

“Wait, will the germs ever go away?”

The germs have always been here. Good and bad ones. Like humans.

“You can can wear a mask and stay far away from me!”

“You can’t wear my mask and I can’t wear your mask.”

Moment of silence. 

Yes, we have to wear a mask.

We’re really good at this.

We always caught our coughs and our sneezes in our elbows disguised as capes.

Catch it in your cape don’t let it escape.

We always washed our hands and sang Happy Birthday simultaneously.

Now, we have another accessory of our superhero way of being.

A mask. It goes well with our capes everyone.

What Does Your Happiness Look Like?

Carpe Diem, friends. Recently, my college students wrote about a Ted Talk and also chose an article that casts doubt on it. A student chose one about happiness.

After the presentation I asked them, “What does your happiness look like?” My student from Catalonia asked me what mine looks like and told me that I should have a blog all about life especially social revolutions and happiness. I thought of John Lennon and then it got me thinking about my happiness and the moments when I’m really happy.

So what does my happiness look like? 

I told my students: “Mine looks like a plastic chair, really any chair or even the ground anywhere in the sunshine, lounging with a pile of books at my feet.”

Then I remembered when I visited my hometown after many years, I pulled out a plastic chair and books, sat in the sun and I saw my neighbor Frank.

When he saw me in my sister’s backyard doing that, he smiled and said, “I haven’t seen you since high school! And, you still love that. “It’s true and another fun fact is that I also love-love-love the little things like watching ants and wondering if a raindrop can be smaller than a mouse’s fingertips? Shout out to the poet ee cummings.

Another source where my happiness grows from is the kind of happiness working, growing and learning with children as they remind us of the small things. Each and every single day. They remind me to Live Life to the Fullest. To be in the moment. To remember that it is a process. We are all in a process of becoming. When we think we know, we have no idea.

When I was around 8 years old, my father gave me a book after he got out jail entitled: Live Each Day to the Fullest featured here in the image and that is exactly what I plan on and am doing.

The Story Continues…in Real Life.

I have been working every Sunday but it does not feel like work.
It feels like play.
I feel really good to feel good about that. I would literally do what I do on Sundays for free, really. Last Sunday, I spent my time working with one child and playing. My high of the day was making up stories using the instruments to make sound effects for the stories we made up. I also retold my classics: aka my favorites: Luki and the Rocket Power Shoes and Luki and the Rocket Power Paintbrush. It was his first time listening to it. He asked for them again and again. I thought to myself…why am I in this rush to produce creative works of art when I should enjoy what I already have out there in the universe?
I am literally backed up on creative projects but I reflected on and about my own process. Am I enjoying the process? Am I enjoying myself? Why am I pushing and grinding to produce more and more? I have the stories. I enjoyed the process of creating them. Now let me create an outlet to massively share them using my voice and technology. I remember when a student asked me if I would be on her story podcast that evening she listened to it. Then, I recalled another student asking for one last story before she moved on and went to her new school.
I want to enjoy the stories that I have out. Recently, someone (whom I never met in real life) pushed me and inspired me to push myself even further in my creative process. The message on IG really has me thinking and mulling over a few things. 1. I need to make a youtube channel and 2. I really need to get a podcast together asap and 3. I need to be in the moment and enjoy the process and the re-telling of my stories rather than working on the next new project right away.
By the time of the next blog post, I hope to have one of my visions in the process of becoming. Intuitively, I feel as though I am on the way.
Peace, love and light.
Happy reading and before you know it, I hope to be saying Happy Listening. Real Life. 🙂