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. 🙂

We All Die or Do We?

To Die or Not to Die?

That is the question.

“We all die and go to Heaven.”

“We become angels when we die.”

“No we don’t.”
“Yes we do.”
“No we don’t.”
“Yes, we do.”
“All of us die. We turn into angels. And, we go to Heaven!”
A metal pail is thrown.
“We DON’T DIE.” 
“Yes, we do!”
“My Mom said we do. We all die and go to Heaven.”
We are born and we die. 
Or do we?
Our preschool classroom has me question everything about our life and spiritual existence.
Life is death and death is life.
C’est le vie. C’est la mort.

Do we ever really die?

That is the real question.

Regulating the Fun Out of Learning through Play

Unlike Warren G and Nate Dog, it is time to stop regulating. Especially in early education and K-12. Regulate literally means to control or supervise (something, especially a company or business activity) by means of rules and regulations.  Licensing Micro managers are running around out of touch and out of sync with the classrooms around the country. As a result, we are all running around like protective services protecting children to the point where boo boos do not happen.

From rubberized playgrounds to no longer allowing cups in the sensory water tables, it is ludicrous. Meanwhile, we want children to be adventurous, curious and creative but we MUST make sure their cots are 3 feet apart. Directors, assistant directors, educators and families are not here to helicopter children. That goes against best practice. We and children cannot be summed up in checklists and procedures. Children, educators and families are living breathing beings.

To access these regulations click here:

https://osse.dc.gov/publication/child-care-licensing-regulations

So where does that leave us? I advocate for high quality and DAP learning for all children. Often I wonder: How do children learn? Each and every child is different. I want my students to leave with 1. an understanding and pride in self as well as 2. their families to understand how their child learns so they can best advocate for their child when they go to Kindergarten and beyond. There are many types of learners. Advocating their learning style from auditory, kinesthetic, visual to so much more better makes teachers and the new school prepared for your children not the other way around. As an educator and advocate, I want to be a part of encouraging and supporting movers and shakers of our world. I do not want to be a part of suppressing them.

We need to re-frame our way of thinking. We shouldn’t be thinking will Johnny be ready for Kindergarten. Instead we should be asking will his new school be ready for him? The best way is through building relationships with his soon to be new teacher and advocating for Johnny’s learning style and fighting for teachers that best suit Johnny’s needs.

When I traveled to New Zealand and I observed their classrooms I was amazed. Freedom. Children were able to be children without fear of top down policies and regulations affecting and influencing administrators, teachers and families of how we work with our children.

As adults we forget just how small we used to be.  As a result, we forget just how small and curious our children are.

Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found:

http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

@artbookstories @jill.telford

Stick Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: Walking, Working and Moving Together

stick

While there are many stories from preschool that resonate with me, none affect me more than being in the middle of our own classroom stories. The poem by Robert Fulghum  illustrates it best:

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need

To know about how to live

And what to do and how to be

I learned in kindergarten.

Wisdom was not at the top

Of the graduate school mountain,

But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life –

Learn some and think some

And draw and paint and sing and dance

And play and work everyday some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world,

Watch out for traffic,

Hold hands and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

From: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/246075-these-are-the-things-i-learned-in-kindergarten-1-share

I learned these life lessons shared by Robert Fulghum even before Kindergarten. I learned these little life lessons in Head start where I started preschool. These are the same lessons that I now pass on in words and action almost two decades later in a preschool classroom and playground.

I work at being the kind of grown up I needed as I a child. Families do their best with what they know each and every generation. By walking, working and moving together we create a reciprocal relationship where the best kind of learning takes place: from one another.

Best of all, children rise up and pass it on. I was a child who rose up. Preschool changes trajectories. Preschool definitely changed mine. A group of people worked together with or without knowing the power of the early childhood education profession. Not to mention the power of tuning into Fred Rogers. http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/

However, that is for a whole other post. In the meantime, here are some of the lessons from Robert’s poem in real life action:

We share. We come up with questions and solutions. “When can I play with it?”, “Is there another one?” or “I’ll play, read or create something awesome in the meantime.”

We often play fair and when it doesn’t feel fair we talk about it. Racing faster than cheetahs teaches us a lot on the playground. “Is it fair to run before finishing the sentence: “Ready steady, go” or “On your marks, get set, go!”

A game of tag teaches us gentle touches without having to say, “Don’t hit.”  When frustrated we verbalize it. When we can’t we rip paper, pound and squeeze play dough, paint, hit a pillow, yell among so many more strategies.

When it comes to saying sorry, we go a bit deeper. We work to fix what we did and help our friends to feel better. We get to the root of the problem. “What happened?”, “Why”, “What can I do?” and “how?”

Our hands are very dry. You know why we keep lotion on standby.

We flush. When we don’t, we still flush. It’s called a courtesy flush. Because, we all forget sometimes.

Warm cookies are delicious especially when we followed the recipe but sometimes we go overboard with the amounts we shake in. We just can’t control our excitement for making these cookies right now! (Side note: Doesn’t have to even be cookies could be anything:  play dough, Oobleck or just putting it together to see what happens as we wonder what will happen as we test out our theories). If children getting excited about mixing flour and water doesn’t remind you to appreciate and marvel at the little things, I don’t know what will.

Robert covers living a balanced life in the poem itself. If you don’t see living a balanced life in action at your child’s school or at your work then it’s time to find a new one. Living a balanced life looks like the bolded words below and STILL applies to grown ups.

“Live a balanced life –

Learn some and think some

And draw and paint and sing and dance

And play and work everyday some.”

We take our naps. We sprinkle magical sleeping sprinkle dust after reading a few stories and making some up from our brains. It works…every time.

Most of all, we sing each and everyday.

When walking up the sidewalk, we sing. We sing: “Stick together like peanut butter jelly.”We think about what else could be as sticky. We change the words to gum, play dough, tape, duct tape, hummus, yogurt, glue and the list of words never end.  We hold hands. We look out for one another. We stick together. Not only do we watch out for traffic, we watch out for each other.

Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found:

http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

@artbookstories @jill.telford

 

stick tog pic ford