Education Nation 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 No comments

I should be very clear and say that I do not miss a day of first grade for just anybody! I LoVe what I do and truly miss being away from my little monkeys. With that said, Education Nation was on the "must do" list and with good reason!  NBC hosts this extraordinary open forum for education gurus, lovers of learning, educators from all grade levels, researchers, corporate partners, and well, those with lots of extra money. The interaction possibilities are right on! During the Teacher Town Hall, teachers, parents, and community members were tweeting, posting on Facebook, and posting on the blog! It was awesome! Check out my tweet on the big screen! We were buzzing in with a response system similar to the one in my classroom. Technology was everywhere! I am hopeful this buzz will continue in the virtual world, as well as, well....the real world.
Have you heard of Jennifer Garner? Yep, the actress from.....Valentine's Day and many more! Did you know she is an early childhood education advocate? I didn't! Check this out! I like her more than ever as early intervention is so close to my heart!
Does LeBron James ring a bell? He is an education advocate too! I was unaware of his campaign-26 Seconds. Every 26 seconds a student drops out of school. How can we sleep at night at knowing that?Want to know more? I did! Look here! (Side note-he was my second crush of the event!)
Actress, basketball player, Secretary of Education....those things go together, right?
Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan had much to say after the Innovation Spotlight with Sal Khan. (By the way, if you haven't checked out Khan Academy-you are missing out!) Duncan has a positive outlook, but knows there is work to be done. I like Secretary Duncan. I do not always agree with the Secretary, but I think he is an ok guy. When he participated in Parenting Magazine's Mom Congress letters to our children, it made my heart sing. This is a real guy. He does not have all the answers, but none of us do. 

Is that all? Nope! There was Brain Power! This intense research made my heart soar and sink at the same time! T is 2 1/2. Half of his first 2,000 days have passed. Wow. I couldn't help but think how blessed we are, but at the same time think of how others have so little. This is weighing on me and I am, of course, coming up with a plan to help young children here in Atlanta. Look at this research! We must TALK and READ to our children. They need to LAUGH and PLAY everyday. If not now, then when? 

For more info on the Brain Power research, click here
Dr. Nancy Snyderman offers tips for grownups too! 5 Tips

Was it all work and no play? No way! Life is too short for that!

We are an Education Nation..........right?

Where to begin! I left Saturday afternoon for a turn around trip to the Big Apple! I was determined and excited to attend NBC's Education Nation Teacher Town Hall in New York City September 25th.
Armed with my media credentials (a first for me and I loved it!) I braced myself for the challenge and hailed a taxi to 30 Rock. I felt very New Yorkish as I (in my best accent) said, "30 Rock!" The driver nodded and I was on my way!

Brian Williams, my first crush of the event, started the with a kudos to teachers and a warm welcome. Speakers included teachers of the year, administrators, school leaders and more. Melinda Gates was absolutely a highlight, though I may not always agree with her beliefs and ideas. She says we must have a new teacher evaluation and I completely AGREE with that! However, I am not sure if all of this-peer teacher's evaluations, student assessments, parents surveys, student surveys, and administration observations-should determine final evaluation and pay. More than the obvious issues that might arise, I just do not think the logistics would ever work. Who would cover the other classes while colleagues observe a lesson? How will these surveys been done without bias? I could go on and on. I KNOW teachers should learn from each other and I am the first to volunteer and also share,
 but are we ready for this?

I am really pondering the best type of teacher evaluation system and I fully intend on passing along my ideas....when I have one! Do you have an idea? Please share! Mrs. Gates was also intermingled with teacher pay talk. She knows teachers should make more money. We all know teachers should make more money...I hope anyway! For more with Mrs. Gates, visit Ed Nation Part 1.

Another big hit for me was Maddie Fennel (hope I am giving her name the justice it deserves!) She was a heavy hitter that I can admire and probably listen to for hours. My favorite comment was geared for our teacher friends who may not be in the right field, "This may not be for you. Let us help you find something better to do with your time." (or something along those lines.) I get happy chills just thinking about it!

To hear more of Maddie and her preacheresque friend on the panel, click here:

Bottom line-this could have gone on for days. Seriously, if I could have my way--it would! There were not enough teachers present, the ones present were not geographically diverse, there were few parents, administrators, or superintendents either. There were a couple of speakers who easily could have been replaced with educators sharing their real life experiences. I am all about real teachers sharing what is going RIGHT and sharing SOLUTIONS on how to make things better. Did I enjoy the speakers on hand? YES! Do I think a little more TEACHER input could have been used to choose speakers--absolutely!! 

There I go again with that teacher input thing! :) 

International Dot Day

Sunday, September 18, 2011 2 comments
Have you read The Dot by Peter Reynolds? If not, it is time!! 

My first grade class and I celebrated International Dot Day on September 15th. My toddler and I celebrated that night! The Dot is all about believing in yourself, being brave, and going for it! A struggling artist is sad about her ability to draw until a fabulous teacher displays her work (a dot) with pride. Vashti starts to feel a little bit better and ends up with a beautiful dot display. She then shares her gift with another developing artist. It is just beautiful! Paying it forward, awesome art, and more! My class created their own dot masterpieces....


But what about T? We had a dotty dinner! He ate a pancake dot, with syrup dots, raspberry dots, and so on! 

While you are at it, you might as well buy ish too! It is another must have by Reynolds! Each year my class and I read the book and have a great discussion about how our pictures do not need to be perfect-they can be -ish! We then make a class book with our -ish drawings and mine are always included! (I drew a giraffe last week that the kids mistook for a spider. :/) The result is always del-ish-ous!


Thursday, September 15, 2011 1 comment
T will be 3 in January and so the time is right. The time to share one of my all time favorite (I know I have quite a few) books with him. This is one of the books that I read the very first week of first grade.

Here's how I start the book talk-"Boys and girls, I want to share a book with you and the main character is Grover from Sesame Street." This is met with "what, Sesame Street, is that a board book, blah blah blah." I then say, "I know what you are thinking-Sesame Street is for babies and you are just too old for that. So let's make a deal. If you don't like it when I am done, I will take it home and never ever ever bring it back! Deal?"

Then I read the book and they BEG for me to read it again. Here we are, four weeks into school and they STILL ask me to read the book! "Please don't take it home, please!" :)

Here it is...(click on the pic to visit Amazon)
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I just so happen to also have this in board book and on cd! 

Now, this is one of those books that you MUST read before sharing with your child. You must become a Sesame Street character and go for it! You have to act like you are nailing the pages and tying them down and so on! I guarantee a smile from your toddler, your kindergartener, your first grader, and maybe even your spouse! 

There is a sequel, but much like great movies, the second one just doesn't compare.

Still not sold? Check this out! My Mommy Reads (link to T and I reading the book! Push play and enjoy!)

Judy and Eric

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 2 comments
That's right, we are on a first name basis-Judy Schachner, Eric Wight, and ME! Sorry, I was dreaming and had to pinch myself! Maybe we are not actually on a first name basis, but I did meet both of them at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day. My heart was actually racing upon meeting two of my author heroes! You may be wondering, what have these two geniuses created? Get out your checkbook friends...........

You are going to want them all! Judy Schachner is the creator of Skippyjon Jones, named after her very own cat-Skippy.
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Skippyjon Jones is a curious little cat who daydreams of being a chee wa wa! (I wish you could hear me saying this in my muy muy best Spanish accent!)

No, no, that's not all! She has a set of early concept books for our toddler friends! Skippy does opposites, colors, shapes, and more! Of course, I have read the real Skippy books to T and he loves them. He claps along and has a blast! I think having both in the classroom would be a great help, as they are a higher reading level and everyone will not be able to read them independently (Oish guided reading level.)

Learn more about Judy (first name basis) here-

Now, what about ERIC?
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This graphic novel series is a big hit with my high readers! I only discovered it at the end of last year! The boys flock to these books and with good reason! The illustrations are amazing, the flow is easy to follow, and the plot keeps you on your toes. They are guaranteed to make you smile! Have I read these to T? Nope. Have I read them to my firsties? Absolutely! 

Learn more about Eric (first name basis) at

We Will Never Forget

Sunday, September 11, 2011 No comments
Ten years ago today, I was standing in front of 19 kindergartners when I heard the news. No, I will never forget. Here I am, 10 years older....maybe a little wiser, with the biggest change being that I am a now a mother. I can only imagine how that day felt for my mother and all the other mothers out there. We all hurt that day, but I think mothers had a little more pain. Please know that when I say mothers, I don't mean it in the literal way-I mean all mothers and those with a mother's soul. That would be my sister N, she had a mother's soul.

As I look at my 2 1/2 year old boy wonder, I am so grateful, so blessed. I want him to know about this day in America's history, but I wish he would never need to know. I wish it would all go away, but something tells me that is not going to happen. *Sigh.*

T started our day with saying the "pledge of legens." He had us all stand up and say it proudly. He waved "Merica flags" around the den and smiled. He has no idea why and I'm ok with that. We went to  Kennesaw Battlefield for a beautiful display of 3,000 American flags-one for each life lost on this tragic day. We talked to T about America and how great it is to live here. He doesn't get it. He just looked at the flags in awe. He loved it. In 10 years, I will tell him more. For now, I want him to enjoy his innocence. I want to enjoy his innocence too. After all, just 10 years ago-I was just as innocent at age 24.....

My favorite patriotic books for firsties and T!

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Dear First Graders,

Sunday, September 4, 2011 No comments
I have been waiting for you since the end of May! I have wondered who you are, what you will look like, how you will behave, and what I can do to make learning fun for you. (Forgive me for sounding like an expectant mother!) I have prepared the room, read lots of books, reflected on my teaching and planned ways to make it better. Now you are here. There are 14 of you, smiling big and eager to discover what I have in store for this school year.

We have talked about our hopes and dreams and I have quite a few for you. I want you to feel successful and be successful. I want our classroom to be a community. I want us to a be family. I want us to help each other and cheer each other on. I want us to be happy for each other and pick our friends up if they fall. I want us to learn from each other.

I want your parents to read my newsletter each week so they can talk to you about what is going on in our classroom. I want them to help you with your homework and remember its purpose is not only to show them what we are learning, but also to teach you responsibility and organization. If we start building these skills now, it may be a little easier later. I want your parents to be honest with me and respect when I am honest with them. I want to be a team with your parents as we work to do what is best for you! I want them to be involved in our classroom and in your learning. So far so good!

I want you to love learning. I want you to be excited about reading and writing and math and social studies and science! I want you to believe in yourself and know that everybody learns in different ways. I want you to try new things and live a little! I want you to think before you speak. I want you to use kind words and have a nice face. I want you to be a problem solver.

I want a lot! That is a good thing though. I have high, yet realistic expectations for you and I know you can do it!

I am thrilled to be your teacher. I love spending time with you each day. I love getting to know your favorite sports, how many sisters and brothers you have, your favorite food and where you like to go on vacation. Those tidbits are almost as important as your reading level and math ability.

In nine months, our time will be done. Yep, I'm already thinking about it! I'll always have a special place in my heart just for you. We will still be family and I will always want to know what is going on with you. I want to know all about your successes! And as I always say, "even if you are 35 and need something, let me know."

Mrs. S. :)

My Love Letter......

My friends at Parenting magazine have asked us to think about our children going back to school. I have decided to write two letters. This one is to my little guy. The other will be to my fabulous 14 first graders. Thanks for indulging me. While you are here, consider, joining Parenting’s Mom Congress on Education and Learning on Facebook at to connect with parents around the country who are standing up for great schools. As you know, this is my passion-a great education for not just T, but ALL children! Want to make your school great right NOW?  Enter the Mom Congress School Transformation Grant contest to win $20,000 for your school.

Dear T, my little love monkey,

I think about your first day of kindergarten probably more than I should. I mean, it is over 2 1/2 years away. Still, I find myself watching you grow, looking taller and being smarter. I hear you talking like crazy and noticing things in the world around you. Sometimes I want time to stop. I just want you to be two forever. Oh wait, you just knocked over a cup of tea and are splashing around in it. So let's not stay two forever!

When I think of what I want for your education, I think first of happiness. I want you to love learning. I want your teachers (I already know they will be great) to guide you. I don't want them to give you the answers. I want them to build your confidence but still be honest with you. I want you to be a great kid. You don't have to brilliant (though that would be lovely,) but you do have to be respectful and polite. I want you to explore the world, read books, help others, and try your best.

I want you to play everyday and use your imagination. I want you to love school and I want you to read. I want your teachers to ask for your input and create lessons designed for you. I want them to know what you love and what you have no interest in pursuing. I want them to know you--really really know you. I want you to ask questions when you are confused. I want you to be proud of your hard work-and that means you will need to do some hard work. :)

I have told you this before, but, is not fair. Going into kindergarten with that in the back of your mind might be useful. :) In fact, if you could pick up on that now, it would be even better. :)

I want you to be brave. I want you to have friends and treat everyone the way you want to be treated. I want to not overreact to silly things and support you in your endeavors. That may be easier said than done!

I want you to never ever have to worry about the results of a standardized test. Mommy and Daddy will never ever let your future be determined by scores alone.

I want you to be able to laugh at yourself like Mommy does. I want you to be logical like Daddy. I want you to be loving like Oba, wise like Pops, kind like Granma, sincere like Granpa, determined like Peeper, and fun like Audrey. I think if you can do these things, you will be not only an all star student, but an all around good kid.

And when you one day fulfill your dream of becoming a "real ninja" or "big truck driver," I will be so proud of you. If you decide to be the doctor/teacher that mommy wants you to be-that would be great!

I love you more than the moon and the stars. I love you purple and orange. You mean the world to me.

Love, Mommy (AKA Mom, Momma, Mommanator, Momo)


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