Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting The Word Out

I feel fortunate to be a part of a profession filled with brilliant people who truly stand up for what's right for children and teachers. Below, I'm attaching important information from five amazing educators I've become inspired by via email, Twitter, Facebook, or latest book published---Lynn Stoddard, Anthony Cody, Donalyn Miller, Susan Ohanian, and Linda Darling Hammond. Whether I know these people personally or not, I'm a teacher who continues to be thankful that I can call them some of my new "social media mentors".
Lynn, Anthony, Donalyn, Susan, and Linda have reminded me what teachers can do to change the face of education today. They have reminded me what children and teachers deserve. Read their words, and take action. I certainly will.

1. The first message comes from Lynn Stoddard, author of Educating For Human Greatness, a reform plan that restores teaching as a respected profession.
I begin with a quote from his book:

2. Next, read the message from Anthony Cody, who's leading the charge to get teacher voices to the national government through his "Teachers Letters To Obama".
To members of Teachers' Letters to Obama

Anthony Cody September 18 at 6:47pm Reply
Dear Members of Teachers' Letters to Obama,
This next week is a critical one with some important opportunities for our voices to be heard on education issues. Please take part in these activities.

First of all, NBC is promoting a week of programming devoted to familiar "experts" on education reform -- but teachers are nowhere to be seen on the main stage. Teachers are given a separate town hall on Sunday, Sep. 26, but will be lectured from on high by Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and the like. Please register to participate nonetheless at, and let them know what you think!

This Monday, Oprah will have as guests Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates. But Oprah has issued a call to Chicago area teachers as well for a special show devoted to giving teachers a voice, for Friday, Sep. 24! Please sign up here if you can go.

Teachers' Letters to Obama is hosting our next Round Table, "Stop Griping, Start Organizing," on Tuesday, Sep. 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Pacific time, 8:30 to 10:30 pm Eastern time. Guests will include Lily Eskelson of the NEA, Jesse Turner -- who just completed a 600 plus mile walk from Connecticut to DC to protest federal education policies, and Chris Janotta of Million Teacher March. We will discuss ways teachers are taking a stand and ways you can make a difference. Please register here:

Lastly, many of us wrote letters this summer addressed to members of Congress, aligned with the seven principles to guide reauthorization of NCLB. These letters are now posted and available for downloading. Please download them and share them with your Congressperson and Senator.

Now, when all the media seems to be fixed on promoting the same convergent message about school reform, it is crucial that teachers speak out and be heard. Please do not allow us to be silenced.

3. Next, in yesterday's blog post by Donalyn Miller (aka The Book Whisperer), she speaks loudly for one of my favorite authors, Laurie Halse Anderson, and for why it's important to fight against banning books. In her own words in the blog post, "banning books increases ignorance and closes dialogue about these issues", and I wholeheartedly agree. I'm blown away by Donalyn's knowledge of books, social media, teaching, learning, and children, and her ability to share that knowledge with a global audience.
Read Donalyn's post here

4. Susan Ohanian, longtime teacher and author, fights daily for us as teachers, and does the hard work to get out information about what's going on with education in our government, our cities, and our schools across the nation. Send her an email to start receiving these important messages about how we can fight for what's right for our children, our teachers, and our schools.

5. Finally, I'll end with a quote from Linda Darling Hammond's latest book, The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment To Equity Will Determine Our Future. I'd love to have a book talk when you're done reading it and will still dream of her being the Secretary of Education one day.
I read this quote from Martin Luther King at the end of the acknowledgements in her book:

Take action because Conscience tells you it's right.

To the possibilities of a great future for our nation's children...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Rest of The Story....What I'm Learning As a Stepmom

I dropped off the face of the blogging Earth for several days.
Three words for you.
Stepmotherhood to teenagers.
Married life is quite an adjustment, and I don't think I had a clue how much of an adjustment it would be with a 14 year old stepson and a 15 year old stepdaughter in the house. My sweet husband and I are doing our very best and learning lots these days about how to "blend" this two month old family.

A few weeks ago, I had begun to write the stories of my top ten favorite picture books, started by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek on August 10th.

Just this morning I decided to take a different look at my last four favorites, re-reading them all through the eyes of a teacher AND a stepmom.
So finally, here's the rest of the story.....

Cynthia Rylant's All In a Day is one of my favorites, and in my opinion, it is THE book to start your day. This book started every single school morning for my first graders and me. I love it because it sets the tone for the day and gives children (and adults) a sense of what's possible...."a day brings hope and kindness too...a day is all it's own, you can make a wish, and start again...".
"Rain could show up at your door and teach you how to dance...." Yes,there may be tough times and obstacles in our way, but those rainy days and tough days are opportunities for growth, learning, and dancing.
It invites children (and adults) to start fresh and make the most of the day that's been given to us..."this day will soon be over..and it won't come back again...So live it well, make it count, fill it up with YOU...the day's all yours, it's waiting now...see what you can do."

Words to live by for the teacher and the stepmom.

My Duck by Tanya Lynch is a light and humorous picture book with a powerful message. "At school my teacher told us to write a story. My story was about a duck who wanted to leave home. I drew a picture of him and gave him little shoes to wear to help him on his way. DUCKS DON'T WEAR SHOES, my teacher said. GO AND START AGAIN!" And so the story goes, with the child starting new stories and putting his voice and imagination on paper. And the teacher continues to disapprove. The teacher imparts her rules of "what's right and true" to the young writer rather than hearing and appreciating the passions, the creativity, and the voice of that child.
It's an important message for classrooms with rooms of children just aching to tell their stories and have their creativity embraced and voices heard. Same goes for me, the stepmom. I need to take a deep breath, and listen closely and carefully what my stepchildren are saying (and what they aren't), and put my "rules for what's right" aside.

Lester Laminack is a wonderful friend, and an amazing writer and teacher. His book, The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, has been a favorite of mine for years, and is especially touching to me because I've watched the journey and cared deeply for family members and friends with Alzheimer's.
This book has also taught me to be the "keeper of happy memories" for my students and now my new family. It's my job to remember all those glorious, groundbreaking, "ah ha", extraordinary moments in the classroom (and in the home). Not every day will be perfect, but it's my job to see past the not-so-great moments and be the keeper of the glorious ones.

Walk On: A Guide For Babies of All Ages was a gift from Debbie Miller. Debbie and I read this to a group of teachers at a workshop we presented together several years ago. It was to help those teachers see that change isn't easy, and that doing what's right can be difficult and feel a lot like learning to walk. Sometimes I feel like a baby in the classroom, fumbling and finding my way slowly(and with a lot of mistakes) with the students entrusted to my care. And hell yes, I feel this same way multiplied by a thousand as a stepmom. Thank you, Debbie for giving me this book to remind me to quit being a big baby and just WALK ON! I can do it!

To the possibilities of this new day...