To Her 2nd Grade Teachers

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Y'all! Y'ALL!!!!! After last year's teacher hell, it seems that the education gawds have brought forth heavenly angels that sing about math, reading comprehension and dual languages.

I think last year, one of the most frustrating things was that I have clear and great memories of teachers that cared for me, truly. I recall Mami interacting with them and I thought that, naturally, I'd have the same experience. While last year jarred me, it did not change my thoughts and opinions on educators. I have many friends (in RL and online) that are in the education field. And each day, they make me fall in love with the passionate, dedicated and important role of teaching.

The Frog Princess was to have 2 teachers this year due to her enrollment in a dual language curriculum. As luck would have it, we ended up with 3. Her first teacher, Ms. V, is busy being fabulous and training others in the dual language program so as much as I want to be mad at her for no longer being her teacher, it's hard to because I know she's rockin' it out.

Ms. V has loved on my baby from day one and the genuine care she takes for her students is apparent in her smile, the twinkle in her eye and the visits she got from parents and students that she'd taught years before on meet the teacher day. Yes, I noticed. Her willingness to answer my questions was a far cry from the brick wall of communication I experienced last year. We just love Ms. V to pieces and I was ready to be mad at her for leaving her classroom after the fall semester but, I can't stay mad for her desire to grow in her role and to change even more children's lives by helping other educators. Thankfully, my baby still gets to see her and I get to wave at her in car pick up line.

Thank you for holding my girl's hand during her first semester in a new school, for being patient with me when I sent dumbass questions about math assignments I didn't understand (why is 2nd grade math SO hard?!), for helping instill confidence and security within the walls of your classroom and within the walls of her heart. And for meeting your calling head on and with a smile each and every day.

Of course, Ms. V bounced but not before giving us Mr. H. Now, I will tell you that I was supposed to have my first male school teacher in 5th grade (Mr. O) and he had a heart attack before starting the school year. I'd always wondered what it would be like to have a male teacher since those seemed so rare to me in elementary school. The Frog Princess doesn't have to wonder. This is his first year teaching and I am giddy about the fact that I get to see a new teacher, a male teacher and a black male teacher at that, in the classroom. You might not think this as a big deal but it is (I still recall Denene's squees when I told her of this fact). Representation matters and we are always looking for it.

Mr. H, don't lose that twinkle in your eye. Keep up that caring spirit and never leave that smile at home. Thank you for sitting down patiently with us as we had a million and one questions about the Frog Princess's grades. We appreciate the care and love that you give to your kids. If you got a feeling that all of the gifts this week were a bribe so you could move up to 3rd grade with the class, you might not be wrong. We fell in love with you in the same way we fell in love with Ms. V and are so grateful that you have chosen this path in your life. You are right where you need to be and we are lucky to have you. Thank you for all you do. (We won't hold the UCF thing against you.)

Last and certainly not least, Mrs. Z. She is the master in the other classroom that gets my child 50% of the day. She is the teacher that most reminds me of my own because she speaks to her kids in my native tongue. She is chill and has this "don't worry about it, she'll get it" attitude that has eased my heart on more than one occasion. I specifically remember the Frog Princess leaving her homework in my office once and how I frantically sent a message because in the past, it would've been a major issue missing an assignment. The exchange couldn't have been more different.

Mrs. Z, every time I interact with you, it feels like you are inviting me to take a deep breath. And for that, I am grateful. It has been a struggle for me to get the Frog Princess to speak in Spanish. But, she now comes home and I get to read passages to her that she comprehends. You teach her new and exciting words, you are patient with her and so caring. I know you love on her and for that, I am thankful.

Yes, there have been loads of gifts this week. Yes, I may have gone overboard. But, for the people that spend a good portion of the day with our littles, that put up with their shenanigans times 18, that teach and care, that leave imprints on their minds and their hearts, it's the least we parents could do. I don't think I could ever do enough to thank them.

Teach Her Tuesday: Advocating For Her Education

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I was looking forward to an amazing year at a charter school. This was our first foray into this world. The Frog Princess spent 3 years in a Montessori school, tucked away absorbing information in a way her dad and I had not. We were grateful for the new ways in which learning could take place.

We are both firm believers that education is the responsibility of the parents. To that end, we make ourselves available to our teachers for whatever help they might need. We turn to them when we have questions about the way the Frog Princess learns or if we are having a hard time grasping some concepts (like the fact that she sometimes still inverts her B's and D's). We look to them to let us know what needs to be reinforced at home so they have a better time at school.

It's why we took a long hard look at what school she would attend and settled on a STEAM-based charter school.

Our belief in the "if we get involved and stay involved there won't be any real big issues we can't all tackle together" mindset has been thrown out the window, though. Let me give you the long background and how we find ourselves advocating extra hard for our kid today.

Once Upon a Time...

It started in the Fall. Wait. I lie. It started the day we met the teacher.

There we were, excited to be bringing the kid to meet her teacher, school supply bags in hand. Me, like the total geek that I am, with a supply bin for the teacher as well (see, teacher friends! I hear you complaining about not having things). This wasn't a bribe. It was my way of starting off the year the way that so many of my friends say they wish they would.

As we are almost finished talking to her (we were the first parents there), another set of parents walked in. I was just asking about the school lunch. Up until now, I'd been packing lunches and wanted to know the procedure for this glorious new "school lunch" thing. I was told that packets of information would go out to parents the next week. As we were milling about, checking out the classroom (I was eyeing the bookshelf), the teacher comes back and states that she'd just give us the packet now since we were there.

We thanked her and went about our way (we were heading to Disney). As I stepped outside I looked at the packet. It was the free school lunch packet.

I handed it over to Elena's dad in the parking lot who admonished "don't start". This was microaggression #1. Because while I was on free school lunch at school and feel very strongly about the program, I felt mightily uneasy about the fact that I was asking about what would be served at lunch and what the procedure was and you felt that what I was really asking about was free lunch.

The Test

The Frog Princess took a test at one point and failed it. It happens right? Except that the reason she failed it was because it seemed that two of the papers had been stuck together and she hadn't answered those questions. We talked to her about the importance of her flipping through each page and made sure we reviewed test taking procedures with her. Her dad took the lead in emailing her teacher to ask if there was any way that she could be given the test questions since we had not shown her those pages but merely discussed the issue with her not turning pages or ensuring that the test get checked thoroughly.

A week later, we had heard nothing (he'd copied me on the email). I had an email thread with the teacher and decided to ask about the lack of response. She stated that she had responded but the email had stayed in the outbox for some reason. That was it.

Fast forward to the first report card. An email went out stating that honor roll information would be included with the report card that was being mailed and further information would follow.

I realized then that I hadn't changed our address when we moved! YIKES! I let the teacher know and was told the kid had made the honor roll (yipee!). Leading up to the day, I helped with putting up the bulletin board (I signed up to be a co-room parent). At that time, the teacher tells me that the honor roll ceremony is on Thursday at 9. I realized quickly that this was the first day of Type A and resolve to being late because this was my girl's first honor roll ceremony. That Wednesday, I had to carry the pumpkin project to class because someone hadn't been lifting weights. I drop off, see another parent in the classroom and the teacher busy. I wave (she did not say hello) and go about my business.

I get home, find the report card finally forwarded to the new address and it looks like the honor roll ceremony was earlier that morning.

I was livid. Let's not get that twisted.

It is of the utmost importance to us that we show up for our child. And it's not just for her sake. We are well aware of the perception having to do with children of color AND parents of color as well.

Her dad took the lead and called the school and asked to speak with an administrator as it seemed we had some sort of communication issue.

The Meeting

At the meeting (which was held with the principal and the teacher) we were told this was not the first instance of the child missing pages on a test because the pages were stuck together. This was the first we'd heard of it.

We ask that she please advise us when there was an issue so that we could help correct the behavior. Class Dojo is used at this school and so, communication flows through there. I not as concerned about my child sitting  properly in class (positive Dojo given) as much as I care about my child having an issue that you've tried to correct on your own but not advised us of.

It was agreed that there had been a miscommunication and she would do better with advising us if anything like that happened. We were also told she was missing classwork because her work was in the "catch up" folder and she wasn't finishing it on time and "all the other students do". Again, something else we hadn't heard before. There had been discussions of my child being meticulous with her work but I did not think it was causing a problem. Here, I will insert the accolades we received for my daughter's "great handwriting". Yes, this is the equivalent of being told she's well-spoken but, we digress.

Of note in the miscommunication department was the fact that she claimed the Wednesday when I dropped off the girl's pumpkin, she asked me if I was staying for the ceremony. I assure you, friends, had I been looked at and spoken to, I would've acknowledged it and I would've been at the ceremony.

At the end of the conversation we'd come to the conclusion that because the Frog Princess had attended a Montessori school, she was not used to certain things (specifically speaking about her issue with the catch up folder). We agreed that if any issues came back up, we would be told via the Dojo app.

At that point her dad, wanting to clear the air, states that he apologized if he seemed upset but that we take her education very seriously. The teacher then stated that she felt like we had gone over her head by going directly to the assistant principal and requesting this meeting and wasn't happy about it. I was taken aback because no foul language was spewed, nothing outside of the concern for the education of our child and the desire to help the school to teach her, had been shared. And yet...

He apologized for doing it and said he hoped there weren't any hard feelings. Since then, there have been a couple of small instances that I've kept in the back of my mind but generally speaking, we've enjoyed 2 semesters on the honor roll and one student of the month award for the month of November.

We thought everything was okay. But alas, it seems that just when you least expect it you find yourself having to advocate for your child… (to be continued)

He Named Me Malala: Television Premier

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Are you guys ready?! I told you guys a few months back about He Named Me Malala. Do you remember? Well this coming Monday (2/29), the Nat Geo channel will be showing the movie, commercial-free! I'm excited! So excited I'll be having a watch party to commemorate the occasion.

Check out the trail (spoiler: bring a tissues):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzOSIQjHjBw

Related Post: Teach Her Tuesday: Malala

Talk about changing the world, right? I'm so impressed and humbled by watching this young woman. I love her spirit. Don't you?

Malala_Social_V1-RevI always think of her as being beyond her years. Except that last fall, I got a chance to be on a conference call with her and I got to hear her giggle. That giggle that we can only produce during our teen years. The one that holds hope and wonder and excitement. And I was humbled to have wondered about her and feeling a great amount of gratitude that I had a chance to be in a space where I could hear the beauty of her voice and feel the energy of purpose.

This coming Monday, I will be in front of my television checking out the Nat Geo Channel watching the premier with a few close friends. I think this documentary sparks conversation among young and old.

Malala reminds me that all things are possible and hope is not lost. When my work at MomsRising gets hard, I think of people like Malala. Who don't give up. Who affect change day in and day out. I think of her parents and what they must have gone through.

Relate Post: Teaching Her to Be True to Her Heart

Having been shot at 15 by the Taliban in Pakistan, Malala survived. She and her dad were targeted for supporting education for girls. As I struggle with advocating for my child at school, I can't imagine having to fight not just for her education but also her life. So many girls have to fight this battle around the world.

Malala survived in spite of being shot in the head. Well, she has done more than survive. She has thrived. Malala won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, she has established a non-profit to help girls around the world and still finds time to hang out with her brothers.

I hope you'll join me on Monday 2/29 as we sit to catch this commercial-free world television premier of He Named Me Malala. It is showing at 8 p.m. ET. What do you say?

Ways you can help!

  • You can visit supportmalala.com to easily create a (very cool) custom Facebook profile video to show your support.
  • For every person who participates through March 10, 21st Century Fox will donate $1 to the Malala Fund. A $1 donation will also be made for every tweet using the hashtag #withMalala during this time period, for a total donation of up to $50,000.
  • Host a watch party: Share your passion for girls’ education and invite friends and family over to watch the film. Sign up to host a watch party in your home or community.
  • Live tweet with @MalalaFund: The Malala Fund will be live-tweeting from @MalalaFund using #withMalala during the broadcast. Follow along for behind-the-scenes photos and stories, as well as information on how you can take action for girls’ education.
  • Fill a Schoola bag during your viewing party: Have your friends and family gather gently used clothes and fill a Schoola Bag. Send it in a 40% of the proceeds will go to the Malala Fund! It's an easy way to get a lot of people involved, raise awareness and funds, and it costs absolutely nothing! Read more about the program and request a bag here.

 

Reflections Of Sesame Street

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Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with HBO and DiMe Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own. There was a time when English was a foreign language to me. Some days I forget that because my life is set to the tones of the English tongue in such a way that I cannot imagine life without it. I can't remember a life without it.

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What I do remember is the novelty of people speaking on television without me having a clue as to what they said.

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Sili and Papi

I moved to this country a little over a month before my 5th birthday. And while I had already put in some time in school in the Dominican Republic, I had to wait to enter Kindergarten in the states.

And this is the reason why Sesame Street became my first English teacher. The first intonations that my tongue experimented with were repeats of the Count or sounds of the letters which didn't match the sounds I'd already learned.

So when my child was born, Elmo became the cool dude to hang with and Abby was a visitor at her first birthday.

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This Saturday, the Frog Princess and I will be checking out season 46 (can you believe it!) of Sesame Street on HBO. Check out the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXWmh9phEp8

Can you believe it's been 46 years? Sheesh! Two new episodes will premiere on HBO on Saturday at 9 a.m. (yes, it will be Sesame Street and PJ day at the house). And the cool part? Two new episodes will debut simultaneously on HBO Latino dubbed in Spanish! As a Mami who has a primary English speaker, I love that I can use Sesame Street in a similar way as my Mami did but for Spanish. How cool is that?!

For those of you that need to catch up, it'll be easy using HBO GO and HBO On Demand.

I don't know about you but, tying my past with my future is so important. Coming here as a child, some days I feel like so much of my past was left behind. I love having these nuggets, these memories and being able to tie it to the memories of my child. Call me a sap but, I love making the connection.

Did you grow up on Sesame Street? What memories bubble up when you think of this iconic place?

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Teach Her Tuesday: Dolch Words for First Grade

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The kiddo was tested at the beginning of the school year and is reading at first grade level. Woohoo! I stay collecting information and lists and lined papers, match up games, you name it! Anything to feed her mind while she is at home. Last year I started a Get Schooled board but this year I've supplemented it with a Kindergarten and First Grade board.

I'm a firm believer that we are our children's first teachers and so I try to have as much on-hand as I can. Because I'm not a teacher, I have to make it up as I go and find resources on the interwebs (thank you Pinterest!).

I'm not inventing anything new. Between amazing home school moms and terrific teachers that are super dedicated to making sure that kids everywhere have access to tools that work, I think I'm covered.

But, I do like sight words. In the past, I used the list of Kindergarten words provided to students in one of the local counties but I've moved on to the Dolch Word List.

The frog princess works!

This is a list of commonly used English words that was originally compiled by Edward William Dolch. He wrote a book called Problems In Reading way back in 1948.

He basically ran through the words in the children's books of the time and pulled out 220 words which he called service words which he thought children needed to recognize in order to gain reading fluency.

That's what we are about these days in this house. Fluency. We don't always use the sight words. We've been reading and talking about what we read (which is sometimes difficult because her favorite mode of exercise these days includes raising her hand while I'm in the middle of a sentence). We've also started journaling about what we read. Pictures and words are okay.

I'm getting excited, y'all. Initially, the Frog Princess wasn't about that book life and it was breaking my heart. Now that she's getting better at reading, we can't get enough of books. Somebody pinch me!!!!!

Enniweighs, sign up to get the Dolch first grade words in case you need to motivate kids to be about that reading life. I laid them out in card format so all you have to do is print and cut (if you're like me, you'll laminate as well).

Get the 1st Grade Dolch List Emailed to You Today

 

What are you teaching at home? What tools are you looking for or what tools do you recommend?

Teach Her Tuesday: Malala

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Some days I would see Malala in the news and wonder if she was for real. Wondered how a child could've endured so much and stood up for so many. She's incredible, isn't she? I always think of her as being beyond her years. Except that recently, I got a chance to be on a conference call with her and I got to hear her giggle. That giggle that we can only produce during our teen years. The one that holds hope and wonder and excitement. And I was humbled to have wondered about her and feeling a great amount of gratitude that I had a chance to be in a space where I could hear the beauty of her voice and feel the energy of purpose.

A group of bloggers were on the conference call to talk about the new documentary He Named Me Malala. It was beyond inspiring. One of those things you write down so you can later tell your child. The Frog Princess wanted to know when we were going to meet her and told me that she wanted to give Malala one of her toys. I may or may not have had sweaty eyeballs.

This past weekend found me at Type A Conference so I was unable to head to the movie theater to support the movie. Rest assured, that will be remedied expeditiously. Haven't heard of it? That's okay. Here's the trailer (note: I have yet to watch this trailer without tearing up):

I've spoken to a few folks who asked about taking their kids and I'm happy to report that you can check out the parent discussion guide for the movie.

I talked to the Frog Princess about Malala and she was rightfully impressed. She was incredulous when I told her that not all girls can go to school. And she wanted to hear more when I told her that Malala is changing that and that we can help.

Teaching her to be a responsible world citizen is one of the biggest tasks on my list. I'm glad I have someone like Malala as an example.

Cull through the guide and figure out if you can take your kids to see this. I think it will be fabulous for both girls and boys.

Be sure to check out The Malala Fund on Facebook and when you go to watch the movie, let everyone know that you #StandWithMalala on social media. You can also use #HeNamedMeMalala to let us know you're joining in as witness.

Have you seen the movie yet? Will you be going soon? Sound off, good people!

Disclosure: I am a goodwill ambassador for this movie. All thoughts and opinions are purely my own.

Teach Her Tuesday: Mundo Lanugo

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Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All thoughts, opinions and pride are purely my own. Lanugo_Logo_01_SmallI met Carla at Hispanicize a while back. She had these adorable products with cuteness all over them and sayings in Spanish. She also had what is the all-time favorite music of the Frog Princess: a CD with personalized songs for the kids. In Spanish! Doesn't get any better than that.

I tell you this because I love to watch women entrepreneurs grow into their dreams and beyond. This past summer, I recall that Despierta América had animated shorts featuring Mundo Lanugo. And it felt as if it was my dream on the screen.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to do something pretty special. I downloaded Mundo Lanugo onto my phone. And Muki, Gloria, Mia and Chuy came to life on the screen. Hablando mi idioma, no less!

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While the Frog Princess is still "shy" about speaking in Spanish, she hears it all the time. It was an added joy to be able to hand over my phone and watch her interact with the characters and the activities.

The app takes the kids through Mundo Lanugo, a world with carnivals, shops, painting studios and more where the kids can play, paint and most importantly, learn.

In the past, I've given the Frog Princess apps in Spanish and she'll play with it for a bit and then return the phone completely uninterested. And it breaks my heart. This time around, I had to make a call and ended up having to use a different phone because she was so engaged with the characters.

Mundo Lanugo Characters

I loved that it wasn't just her mesmerized by the screen. As I watched, the peppered me with questions about things she saw and I was able to incorporate a little bit of Mami's life throughout her playing time. Anything that helps me further expose her to the Spanish language and allows me to share the story of me and where I come from with her is a winner in my book.

You know what else is a winner?! That you can get this app FOR FREE from now until 10/15! It's in the App Store and the Google Play store. After the 15th, the app will be $1.99. Still a great deal but, I'm trying to help you out here.

Go grab it and tell me what you think! 

Who's your favorite character?

Stop by the Facebook page and check out what they're up to and get on Twitter and tell them I sent ya!

#TeachHerTuesday: Free Educational Games

The Frog Princess is headed to Kindergarten. Holy time travel, batman! Is it me or didn't we just celebrate her 3rd birthday?! She's been home for a few weeks as we relax and enjoy the summer prior to the intensity that awaits her. Montessori kindergarten is no joke, my friends.

But it doesn't mean that we are not doing some "work". I have the sight words, I have my BOB books and now, I have some pretty awesome apps that I downloaded for free. Yes, you read that right. F.R.E.E.

CelleC Games is a local gaming company that's here for me and my math woes. Where were they when I was growing up (yes, I'm bitter)?!

Free educational games for kids!

Here's what's currently on the educational game rotation at my house: Decoration of Independence: because a little American History never hurt nobody! I may or may not be playing this game while the Frog Princess takes a writing break. Don't judge me!

Math Swatter: If you do not like bugs, I suggest you don't get this game because obstacles include spiders and hornets. Cool for some, creepy for others but hey, it's a fun way to introduce math to the kiddos.

Speaking of math, I dig Math Racer. We love to play it because half the time she doesn't realize it's work. Race your car along and as the math problems come up, pick the lane that has the correct answer and race through the correct response. How cool is that?

Math Stack is another app that I like. I think at this age, the fun part of my job as a parent/teacher is figuring out how my girl learns. So, exposing her to different ways of learning is paramount. In this game, you combine mobility, touch control and puzzle.

The Frog Princess likes Ant Path Learning and is patiently waiting to get a look at Dig 4 Dino coming out this Saturday!

I love this gaming company because they present me with different ways to teach some of the same concepts. As a Mami of a Montessori child, I've learned to embrace and love this approach and I'm glad I can find apps to help me teach her the way that she learns.

And if you kid is in high school or college, CelleC has a few tricks up their sleeves that you might like. I, on my part, am waiting with baited breath to see what they come up with in the reading category (hint hint).

Do you have a favorite educational app for your child?

 

Summer Activities for Kids: Think Earth!

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I am always looking for worksheets, books and supplemental materials to reinforce whatever the Frog Princess is learning and to expose her to new ideas. Summer Learning for Kids: Think Earth!

When I found an email about Think Earth in my inbox, I did a little shoulder shimmy. I like to find new ways of explaining concepts. I am hoping it helps her with perspective and helps me with learning her learning style. We all have our own and I am making it my mission to get hers down so that I can support her as best I can.

The Think Earth Environmental Education Foundation is a leading non-profit provider of environmental education for primary and secondary schools, now publishing its award-winning curriculum online.

You can now access units (for K, 1st and 2nd grades) on natural resources, pollution and sustainability to name a few. FOR FREE. Check out the worksheets here.

Since summers are about exploring and Montessori has built a great foundation for science, this fits right in to our home activities. I find that it helps me provide her the practical lesson but also helps her continue to grow as a steward of this planet. The Frog Princess is more and more conscious of things like recycling, conserving energy and water and not littering.

Think Earth gives us a way to continue those lessons in a fun way. I'm looking forward to introducing my girl to Think Earth.

What fun things are you guys learning this summer?