Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Open Letter To Anna Dewdney

Dear Ms. Dewdney,

I. Love. Llama Llama.

I was given a copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama at my baby shower. At the time, I thought the book was cute, but had no idea just how huge a presence you and your characters were to have in my life. As a mother to the smartest 17 month old ever, I now have all of your books memorized. If there is ever a Llama Llama emergency, I am your girl and can launch into a mean oral storytelling at a moments notice. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.

Llama Llama Misses Mama is the text that helped my little Mini feel better when Mama had to go to work. I'm telling you, she's making text to self connections already and if that doesn't blow your mind...girlfriend also recognizes your picture and says "Doo-ney!" every time.

Quick question- do you think you could crank out another Llama Llama book? While I LOVE what you've done, I have to admit that reading them one more time might drive me to drink more than I already do.

However, I'm not just writing to tell you that I would throw my arms around you if I ever met you in person. (Which I would.). I'm writing to ask if you want a partnership. Anna...can I call you Anna? Anna, we need to get more parents to read regularly to, with and in front of their children. The most common complaint I get from early childhood teachers is that their students come in with very little language and have limited schema to help them understand new books. Reading does not seem to be a valued part of their home lives. Now I know people are busy and lives are complicated but, can I be honest with you here? Sharing books with my Mini has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Watching her language take off, her eyes light up at a favorite character and having her grab my hand to read in our favorite chair makes my heart sing with nerdy pride.

We need to spread the word. How easy it is. How wonderful it is. How it can change so much.

Thanks for your time and for little Llama,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And the Blue Ribbon goes to...

By now you are probably all pretty familiar with my stance on teachers and capes, right?  If you're not, know that I believe whole heartedly that every teacher who is currently ROCKING IT in her (or his) classroom deserves a superhero cape because that is what they truly are.  You can wear your cape all Clark Kent style and keep it in the closet, or you can throw it on whenever you want just to make your badass-ness as evident as possible.  Your choice.

Well today, friends, Big Mama Mimi is temporarily trading in her superhero teacher cape (Are you really that surprised that I am the spawn of another amazeballs teacher?) for a blue ribbon.  Yep, Big Mama Mimi's school is being recognized as a Blue Ribbon School down in Washington DC today.

(As a side note, I gave her clear directions to shake his hand and then punch Arne Duncan straight in the face...I'm fairly certain she will let me down in this respect.)

In all other respects, I could not be more proud of Big Mama.  (She totally digs her nick name by the way.)  (Sarcasm police!)  She was chosen to represent her school alongside her principal because many of her fellow teachers feel that her work, both with students and teachers, is largely responsible for setting the bar so high.  She is an example to everyone she works with and works harder than most people I know.

How lovely to think that today there are teachers and schools actually being recognized for the good that they do, rather than demonized for many things that are beyond their control.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where My Fun At?

Earlier this week, a colleague and I were talking about life in the classroom and she was all, "We have one of the most fun jobs there is!"  And I was all, "????"  And she was all, "Yeah, remember the fun?"  And I was all, "Riiiiiiiiight."

People.  It's November.  For most of you, that means report cards and possibly conferences.   Which means data, data, data, some progress monitoring, and more data.  Which means driving yourself insane to find moments to still do actual teaching in the midst of all this ridiculous assessing.  Which means piles of paper everywhere.  Which means that I-just-want-to-lie-down feeling hits you in the face every time you walk into your classroom and see those piles and think of that data which reminds you of report cards and for-the-love-of-all-things-holy-and-organized how am I going to get it all done?!?

Wait, where's the fun again?

The fun is with the kids.  Remember them? 

I wish I could take away your To Do List, or at least make it shorter, but I can't. What I CAN do is remind you to focus on your friends, because most of them are probably hilarious and amazingly talented.  Maybe re-frame report card time/ parent-teacher conferences as an opportunity to have more than one glass of wine tonight remember what it is that you love about each of your students and the progress each of them has made.  Start with that. 

Being the nerd Organizational Goddess that I am, I prepared a series of notes on each student for conferences.  Nothing crazy fancy, because we all know that Mrs. Mimi hates nothing more than wasted time, just something to help keep me focused through all those meetings.  (So.  Much.  Smiling.)  I had a space for each child in which I jotted a few quick bullets about their reading, writing, math, and content area work.  I also would make quick notes about behavioral issues (if any...) I wanted to mention and/or quick stats if we had an attendance issue.  (I wanted to give out free alarm clocks but The Visionary said no.  School starts at 8 every day.  Every.  Day.)  BUT....and here comes the point (finally), the first note was always a reminder about a funny or inspiring classroom moment that involved that child.  When I was speaking to the parent of my favey fave friends (because we all have faves, be real with me here...) or the parent of the friend who made me consider that extra glass of wine each night was a bit more challenging, I always led with this anecdote. 

I know we need to meet our deadlines and give assessments and be real with parents about the progress their children are or aren't making.  And we will.  But we also need to make time to remember and enjoy those moments when your friends are hysterically funny, incredibly kind or unbelievably smart.

Because our job is pretty fun. 

Who's Peeking?