Category Archives PSA

Fighting for Public School Students

I am the parent of two children in public schools.

I am an educator.

I am a graduate of public schools.

It is because of the first three lines of this post that I add on that I am also a public school advocate.

 Public School Parent Advocacy

For too many years I have watched as money hungry individuals with NO educational background rip the public education system to shreds. Let’s be honest, they don’t care about your children, my children, or anyone else. Their reform movement is backed by companies and individuals that are seeking to tap into the educational market for PROFIT. In the process of doing this they are pointing fingers at teachers.

The losers in this game are all of the children in not only New York State, but the entire country. The politicians want you to believe that if you don’t stand up for educational reform you don’t care about children. Who would want to disagree with that statement and be called out? Many don’t and have sat back and watched everything crumble before our eyes.

I have been vocal on my blog and within advocacy groups in New York State. In doing this, I may never teach again. I have learned to accept that because my children and their right to a proper public education are worth more to me. My kids and every other child deserve the kind of amazing public school education that I had as a child.

Sure, we had standardized testing when I was in school. The difference then and now is that it was not the focus. It was not what everyone eats, sleeps, and breathes day in and day out. I was more than a score and a data point to my district and state. My teachers were able to think outside of the box and be authentic. They were able to use their years of experience to give us the information that we needed to be successful in the world. They taught us in a variety of ways how to problem solve, be creative, and so much more. Now teachers often have scripted lesson plans written by individuals with no teaching experience from modules that are not developmentally appropriate. These modules have sucked the life out of learning, especially in English Language Arts.

As a students I was able to focus on my love for science, take amazing art classes, and complete college courses while in high school. Now budget cuts from the state and unfunded mandates are killing schools. Classrooms are filled with students in tears, teachers that are powerless, and dreams being dashed.

We must stop this insanity now. We owe it to our children to support their teachers and get the focus back on teaching and learning in the classrooms. In recent days teachers are stepping up and risking their jobs to stand up for their students. A teacher in Long Island has refused to administer the NYS exams to her students. Then last night an amazing local teacher made this statement to her board of education. The video is ten minutes long, but I beg you to sit and watch it. It will move you and haunt you. Once you see what the New York State Department of Education is doing to our children you will be angry.

Now I ask you to join me in REFUSING the NYS exams in grades 3-8. My child is more than a score and so if yours.

It's Me

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Focus on Giving Thanks

Focus is huge for me this year.  I want to focus on many specific things for my family, my advocacy work, my blog, my business, and more. However, before I am able to do any of this, I want to continue to focus on me. When I feel better about myself and my actions, everything else goes more smoothly. As you get older, you realize that if you continue to push yourself to the back of the priority list, everything else will suffer along the way. I am still learning to make me, myself, and I a part of the list (no less the top of the list), so I admit I am not expert. There is definitely a learning curve with bumps along the way.

Pay it forward with a thank you

Over the last year, I have tried to help myself to achieve less stress and not overreact about everything that crops up in life. This is HARD for someone that likes to be in control and has a Type A personality. With help from friends reminding me to breathe, I have learned to step back, wait a few minutes, collect my thoughts, and then respond. This has been huge when it works. In addition to this, I have seen that when I make others smile and happy it makes me feel better.

Something I learned in 2014 that I hope to carry over this year is the need to give thanks. It is not simply acceptable just to say a quick thanks, or acknowledge someone on Thanksgiving. We must work on letting others know when they do something amazing, are extra nice to you, or help you to stop a crisis from happening. Too many times, we are quick to use the phone to call to complain to an individual when we are upset. This day and age, email communications make it almost instantaneous even if nobody is around to answer the phone. Of course, this often means emotions are running high and word choices may not be the best.

I admit it, I am guilty of this just like most people. Playing defense is hard, especially when you are wearing your parenting hat. The mama bear in me immediately comes out and I can feel my blood pressure rising. It feels like a personal attack and it is too easy to fire off something in which the tone may not be interpreted properly.

My suggestion, hold back for a while and think about making someone else feel better in that moment. Use that pent up energy and emotion to let another individual know why they matter and how they have helped you, your business, your family, or something else.

Some ideas on when you could give another person with a surprise thank you:

—  If your child comes home from school happy, email their teacher to let them know how excited they were to learn about X, Y, and Z. Let go of differences you have about curriculum, testing, and anything else. Think of the teacher working with kids all day. Give them a nod so they know you are aware of what is happening and how happy your child is.

— Contact your local municipality to let them know if someone went out of their way and helped you. Get names and pay it forward.

— Give the crossing guard that is there every day in the extreme cold getting the kids safely around traffic a note and small gift card for some hot chocolate or coffee.

— When you see someone having a rough day, reach out to them. Let them know you are there. Follow up with an email or text the next day to see how they are doing and let them know you are thinking of them.

— Bring in a special treat to someone that has been especially helpful recently. Let them know it did not go unnoticed and that you are glad that they were there for you that time.

— As a parent of a child with an IEP, it is easy to be critical of the system. When things click and go well for your child, send encouraging notes to teachers, staff, CSE members, the superintendent, and School Board members. They need to know about the positive items taking place. This has been a huge focus of mine since September. The transition for my son to middle school went very well thanks to all of those involved.

Now it’s your turn, how will you pay it forward with a thank you? Please keep me posted because it also makes me smile to know that others are participating in similar ways.

It's Me

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Team Spirit for Your Smartphone and HopeLine

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

Dropping my smartphone and cracking the screen is something that worries me a lot. It had never happened until the morning that I can still see in slow motion. I was standing in the hallway of our elementary school. Suddenly, the phone slipped between my hand and my son’s hand. I stood there and watched helplessly as my smartphone went flying from several feet in the air to the marble floor below.  Typically, I put phones into something immediately, but had not had a chance for this one. As I picked it up off the floor, I held my breath. I was so very lucky, that phone only had a small little crack in the corner and it has not spread.

When my precious Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived, I wasted no time and went to our local Verizon Wireless store before I activated the phone. At the time, the phone had just been released and there were not a lot of cases. I still knew just what I wanted to purchase. Since I knew my boys would be using it with me, the Defender by OtterBox was calling my name. This case has saved my phone more than once. We are big OtterBox fans for our tablets and my first run with a phone case has been impressive.

Defender by OtterBox

Now imagine being able to cheer on your favorite NFL team while protecting your prized phone at the same time. Thanks to OtterBox and and the NFL pairing up – Verizon Wireless website, football fans from all 32 teams may purchase a Defender by OtterBox for their iPhone 5/5S, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S5.

Thanks to #VZWBuzz, I received a Buffalo Bills case to dress up my Galaxy S5 for football season. Since it’s the same great Defender series by OtterBox, I can let up on my defense mode to let my kids touch my phone. Oh and for those with a tendency to be butterfingers, I am able to let down my guard about fumbling my Galaxy S5. It’s also fun to see closet Buffalo Bills fans notice my case and give me a thumbs up. It isn’t every day that someone in New York can brag about a winning record in Buffalo (5-3 at the moment).

Which team OtterBox are you looking at and what would you love to see next?

If you are a Verizon Wireless customer, be sure to login to your account. When I look at mine right now, the OtterBox line is 25% off. If the NFL is not your thing, there are plenty of other great accessories available. Those with an iPhone 6 can check out the OtterBox Commuter Series supporting HopeLine from Verizon Wireless during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are additional items for the rest of October in purple for HopeLine like the LG Tone Pro headset on Verizon Wireless that I have been eyeing. As always, please consider donating phones that you are not using to HopeLine from Verizon where they will get the refurbished devices with 3,000 minutes and texting to survivors of domestic violence that are with participating domestic violence agencies.

Here’s the VZWBuzz Recap from October 10, 2014 with TheOnlineMom about HopeLine from Verizon.

Have you ever donated a phone to HopeLine? If you have I  would love to know your experience. If you have not, please look at the information and consider helping this amazing cause.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and accessories like the NFL Otterbox to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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Autism Cover for Let it Go

Some days you see something in your social media stream that catches your eye. Yesterday afternoon, just a few hours after my son’s IEP meeting, this happened. Someone shared a video of a young woman named Sarah-Jill Rush. This talented individual person wrote a cover of Let It Go from Frozen for people with autism. As I sat there watching the video, I had tears in my eyes.

 Knowledge is power with autism awareness

Happy tears because…

  • I am hopeful for next year after our meeting and all of the supports that are in place for a major move into middle school.
  • I am thankful that our team tries to listen to feedback and are working with us to help my son.
  • I am grateful for brave people like Sarah for sharing the inner story of autism with others.
  • This song really hit a nerve with me and I can see my son doing something beautiful like this one day.
  • Social media is helping to get the word out about autism awareness.

Please take a moment and watch this video of Sarah, AKA ZebraGal, singing her version of the song.

The words of her song are powerful. A few of the lines that I really adore are:

My meltdowns illustrate this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried

Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go, stand up straight and tell them more
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let this girl stim on
The stares never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how support makes ignorance seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all

When you listen to the video, read the words. See what Sarah is saying. She not only has accepted her autism, but she wants others to be proud of who they are and being on the autism spectrum. Sarah tells us that letting it go a la stimming and meltdowns is just part of who you are and no reason to be ashamed.

Once again, knowledge is power and so is the need to educate others about those individuals living on the autism spectrum.

It's Me

Some of my other posts about autism:

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Kicking Cancer in the Rear

Cancer is the C-word that too many of us have heard for family, friends, and even individually. The first time I remember hearing the word was when I was in fourth grade and my Papa J was diagnosed. I have to admit that I was really young and naïve. I do not recall a lot of what happened at the time except that those near and far rallied for him. Since that time, countless family and friends have been diagnosed with different types of cancer. Of course, breast cancer is part of my world. My great grandmother passed away from cancer years before technology and science were able to help diagnose her. Thank goodness these days people like my Aunt S are cancer survivors. Almost eleven years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer just before my oldest son was born.

Mammogram Machine

Thanks to my family history, I had my first mammogram two years ago. I wrote about it at the time because so many people are afraid of the machine above. The reality, this machine along with others tests are able to save lives.

Over the last few months, the C word has been on my mind a lot. This week, a special woman that I met for the first time on the monorail at Disney for a conference with her beautiful family told all of us that she was waiting on news about a lump that she had found in her breast. I have met Amanda several times since that visit to Disney, the last time at the Type A Parent Conference in Atlanta. I kept her in my thoughts and prayers as she waited for news on her biopsy. On Monday, Amanda found out that she has stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. Amanda is a fighter and Nikki wrote about it beautifully on her post A war to be waged against the big C.

Amanda Henson - photo by Sherry Aikens

Now those of us in the blogging community are working together to support Amanda and her family during this time. We all know she is going to kick cancer’s butt.

Save the Hooters  #AmandasArmy

Right now, there is an #AmandasArmy store on Café Press (affiliate link to the store that goes right to Amanda as well) where images like the owl above can be purchased on various items. All proceeds from the store will be going right to Amanda. In addition to this, a YouCaring page has been set up as a direct fundraiser. More items are in the works because this is just what bloggers do for each other.

Amanda, know that my family and I are cheering you on from New York. We will set a date when you have made the cancer run from your body to meet up on that magical monorail once again. This is a promise, not a threat and I will buy you a special slushy at Epcot and a Dole Whip to celebrate.

It's Me

Thank you to Sherry Aikens, SuperExhausted, for the amazing photo of Amanda via the Type-A Philly photos.

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