It is about children and we need to agree on that.

I cannot fathom the fact that early childhood programs are at risk, more than ever, and yet we are facing another budget cut. We were deemed ESSENTIAL less than two months ago and yet in the nation’s capital we are facing $5 million CUT in FY21 budget proposal. In addition, DC Council is considering a bill that EXCLUDES child care from emergency business grants, while we have been shouting that this program is essential to stabilizing the industry, especially during this pandemic.

Like many of you, I am speechless. Sad. Heartbroken. Infuriated. Disappointed. I know the power, dedication and the love we educators have. We have always been highly resilient and creative. We give our all to the children. For us, this is a lifestyle, not a job. Making a difference in families’ lives, holding children’s hands through their early years, comforting them, guiding them as they are growing. We are the people whom families depend on. We are the people whom families entrust with their most precious beings in the whole wide world. We are educators, brain builders. We are raising the architects of the future of this country and this world.

We read and talk about brain research and what is says about children during early years before they are even born. We all seem to agree with science, but yet, early childhood programs are not that important. You have seen the news on which industry received how much funding during the pandemic. According to CNN, Senate approved $50 billion to help airlines. It is politics again. It always has been. Let’s not make our children’s future about politics. High quality education and intentional care are what children and families need. What can be more important than the safety and well being of our children?

According to Center for Global Development, there are budget cuts in early childhood education in low and middle-income countries. The US is one of the richest countries in the world, so why are we experiencing the same issue? We have science backing us up and families who need us. Children need us, they deserve better. According to Census Bureau, Washington, DC has one of the highest spending per pupil in public elementary and secondary education with $21,974 in 2017. Why can’t non-public small programs receive funding? The notion of private preschools serving for the rich is so wrong. Great majority of our families are middle income, both working parent households.

According to the Washington Teachers Union, the entry level salary of a public school teacher is roughly $67,000 compare to $32,200 (as of July 1,2020) of an early childhood educator working in a child care program that receives government funding. That is $15.00 per hour, according to the Living Wage Act. Some programs who do not receive government funding cannot even afford to pay that amount.

It is time to build a better system that allows middle and low-income families to make a choice for their families while public high quality early childhood programs are scarce and there are programs, center or home based, already exist in the city providing that option. The system never worked. We made it work so far by paying our teachers low wages and increasing our tuition rate, which has resulted in putting the burden on our teachers and families. This is not sustainable and it is not just to our children, nor it is to our educators.

My Covid days part 2

My school is one of many that closed due to the pandemic. Since March we all have been trying to figure out what the safest and the best way is to reopen. While we receive limited and many times confusing guidance from the officials, many of our questions are left with no answer or they create more questions. Sometimes all I hear is “well, it is that way now and we do not have another answer”. This is all understandable given the fact that our generation has not experienced anything like this before. So I decide to take a step back and show some grace. Though they are officials, like everyone else, they are people and they are trying to figure this all out. Believe me, I need to remind this to myself multiple times a day.

I receive so many questions on a daily basis. Most of them are the same, but there are different ones here and there. When will the school reopen? How many children are going to be in the classroom? Are the children going to wear a mask? How much will the tuition be? Then there are families who are not sure if they will send their children to school when we reopen the campus. Though I operate a school and one of my main goals and values is to create and continue relationships and experiences for years to come, as you can imagine I am also running a business. Naturally, just like any other business, I have to have a plan. I need to know how many students are enrolled, how many scholarships I can award, how many classrooms will be operational and how many teachers I need. I need answers because all of these need financial stability. In many individuals’ minds, no matter how much they like the school, the connection of financial stability= school viability does not connect. There comes the hardship and balance. I love my families. I absolutely adore the children. Little people with lots of energy and curiosity. One’s job does not get better than that. Yet, here we are all struggling with balancing emotions, wants and needs.

I have been following the research very closely. It is frustrating to see that there are so many differing opinions even among the epidemiologists when it comes to children’s safety and health. Therefore, I buckled up and chose to follow whatever the strictest measures are. My entire team is involved in the planning in various ways. This work would not be possible without them. We have been working on many details. From what type of shoes children should wear indoors to the words we will use while we interact with children during this big transition. It is all about mental health. Then there is the operational part again. How do we meet the needs of the families with all the restrictions and requirements we are implementing? My starting point has always been the mission, vision and the core values of our school.

To be continued…

My COVID days

It has been a long time since the last time I have written. Though I have been craving to write for months, I could never make time for it. Each time I tried, I realized how full my mind was and how fast thoughts were racing in my head.

Finally, here I am today. It has been horribly busy and stressful for several months. I was so hopeful from 2020 with all the dreams and expectations lining up in my head. I ended the year with a visit to my favorite country. My forever home… Turkey. Just as I thought how lucky I was seeing my family, spending time by the sea and doing all the things that I wanted to do. I thought I loaded myself with all the energy I needed for the new year. For the busy days to come…

Well, the plans did not work out so well. I was devastated with the death of Coby Brian and his daughter. How could he have died?? After all, he was one of my all-time favorite basketball players. My childhood memories. It broke my heart to see my son trying to process Coby’s sudden death. He is in love with basketball and who knows how many times he watched Coby’s videos to learn a few tricks and techniques here and there.

Then it was the loss of my best friend’s mom whom I have known since I was 11. One more piece taken away from my childhood. Then came the pandemic. I closed my school in mid-March only for two weeks. At least that was what I thought would be. Here we are at the end of June and all these months we have been staying at home.

I have never thought that I would work from home. Especially as a head of a preschool. My heart is so heavy, my mind is exhausted my whole being is stressed out.

Why am I stressed? Work load? Not really. It is the unknown and the anxiety that comes with it. I am a mother, a wife, an educator, a leader. I have been torn in so many pieces that some days I feel like I cannot put myself together after all of this. Most days I am grateful for everything I have in my life, especially my family and our health, and I know I can carry on and lift this up. My team, our school community, my colleagues, my family in Turkey have all been my saving grace.

I have been enslaved by my laptop more than ever. Endless virtual meetings, countless documents to read and webinars to attend, hundreds of emails to check and to respond to every week. The heaviest of all is not the work load, as one might think. It is the emotions. Children cooped up in their homes away from peers with limited things to do at home, families juggling work and child care, sad conversations with families who lost their jobs, teachers anxious and working tirelessly to stay connected with the children. Having the responsibility to take care of all and not being able to make time for my family, my son and my husband. Long work days with no meals, as if I am on the road and not home.

My home was my sanctuary after a long day. My library! Oh my library. Once my safe space is now my space of stress. Everything happens there. All the work and all the anxiety. A realization of fragility of life.

…to be continued.


You wake up every morning, go to work, complete your tasks and probably start new ones… Is it all for money? Can money be the full satisfaction? My answer is a definite no. I work because I like the feeling of being productive. Helping people, making a change in their lives and being a cause for many to steer the wheel towards a better path. The taste of achievement and success is priceless. Noone can pay me enough for that. But I would never turn away a thank you. After all, this is the best way of someone appreciating my work.  

Flip the coin. You wake up evey morning, go to work, complete tasks and start new ones so and so forth. You get paid a lot of money to do your job. But you are criticised often, people around you think they can do a better job and they have no problem treating you in any which way they are pleased to. Sometimes out of the professional frame work. You tirelessly continue to work thinking that you are going to make a change and your work will be appreciated by your superiors and even the clients. Until you realize that it is a brick wall you are hitting and there is not even a crack. Well, this is when you decide to change gears and your path. In the end, you need the feeling of accomplishment and appreciation. Though it comes a little late and you are even offered more money as if IT is the problem, you make a decision to change the gear. Because money cannot fill in the gap and it sure cannot buy respect and trust.

Most bosses and or employers think that money solves all the problems. On the contrary, it is the approach and appreciation that is verbalized before the train leaves the station that makes the difference. Working with people face to face, expecting quality work, dedication and building trust is not about money but it is about relationships. Life is about relatioships no matter what role you have in any given setting. 

There are values in life and these are gained in time with mutual respect, recognizing one’s authority, work and product.It is the best thing to objectively assess where you are within this relationship. Professional and personal ones. I made it an intentional process to observe myself and others. I thrive to take the time to verbally appreciate the good and even the effort no matter what the outcome is. I know that noone and nothing is perfect and we all are in the process of achieving better outcomes and reaching higher levels. A little appreciation goes a long way before the opportunity is missed.   


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We talk about team work and how important it is in our personal and professional lives but not all of us know the true meaning of “team”. In other words, we talk the talk but have hard time when it is time to walk the walk.

After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation. I was confused as to why everyone showed such negative reaction. We cannot control the weather and we must keep children’s safety and well being at the top of everything else. Should we have taken the children out in the rain? Should we have allowed them to sit on the wet grass? What would be better than cancelling the events?

You hear a teacher saying to a parent “Oh well, they just cancelled the trip on us!”. What do you think? How does it make you feel?

  1. Is this teacher being a team player?
  2. Is the teacher blaming the decision maker for making this call to keep children safe and healthy?
  3. How could the teacher share the not so happy news with the parent?
  4. Does the teacher prefer children getting wet and catching a cold in a 42 degree day?

It is important to think before saying things in any situation but it is a must especially when people are frustrated and or disappointed. It is crucial to know what to say and how to say it so that you are being a team player. Let’s rewind the video:

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“After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation.” The teacher approaches the parent who is frustrated and says “I know it is disappointing but WE had to cancel it due to rain. WE will come up with a future date and let you know. WE are sad as well”.

When you are part of a team, you need to be in it all the way. Highs, lows, in between. Success, mistake, failure. Easy and difficult no matter what the situation is, you stand by your team. If not, you are not part of the team and no one in the team can and will trust you. When you work as a team as in “one band, one sound” the taste of success is sweeter, the experience is richer and the benefits are greater.

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Another analogy I like is the “puzzle”. Think about the puzzles in your classroom or your home. If one piece out of 20, 100 or 500 piece puzzle is missing you cannot complete the picture. Most likely, you need to throw it away because it no longer makes sense to keep it. It is the same with the team. All members need to work together and complete each other. It is not about the individual pieces but about the big picture each piece creates by connecting with another.

If you have a team member who is having hard time understanding the team concept, reach out to them. Model and explain how it really works. Focus on their positive sides and pull them in and up. This is also an example of team work.

Learning from experience…

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I picked up my son from school yesterday and rushed to the grocery store for a couple of quick items that I forgot to purchase over the weekend. Knowing that snow was on the way I was trying to be proactive by not waiting for the last minute. Almost every parking space was taken yet I did not allow it to discourage me. As I picked up my items in less than 10 minutes, my son asked for seltzer water. Normally I never allow him to carry anything in glass container but I was so determined and focused to get out of the store and head home before snow started coming down hard, I allowed him to carry the bottle. He knelt down all tired after a long day at school and “BOOM!!” went the bottle. Apparently he was walking and shaking it not realizing it is fizzy and the pressure would cause it to burst into pieces.

There I was… scared, frazzled and checking his face and hands praying that he did not get hurt. I notified the store right away, paid for the items and left the store. As we got on the elevator he started crying. I then realized how scared he was. We rushed into the car and I tried to calm him down. The bottle shattered into pieces so close up to his face and he was not expecting that to happen that his pupils were dilated in fear. He did not understand why it happened.

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After he was calm and no longer crying, I asked him if he remembered me telling him to be careful with fizzy drinks because I knew he loved bubbles. I explained to him many times how dangerous pressure can be and to let the bottle, plastic or glass, rest a bit before trying to open it. He said he remembered it but he did not know it could be this dangerous. I asked him if this experience was enough for him to learn and remember for the next time and his answer was a quick “YES”. I comforted him saying “your Guardian Angels were watching over you. You could have gotten seriously injured. Let’s be happy that you are fine”. After a nice hug and a couple of kisses we headed home.

I have done it, you have done it, we all have done it at some point of our lives. Our parents, friends or people we work with said things, warned us, shared their life lessons and we still wanted to live through it. Unfortunately, we learned the “hard way”. But I guess, it is just how life is.

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I have heard many things about myself from people who know me. Realistic, protective, perfectionist, serious, responsible, emotional, organized… One thing I can add to this list is “proactive”. I am a firm believer when it comes to learning from mistakes and or experiences. I do not believe in making the same mistake twice. I like to take advantage of what I learned and implement it into my life, both personal and professional. Why go through the same pain twice when I can avoid it in the first place? Why not share my experience with others to help them out? Though I realize you cannot force anyone to learn from someone else’s experience I still cannot give up trying.

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Life is about experiences. Good ones create good things and bad ones make us stronger and wiser. I hope we never encounter situations that we cannot recover from. This is all I can hope for all the people I care about and the ones I have not even yet met.

Do you believe in experiences? Have you ever encountered a situation that was a learning experience for you?


What do teacher candidates learn in college nowadays?

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US. Department of Education recently published the Notice of Final Rulemaking for the teacher preparation regulations. The purpose is to bring transparency to the teacher prep programs and to provide them continued feedback so that each teacher is ready o go into a classroom. This readiness is different and more than obtaining the degree itself. According to research top performing teachers generate minimum five months of more learning opportunities for students.

It may sound a bit weird looking at the title but I am really curious. I have been interviewing teacher candidates for a long time. Over the years I have had the chance to speak with many candidates who are in school or who recently graduated. In both groups of professionals, I see a trend. No matter how many years pass and how much the field changes including requirements for teachers working with young children, the understanding seems to be remaining the same.

Here is a sample dialogue…

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: My toddlers know their colors, numbers, shapes and they started to learn the alphabet.

Wow! These little people are either all geniuses or the teacher thinks they are learning but actually they are just repeating and memorizing. I cringe when I hear this type of answer and try really hard to keep a straight face hiding my disappointment. Here I am sitting across from this person who has been working with children, who is also in college, or working on her or his graduate  degree or has completed a four year degree in early childhood, child and family studies, or human development or psychology. You name it. Yet, there is a big piece missing from the picture. Developmentally appropriate practice. NAEYC has brought so much attention to DAP and best practices that it is almost impossible not to know the basics of child development, expectations and how children learn the best.

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A toddler does not need to know his or her shapes or the alphabet. They do not need pictures and flash cards to memorize “green-blue-triangle-square…” Is this a big joke or are we really failing in our higher education courses? What are we teaching in these classrooms? Why are our educators focusing so much on the academics and the product? We are definitely doing something wrong. The sooner we figure it out the sooner we can resolve this issue. The sooner we resolve this issue the more I can hear a different answer to my initial question:

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: I am on the floor. Building with soft large blocks. I am dancing with the children to the music. We are playing the instruments. Some children are painting on the easel or the table standing. They have several colors to pick from. A couple of the children are pretending to eat fruit or the food teacher pretending to cook. I may be reading with the children. We may take turns singing and clapping. We may look at the family pictures and describe who they are and how they are feeling……….We are having a lot of fun together.

Great education interviews for the Local News tonight, including Humboldt Stepping Stones 1 yr. anniversary!:

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Well, this sounds very age appropriate and developmentally expected and needed. These are the moments children get to hear a story or a song over and over again. This is the way they hear and develop language skills. Not by memorizing what a letter looks like and what it is called. This is how they naturally learn to share, take turns, play together, talk to each other and imagine.

I visited an early learning program and as I was walking by the window of the infant classroom I saw handprint turkeys with feathers on them. In fact, the teacher who was giving me the tour said “Look, aren’t they cute? Parents will love it!”. I was devastated but did not want to ruin her spirit. I went along with it saying ” Oh I see. They are colorful”. I could not get myself to say “Oh yes, they really are cute”. I took ten minutes or so to gather what and how I would say so I was honest and constructive at the same time. I ended up asking her what she wanted her babies to learn from the activity. She could not answer. She stared at my face smiling. Then I said ” maybe the texture of the feathers and the coldness and wetness of the paint?” She nodded as if she found an escape. I continued ” What a great idea! We all know it is about sensory experiences for infants and especially if you talked about how each of these materials felt, you just nailed it. How much fun it is to help babies feel it and look at you in amazement” I took advantage of the moment and tuned it into a teachable one for the teacher. I could tell she was puzzled and the wheel started turning in her head. I was happy because I accomplished my goal for that particular moment.

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Going back to my initial question, what are we teaching in higher education classrooms and what aren’t we doing quite so right? What is missing? Maybe the solution is identifying high quality programs and assigning students to observe and even work in the classroom. Allowing them to have hands on experiences before they graduate. High quality and hands on experience are the key components for us to create well trained and educated work force. Expectations and practice need to be correlated with the age and developmental level of the children.


Children have rights and we have to protect them!

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A two-year old child was hung at a day care center. 9-year-old girl is being forced to marry her rapist. Three year old boy is considered “not normal” by his teacher because he draws purple trees. Four year old girl is getting a red card in her second week of being in pre-K because she cannot sit still in the classroom.

We can see many of these on the news, on social media and in our daily conversations with colleagues, friends and relatives. Some situations are more severe than the others of course but in the end they all are hurting our children. Are we doing enough to protect them? Are we doing anything at all to be e remedy for some and to get rid of others for good? Maybe…

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I question adults who are supposed to be informed, aware and educated in these matters. I also question the adults who are in leadership positions overseeing these individuals exposing our children to such sad situations. Law makers, principles, parents… Do you take an action and stand up for these children’s rights when you see everything happening in front of your eyes or do you let it go? In some cases, do you allow it to happen?

One cannot drive before they are 16 or 18. Yet, they can be forced to a marriage while they have a long life in front of them. A life for them to figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to do in life. Their life can be ended by a delusional person who cannot control herself or who feels good after her sadistic act. They can be stressed out, crushed and pushed away with a label because of a teacher who is not capable of teaching and understanding basics of human development and psychology.

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It takes all of us to speak up for our children. To speak up and to encourage them to stand up for themselves. We need to have the tools and give them what they need to do so. I hear many people saying that they do not have the tools or the resources. Then I learn that the same people never even asked the question: Do you know anyone who can help me? Are there any self help books to give me ideas about the ways I can approach this problem or challenge?

Sharing is caring. Advocating is caring. Collaborating and fighting for the cause is caring. We need to start caring about children and stop acting like we are helpless or we do not know what to do. We have power as long as we are together. It all starts with a single step, a phone call, a meeting, a question. Don’t be afraid.

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When I was in elementary school, my best friend and I heard about UNICEF. We used to support the cause knowing that there are children around the world who were not able to meet their basic needs such as clean water, food, clothing, education ,and medical treatment. There are children who are being abused and raped by the adults they need to be protected by. We didn’t have jobs or any other income to make big donations but we were thoughtful. We started purchasing greeting cards that had UNICEF trademark/logo on them. We chose to do so because the proceeds were going to children from all over the world in different ways. We wanted to help break the cycle of poverty and inequity.

I was impressed and excited when I saw that my son’s school is ofering UNICEF club as an option in extended day program. When he asked me what it is I said “This is the moment”. He is an empathetic child and what can be better than him being involved in this club I thought. He came home the next day and said he was the only boy in the club. In fact, some of his friends tried to change his mind saying it would be “no fun” to be in UNICEF club. He did not care.

With his permission, I am sharing the poem my son wrote:

                          We should give clothing, water, shelter and love to the poor

                          Because shelter is for you to survive winter and rainy days

                          Food and water are essential to survive

                          Clothes are so you are not cold on cold days and hot on very hot days

                          Love, because people or kids that are poor should not be gloomy or sad.

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