Integrity, Honesty, and Principles…

Values are building blocks of an individual. One exists with his own values that he forms as he continues his journey in life. This is why we teach our children to make good choices and to differentiate right from wrong.

First we teach them to be honest even during the toughest times. We instill in them the importance of integrity and working hard.

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  • Do your best and stand by what you do.
  • Stand up for justice and advocate for the less fortunate and underprivileged.
  • Be a leader and do not follow the wrong doers.
  •  Lift up others around you and appreciate them with all the differences and the similarities you have.
  • Hold on to your principles and defend what you believe in.

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  • Choose being kind.
  • Do your best to see the good in everyone because no one is all bad. There is light in everyone, try to see that.
  • Share what you have and what you know. Keeping it to yourself does not do any good.
  • Cherish what and who you have in your life and let them know.
  • Be bold enough to share your feelings and to show your emotions. Remember, emotions make you human.
  • Take responsibility and own your mistakes. Know that it is part of life to make mistakes. Learn from them.
  • Keep in mind that every situation, no matter how positive or negative it is, is an opportunity to learn and grow as long as you open up your mind to it.
  •  Communicate, do not assume.
  • It is easy to find mistakes, faults, flaws. No one and nothing is perfect. Instead, choose to focus on the highs, the good and success and try harder to improve the ones you can. Just make sure you give your all.

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  • Accept the fact that you cannot make everyone happy at once. Needs, wants, ideas, opinions are different. But make sure everyone gets the chance to taste happiness at some point.
  • You will not get what you want when you want all the time. Be conscientious of this. This is part of growing, understanding life and growing.
  • Be mindful that no one is above or below you. Treat everyone with dignity regardless of their age, role, title or status.
  • Do your job right from the beginning, not because someone is watching you but because you have self respect.
  • Do not try to prove yourself to anyone but you. Others will naturally see what you are about.
  • No quitting until you try every single way to reach your goal. Accept failure and use it as a stool to move you up one more step.

Do all of this, only then you will be a good person and true happiness and success will come to you. Only then you will become a strong adult and goodness will surround you.

Our Imperfections

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What I love the most about our country is the diversity. I remember my childhood as I watched movies and read books saying ” Wow, it must be great to have people from all around the world in one place. A melting pot. Can you imagine the food, clothes and languages? So rich and fun”  As I grew up I figured out that diversity is not limited to food, clothes and languages. It is much deeper than that. It is also about living in peace with all of our differences and imperfections. It is about respecting these differences and about accepting one another the way we are. It is about setting limits for our wants as to not invade the place of others and to forgo our needs so that we can compromise and live happily.

Is it wrong to be a perfectionist? Depending on the situation and the level of “perfectionism” it may be. Are you perfect? Is there a perfect person? Not really. We all have our strengths but we still are not perfect. What IS perfect? Let’s think about some situations:

A perfect spouse, a perfect child, a perfect dish, a perfect house, a perfect book, a perfect movie, a perfect car…

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Perfection is subjective and therefore it depends on the person who is judging what ever subject we are talking about. In my opinion a perfect house may have a large yard with fruit trees, five bedrooms, a spacious basement for my exercise equipment and a three car garage. Think about a person who does not exercise, who does not drive and is allergic to trees. Would this house be perfect for that person? In your opinion a perfect child may be the one who always listens instructions, does not question adult authority, cleans his room everyday and is an all A student. What if you have a child who possesses all these qualities except cleaning the room everyday or he has 6 A’s and one B. Does it mean he missed the chance to fit in your “perfect child” definition?

 

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My “perfect” is to be able to live with the imperfections. To cherish the beauties, to count the blessings and being thankful for the circumstances I have. To remember that it is good to strive for the “perfect” while enjoying the imperfect things and people in my life. To value the individuality and the special things the person brings to my life. It is perfectly fine not to be perfect. I don’t live in the clouds because the sun is not shining. I would hate to miss what life has to offer when I am looking for the perfect. Now is perfect. People I have in my life are perfect. In their own ways.

How many perfect things do you have in your life? How many imperfect people do you know and you love them anyway?

COMPARING CHILDREN TO THEIR PEERS

 

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 As parents we always want the best for our children. We do every possible thing to be good parents and caregivers. We know “every child develops at his or her own pace” because we have heard it and read it over and over again. But it still may be inevitable for some of us not to compare Johnny with the friend’s child Matthew. It can be even tricky when we look at a 14 month old toddler and compare him to the developmental milestones. It is not as easy as following three milestones and drawing a conclusion as in “Johnny is fourteen months old and he cannot say as many words as he should at this age. Red flag!!”.

Take a moment. Calm down. A child’s growth does not follow a cookie cutter timeline. Milestones guide us but they do not tell us that Johnny and Matthew will follow the same pace or pattern. If Johnny can produce 15 words or even sentences this does not mean he is smarter than Matthew. It also does not mean that Matthew is less smart. It just means that they both are following their own biological pace.

How would you feel if your boss compared you to your coworker? Susan gets the job done quicker than you do. She writes better than you do. What if your child compared you to his dad? He is more fun. He takes me to better places than you do. He gives me more money than you do. Wouldn’t you feel hurt? Frustrated? Wouldn’t you envy or even hate that coworker?

It is important to accept the individuals in our lives the way they are. It is more positive and fair. We need to celebrate the people around us. We need to embrace our children the way they are. We need to see the strengths in them before we see the weaknesses or the things that are not so inline with the norms. I have seen so many children who were late talkers, late walkers. In the end they talked and they walked. They even ran. Sometimes faster than the children who walked according to the norms.

Keep in mind that children excel in different areas. One may draw wonderful pictures while another one may write stories and another may have amazing dance moves and can follow the beats. Each one of them is worth celebrating.

Share the Joy!

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Another year has passed. Same season, different year, same world problems… In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy this time of the year with family and friends. Children make their lists for Santa, parents rush to get things done before the holidays. Shopping malls are crowded, post office is busy, some take time off from work, some have to work and some do not have a job.

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I love this time of the year. I particularly love Christmas. Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the most joyous occasion for me. Family members would gather at my parents’ house. 23 people total, sisters, brother in-laws, nieces and nephews. When I was in college, no matter what, I would go back home to spend time with family and welcome the new year together. Well… As years passed by and I grew older and busier, I lost the joy. Partly because my extended family is almost six thousand miles away across the ocean and I am only with my son and husband, partly because I work so hard that I do not get the opportunity to slow down and take it all in. I always think about people who do not have anyone to celebrate this lovely season with. People who are out in the cold, trying to figure out how and when they will get their next meal. People who lost their loved ones and now they are lonely. What is joyful if you are alone? What is the meaning and what is to celebrate?

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How do you keep the spirit alive when you hear so many killings on the news almost everyday? Other than being thankful for another day that is given to you by God or whatever high being you believe in, what is to be happy? The only way to enjoy the holidays is to find a purpose. Make someone happy as this will bring joy to your life. It will feed your soul. Forget about spending hours and hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands, to buy presents. Give your time to make someone happy. Homeless, children with no family, an elderly who is forgotten in a corner of a senior home, next door neighbor who lost his or her spouse… Find someone and do something positive for him. Take him out of the loneliness and sadness and share the joy. Find meaning in random act of kindness. Remember a friend who you have not talked to for a while and pay him a visit or make a call to say hello.

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There is always someone out there who needs a little cheering up. Be that person who puts a smile in his face and bring the goodness out. Be that person who reminds others that there is more to life than material things. There is a whole big world right outside of our door. In that big world there is someone who needs a person to reach out to them to remind that life is happening and it is worth sharing. Be the light to someone who is in darkness.

Happy holidays…

 

Who are we?


In case you do not know, early childhood professionals have been struggling to bring attention and seriousness to the  field for a very long time. I happen to be one of those professionals. As I am at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) conference this week, I wanted to reflect on my thoughts and our many discussions with colleagues one of which took place yesterday. 

The big question is “Who are we?”. Can anyone do what we do as good as we do? Does is take a certain skillset to perform what needs to be performmed to support children’s growth, development and learning? If yes, who has the skillset? Can any and every one be an early childhood educator? So, here is what I think…

I started my journey in education when I was 13. Actually, it is a lucky number for me. Growing up in Turkey, I was intrigued by languages. My cousins spoke German, my sister was learning English and listened to artists like Michael Jackson, George Michael, Lionel Ritchie… I loved the tunes and how the words sounded to my ears. I thought it was so cool to be able to speak English. English as a second language was just beginning to be a hot subject in Turkish education system and schools that were teaching every subject in English except Turkish grammar, history and social studies started to pop up everywhere. Some were like public charter schools and some were private. Of course, you had to take a test and score high enough to get in. I do remember how my heart felt like blowing up when I got in. Excited to see the books shiny, colorful with lots of cool sounding words, I could not wait to get started.English for a Changing World was the name of the series and Streamline was for spoken English class. I totally fell in love with the language. Any how… My third year in my so lovely relationship with English language, I realized how much fun it was to teach others. I was helping family members and neighbors. One summer I gave lessons to a lady who was going to visit her sister in London and wanted to learn at conversational level so she would not feel awkward. She was my first student I charged tuition. Yay! It went on and on… 

I decided to teach English for the rest of my life. Hence the reason I majored in English Language Teaching. After I moved to the States, I was not sure what I was going to get my M.A. in. I went back and forth for a while and at the same time I was applying for jobs that had nothing to do with teaching. I wanted to take it slow and easy so that I could focus on my studies. Well… That is how I found  myself in early childhood with little, wonderful, curious people. Hiring manager looked at my resume and interviewed me only to say that “I am not wasting your talent and experience at the front desk. You belong to the classroom”. I was confused and scared. I never thought I would be able to work with little children. My first reaction was “Oh”. Second thing came out of my mouth was “Thank you, allow me to think about it and I will get back to you”. I said to my husband: Children need patience, a different type of patience. I went to college to work with middle and high school students. I don’t think i can do this. After discussing over and over again, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try. After all, I had nothing to lose. 

I learned that I had patience in me. More than I ever imagined. I  always loved children and had empathy for them. Coming from a large and close knit family, this was second nature to me. We always took care of our young and of each other. What I loved the most about being an ECE teacher was the innocence of children. Their need for guidance. Their excitement for the littlest discovery. Big contagious laughter for silly jokes and funny moments. I realized how we lose most of these positive feelings as we get older. I also realized how children and families are different and not all have the same opportunities. I thought about older children, upper grade students in general. I realized there was so much work to do at the beginning of their journey not in the middle. 


So… here I am after 13 years working in early ed world and 17 years in education field overall. I have the same thoughts. There is so much to do and everyone cannot do what needs to be done. Being an early childhood educator needs patience, compassion, caring and loving heart and a progressive mind that is all about growth. Growth mindset can exist only in people who are all about education. Personal and professional development. It also needs dedication. Not only for children and families but also for each other. It is a work of a community who share the same vision and the goals for the children and for our future. So, roll up your sleeves. 

A fair shot in life…

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Compare to many other people, I did not have a hard life. My father was the bread winner and my mom took care of us, six daughters. As my sisters grew older, they started helping my mom around the house and raising the younger sisters. I must admit that I did not have to do any chores other than picking up after myself. My job was to go to school, study, get good grades and be respectful. In a nutshell I had what I needed and most of the things I wanted. Though a couple of my sisters called me “spoiled” I hardly believe in that. Why?

Because I was responsible. My parents never had to tell me to do my homework or to study. I was a hardworking little girl who respected authority and who was raised to be kind to people no matter what they looked like and where they came from. I was never greedy taking advantage of my dad’s willingness to buy things for me nor did I flaunt in front of my friends. Quite the contrary, I helped people starting at a very young age discreetly buying things for others from my allowance. I knew that everyone was not as fortunate as I was. In addition, I started tutoring when I was in high school so that I could earn my own money rather than asking from my dad.

Years passed and I graduated from college. I took pride in what I did as a teacher. Teaching is one of the greatest things one can do in life. If you know something and you have the ability to teach, why not do it? More years passed and I got into leadership world. I realized that it was my calling to lead. No matter how hard I tried, I found myself right back in it and I did not regret it once. It is the ability to make a difference on a larger scale. It is the opportunity to use my abilities and share them with others.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I know that there are many children who do not even get to be children. They are busy being grown ups because that is what they have to do to survive. Life should not be about surviving. It should be about living. It is every child’s right to live and to be happy. To make this happen, we all need to do our part. No matter how much we ear, where we live, how busy we are, how little or big jobs we have… we all can do something. One thing!

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I will share with you the things that I would do for the children and their families who are not privileged if I were:

  • a dentist/doctor: free check ups for the community every quarter.
  • an accountant/bookkeeper: tax filing, financial advise
  • an insurance agent: education on benefits
  • business expert: meetings/training about how to start up a small business
  • stay at home parent: organize fundraising events
  • everyone:  Volunteer at a school or an after care program reading stories for children.
  • everyone: donate to an organization who directly helps the homeless, unemployed, single parents, or anyone who is going through a hardship. Some of the organizations are:

Martha’s Table

So Others Might Eat

Bright Beginnings 

Coalition for the Homeless, Inc.

United Planning Organization

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Be the best you can. Do the best you can. Show empathy and be cognizant of the needs of people around you. Do not allow a location define a child’s future. Care and do what you can so that each child gets a fair shot in life. After all, they are our future and we create the future together.

 

Everything is for us… Humans.

Life is strange.

We live through so much…

Sometimes we are happy and sometimes sad

Sometimes we unite with the ones we love and sometimes we separate

Sometimes we get closer and sometimes we grow apart

Sometimes we are healthy and sometimes sick

Sometimes we see birth and sometimes death

Sometimes we are at peace and sometimes at war

Sometimes we love and sometimes we hate

Life is full of opposites.

As opposite as black and white, north and south

Everything is for us. Humans…

Positive thinking…

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Are you open to new things? New opportunities, new techniques or new style… Or are you fearful of newness?

New is sometimes scary. You never tried it before. You never experienced it. There are unknown things in every “new”. There is also an opportunity to grow and a thing or two to learn with every “new”. The question is, are you ready to take the step to the “new”?

The way I was raised, like many of you, was different than the way we raise our children today. We are encouraged to think the “new way” of parenting and teaching. One of the biggest things we talk about is using positive language. I am sure you heard and or used at least two of the following statements:

  • Don’t run in the hallway!
  • No talking in the library
  • Don’t hit your friend!
  • Don’t be rude to your teacher/elderly/
  • You can’t play outside when it gets dark
  • Don’t waste your food!
  • Don’t write/draw on the walls!
  • You can’t speak without raising your hand and getting permission

Don’t, can’t, shouldn’t…The list is long. After hearing or saying these things have you seen or heard a child or in fact an adult doing exactly what you tell them not to do? Yes. We all have. The point is that human nature does not comprehend and does not respond well to negative statements. Instead, we use positive language and positive response to it is more likely to take place.

  • Use your walking feet in the hallway
  • Please be quiet in the library.
  • Be gentle with your friend
  • Be polite/Show respect to your teachers/elderly
  • Please come inside before it gets dark
  • Eat your food/Finish your food
  • Keep walls clean/Write on paper/easel
  • Please raise your hand before talking/ask for permission before talking

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It may be easier to use negative instead of affirmative language however; the outcome we want to see is hard to attain. We need to be practice positive language and be conscious about it. The more we practice the easier it becomes. In addition, children hear us and they imitate what we say and what we do. It is easier to teach a child the positive way early on rather than trying to undo or reteach the best way. It really is about training the brain to think positively and use affirmative statements.

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Negative statements are like a band-aid. You stop the undesirable act for the moment. You do not teach how to achieve the desirable outcome. Therefore, when you tell a child not to write on the walls his question may be “I want to write. Where can I write?” “What can I do when it gets dark? I am not sleepy and I still want to play”.

I love the book series “Teeth are not for biting” by  Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen. It talks about what you “can” do with your teeth.

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The entire series is about positive guidance and developing social emotional skills. It is a great way to start using language that will teach children what to do and a simple model to follow for the teachers. Every child needs and deserves a happy learning environment where they are safe and they can learn enjoying what they do. They need to feel valued and capable. Adult tone and language choice makes or breaks a child. Children do not need power struggle. Especially when we really want them to learn something. They need to be assured, acknowledged and given choices. And they need to hear all of his with positive words and or statements. This allows them to remain open to what we say and what we want them to do. It is not always possible to do this but when positive language becomes a habit and takes place majority of the time it is a win win. As the old saying goes: You catch more bees with honey.

 

Guilt and regret…

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If you are like me, working hard, helping everyone else and taking care of their needs, most likely you are neglecting yourself. If you have a family, it is even more serious. Have you ever been told by your spouse or your child that you are being tough on them or they are always getting the short end of the stick? I have! And what is worse is they are right.

I am a perfectionist. I want everything done correctly, I want everyone to have what they need and if they do not get what they need I feel terrible. I stretch myself so thin that when I come home from work, I have only 25% of patience and it runs out like a phone battery and you are like “oh no! I really need this phone now, I will not touch it unless it is absolutely necessary”. Yes, freaking out a little. Maybe more than a little. I am not good at operating with 25% charge left. Not at all. I may misunderstand something because connection goes in and out and sounds get mixed up:

  • Mommy, I am hungry
  • Don’t forget, you are doing the drop off and the pick up tomorrow and the other day…
  • We need to vacuum the carpet. I see crumbs on it.
  • Mommy, I need help with this part of the homework
  • Can you help him showering?
  • Mommy, can you read for me?
  • Wednesday is this, Thursday is that and Friday is this… And then…

By this time, I feel the steam in my head getting ready to come out. Ears, nose, eyes and all. Start thinking about how exhausted I am and no one really cares. Then I pause: No, don’t do it! Not their fault that you had a tiring day. They need you more than anyone else because you are the wife and the mother. Because this is your family and family comes firt. I am not able to pause every day though. That is the day I feel so guilty and regret everything I say.

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According to psychology today, guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. A person can feel guilty even if she or he did not cause the situation.

This morning I woke up with an awful pain on my collar bone. Nothing to worry about but it is an excruciating pain due to using my muscles too much. I was struggling with it all night. Then I had to deal with construction workers due to a fixing need in the middle of my living room. Move furniture, shuffle things around so they can work while dealing with my pain. I received a message from my office and had to call in. I am at my boiling point and one of the best people in the world is on the other end of the phone. Yes, you guessed it. I got frustrated with someone else’s incompetency and she got the short end of the stick. I felt horrible after I got off the phone. I was in so much pain and feeling terrible about the way the conversation went. I apologized for it. Still did not make me feel any better. If she deserved it, it would not bother me but she did not. Here I am thinking: Take care of yourself, hold people accountable for what they do and do not do and save patience for the ones you love and care.

Guilt and regret does not do anything good to anyone. It is hard to take back something that already happened. Sometimes it is not possible at all. In those times, I hope that my loved ones cut me a slack and understand where I am coming from and I hope that I can better take care of myself and stop giving my all to others and keep some for the people who care for me.

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Do we know how to listen?

I never thought about the actual meaning of listening until one day I read this medical article about “listening”. Every single day we hear a lot of sounds. Cars, radio, music, buzzing noise coming from an AC unit, wind, construction machine, especially if you spend most of your time in Washington, DC 🙂 … people we live with, people we work with, people in general. We hear all these things but are we listening? I hear people talking all the time but I confess that I do not listen to them at all those times. I am one of those people who is very selective when it comes to taking things into my mind. I select what is important and what I need to listen to. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you are in a conversation, or so you think, and you are trying to get a word or two in? I have…plenty of times. The person across from you is talking and he or she does not realize that a conversation requires one person to talk and the other one to listen and then they take turns listening and talking. I come from a big family and we all have things to say. Thought, ideas, opinions galore! Well, usually there are more than two people talking. Some of us are busy trying to express what we think so we do not wait for the other person to stop talking and we start talking when they are still talking. Lately, I have been observing this a lot. Especially whe I am in a group. I conciously wait, tll my brain to listen and then speak. There are times i may not get a chance to speak depending on who is in the group or I should say “what type of person” I am listening to. From my experience, people who do not listen well are the ones who talk the most. There is a different type of chemistry that they have the urge to speak all the time. Most often, the talkers are also the loudest in the group. I remember one day when I was with my husband’s family, I realized how loud they were. I come from  similar type of family. Many of my family members speak loudly. When I asked my husband why they were so loud his answer was simple: “My dad used to turn the tv volume so loud that we got used to speaking at a certain decibel!”. Hmmm… After thinking for a brief moment, I realized that the same was true for my family. My dad used to (bless his heart, he still does) turn the tv volume so high that we used to compete with the sound of the TV. Not to mention we were so excited to share our own opinions (you guessed that right, we are pretty much very opiniated people 🙂 ) that we talked and talked not realizing we were not really “listening”. 

As I get older, I find myself seeking calmness. I pay attention to listening more. I pay attention to looking into the person’s eyes and listen. The moment I realize I am drifting into my own thoughts and opinions, eager to cut off the person to share what I think, I stop my thoughts and say “Berna, you will have your turn, now listen”. It works. Conciously making this decision really works. In fact, we teach children how to listen, take turns, raise hand if you have something to say. As adults, I dont expect a person to raise hand but i do expect her or him to read the silent signal “I am done, now it is your turn to speak”. It really is an important skill we need to help children and at times help adults develop. After all we are social beings and we all have something to share. Most of the times…

Do you have difficulty listening? Do you experience hardship talking or sharing your message because someone is not listening to you? What do you do in those instances?