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.

Stereotypes and assumptions… from being offended to teachable moments

On my way from a meeting in Pennsylvania, I sat in my seat and took out the book I have started to read not long ago. The book is called Willpower by John Tierney. As I am reading the first paragraph that talks about conscious mind and unconscious mind relationship, I realize that my unconscious mind is interfering with my reading so much that I read the same small paragraph three times. As I try to quiet my unconscious mind , I realize that it is telling me to do something about a thought that has been bothering me greatly.
As part of what I do in my profession and in my personal life, I think about events, conversations a lot and reflect on them. I reflect on myself and challenge myself to be objective no matter how hard it is and how unpleasant the outcome may be. Am I being judgmental? Is this person stereotyping? Am I biased right now? Since last night, I have been unease with a simple dialogue with one of my colleagues whom I respect.
We went to dinner with a group of colleagues. I ordered a vegetarian dish with no particular reason. It sounded healthy and fresh! I guess we can say that was the reason. Here is the dialogue:
Colleague: Are you a vegetarian?
Me: No, in fact I love meat. I just wanted to have more veggies this time.
Colleague: Oh, ok. What kind of meat do you eat? Lamb?
Me: I like lamb. But I like meat in general.
I believe I said a few more things but it was all a blur because my mind was struggling to quiet down the real voice that wanted to say: “ Why lamb? Is it because I grew up in Turkey? Are you stereotyping? Unconsciously maybe but it sounds like you are stereotyping…No matter how well I know that this person would not mean to be offensive, I was offended and too shocked and unprepared to tell him how I felt. Well, earlier during the week we were talking about racism and how we all need to confront ourselves and be open to the question and lean in, and this simple question hit me. The other colleague whom I met for the first time asked me where I am from. I replied as I always do: I was born and raised in Turkey. Just as I thought, the second question followed: Oh, how long have you been living here? Later during the conversation someone asked if I went to public or private school. The moment I said “private school from 6th grade and on” she asked in awe: Are there private schools in Turkey? Deep breath… “yes, in fact it is very competitive”. Was this also a stereotyping issue? Why can’t we have private schools in Turkey? Why is it so surprising? It is not a communist country and there sure is not only one type of school or anything else for that matter.
So… no we do not just eat lamb and no we all do not go to public schools in Turkey. No we are not Arabs and we do not speak Arabic. Not all of us are wearing headscarves and covering ourselves from head to toe. It is time to enlighten others who are not familiar with our culture and our wonderful country. Yes, we have moving parts just like any other place around the world. This does not make us worse or better.
Another incident took place last week. I pick up my son from extended day. He comes crying and when I ask what happened he answers “ he called me a white boy and I told him I am NOT WHITE!”. You did not need to be a psychologist or a mind reader to see how angry and upset he was as he was trying his hardest to control his feelings. I asked to speak with the counselor who called him “white boy”. The counselor started to explain what happened. There was a problem. He was speaking Spanish under the assumption that I am Latina. Deep breath…I asked him to speak English as I do not speak Spanish. Then he continued saying that he called my son’s name but my son did not hear him and since everyone else was black and my son was the only white student he wanted to get his attention by calling him a white boy. Taaa daaa!!! Another deep breath and my hand goes up to stop him. I broke it down to him with a calm and soft tone that we refer to people by their name and not by their race adding that it is highly inappropriate to assume that someone belongs to a certain race because of his or her looks. I explained that my son is biracial and it is how he identifies himself respecting both of his parents and being proud of his identity. At that point, the counselor was almost in tears and said that he never had a bad intention. He was remorseful and apologized to me and to my son. Well, at least he took responsibility and I had the chance to take advantage of a teachable moment. After all, teachable moments are not only for children.
What now? Life goes on and I am sure this will not be the only time we will face with stereotyping and assumptions as it was not the first time. No, we cannot get mad, angry and upset each time something like this happens. We need to communicate, share and educate one another. Ask uncomfortable questions and confront the most difficult. Only then we will see a glimpse of change.

Is discipline the best way to change behavior?

Image result for quotes can discipline alone change a child's behavior?

Children are people like the rest of us. They happen to be small. They deserve the same respect we expect for and from adults. Part of being a child is not having the answers to many things we may have as adults. Children need positive role models, healthy environment, right amount of challenge, plenty of time and opportunity to grow, gain knowledge and develop skills. These are all parts of becoming mature and articulate adults.

When I hear someone refer to a child as “bad” or uttering the words “you are being bad” I cringe. The child is not being bad, it is the behavior that is not desirable or acceptable. It is because the child has limited language and cognitive ability to express emotions and thoughts. It is the process to learn to make a good decision. How can he replace the undesirable behavior with an acceptable one? By discipline and consequence or by understanding the behavior, finding the source of it and building a relationship with the child to gain trust to provide support? I go with the latter. Here is why…

Discipline in traditional meaning and consequence are like band-aide. You put it on the wound and stop the bleeding for a while. Because the wound is not properly treated, the band-aid can stop the bleeding only for a short time period and it cannot prevent a possible infection. Lack of treatment  may prolong the healing time as well. This happens all because the wound is not treated well. Undesirable behavior is the same as the improperly treated wound. We need to take the time to understand why the child is presenting the behavior. We need to observe and try to find if there is a pattern and or a trigger. What is the source of the behavior? How can we find all these answers? We need to build a relationship with the child to be able to connect and to have open conversations. This happens only if we gain the child’s trust. I admit that this takes time but the best doctors pay attention to every detail, assess the patient very carefully and take all necessary measures while treating the patient.

Correcting a child’s behavior requires the teacher and other partners ,including the parents, to work together. Observation, assessment, planning, addressing the behavior, assessing and planning again. The cycle continues until the desired outcome is accomplished. Discipline, consequence or punishment, no matter how we slice it or dice it, often times back fires. How? The most common result I have seen over and over again is the repeat of the same behavior or worse, bullying others, being unable to control anger, developing negative thoughts and feelings about school, class or the teacher. The cycle continues… more consequence, more aggressive behavior, defiance, loss of respect, lack of self confidence, blaming self, disconnect from the rest of the world, feeling of pressure and failure. The older the child is, the stronger the feelings grow and the more problematic the outcomes are.

We need to give children a good road map to follow, the tools they need to scaffold and build. They are tomorrow’s adult citizens and what we do or do not for them today greatly matters.


Human lives matter…


If you are as disheartened as I am, you definitely understand the tornado of feelings in my mind. Is it disappointment? Is it sadness? Shock? Frustration? Anger? Maybe all of them at once.

Depending on my personal experiences, I can easily say that the picture of our country from a far is very different than the one we are living in. I always believed that this country is a safe haven for many of us. Human rights, freedom of speech,  freedom of expression and so on so forth. Melting pot, a place where people from around the world live together. Families, friends, neighbors, co-workers… how rich and how wonderful!

Well… lately I am having difficulty to comprehend the reality. Reality that is so uncomfortable, annoying, upsetting and unsettling. On TV, in newspapers, social media and on the street there is this picture of fear, anxiety and worry with all the “what if? how? why? really?” We all have different opinions as to why people have become so violent, cruel, uncaring, hurtful, and self centered. What I am trying to understand is “when” did this happen?

A child remarked at the news as they were showing the horrific things that were happening in Virginia last weekend: ” I thought this was happening in the very very old days. Like… REALLY old days!” ” These people may need to go to the doctor. They may be ill and that is why they are hurting people around them.” I took the opportunity to talk about the things we must do. It was a short list but it was a thoughtful conversation.

  • Respect every human being.
  • Explain your point of view without disrespecting theirs.
  • Do not respond hurtful acts with hurtful acts. Two wrongs do not make a right.
  • We all are different. Accept differences and learn to work with them.
  • Your freedom ends when the other person’s freedom starts.
  • You do not have the right to hurt another being just because you disagree with him or her. Speak! This separates humans from other living things. We can think and communicate.
  • Your goodness is in your heart and your mind. You are judged by your actions, not by the color of your skin, the language you speak, the religion you practice, your gender or the way you look on the outside. If you are, speak up.
  • Ignorance does not help anyone.
  • Human lives matter.

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.

Image result for integrity

  • 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.

Image result for principles quotes

  • 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.

Image result for seeing the light quotes

  • 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.


Image result for team work

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:

Image result for team work

“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.

Image result for team work

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.

Our Imperfections

Image result for imperfections


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…

Image result for perfect

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?


Image result for perfect child

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?



Image result for comparing children to each other


 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.