Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Your child is capable of things NO ONE can predict." Natan Gendelman, D.O.M.P.



I was fortunate to be invited to a PNC women's event to hear Dr. Dana Suskind, renowned cochlear implant surgeon, speak about the 30 Million Word Gap, a program with which I was unfamiliar. PNC partners with DR. suskind and the Thirty Million Words initiative. (Please see  http://thirtymillionwords.org or more information.) This initiative encourages parents to speak more words to their babies and children; a good analogy is to compare new words going into the child's brain with coins being deposited into a child's piggy bank. Both are enriching the child and helping to shape the child's future. This initiative comes after a study  by Hart and Ridley, which shows that children from professional families hear approximately 30 million more words by age 3 than children from welfare families. This information is STUNNING. (Please see http://literacy.rice.edu/thirty-million-word-gap for more information about this study.)   

In the program Dr. Suskind presented, she discussed parents' use of the "Three T's" - Tune in, Talk more, and Take turns. According to Dr. Suskind, "Tuning in" asks you to notice what a child is doing, and get involved, including cooing to your child and answering when a baby or child communicates.  "Talking more" requires you to talk about what you are doing, even if you are changing a diaper! "Taking turns", Dr. Suskind said, means looking at your child as a conversational partner, and to take turns talking, and even responding to gestures and sounds from your baby. Dr. Dana Suskind noticed this: n her surgically implanted cochlear patients,  she noted that the cochlear implants did not truly benefit the child unless they were learning new words. The child's brain power is dependent on how many words the parents speak to the child. This was a very compelling presentation, and I was so inspired! Dr. Suskind even authored a book about the subject, titled THIRTY MILLION WORDS - BUILDING A CHILD'S BRAIN.

I was an English teacher for 37 years, and through the years, I noticed deficiencies in the general vocabulary of some students in my classes.  By the time a student is in the 10th grade, it is impossible to pinpoint how long and at what age that student began to fall behind. Teaching students who are behind is always a push to "make up" for deficiencies, and to try to have the student learn more and learn faster to close that gap. Students with a better command of the English language performed better in class and made better grades, for the most part.  I can tell you that owning and using a large vocabulary, as a student or as an adult, is a gift that propels a person forward in school, college, and in the job market.

Many teachers read my weekly posts, which is why I chose the Thirty Million Words as my subject this week.  I am so impressed with the Thirty Million Words initiative to close the gap that I wanted to share this information with all of you.  Child caregivers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and siblings all have the ability to improve a child's vocabulary and intelligence from the day the child is born!  For me, as a teacher, as one who enjoys learning, and as a person who identifies as a lifelong learner, I am inspired by this initiative! Please share the news about The Thirty Million Words with others in your circle so we can help to make today's babies and toddlers smarter and more successful students and adults!   

To learn more, please visit http://thirtymillionwords.org.

Here is a link to an interesting article about Dr. Suskind's book in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2015/10/18/baby-talk-brain-programs/73808670/

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

You can find many strategies for teaching in Dede's book. Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available  www.dederittman.com or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Student-Teaching-Inside-Master-Teacher/dp/1633850102 

Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/  


Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out!  http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/ 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at dederittman@gmail.com  The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl 

Connect with Dede!

Twitter       @dederittman
Periscope   @dederittman
Facebook   Dede Faltot Rittman; Grady Gets Glasses; Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher 
LinkedIn   Dede Rittman
Google +   Dede Rittman
Tumblr      The Bunny Teacher
Instagram   dede_rittman and Gradygetsglasses 
Pinterest   Rittman Publishing, LLC ® 









Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Passionate hearts committed to a shared vision can accomplish the impossible." Paul Chucks





I was listening to a talk show on the radio last week, and the topic was our broken educational system.  Statistics were quoted that a significant percent of students who graduate from the Pittsburgh Public Schools need remediation before enrolling in classes at Community College of Allegheny County, which means they need help with reading and writing. I find that to be unacceptable. 

Many people speak about the differences in dollars spent on students and "blame" failing districts for not spending enough money on the kids. Throwing money at this problem will not work, because the problem is not about money; it is about strong leadership, involvement, taking ownership, and an investment in the school. 

I was a teacher for 37 years; 2 years in the Penn Hills School district, and 35 years in the nationally ranked North Allegheny School District.  I enjoyed both positions, and I knew excellent teachers and terrific students at each one, but the two districts had different cultures.The radio show host asked people to call in and discuss how to improve education. I was on my way to a meeting and could not call in, but I have put together a few thoughts from those 37 years of experiences.

First, schools are the microcosms of society.  As society and rules have changed and become more laxed, schools have changed. To make schools better, leaders must be strong and institute changes, and let the students and the community know that the "norm" is no longer the "norm"; because the school wants to be better than that- they are raising their standards! 

A school district must be headed by a leader who believes in high standards for both students and teachers.  The leader must be able to articulate these standards, and provide a method for educating the staff for implementing these standards. A strategic vision and plan must be in place, so that everyone is onboard the same train and headed in the same direction. Professional Development for teachers must be provided, so the teachers feel confident to share and discuss the strategic plan of the leader and the district with students, parents, and colleagues. Without a plan, the district is a boat in the water being tossed in a storm; with no compass, no sail, and no defined destination, the boat will never arrive, and students will not meet with success.

Each individual school building must have a principal who can follow the strategic plan of the district, and lead his staff to success using his own methods.  The principal must outline his high expectations for the staff and the students, and encourage teachers to create a syllabus with their requirements for student success.  I know from teaching 37 years that students will meet the teacher's expectations- regardless of how high or how low those expectations are.  Expect more- and students will perform their best.  Of course, teachers are going to have to work very hard and give their best, as well. Confidence, communication, and creativity must be the components that drive the lessons, engaging every learner every time. I suggest teacher collaboration, sharing lessons and ideas to spark the imagination, and teach with such passion and excitement that students will begin to love learning. 

Education works best when the teacher, the school, the student, and the parent(s) all work together.  The school should hold informal coffees; invite parents into the school; send home communiques about the exciting things happening in the school, and ask for parental input. Keep communication lines with parents open and positive. Administrators should do everything they can to connect with parents, including offering child care during parent meetings. many single parents want to help their children, but they can't because of younger children. Perhaps the principal and the superintendent could meet parents informally at a local coffee shop. Schools MUST get the parents involved with the school! Teachers should try to put themselves in the parents' shoes, and remember something my former principal, John Schwoebel, told our staff many years ago:  "The parents are sending us the best children they have to send."  Puts everything into perspective, does it not?  All parents love their children and want them to be treated with respect and kindness.  I have yet to meet a parent who does not want more for his children than what he has been able to achieve. When teachers set high standards, they are actually appealing to parents' wishes and dreams. I watched this work for 37 years.

Teachers must be given time to collaborate on lessons and curriculum, and they must be provided with real professional development classes that make them better at their craft, not development classes that are so boring and offer no substance. Teaching is a lonely profession, and collaboration, sharing materials and ideas, offering and accepting assistance, and team teaching are all ways to avoid teacher burnout. Teaching for me is both a passion and a calling, and throughout my teaching career, and even in my new career as author, speaker, teacher, I work to become better at my craft. Districts must help their teachers to become the best teachers they can be, which will improve the student grades, attitudes and test scores.

Students who are identified as below grade level must receive remediation immediately, so they can get to the expected grade level, rather than being passed along year after year.  I suggest getting the parents involved immediately, and asking for their help and support. No parent really wants his child to be behind; consequences of deficiency must be explained to both the child and the parent, and addressed immediately.  

No student can learn on an empty stomach.  Schools must provide for the kids who are not getting enough to eat at home, and the government provides many programs for this assistance. Students need to be nurtured by a caring staff; they must feel safe and comfortable and wanted. Students must learn to trust teachers and view them as guides for their futures; this trust must be earned by the teachers.  Teachers must treat students with respect, caring, and compassion, and feel and show empathy for their students. Teaching is all about relationships, and student performance will increase when students feel that the teacher 'likes" them.  Trust will help students who are victims of abuse and poor parenting to ask for needed help; teachers will never know how many lives they may save because of the trust factor.

Schools can improve, but only with a huge investment of personal and professional time, passion, collaboration, non-threatening meetings, solid and positive leadership, the creation of positive relationships among teachers, students, parents, and administrators, and a belief in a shared goal. 


As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

You can find many strategies for teaching in Dede's book. Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available  www.dederittman.com or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Student-Teaching-Inside-Master-Teacher/dp/1633850102 

Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/  


Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out!  http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/ 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at dederittman@gmail.com  The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl 

Connect with Dede!

Twitter       @dederittman
Periscope   @dederittman
Facebook   Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules
LinkedIn   Dede Rittman
Google +   Dede Rittman
Tumblr      The Bunny Teacher
Instagram   dede_rittman 
Pinterest   Rittman Publishing, LLC ® 




















Saturday, March 4, 2017

"Prejudice is a learned trait. You're not born prejudiced; you're taught it." Charles R. Swindoll




As you know, I was a classroom teacher for 37 years, and I worked with students in grades 9,10,11, and 12.  Presenting to students in grades K, 1, 2, and 3 with my children's book, GRADY GETS GLASSES has been a real eye-opener!  (Also- I am glad I taught high school all those years- the youngest students are so much work!)

Something I have noticed at every school where I have presented is the overall acceptance of the students:  for Grady, for me, for my presentation, and for each other. The children I have seen are friendly, inclusive, and caring. I have never seen any signs of bullying or discrimination in the year or so I have been presenting at elementary schools.  

You might remember a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's SOUTH PACIFIC called "You've Got to Be Taught."   Lt. Cable sings the song in the show, and the message is that prejudice is taught, and not inborn.  I believe that is true.  

Here are the words to the song, from https://genius.com/Richard-rodgers-youve-got-to-be-carefully-taught-lyrics


You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

To hear the song from the show, click here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diYlHI8Ghkg

This week on the news, two dear little best-friend 5 year old boys, one black and one white, decided to "trick" their teacher.  The white boy got his hair cut very short-so that he would look "just like" his best friend, and the teacher would not be able to tell them apart!  Such innocence is so refreshing that this story has gone viral!  If you have not seen the clip, please take a minute to watch it.  I promise this clip will be the best thing you see all day. http://www.today.com/parents/boy-wants-haircut-look-his-friend-trick-teacher-t108795 

As teachers and parents, we model the behavior for our children to learn.  How wonderful that these two friends have no preconceived notions about prejudice, and that their innocence and friendship can teach the rest of the world about getting along!

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

You can find many strategies for teaching in Dede's book. Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available  www.dederittman.com or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Student-Teaching-Inside-Master-Teacher/dp/1633850102 

Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/  


Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out!  http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/ 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at dederittman@gmail.com  The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. https://www.facebook.com/gradygetsglasses?ref=hl 

Connect with Dede!

Twitter       @dederittman
Periscope   @dederittman
Facebook   Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules
LinkedIn   Dede Rittman
Google +   Dede Rittman
Tumblr      The Bunny Teacher
Instagram   dede_rittman 
Pinterest   Rittman Publishing, LLC ®