KW Mocha Momma Babble Voices Writing Well About Contact
Kelly WickhamSpeakingWritingTravelingCreating Kelly Wickham: Teacher, Speaker, Storyteller
about Kelly

twitter pinterest subscribe

Subscribe to the
Mocha Momma blog by email:


Fire Prevention Week [a review & some resources]

This is post is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and Review and opinions are all mine.

It probably doesn't seem very sexy to discuss fire prevention.

Trust me when I say that no matter what kinds of things you're passionate about you can always find others. I didn't have to go looking for this one.

Back when my children were in elementary school they had a classmate who had a house fire. Every time, prior to this one, that I heard about someone's house burning down I would sort of shrug it off like, "Awww, that's too bad. Good thing we have insurance." It wasn't particularly compassionate of me until I stopped by where they were staying (right next door with friends) and listened to them talk about the actual things they lost. Family heirlooms. Photographs that couldn't be replicated because this was prior to digital pics. Handwritten letters from ancestors long gone. It was heartbreaking and, in that moment, I had to face my own apathy about it. It was pretty shameful and I'm not proud of it.

She had two young children, a son and a daughter, and that was also around the same time when I stopped titheing to my church and directly gave her money. (Story for another time.) We went through our clothes and since my children were growing like weeds and I wasn't the most organized mom this required some work on my part to get it together so that we could donate.

As schools are considering what to do this week for Fire Prevention Week (an important part of teaching whether or not curriculum dictates it) I have a few things that might be helpful for teachers. My husband served on the volunteer fire department for years so he's taught me a thing or two about fire safety that I wouldn't normally know. 

I was asked to review the NFPA’s Sparky resources which, I've learned, can be used by teachers during Fire Prevention Week coming up between October 9-15, 2016.

What follows are my review thoughts on the game:

The "make-believe" link on the game features a child in a wheelchair which is rather progressive of them. WELL DONE, DEVELOPERS. Also, there are diverse races represented as well. I'm not being insincere when I say this: Thank you for being inclusive on this. This makes possible a game where kids playing it are able to see themselves.

Sparky has a Firehouse app for those times when you're out with your kids and you want to keep them entertained while simultaneously teaching them how to be safe in case of a fire. YOU KNOW THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME SO MAY AS WELL USE IT WISELY. I like the app version and, after trying it out online first, was surprised at how well it translates.

Here it is available for play on the web for those times when teachers sign up for the computer lab and want to focus their student's attention on an education game. SparkySchoolhouse encourages adults to teach fire safety to save lives, something that can be a scary topic for children. However, they use appropriate language and upbeat music to soften the lessons. Educators can find more resources at the SparkySchoolhouse Digital Backpack as well. (This is chock full of lessons and more games.)


Of the options for game playing, you'll tap one of the boxes to play. I chose to play Hear That? It was like the game Concentration where you hear sounds and have to tap the buttons to play them again in order. I don't think that's the object of the game, though. The instructions also tell you that if you hear the smoke alarm you are to tap the door immediately without finishing the game.

My favorite resource is the Sparky lessons.

There are downloadable PDFs and all of them meet CCSS standards for different grade levels. As an educator, my pick for these focuses on grades 1 & 2 for children. There are, of course, different grade-level appropriate lessons. Here's a sample of one for ages 6-10 (up to 5th grade):

Sparky the Fire Dog® and his friends set out to solve a mystery in The Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms, a free app that teaches kids fire-safety skills with a compelling new story, standards-aligned materials and loads of fun tappable animations.


What I liked about that is that kids get, by nature, engrossed in what they're doing and need to be able to hear sounds that signal a danger may be present. I got through about 5 levels before the smoke alarm sound went off and tapped the door immediately to get outside.

The game rewarded me by congratulating me for going outside and it showed a meeting place, something else I taught my young children when they were small. "If we ever have a fire and we're apart, we'll meet up by the basketball hoop in front of the house. If you come out the back doors then make your way to the hoop so we can know you're safe."

My overall opinion is that this game is really great for very young children and I stand by my earlier claim that kids will be playing games on mobile devices anyway so they might as well learn safety tips while doing it.

Fire Prevention Week is a necessary part of what schools are doing to make sure their students are safe. Many school districts are required, by law, to run fire drills several times a year so that students can be safe in school buildings. Why not extend this learning at home with your young children in a fun way, too?



10 Things Schools Can Do for Black Students

We now have a Medium channel to spread the work of Being Black at School where this piece lives. I'm republishing it here as well as a resource for schools.


10 Things Schools Can Do Today

1. Suspend lessons that may trigger students

If you’re doing a forensic lesson in a high school science class that involves a physical body as part of your teaching then today is a good day to take a beat. Or, if the lesson in history class is about protests that this country has held before (like that Boston Tea Party) and teachers are not making that connection to civic disobedience and the protests for Black Lives Matter then it’s probably time to reassess how we’re using critical thinking and promoting individual thoughts and beliefs in the classroom. Not every lesson is for every day. Teachers may not be comfortable with the discussions that ensue.

2. Use your Emotional Health Triage systems

Many schools are equipped with social workers and psychologists and teams of professionals who work toward emotional health. We employ these in the system when crises happen such as the death of a student, violence in the community, or a state of emergency. These teams need to mobilize NOW as a response to Black students who both empathize and feel deeply about the world around them and the ones who are experiencing crushing depression and anxiety around the state-sanctioned violence they see and hear about.

3. Respond with ACTION

Black students (specifically women) at American University this week have been attacked with bananas and many students are dissatisfied with the response from their school. In order to create safe spaces, schools should respond with conduct charges, investigations, and pro-active statements to their communities about how they will deal with violent acts. Instead, students are pressuring school leaders to do something more than empty town hall meetings. Systems need to respond first and not put the onus on violated students to force it.

4. Create Safe Spaces

Students, today especially, may be in need of a space in which they can express themselves. Provide art materials and journals and safe adults to them when you notice them acting out no matter what their developmental age is. Many young students aren’t prepared to put into words what they’re feeling so provide soft items (like pipe cleaners and squishy balls) for them to use as a calming device.

5. Practice Radical Empathy

Oftentimes, Black students are not allowed the space to emotionally express what’s happening. If you notice them acting out in new ways stop what you’re asking them to do and see if they need to be escorted by a loving adult to one of the safe spaces mentioned above. Suspend judgment and lessons on which they cannot concentrate today. In fact, take their emotional temperature on a regular and consistent basis. All schools can work toward this for Black students that they regularly send to discipline offices instead of caring for emotional needs.

6. Engage Family Participation

A really easy phone call to make to parents raising Black children is to simply ask, “Is your child particularly affected by the events they see in the news of violence?” This is two-fold: one, schools can acknowledge that this is a lived truth and two, they can open a conversation and allow parents of Black children to LEAD in how to care for their children. This is good practice no matter the news cycle. Invite parents raising these children who know them best to participate in the creation of safe spaces. Often, this is all parents want to do in the first place.

7. Study Cultural Competency in a whole staff setting.

Teachers, support staff, and administrators can all work toward this by putting it at the top of every agenda especially when working with populations that aren’t reflected in the adults in a building. Unpack your invisible knapsack. Revisit implicit bias in your pedagogy. Create teams for restorative justice. This work can be done in team settings as well. Use this for your next faculty meeting focus. It’s already too late.

8. Call for help, not police or SROs

Schools are tasked with caring for children with professional adults who have training and knowledge in areas of child development. Police and SROs should not be called in to deal with a difficult child who happens to be Black. You are re-traumatizing a child when you do that with the absence of their parent present. Use social workers, psychologists, administrators, and caring adults who understand the work of anti-racism in systems. Reach out to organizations who do this work if your school is woefully lacking in this. Never ever threaten a Black child by telling them you’re going to call the police on them.

9. Be mindful of White Savior Complex responses in systems

Language and semantics matter every day, but it’s important to be mindful of how schools are responding today for students feeling disenfranchised and ignored. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, we are now a minority-majority education system, with 51% of our students (25.9 million) being of color. As of 2007–2008, 83 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are white. Recognizing this disparity is crucial to understanding how much work needs to occur in systems that can create inherently racist policies and ignored responses to the emotional health of Black children. Our goal at Being Black at School is to identify this first in order to change it.

10. Empower Black Students

Give them space for leadership. I have not given up hope that this generation is prepared for things which my own generation was not. Young activists are out there. Students care about their education and also of their well-being and they are out here doing the work. While you’re at it, empower your Black colleagues today as well. Don’t rely on them to do the emotional lifting and do not demand anything from them. Ask Black teachers, administrators, and students what THEY need today and then get to work.



HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.


I went to high school during a time when AIDS and HIV were just becoming something that we were talking about. It was a scary time and the fears that teens felt at the time hit my generation pretty hard.

When The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was making the rounds of the United States I was in college and had come home to Chicago to visit my family. It was a quilt started in 1987 by a group led by Cleve Jones in San Francisco with 3-by-6-foot memorial panels commemorating the life, with words and pictures, on a quilt of someone who had died from complications from AIDS. Sewn lovingly by family members and friends of the deceased, it was my first introduction to art as activism. My mother had tickets to go and we went, taking my young toddler daughter with us, at the McCormick Center near Lake Michigan. It’s a place I’d been to a hundred times for various events but this one had all the moveable walls down and the quilts were arranged on the floor with space to walk among them. There were volunteers there walking around quietly and carrying tissues.



Prior to walking in that space I had given my daughter several warnings about appropriate behavior. There would be no screaming or loud talking and we were going to use inside voices, no running and definitely no stepping on the quilts or lying down and taking a nap. She was far too young to understand the gravity of the situation or even of HIV and AIDS at the time, but she knew there was a tone and respectful nature when we walked in that space. I didn’t have to remind her at all.

I remember a special moment I had with a stranger in that space. She was a volunteer who walked around with a box of tissues and I had stopped in front of a quilt that really struck me. The descriptions of this young man who died in his 20s really grabbed me in that moment. Learning about his life and how much he was loved made me start to cry and stare at the quilt for much longer than I should have. The volunteer stopped and offered a tissue and asked, very sweetly, "Anyone in particular?" 

Do you know those moments when you wish you'd say exactly what you're thinking but are afraid it will come out wrong and you do it anyway? I had that with her.

I looked around at all the quilts and made a sweeping motion with my hand and replied, "Everyone in particular."

She nodded and put a hand on my shoulder and we stood crying for a good while together.

At that time, in 1990, I had yet to know of someone personally who would be affected by the disease and it would take less than a few years for that to happen. Every one of them has been young and one of my cousins would live for another 20 years with HIV before succumbing to it. Though, at the time, it didn’t have a name in the 1970s when he got sick. Losing other family members to this has been devastating and yet we’re not where we should be which brings me to this place of helping spread the word along with the CDC for the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign.


I get on a lot of bandwagons for political and personal reasons but this one is extremely personal to me and I’m happy to share any information to promote awareness and help for a very specific crowd. Today is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day which is targeted at the 50+ crowd. You can get involved here if you'd like to do something. 

Here are some fast facts for you since I know people look for the bullet points (as if you’re asking yourself, What exactly does Kelly want us to know?):


  • People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013.
  • People aged 50 and older have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their HIV risk factors.
  • Older Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection later in the course of their disease.



The one I want to focus on is that last one: if diagnosed with HIV later in the course of the disease it becomes more problematic health-wise. I can’t help, right now, to think of all those commercials for erectile dysfunction that focus on older couples but then fail to mention anything about safe sex. Sure, you're thinking, I'm older and don't have to worry about getting pregnant.

Yeah, but diseases don't really have an age range so take some precautions, friends. If I can sit through the dozens of erectile dysfunction commercials when I'm just trying to watch some football then I think it's okay that we make sure we talk about safe sex at every age. ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT.

Here's a few other places to follow today that will use the hashtags #StopHIVTogether and #StopHIVStigma:


Page 1 ... 5 6 7 8 9 ... 429 Next 3 Entries »
BlogHerNPRMedia BistroHuffington Post