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Day 59

Dear Fernbank,

It’s Day 59.
Today was a day full of big ups and big downs.

We just finished the first ever virtual 5th Grade Promotion Ceremony and it went really well!  We made a recorded version first to have in case anything went wrong when we went live and then we went straight into the live version 5 minutes later. Man!  News anchors work harder than I thought they did! All that mike on, mike off, speak now, but not now—it’s a challenge!  But the difference between doing it without an audience versus with an audience, even our virtual one, was night and day! It’s really amazing how the energy of all the people present can come through a computer screen and reach you like that. Thank you to everyone who came today and a huge thank you to our fabulous 5th graders who were such an inspiration to all of us throughout this whole year and right on into virtual learning. You are powerhouse students and you certainly kept your teachers on their teaching toes!  Great work!  We are going to miss you so much it hurts. We love you guys!!

That was the big up of the day. The big down of the day came only about an hour before we started rehearsal for the ceremony. We received urgent news from the district that we would have to cancel the Fernbank Caravan tomorrow. Here is the message that the PTA sent out just a bit ago:

Dear Fernbank Parents, Students, and Teachers,

The PTA was just informed by DCSD that we must postpone the Fernbank Caravan scheduled for tomorrow. The District sent a clear directive today that all events that involve staff being on campus, at locations in the community, or traveling throughout neighborhoods should be canceled immediately, including events sponsored by associated organizations. We will reschedule it with the same format and route just as soon as the District lifts this ban.

We are sad about this postponement and promise to reschedule as soon as it is deemed safe and permissible by DeKalb County Schools.

-Fernbank PTA

I was really crushed. Adam Francois-Watkins & Dana Borda have been the Caravan Masterminds, so I called them immediately and we worked through our sorrow and frustration to figure out what to do next. We went through all the stages of grief in record time, because we really didn’t have time to do anything else. We came to the place where we realize that the District must have made that decision for good reasons, even if we weren’t privy to them. We could verbalize that we understood that there are always things that we don’t get to know and things that are probably really good reasons for the cancellation. But we also could verbalize that we were really sad and frustrated and hurt and angry. Maybe it was even a little loud. And possibly PG rated (not too much worse, I promise!) But we worked through it.

And it left me thinking, “Why am I so deeply disturbed and upset that they rained on our parade?” and the answer is so clear. We miss each other. Virtual is such a great alternative to not seeing each other at all, but there is a deep, visceral need to see each other in the flesh, alive and well. And we were all going to get to see each other tomorrow, alive and in the flesh. It was going to be a validation and a reassurance that we were indeed all alive and well and that was going to be a deep reassurance that we aren’t going to get now. And that is my real sorrow.

I also had two amazing Principals-for-the-Day who were going to be the Grand Marshals of the Caravan and I am sad for them that they won’t get to do that tomorrow. Elena & Easton—you two will get your chance at being principal someday! We will all have our moment to reconnect and see each other live and in person. And that will truly be a day to celebrate! 

But even so, today we still have so much to be grateful for.  All these bright, lively faces of our 5th graders celebrating their accomplishments over the last 6 (really 7 with Pre-K) years! Another year of accomplishments for all of our students! Summertime and the promise of lazy days without the shadow of schoolwork to do! And the care and commitment of our Fernbank community—it is kind of beautiful that we are this sad about not getting to see each other because it means we really do care about one another. And that is not going to change, regardless of what comes.

Enjoy your evening & know that some day we will be able to ride in caravans and wave from the sidewalks to one another, but today I wave to you from my little computer and give thanks that you all are part of the Fernbank Nation.

Love & hugs,

~Ms. Ray


Summer Greetings & Readings

Dear Fernbank,

I hope this finds you all well and enjoying summer!
I hope that I will have some real news soon about how we will be going back to school, but right now we still have no information.

We have a new superintendent, Ms. Cheryl Watson-Harris! She is bringing her wealthy of knowledge and experience to DeKalb Schools to help us best navigate all the challenges we have been presented with so far this year. She has been the First Deputy Chancellor for the New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the country with more than one million enrolled students-. I really liked what I saw of her in the principal’s meeting we had with her. She told us that she would be starting on July 1st and she would look closely at the good work being done here and then work to help us make it even better. We expect to have her plan for going back to school by mid-July. We will get that information out to you just as soon as we receive it.

In the meantime, wear your masks and wash your hands!

I’ve read 3 books for the kids should they want to watch as well.

Fireflies for Nathan


 A is for Activist


JoJo’s Flying Side Kick

I miss you all and applaud your patience!

Take care, be well, & much love,

~Ms. Ray

Day 60 We made it!

Dear Fernbank,

Here it is—Day 60!
The last day of school for the year! We made it! 
And I have a declaration to make: As of today, all parents & guardians are hereby deputized with the authorization to declare that your children have officially matriculated to the next grade. They should, from this moment forward, be referred to as members of their new grade! All kindergarteners become first graders, all fifth graders become sixth graders, and so on. Make it so, Deputies!

That ought to make dinnertime a bit more fun and auspicious!

I missed seeing you all today, but I am looking forward to the time when we do get to see each other—it will be all the sweeter for sure. May it be sooner rather than later!!!

Summertime is upon us and now the question becomes what do we do now that we don’t have any schoolwork to do?! And I think many of our kids will have less of a challenge with this question this summer than in previous years, simply because they have already been using their creativity & freedom to explore the world in new ways. I hope that this translates into a whole lot more exploration and investigation about the world around us. Challenge your kiddos to make a list of wonders that they can research and learn about this summer. Heck, you might all create your own list of wonders—I know I have more than a few myself.

I also hope that this means that our kids will be doing a lot more independent reading! 
I know that is something I am really looking forward to. I watched the Book Photo Parade today and I was blown away by how many kids participated and sent in pictures! Ms. Jacobs, aka The Library Sheriff, and her Deputy, Ms. Richmond, were amazing hosts of the show and it was delightful!!! I hope you will watch it together and have a pencil & paper handy to write down the titles your kids are interested in reading! Here is a link to the video as well as a link to Summer Reading recommendations:

You can currently find the Vimeo video link on the Library website “Recommended Videos” page.
As always, please do not share on Social Media!–website-links.html

Summer Reading recommendations

I personally took the Book Photo Parade challenge very seriously and went all out—I got my crazy pirate cousin, Captain Joan Sparrow, and First Mate Alex to do a guest book reading of Pirate School that I hope you all will have fun watching! Here is the link:  
PIRATE SCHOOL!!! Read by Captain Joan Sparrow & First Mate Alex
Be ready for extended goofiness and hilarity! 

I am going to miss writing to you all so regularly, but I will be checking in throughout the summer. I will still send a read-aloud now and then and I will even see if the Captain & First Mate will come back to read some more, too. Here is a link to the playlist Ms. Jacobs helped me make of my read-alouds to date—you will probably get really tired of hearing my voice though!!! 
Ms. Ray Read! Playlist

I’m so proud of each and every one of you!  I wish I could give you all awards for Parenting Through the Pandemic! Each of you deserve one—even though I know you will immediately think of the moments where you might have had some frustration or challenge with your sweet kiddos, you need to know that there were SO MANY AMAZING OTHER MOMENTS that you have to feel good about. (Guilt is a universal component of parenting—don’t do that to yourself!) This has been a massive challenge and I can witness that you all have done incredibly well under dire straits. Pat your selves on the back and go make yourselves your own awards with all those arts and crafts supplies you have scrounged up for your kids—I will sign each and every one of them to make them official!!!

Thank you for your continued partnership in education!  I am the luckiest principal in the world and your kids are so lucky for the same reason: 


I send all my love to all of you and wish for you a peaceful, joyful, healthy, productive, and fun summer!!!

Much love and so many hugs—virtual and otherwise!


~Ms. Ray

Day 58: Kid hug

Dear Fernbank,

Today it is Day 58. Two more school days till we finish. That is a remarkable accomplishment!

Take a good look at your kid(s) and see if you can see just how much they have grown and how far they have come. Have you gotten closer during this quarantine time? Too close some days? Or have you been an essential worker and are feeling robbed of all this “family time” compared to others? Where are we now compared to where we were on March 12th when we last left the schoolhouse?

We are all changed in some way.
Our world views are different. Our understanding of virology has grown hugely. We have slowed down, or sped up—either way we have had to change pace. And focus—we have had to change focus in a really big way. So how are we seeing the world now? How are we seeing ourselves in it? How are we seeing our children in it? It is worth some thought.

I often wonder what ‘new normal’ will look like when we get back to as close to normal as we can.
How will we do school safely?
What will be different about our children’s experience of school now?
I deeply hope that our scientists (so many of them also Fernbank parents!) can find a way to make it safe to be together again like we were before. I cannot imagine standing at the front door of Fernbank welcoming kids in and not being able to hug them. It is a truly distressing thought.

We will certainly be more mindful of so many things like handshakes—I don’t think they are really necessary and not sure I will miss them so much. Like getting in an elevator—we will forever more be listening for symptoms of illness from our fellow lift-riders—maybe we will take the stairs more often. Soccer games, family reunions, movie theaters, concerts, graduations! SO many things we will think about differently and modify our behaviors going forward to the reestablished level of social decorum.

But the ‘kid hug’ at the door….

That one will be hard for me to change. I will work on it when I must, but for now, I am holding onto the hope that we can still teach and reach kids on their level and in the ways children deserve—whole heartedly and with our full presence. And for me this includes the good morning hug. I’m holding onto that goal until someone tells me different.

Have a great final two days!  I hope to see you on the Caravan route Friday
So much love to you all,

~Ms Ray

Day 57: What to Keep

Dear Fernbank,

It is Day 57—that seems like quite a long time!!
Only 3 more days of school before it is officially summertime!
Summer will be different this year, but even so, it is always a big deal to finish another school year.

I have a question for you all today:
Now that we have mastered this at-home learning stuff, what parts of it should we keep when we get back to business as usual?  There are some things that are really frustrating, but there are also things I really liked and want to keep on doing. I wonder if you feel the same way.

One thing I liked was that I could (almost) always make it to the grade level & special area meetings so I got to see and talk to everyone who teaches at Fernbank at least once a week. When we are at school this almost NEVER happens! And it turns out that I really like the people I work with! It has been delightful to get to check in with them every week. This week we didn’t meet because of honors days and I missed everyone! I might just keep on doing that virtually because it is much easier to get everyone together.

I think this is my lesson—the human connection part is way more important than the business stuff.

Like we still have to talk about what we do and how we do it and what we are going to do next and all of that kind of important stuff, but my feelings about these meetings have shifted.
I look forward to them and the chance to hear about all the exciting things that our fabulous & creative teachers have been doing with our amazing and talented students.
I like seeing them get excited about what they learn from one another about teaching.
I like hearing about how they are doing and how they are spending their time in quarantine.
I have learned so many new things about these folks who I have been working with for so long.
Who knew that virtual could bring us closer than face-to-face!

So here are the directives I have for myself going forward—never let a chance to connect pass you by. Don’t let all the minutia of this job get in the way of working with the people in this job. Find the joy in every day by looking outside of yourself toward others. Thank you to my teachers for this gift—I will work to never lose sight of it.

Additionally I hope we keep the things we have regained about our family & friend time. Whether it is virtually or face-to-face, we have learned how to connect and communicate on a real level almost every day. This is so good for us. I think it may even make us healthier. Texting is a great tool, but it has its limits and it’s good to be reminded of this.

So what have you experienced differently that you will keep after quarantine?  Let me know—I think it is something worthwhile to think about and it would be an interesting list to publish so please let me know!

Enjoy these last three days and the celebrations of this year.

Look back at pictures of our kids in August ’19 compared to them today—they have grown in so many ways!

Savor their accomplishments and their progress.
Time really does move so quickly!

Here is a book about cookies, math, family, friends, & sharing! I hope you like it. It’s called The Doorbell Rang.

I look forward to hearing from you. Take care & be well!

Much love,
~Ms. Ray

Let me know— what have you experienced differently that you will keep after quarantine.

Day 56- the Home Stretch

Dear Fernbank!

Happy Day 56 and Happy Belated Mother’s Day!  I hope all of you moms had a lovely weekend of being celebrated!

We have so much great news for you today!  We are having our honors day celebrations this week and I know you are looking forward to celebrating all the great accomplishments our kiddos have made throughout this year.

Kids Run the School

First great news: TAKE A LOOK AT THIS! The link presented here is a video of the Best Days of Our Teacher’s & Administrator’s Lives!!! Our kids have been running the school and here is the video of our all of our student teachers & admin!  Good work guys & thanks Ms. Nutter for compiling this!


Fernbank Farewell Fleet Caravan

Next news item:  Our fabulous PTA is sponsoring the Fernbank Farewell Fleet Caravan coming to a neighborhood near you this Friday! 

It will start at 3:00 pm and will follow the attached route. PTA Co-President Adam Francois-Watkins will be doing his best to keep parents updated in real time on the Fernbank Parent Facebook page where we are up to as we make our way through the route. 

Here is the link to the interactive map of route we will follow:

This is a link to a static map image if you want to print it out:

We will get more information to you about the route later in the week.

The interactive version will show you the direction we will be going in throughout the caravan. If your home is not along this route (most are not) please drive to one of the quieter roads and park on the street—we will wave & cheer as we drive by.

Remember:  Teachers are driving, Families are along the route waving!




Finally, remember that on this Friday we will also have our AMAZING BOOKFLOAT PARADE VIDEO coming to you!! We already have well over 400 picture submissions as well as some surprises! It is going to be fantastic!!!


Fernbank is hosting an online book fair this week with Little Shop of Stories. This is a great way to support our school while helping a local business.

How will this all work? It is so simple! 

1. CLICK: Visit Little Shop of Stories online store May 11th- 15th: 

2. SHOP: Fill up your shopping cart. Check out the book flier filled with book suggestions. Don’t see what you are looking for? Search the website for other titles! 

3. CHECK OUT: At check out PLEASE WRITE FERNBANK IN THE COMMENT SECTION. This is the only way that we are tracking how Fernbank will get credit. It is very important to remember this step. 

4. DELIVERY: At check out, you may choose home delivery or pick up at Little Shop. All orders over $25 automatically qualify for free shipping. If your order does not meet the $25 minimum but you would still like free delivery, choose the pick up option at check out, and make a note in comments that you would like the items delivered to your home. We are making a no minimum free delivery exception for book fair sales during this time. For store pick up, we will notify you when your order is ready. At that time, you can swing by the shop, and find your clearly marked order on a shelf in our vestibule. PLEASE NOTE: We are attempting to deliver all book fair orders 7-10 business days after the close of your fair. It is our priority to deliver all books in a timely fashion, but depending on volume, UPS shipments, and government mandates, it could take longer than anticipated to process every order. If for any reason, your order is delayed more than 2 weeks, we will contact you directly.   

QUESTIONS?: please email Jonna

Take care everyone—I hope that this last week of school is a great one and that everyone is getting excited about summertime!!!

Much love to you all!  Hang in there—we are in the home stretch!!!

~Ms. Ray

Teacher Caravan Parade

Get your signs and spirit wear ready for the Fernbank Teacher Caravan!

Friday, May 15 at 3 p.m!

We can’t all be together for the last day of school but our teachers and staff really want to see as many students as possible, so get ready for the Fernbank Teacher Caravan!

On Friday, May 15 at 3 p.m., our teachers will line up in their cars to start the caravan route. They are going to drive through some of the Fernbank neighborhoods so they can wave to students!

Some of you may be able to watch from your front doors. If the caravan is not coming down your street, driving to a street nearby and watching/waving from your car is a great option too.  (Link to Route) The caravan route is 10 miles long and there will be a lot of teacher cars, so it may take a while to get to you if you are at the end of the route.

This is a great time to show your Fernbank pride by wearing spirit wear, making signs, and clapping and making noise for your teachers as they drive by.

Our Principal and Assistant Principal for the Day Auction Winners will be leading the caravan, so be watching for them!  If you stand on the sidewalk, please make sure to wear your masks and maintain 6 feet between you and other families. 

Parents, this will be very exciting for our little ones, so please make sure everyone stays in a car, on a sidewalk, or in a yard. We do not want anyone darting into the street!  

Let’s make this a fun and safe way to wave goodbye to each other and celebrate that we made it through the 2019-2020 school year!

For safety, Don’t forget to maintain social distancing and wear your mask while watching the parade!

Click on the map image to get the link to the route

For safety, Don’t forget to maintain social distancing and wear your mask while watching the parade!

Day 53: Teacher Appreciation Time

Dear Fernbank,

Welcome to the end of your week and Day 53.

Today also marks the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week! If you haven’t taken the time to thank your child(ren)’s teacher, I urge you to do so today. 

We teachers wait for this week like little kids wait for the holidays or their birthdays and even the smallest token of thanks makes a huge difference. Please let our teachers know how appreciated they are—after all, you understand what goes into doing their jobs better this year than ever before!  If you aren’t sure what to do, please contact your room parent for more information. 

Yesterday I wrote about walking toward the edge of the cliff. When I read it back today it sounded more dramatic than I meant it to be, but the sentiment is still honest and true. However, I received a message yesterday that gave me a new insight on my vision of not being able to see over the foggy edge of the cliff. It resonated with me and shifted my perspective in a positive way.

Thank you to Virginia Tester, mom of Naomi, Eve, & Sarah, who wrote the following words:

“As one gentle friend reminded me when I was eager to know all the exact steps ahead (you should see my volumes of planners and lists), no one is guaranteed a perfect, fully-lit, step-by-step instructional map of the future, but a simple lamp to our feet and a light to our path. I love this visual (just as I love yours at the edge of the cliff!), because though the light to the path may be somewhat future-oriented, it may still be foggy and unclear. But the lamp at our feet shows us just where to take the next step.”

Virginia Tester

Today I have been thinking about the lamp at my feet lighting the way. It doesn’t have to illuminate the whole path (although my control freak side wants that badly). It may, in fact, only show you where your next step will be, but at least you won’t walk off the cliff. And you have the reassurance that the light is shining, and the way will be clear enough to keep you on the right path. Such a simple shift of the image, but it changes everything.

Book Float Parade Photos

If you haven’t sent in your kid’s Bookfloat Parade photo, you have a respite! Ms. Jacobs says she has extended the due day for submissions until Monday!!! This should be truly wonderful to see! Here is her email address again:

Thank you again to all of our teachers! We honestly have the very best in the world—and I thank you for showing them a little of the love that they show our children every day!

Have a great weekend, stay safe & healthy, and look for the lamp at your feet!

Much love and many hugs,
~Ms. Ray

Day 52: At the Edge of a Cliff

Dear Fernbank

Happy Day 52! It is blustery and beautiful outside and I hope you have been able to get out and enjoy it.

I have this image that keeps coming to mind when I think about the end of the school year and it’s not the most uplifting or inspiring one, but it is honest.

I feel like I am walking toward the edge of a cliff that I will reach on May 15th. On that day, I will look down and see a mist-filled valley, so foggy that I can’t see the bottom or the other side of it. Not a very positive image, I will admit. But putting a visual to my feelings has actually helped me have a better understand my increasing stress levels regarding the quickly approaching end of the school year.

Now you all may not be feeling this at all.
Your vision of May 15th may be of a long walk toward the open door of a jail cell—free at last! 
Or it might be the image of running across a sandy beach toward the open ocean which you will dive into at the end of the school day on May 15th. You will certainly know better than you ever have how the teachers really feel on the last day of school!

I think my image is a murky one because I don’t know what is coming, so I can’t start planning for it, and planning always reduces my anxiety. Instead I am planning how I will rearrange my garage, just as soon as I get it cleaned out–yes, I am still working on that project! I am going to read books and think about all the stuff I haven’t had time to think about since I started this job 4 years ago. There are so many things I can work on and think about.   

However, I do realize that I need to learn to be at peace with the foggy valley. I have a lot of inner work to do to be able to just allow myself to be in the moment and not worry about what is coming. I know that when we know more about COVID-19 and we have a clear plan, I will have such fun planning and strategizing about how to best meet our students’ needs, but for now, just being here needs to be enough. This is my real work for now—even if it isn’t the work I really want to be doing.
I know I will be better for it.

Whether you are standing next to me on the cliff, or preparing to dive into the ocean, I hope you are finding ways to just be in the present. To be able to regularly give over to the moment and stop my brain from racing ahead would be such a terrific accomplishment for me. Wish me luck and I hope to see you on a beach somewhere soon!

Much love & so many hugs,
~Ms. Ray

P.S. Here is a great story about GIRL POWER!!! 
Ruby’s Wish read by me for you!

Day 51 : BOOK FLOAT parade time!

Dear Fernbank,

Today is Day 51 and our school year continues to wind down! 

As many of you know, it is a Fernbank Tradition to have a Bookfloat Parade during the next to last week of school. Because we cannot do that this
year, we are creating a virtual parade in the form of a slideshow!

There is still time for you to turn in pictures of your kiddo(s) dressed like their favorite book!  Here is the information from Ms. Jacobs, a.k.a. the Library Sheriff, on how to participate!  I’m working on mine tonight!

2020 Fernbank Book Parade photo slideshow
Fernbank STUDENTS, Teachers,and Staff: 
Show us your Book-love! 

Please EMAIL MS JACOBS ONE Horizontal PHOTO of yourself:

—dressed as favorite book character, holding the book so we can see the cover
—dressed as book character and holding a sign with title of book
—just smiling and holding up a favorite book so we can see the cover
—just smiling and holding up a sign with title of a favorite book or series!

email to:


Parade Slideshow will be ready morning of May 15