10.22.2017

Connecting Kindness

Today my heart is so incredibly happy because I just spent three glorious days in Washington DC at the Character.org National Forum on Character Education, where I got to serve as their first-ever guest MC.

I flew to DC with this heartwarming realistic fiction novel, 
kindly sent to me by the publisher, in hand ...


Click the image for more info.
... and I landed in DC with it imprinted deeply onto my heart.
As I devoured Maddie's story on the plane, I cried.
Twice.
Like big crocodile tears.
Tears of pain because of the pain no child should have to endure
and the connection to one of my own students this year
who is terminally ill with a brain dystrophy.
And then tears of joy because that resilient,
compassionate child decides to forgive, give grace,
and show kindness in an incredibly difficult social situation.

I mustache that you grab your tissues and check out this kindness giant by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown; when you do, please check back in and let us know what you thought about Maddie and her journey.

 My flight arrived in time for the last little bit of an afternoon workshop, registration, and a chance to reconnect over dinner with some friends from Dallas over an early dinner. My official duties would start by 7:30 am Friday morning, so I called it an early night.

Friday brought one joy after another.
This year's Forum was huge.
766 character educator friends.
23 states.
10 nations.


To illustrate the importance of moving from me to we, I took the mic and immediately asked some counseling friends from Clear Creek ISD to join me on stage to sing You Are My Sunshine. 

video

It was a powerful moment I will never forget and I will forever be grateful to these five peacemakers for showing conference-goers that together we're better.

After a full day of fun soaking in knowledge, wisdom and insight with Michele BorbaByron Garrett, and my new friend Houston Kraft, it was time for the Promising Practices workshop. After all of the winners were announced but before I went back to the stage to introduce the Sandy Award, it came to my attention that we'd forgotten to announce the names of a few of our winners. So I took down their information, apologized for our oversight and was about to call for the thunderous applause that they deserved when a disturbance in the crowd led me to believe that there may be a few more schools to recognize. 

It was clear that a big decision needed to be made. 
By me. 
On my own. 
For the good of the group. 
So I called an audible and made this announcement:

 If your school's name was left off of the list, please come on up to the stage so that we can celebrate your school and your Promising Practice.

As they lined up, I was really hoping I had done the right thing.
As I listened to them announce their school's name and watched the school pride ooze from their very cores,
I knew I had.
I reconnected with my book's publisher and editor for dinner that night, and slept really, really well satisfied by how the day had gone.

On Saturday, up early again, this time to set the tables
with Kind Coins cards from our friends at Kids For Peace.
Along with that box of cards, more kindness; 
a copy of Do The Kind Thing and some pom pons for me.


Then, I got to introduce my audience to Jet Stream Jax
and play the Kind Coins video clip.


And they fell in love!


Then, more inspirational workshops, including this one 
by Motivational Ninja Joe Beckman.

video

Joe Beckman moved us by inviting a few of us
to dance The Cupid Shuffle with him. 
Check out those smooth moves!
His message? Humans thrive on connection.
Here's a brilliant suggestion I hope we'll try:


And finally, the National Schools of Character luncheon
where we honored Clear Lake Elementary, Ward Elementary,
and Mossman Elementary from our neighboring towns.

After Dara Feldman's riveting afternoon keynote,
I headed to the airport for my 4:55 pm flight.
Turns out, it would carry some Korean War Veterans
so we were treated to a mail roll call,
singing the Aggie War hymn,
and a water salute at landing.

All of us connected by kindness.
In unity.
As one.







10.17.2017

Falling Down On The Job

Today I'm excited because I had a surprise visit from my friend Gayle.


You might remember that John and I went by her place
right after the flood to help her get that soggy stuff
out of her home and out on the curb.


She had a smile and some good news; her life on the lawn was finally picked up a week ago and just yesterday, her walls were declared dry enough to start the rebuild. Now she waits to hear about her floors.


She also had this beautiful doily that her mom made for us.


When she told me it was for my Bed and Breakfast, I cried. 
Not a big ugly cry, just silent tears.
As we were cleaning, I told her that one day I'd like to have a B & B. I may have actually said that we do have a B & B already, now that we are empty nesters. We've got the Texas Room almost ready to go and we've got the Wisconsin room in progress. It's going to be awesome.

In any event, it's so cool when someone hears you
and then follows it up with such a personal kindness.

It was really a treat to see her again and to show her our learning space. Life has challenged her greatly these past two months; she says she has learned a lot about patience through it all. Clearly she's a survivor and she inspires me. 

Shortly after her visit, I fell down again. In fact, the it's the third time in a month that I've slipped on water in the hallway and fallen down. 
Enter those big ugly cry tears. 

It feels like I'm falling down on the job.
Literally and figuratively.
And it's getting old.
It really hurts, to fall down like that. 
It's embarrassing.
And it's frustrating.

My chiropractor suggests I be more mindful,
and I think she might be on to something.
Hurricane Harvey left a lot of devastation in its wake;
sixty five displaced students in our building, one school counselor.
As I desperately try to help them find some peace
while they put the pieces of their lives back together, 
it seems I'm learning the hard way to take better care of myself so that I have strength to give to them. It's time to slow down to go fast, to be more mindfully aware of my surroundings. {It might also be time for shoes with a better grip.} 

How do you use mindfulness to keep you
from falling down on the job? 








10.14.2017

No More Noisy Nights And More

As we gear up for Literacy Night on Tuesday, I'm excited to share three new-to-me titles that have made their way into my hands and heart in the last few months.

1. Here's the latest treasure by Flashlight Press.

Click the image for a sneak peek inside the book.
Jackson, the well-mannered (and dare I say absolutely adorable) mole, is moving to a whole new hole underground. As if moving weren't stressful enough, he hears these noises that are keeping him from getting a good night's sleep. When he asks his emboldened boarders to kindly keep it down, their inquires about what they might do as an alternative to making noise get Jackson's problem-solving juices flowing. Is there a quiet-time activity they could do that wouldn't jeopardize his beauty rest? See if Jackson's creative ideas in this dreamy newcomer can strike a chord so that he and his 'new friends' can live in harmony and sleep in peace. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the musicality of the word play in No More Noisy Nights; it'll be a blast for my students to bring it to life with engaging voices as they read it aloud. I'm looking forward to the chance to integrate it into an Language Arts lesson to teach onomatopoeia and alliteration and could totally see weaving it into a Science lesson about mammals known as insectivores while your students unearth the common myths about moles. School counselors could surely use it as a springboard for a moving discussion about resolving conflict, being a peacekeeper, and making friends. Keep it handy to share with the next mole, I mean student, who makes a friendly move into your class. For caregivers outside of school, it'll be a brilliant addition to your tuck-in-time toolbox. 

Consider this versatile treasure by Holly L. Niner a must for your shelves; you'll be delighted to have a new friend like Jackson move in. 

2. Check out this Mom's Choice Award Winner.

Click image for Jessica's review at First Grade Findings.
Published last year at this time, Teal was love at first sight for me not only because I am drawn to the color teal, but also because of the way feelings of not belonging resolve when Teal finds a place in the color wheel.

Enter the healing power of the circle.

In the year when I'm working with intention to help our school family unleash the power of restorative circles to connect and restore, this little gem comes along and helps me seal the deal. Every hue has a place in a circle, eye to eye, knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder. Teal finds its place in the world because the circle is all inclusive. Add this colorful tale to your collection; Teal will not disappoint. Thank you, Renee Galvin, for sending us your story that will positively make a difference as we live our True Colors.

3. Going from little seed to great big giant takes time!


Click on the image to meet author Alan C. Fox and hear his story.

It has been quite a while since I've been so quickly enamored to a storybook character like Benji, but this little superhero's face creatively conveys every emotion so beautifully because of the talents of illustrator Eefje Kuijl.

Benji wants to grow something so badly, so he works diligently only to painstakingly find out that gardening success does not happen overnight. In this goal-setting giant, Benji learns a lesson in perseverance and patience as he plants his coveted seed, tends to it, nurtures it, and then waits for and finally watches it grow in a giant squash.

Use it as a springboard for your students to research vegetation and then start a community garden. Which plants will grow quickly? Which plants will take more time? Are there plants that can't grow at all in the soil where you are? Is there something you can do to change that? Encourage your budding gardener scientists to set a gardening goal and then get to it. Use books like Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens or Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller to compare and contrast the task of going from seed to something special.

There you have them; my three October picks for your shelves.
Do you have any new-ish titles that you'd like to share?
Leave us your recommendation in the comments below.

Later this week, I'm headed to Washington DC for the
Character.org National Forum on Character Education.
This year I'm grateful for the invitation to MC the event.
Click {here} to find out why I keep going back to the Forum.

And then, check out this Mustang Minute clip with the Superintendent 
in our new reading space at Bales Intermediate.


Happy Reading.    






10.12.2017

Dancing Up A Storm

Today I'm excited to share the story of one of the special schools
on our kindness map. 


Meet my friends from Londonderry School in Pennsylvania.

Click on the image for more information on Londonderry School.
We haven't known each other very long; in fact, we were just recently introduced by a force of nature named Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey.
After the storm, their Art teacher Ms. Hardwicke phoned
to ask how they could help us recover.
She'd gotten my name from someone who knew me from somewhere; 
we never did quite figure out our connection.
But we instantly became friends as we brainstormed
how they might help provide hurricane relief.
After a few emails and phone conversations,
she told me that her student leaders met and were planning
a Dance-A-Thon/Hop-A-Thon.



They're a small private school, she told me, 178 students strong.

They chalked the walks with inspiration;


 a first grader offered his mom's talents for this chalk art activity.
Here's what else I've found out about this amazing school family:

Each year, students volunteer to take part in Kid's Committee. They generally select two representatives from each class, first - eighth grade. This year they have a total of 14 students who have joined kids committee. The committee meets eight to ten times a year during lunch recess to brainstorm ideas and plan events to raise funds for school and community needs and occasionally for natural disaster recovery needs. Generally their funds are raised with an annual Kids Art Auction, A Used Toy Raffle, Ice Cream Sundae sales, and Hop/Dance-A-Thons for special community needs, all ideas that came from the children. 

For this event, a third grader offered her mom's face-painting talents; many seventh and eighth graders helped paint the faces. 


Two seventh grade boys volunteered to DJ; a parent who is a real DJ offered to bring his equipment and help them. 


They even played and dedicated Deep in the Heart of Texas to us
 while they did some line dancing. I was flying to Vermont at the time and I'm pretty sure I felt the earth rumble as they boot scooted in our honor.

Dear Cynthia Hardwicke and our forever friends at Londonderry School:

 You have touched us deep in our hearts here in Friendswood, Texas. 
Your generous donation of $4580.00 will help our teachers, our students, and their families restore and rebuild.

Not only are you chalking the walks and dancing up a storm,
but you are clearly walking your talk as you lift others up. 


Thank you for being shining stars and examples
of empathy, compassion, and kindness in our world.



We are so grateful.





10.10.2017

A Laughing Matter

Today I'm excited to welcome Jeff Tierney to the Corner for his guest post on laughter.


Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your experience, wisdom and insight with us. 

*****************************

A laughing matter: Why humor is important to children's development
  
Imagine, for a moment, being a parent who’s having a few guests over; maybe your in-laws, a neighbor, or even your pastor. So far, everyone is having a great time and even the kids haven’t done anything too wacky. Then all of a sudden, without warning your ten year old utters those seven infamous words “I heard a joke at school today.” And despite your best efforts to make sure it’s an appropriate one, there’s no un-ringing that bell and the joke proceeds to be told.

Humor is an important issue at Boys Town. You might say we take the ability to laugh very seriously. Many of the children and families served by Boys Town programs across the country have experienced lives full of sadness, loss, tragedy, and disappointment. Often they have been robbed of many things that are essential for a normal, happy family life…including the ability to laugh. And it’s easy to see why. For many of our children, life has been anything but a laughing matter.

But cultivating a good sense of humor and ability to laugh are critical to our kids’ happiness and eventual success as adults. Researchers have linked having a good sense of humor with lower stress levels, better interpersonal relationships, longer life-span, and greater career advancement.


Unfortunately, there aren’t many good role-models for having an appropriate sense of humor out there for our kids. This is especially true of television where much of the “humor” is fairly mean-spirited. Consider TV shows such as Punked, Wipeout, Scare Tactics, and Fear Factor. Comedy at other people’s expense and discomfort is not the best way to teach children what’s really funny.

A good place to start is knowing the difference between being funny and having a sense of humor. Being funny means being able to express humor of one kind or another by being witty, telling a well timed joke, making a pun, getting other people to laugh, etc. And most comics say you do need to have a sense of humor to be funny. Trying to be funny without a sense of humor can easily come across as sarcastic, belittling, and defensive toward others. Ridiculing other people, either in person or online, is a good example of this.

In contrast, having a sense of humor means being able to laugh at, or at least see the humor in, life’s absurdities (even when they happen to you). But you don’t have to be funny in order to have a good sense of humor. A great skill that everyone (including our kids) needs to learn is how to not take oneself quite so seriously, be able laugh at our own mistakes, and know the line between good natured ribbing and malicious teasing. We actually have two skills in our Teaching Social Skills to Youth book, available from the Boys Town Press, that directly address the issues of teaching kids to use appropriate humor and be able to laugh at themselves. These skills are, and you probably guessed this, “Using Appropriate Humor” and “Laughing at Oneself.”

There are specific steps to both of these skills that make them much easier to teach to a child.  For example, the steps to “Using Appropriate Humor” include:

1) Look at the circumstances to see it’s an appropriate time for a joke,
2) avoid humor that makes fun of groups in our society or another person,
 3) avoid sexually-oriented jokes and profanity, and
4) if your humor offends someone, promptly and sincerely apologize.

By breaking skills down into specific steps, kids have a much easier time discussing them with you and practicing them. You can even point out when watching TV when one of the characters of a show didn’t use those steps and hurt someone else’s feelings.

There are lots of ways parents and even teachers can help their kids learn how to laugh, have fun, and even deliver a good one-liner. Good luck and keep smiling!

Jeff Tierney, M.Ed. has worked with children and families for over 35 years.  He has just recently retired from Boys Town in Nebraska after 28 years working in the staff training and evaluation areas and, most recently, as Director of the Boys Town Press. Jeff is the author of Teaching Social Skills to Youth, Basic Social Skills for Youth, and articles in professional journals on reducing aggressive and antisocial behavior in children and teens.





10.03.2017

Visiting Vermont

Happy October!

Today I'm excited about this beautiful new book; check out This Is Texas, Y'all!, 
a comprehensive compilation of all things Texas.
Use it to enjoy the icons of the Lone Star State,
but also as a springboard to research another state.


You could even compare and contrast the two!

I thrive on visits to other parts of the country, most recently Vermont. If I were to write a book about that picturesque Northeastern state, these are some of the treasures I'd make sure to include. 

A is for Airplane: Check out this breathtaking aerial view from the eight-seat 
puddle jumper I took to Vermont from Boston.


B is for Barn. Rebecca Lallier from School Counseling by Heart blog kindly picked me up from the Lebanon, NH, airport and we started my visit there at a fresh food share co-op in this barn. 


C is for Counselors' Conference. The annual VTSCA event was held on the scenic Morey Lake; what a perfectly serene place to wake up to and get growing together. I was honored and grateful to be invited to keynote and lead a learning session on Social Stations.


D is for Divine: I drank in the autumn colors that were starting to emerge around the lake as I enjoyed a brisk breeze on my skin.


E is for Engagement: We had a blast engaging and connecting. 


F is for Forest: Rebecca and I took a long nature walk through this wonderful woods.

G is for Gratefully Giddy: I was so excited when we stopped to snack on a crisp, tart apple from this tree.


H is for Hospitality: We drove into Dartmouth for a savory supper at The Skinny Pancake before calling it a night. I loved sleeping with the window opened and listening to the owls singing through the night as the cacophony of raindrops danced on the leaves of the trees. Rebecca and her husband were amazing hosts. 

I is for Inspired: The next morning, we went for an early breakfast at the 
King Arthur Flour Bakery. 


Maple pecan latte anyone? Yum, yum!


J is for Joyful: A stop at the Farmers Market put the foam on my latte, then it was off to the airport to head back south. What a joy-filled 48 hours. I'll write the rest of the book on my return visit.

This is Vermont, y'all.

As a launch to my keynote, I shared the magic of Jet Stream Jax in his new Kids For Peace Kind Coins clip. Grab some tea and some tissues and prepare to be WoWed.




Now if you'll excuse me, I suddenly feel the urge to dance.







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