BEeautiful Beginnings

Happy Friday; have you gone back to school yet? 
We finished day three today; what a jolt of joy it was
to savor those last seconds of summer and then
get back to the business of beautiful new beginnings at Bales.
Today one of my students brought this light box to me,
the perfect message for the entrance of our learning space.

Life is good as I start year number 34. 
Lots of laughter and joy-filled hugs
as we reunited and reconnected.

Today at lunch, some of my fifth-grade superheroes saved me a spot and taught me how to take a selfie. Isn't that super fun?

We got a starburst version of Susan Fuller's BE board idea up. 

I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I led six growth mindset learning sessions in the last six days and my favorite part was that my dad and his wife, who were in town for Jacob's graduation, got to attend four of them, leaving my heart so SO happy. 

What a beautiful experience, to spend time with other school families encouraging their calling to build relationships. 
To help them communicate to students how much they matter. 
To help them make school a safe and cheerful place 
that their students can call home.
A place where students feel without a doubt that they belong. 
What a BEautifully powerful concept. 
I'm so grateful to my friends in Angleton ISD and Clear Creek ISD for the opportunity to supercharge their school families and get them ready for their own beautiful beginning.

So tonight, as I lay my head on the pillow,
I'm exhausted but energized.
And I'm ready for an emotionally-loaded weekend
as we take the boys to Texas A & M for the next step
in each of their journeys, Joshua for his undergrad studies
and Jacob to work on his graduate degree.

Need some ideas for engaging parents as partners in your character building? Click {here} for my Free Spirit guest post from this week. I also blogged for School Leaders Now if you'd like to check out my reflections on Restorative Practices. The Spot It! game was a huge success with our staff. 
You might also connect with this list of picture Books That Inspire Hope.

Happy new year.


What Drives Your YET Goals?

Lately I've been thinking about growth mindset and 
the power of the word yet. A lot.
So I posted this invitation on the wall outside my office
for our school family to post our YET goals.

It looked kind of bare with just the word yet,
so I added these three action verbs:


It's really an adaptation of the domains of character:
Head ... cognitive domain ... yearn.
Heart ... affective domain ... embrace.
Hands ... behavioral domain ... try.

Do you have a YET goal?
What haven't you accomplished yet that you would like to attempt?

How will you get from here to there?
What steps will you need to take to arrive at your YET goal?
How will you know when you've arrived at your dream destination?

What drives your YET goal?
What's the why behind the dream?
How does naming the why propel the how?

The Reader is a perfect example of a YET goal and its driver:

A grown man hadn't learned to read ... yet ...
until his son writes a book.
Watch this father yearn, embrace, and try to become a reader
so that he can enjoy his son's bestseller.

As always, drink responsibly (and share film clips responsibly!)

Don't you love how his YET goal moved him from me to we?
Together we're better.

Don't forget to keep a growth mindset
as you set and pursue your YET goals.
Focus on the process and celebrate the effort.
Don't let hurdles stop forward progress.
Go around.
Go through.
Go over.

Invite mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Do whatever it takes to reach your YET goals.

Need more growth mindset inspiration?

Look at these beautiful notes from a passionate edu-hero
in the learning session I led last week in Angleton.

Let me know if you ever need a Mindset Matters workshop
and I'd be happy to customize one for your school family.

Read what blogger Barbara Bray has to say {here}.
Grow with Eduardo Briceno's reflections {here}.
Learn about the Benefit Mindset {here}.
Check out this Mindset Resource Round-up at Edutopia {here}.


Kindness To The Rescue

It's my last weekend of summer, so today after I lounged as much as I possibly could, the boys and I went on an outing to Barnes & Noble for their 
Teacher Appreciation Week discount. Thank you, B&N. 

Look at this super find by author Kelly DiPucchio 
of Sandwich Swap fame:

Released last month, this adorable jewel features Manny, a cute crusader who loves to play superhero in his colored capes after school by fighting against would-be villains. At home, he's fearless, invincible, brave, powerful, strong. 

But do his superpowers include having the empathy and courage to save the day by standing up and taking on a very real, menacing Tall One who's pushing the Small One around in the school cafeteria? 

Here's the adorable teaser.

Books like this make me kind of sad to not be growing alongside our littlest superheroes anymore, but I bought it anyway because it's a keeper with a beautiful life lesson: It only takes one. 
One caped raccoon. 
One kind act of courage.
One huge difference.

Read it aloud and use it as a springboard for a display 
like the one from my friend Ann Johnson Castro:

Ask students what their superpower is and talk about how they can use those superpowers for good, to make their class, their school, their community, their state, their world better. 

Post their answers shaped like superhero capes or superhero speech bubbles on the board. Encourage them to adopt a moral mantra (like Manny does) to complement their superpower like I am kind. I am responsible. I am caring. I am trustworthy. I am respectful. 

Work with Book Buddies or with classmates to create these cool felt No Sew Superhero Capes. Let students earn time wearing them in class for making 
strong character choices.

Use the story to uncover the issues your superheroes would like to change in their homes, at their school, or in the community. Carve out some time for them to prepare and implement their rescue plans.

Find other superhero ideas at my book's Pinterest collection {here}.

Then teach your superheroes this echo cadence:

Check out Super Manny Stands Up!,
then keep on crusading for good.


The End Of Your Comfort Zone

 Today I'm thinking about mindset after reading this special delivery that arrived in this afternoon's mail.

Click the image for purchasing information.
It's a little newcomer from Boys Town Press
with huge potential to make a positive difference
as our learners struggle to unlock their thoughts of "I can't." 

Not only is second-grade Amelia at a pivotal developmental age
as she vacillates between industriousness and inferiority,
{Enter Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development}, but 
she's also battling thoughts of frustration and self-doubt.
When she's tempted to quit after a setback while building a swing set 
with her dad, he seizes this teachable moment by asking:
Do you want a Down-in-the-Dumps mindset or a
Gonna-Get-It-Done mindset?
It reminds me of Dweck's work on growth v. fixed mindset.

Use this treasure as a springboard for a discussion about
perseverance, stick-to-it-tiveness, resilience & grit.

In the back of the book, find six strategies for parents and educators that will help you as you nurture a growth mindset in your superheroes. Need more ideas? Click {here} for a post I wrote for Free Spirit Press last year.

Make a bulletin board like this one that I saw at 
North Point Elementary this spring. 

Download these freebie Growth Mindset mini-poster reminders
by clicking the image below.

Or make a display like this one posted at Ross Elementary.

Start Growth Mindset journals using Composition Books.
Or buy them from Really Good Stuff {here}.

Dweck suggests encouraging your students to name their fixed mindsets and talk about them in the third person to help them separate what the thoughts are from who they are. I've been trying to adapt that success strategy, too. 

Posted with permission by AP Basil Marin in VA.

Help students (and staff!) goal set for things they can't do ... YET! 

Finally, though it seems so counterintuitive,
start celebrating mistakes as opportunities for growth.
To learn.
To stretch.
To get better.

Step out of that comfort zone and come to life.


Empathy Ripples

Today I'm thinking about empathy. 
It started when I saw this duck creating these ripples.
All by itself.
Leaving all of these fantastic ripples in its wake.
And I mused that this is how empathy operates.
It starts with one person, just one,
stretching that glorious virtue by
stepping into the story of another
to consider and appreciate his or her feelings.
Happy, sad, mad, scared, angry, afraid.

Listening, really listening, to connect and understand.
Embracing those feelings with a desire to help.
Then mobilizing that compassion so that it results in an action.
That's the way the empathy ripple works.
And when enough people do that, 
those ripples will eventually touch.
So that our world will be a kinder, gentler, and more peaceful place.
So I crusade on, like that duck,
peddling fast and furiously,
nurturing those empathy ripples
working to make sure that they don't lie dormant.
Because here's one of the things I've learned from Michele Borba:
Empathy by itself does no good.
I also learned about this new little treasure from her;
click the image to read her book review and author interview.

Like Michele, I really connect with this newcomer.
I like the real-life examples woven into the text and
the reflection inquiries interspersed among the pages.
I like the discussion questions and activity ideas to promote
and kindness.
And I like the brilliant illustrations and the fun rhyming scheme
that will surely engage and delight young readers
just as the message will strengthen their empathy muscles.

Check out this book and feel what happens when
empathy ripples in your character building.

Looking for more empathy resources?


Overcoming Anxiety

Happy Thursday; seriously, is July almost over already?

Today I'm excited because we're hosting a SnoCones with the Counselors event at our local shaved Hawaiian ice place and I can't wait to cool off with some of our cool school family members! 

I'm also giddy with delight because my first post for We Are Teachers went live this morning. Click {here} for four tips on jazzing up your welcome back letter this year to take it from meh to WoW.

 And I'm so grateful for this therapeutic treasure.

It's no secret that being hit head on by a drunk driver four years ago left me suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Medication and trauma therapy helped me during the darkest times as I bounded into my new normal. But still, car rides are difficult and Anxiety rears its ugly head to try to trick me into thinking that I am not safe. I gasp and fuss at John, my driver and best friend, pretty much without exception, on every road trip we take. And those anxious moments of panic and not feeling safe are not only confined to the car; oft times Anxiety follows me to school, home again, out into the community even. This spring I had a trigger on the day of our school fundraiser and I had to leave the party early. That time, it grabbed ahold of me and held on tightly for an 
entire week. {Have I mentioned that car wreck was 4 years ago?}

So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled on a book that invited me to win my life back from fear and panic. Without telling you too much about this incredible resource, I'm just going to tell you this:
 Reading and digesting it made me realize that I've had it backward. 
I've allowed it to be 
Anxiety overcoming me 
when all along I've had the power to make it 
Me overcoming Anxiety
See? Backward.
To be clear, it's not by any real fault of my own.
Anxiety is tricky that way.
It wants us to be a nervous wreck.
It wants us to believe that we are powerless over it.
It wants us to believe it's there to protect us.
And so much more that you'll learn about in the book.
So many lies.
So much deception.

In her masterpiece, psychotherapist Jodi Aman shares her journey through anxiety and offers authentic accounts of real people who've moved from panic to peace with her counsel. She shares the biology behind fear, offers empowering strategies to overcome anxiety, and provides suggestions for day-to-day ways that we can keep ourselves safe while showering ourselves with compassion and care. 

Thank you, Anxiety Tamer, for sharing your story
and stepping into mine.
Your insight will not only help me personally, but has also provided me a terrific professional resource for when I work with anxious kids who are experiencing anxiety, panic and fear

Me overcoming anxiety 1, 
Anxiety overcoming me 0.
Any questions?

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