Through Each Other's Eyes

 Round 'em up? Did we ever! 
Two weekends, three big events, more volunteers than you can imagine, 
countless smiles and too many happy hearts to count later, another annual school fundraiser is in the books. It truly takes a village to raise a child; 
blessings overflow when our village comes together for a cause.

We're grateful to all of our school stakeholders for their support.

Today I'm thinking about this Thoreau quote:

Look at how tenderly this young girl is coddling this baby goat. Can't you just feel the nurturing, love and care? My guess is that she felt something for this kid, she connected with its situation, and she decided a warm embrace would be exactly what it needed. She was looking at the carnival experience through this furry friend's eyes. Empathy + Compassion = True Beauty.

It reminds me of this ABC report I saw earlier this week, about the third-grade teacher in Colorado who asked her students what they wished their teacher knew. Their responses were poignant, personal, and somewhat painful to read. 

If we're looking at life through our little learners' eyes, giving them a voice, and listening to understand, we ought to be able to predict with some accuracy the answers to these questions: What would the children in your orbit say they wish their teacher knew about them? What about what they wish their parents knew? Their grandparents? Their neighbors? Their friends? 
Download a cute template for the activity {here}.
I love the spin on this activity my friend Heather suggested; 
a What I wish my colleagues knew board in the staff lounge.

How might how we treat one another change if we were to look 
{more often and with intention} 
through each other's lens?   


More Gratitude, More Kindness

Happy Wednesday, everyone.
First things first ... it's time to announce our book winner.
Please congratulate Tanya, whose favorite book to teach diversity is The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania with Kelly DiPucchio. Tanya, you've got a signed copy of Chocolate Milk, Por Favor coming your way. 

Look at this sparkly mini-poster that Maria made with my words in last Sunday's post. Thank you, Maria. Kindness is a beautiful thing. 

Today I'm also feeling grateful for Erin Pesak, the parent volunteer and friend who masterfully crafted this 3-D bulletin board, in full bloom down our first-grade hallway. Doesn't this make you all shades of happy? 

My friend Annie D. sent this kindness nugget our way: Today marks the two-year anniversary of a difficult day in Boston, so the mayor has called for intentional acts of kindness to honor the resilience and generosity of the people of that great city. Read more about it at One Boston Day

Another reader, Maureen, sent info on these precious Zulily Ts.

Imagine a world brimming with more gratitude, more kindness.
Are you smiling yet?


Empathy & Chocolate Milk, Por Favor

Happy Sunday.
What does empathy have to do with chocolate milk?
Make room for Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!

Today I'm delighted because I get to introduce you to the beautiful
Maria Dismondy multicultural newcomer for your book shelves.
Check out the book's brief synopsis on the back cover, left side.

Love Maria's tag line: Actions speak louder than words. Truth!
My son wrote this essay in 5th grade on that very maxim.

Our personal, classroom and community libraries simply can not have enough diversity titles as we help our littlest leaders learn about, appreciate and celebrate cultural and other differences. Check out this flavorful find and see what happens when two unlikely things ~ soccer and chocolate milk ~ connect these boys and help them speak one common language.

Use a double-bubble map to compare and contrast Chocolate Milk, Por Favor with I Hate English! by Ellen Levine or The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.

Dismondy's Gabe, Levine's Mei Mei, and Ludwig's Brian are all  thrown into a situation where they're having to not only navigate a new culture, but also master a new language and/or different school situation. How are their stories similar? How are they different? How would you help each of them if they were in your class? What would you want? What would you need? 

For other compare/contrast titles, my alma mater has made this list of 50 multicultural tales available. And check out my friend Shawna's refreshingly comprehensive extension and enrichment ideas for Maria's book {here}. Then read 5 Ways to Cultivate Empathy from our friends at Happify.

Use Maria's signature Tips For Teachers/Parents page, written by my friend Elizabeth from Fun In Room 4B, to connect with and assist English Language Learners like Gabe as they learn and grow.

Follow Maria for more inspiration:

And for the real deal, listen to Maria reading her newest delicacy!

Author Bio: Maria Dismondy is an award-winning author, specializing in books about challenges children face. A topic close to her heart, Maria’s own childhood experience inspired her first book, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun. Maria’s dedication to empowering children with courage and confidence has reached new heights, touching the hearts and hands of children the world over. Grounded in her belief that all children deserve a voice, Maria’s latest book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor, drives home the important message of celebrating diversity with kindness, inclusion and empathy. As a sought-after speaker, Maria spreads her message by presenting at schools and conferences across the country. She holds degrees in education and child development. Maria lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Dave, and their three book-loving children.

Are you still reading? If so, you just stumbled on the secret bonus: Maria has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her delicious treasure to one of you, my fabulous readers. Just leave a comment below (or on my book's Facebook page) telling us your favorite children's book with a diversity theme for a chance to win. 
{It will also help if you leave your email, but if I know how to find you, no need.} 

We'll put all of the comments into the Gruener Generator and select a winner this Wednesday, April 15th (Tax Day in the USA) after school, at 4 pm CST, to be announced in my Wednesday evening blog post.

Won't you join me in lifting our glasses to Maria to toast her efforts in 
elevating empathy and celebrating diversity
one kind act at a time,
one child at a time,
one book at a time,
to make our world a better, more peaceful place to be.

Oh, and don't forget to stop visit my friend Sylvia at
Learning With Mrs. Parker for tomorrow's tour stop. 


Inspiring Mentorship

This evening as we close out another week, I'm on Cloud 9 about all of the amazing things going on at our school. One of my favorite annual events, our Round Up Carnival fundraiser, is just around the corner. In fact, the Fun Run is tomorrow morning. The generosity of our community really shines at Round Up time. From the countless hours of volunteerism leading up to the event, to the staff members who donate Teacher Treats and provide gathering opportunities to our students, to the giving family members who buy tickets not only for their own kids but for our families in need, I am blown away and stand in awe. Of all of it.
All of it, for the kids.

Thank you, Shelley Burgess, for this beautiful reminder.

We get more of what we focus on, so it just makes sense to affirm and encourage the positivity and passion of these dedicated volunteers and servant leaders.

Another reason I'm super energized this week is because I got to Skype with Paul Solarz's fifth graders in Illinois yesterday and I couldn't have been more impressed with this student-led classroom. Their plan is to mentor some kindergarten students in their school family and I was invited to empower and equip them 
with some start-up skills.

Because of some obvious front-loading, leadership and coaching from an award-winning educator, this pirate classroom could quite clearly run itself. Talk about your positive climate; I seriously didn't want the hour to end. We focused on strengths and self-esteem as we collaborated to launch their mentorship program.
I asked reflection questions like these: 
What is your superpower?
How do you use those superpowers for good?
Who is your superhero?
To whom are you a superhero?
What is your Kryptonite?
What superpowers will you use as you mentor? 
They asked me questions back:
What is my superpower?
Can a pet be a superhero?
What happens when I can't cheer someone up? 
What made me want to write the book?
What are some of the chapter titles?
What's the name of my website?

I challenged them to use their Covey wisdom and begin with the end in mind, then suggested a few activities that they could use as they build that relationship with their little buddies. In honor of National Poetry Month, they willingly and eagerly attempted my Empathy Switch poem and hand challenge with me.

So as I prepare to call it a day, my emotional reserve overflows with the assurance that there are students like my new friends at Westgate Elementary at the helm and taking the lead. 

Check out Learn Like A Pirate and see for yourself how you could set the course for such smooth sailing with your shipmates.


Hot Dog - It's Opening Day

Hip Hip Hooray - it's Opening Day!
At Westwood-Bales, it's a time-honored tradition to take the Gruener grill to school and cook up some fun complete with Ballpark franks and all the fixins.

This year in new twist to our tradition, we rustled up some 
dog-gone dandy dads to pitch in and man the grill and service line.

Service doesn't need to be great to be grand. Check out these everyday stories with ordinary people doing extraordinary things:

How will you serve others today? 


A Web Of Kindness

Happy Easter!

Today I'm delighted to share that my friend Sheila and her family are the cover story in the American Profile section of the Sunday paper. 
YAY! Raising Kind Kids is front-page news.

Photo courtesy of American Profile
By investing just a small bit of time every day on intentional acts of kindness and service, they are creating this incredible outreach of empathy, compassion and care. To make the world better. 

The ambitious spider web that we found yesterday serves as such a nice parallel to their purposeful work as kindness ambassadors.
All it takes, Sheila will tell you, is a penny of time.

According Dr. Matthew McQuaid, being kind is not only a good idea, but it's a natural anti-depressant. In this paper, he explains how raising kind kids creates a win-win because service has neurological benefits. The more kindness we show, the kinder we become, a sure-fire recipe for happiness all around. Not just a surface, reactive happiness, either, but the deep-seeded joy that comes from serving others. Isn't that what we want for our future?

Thank you, Sheila, for making footsteps worth following 
and weaving such a intentional web of kindness and love.
For more intriguing ideas and inspiration, visit Pennies of Time.

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