Get Up

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Bales;
just look at this beautiful display in our library collaboratory!

And what would the season of kindness be without a winter superheroes board, southern style? Here's my new creation for our Great Kindness Challenge.

Today I saw this growth mindset masterpiece on a visit to Ross Elementary just down the road. Don't you love how the black and white changes to a colorful burst of brain power as the fixed mindset changes to a growth mindset?

The reason for today's visit to Ross centered around this man,
our favorite ventriloquist Dennis Lee,
and his miraculous story of 
resilience and recovery,
of healing and hope,
of gratitude and generosity.

When my friend Jenn switched schools this year, I naturally assumed that she would bring Dennis' show to her new school family. He is, after all, our favorite performer because of his powerful, passionate character campaign. When she told me that the budget didn't support the cost of his show and that her Roadrunners weren't going to be seeing his show, I felt a tug to ask Dennis when he came to us in October if he'd be willing to work with me to bring his show to them. As it turned out, I missed Dennis' show this year so I texted him asking if I could hire him to do his Lite As A Feather show for Ross. He wrote me back almost immediately and told me to make it happen, that he'd like to do his show for them ... at no charge {to them or me}.

Dennis Lee is a gift. Not because he's a wildly talented and hilariously engaging ventriloquist {although that's totally true and he's oh, so fun to watch on stage}, but because he's a wildly generous and incredibly compassionate friend to everyone who is lucky enough to cross his path. Dennis Lee walks the talk, now more than ever after surviving a life-threatening collision this past March which makes it painful at best to even walk at all. Today he treated my friend's school family to a beautifully powerful message, to get up even when we don't want to or when we think we can't, to lift people up instead of tearing them down, and to always ask "why not?" instead of "why?" He encouraged those little Roadrunners to unpack the icky stuff that weighs them down and get it out of their wagon. And he let them know that they deserve to be loved because they are a treasure. 

Tears filled my eyes as I watched my friend Dennis cast his magic spell on this school family; what an experience as they giggled, gasped, laughed, clapped, and enjoyed the inspiration that is Dennis Lee. Thank you, Dennis, for your determination to get back up and keep on growing. Clearly God has big plans for you. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your AmAzInG journey.


Empowering Empathy

Just before Thanksgiving break, our school staff took time out during a faculty meeting to share a little bit about our college colors to inspire out learners to 
dream big.

Here's how mine turned out.

So grateful to Karen S., who created and shared the template.

I'm super excited about how our display pops.

Tomorrow as we launch into our lessons about caring, 
we'll work on empowering empathy.

We're going to start by watching this film clip
without any sound. Just watch, not listen.

We'll talk about what they think happened and what they think about what happened. Then we'll watch it again, this time with audio.

After what I think will be a riveting discussion,
students will get to choose from the following activities in Social Stations, 
to get them stepping into another's shoes
and thinking about how certain situations feel, 
what they would want, 
what they might need to make it work.

We'll be building a huge figure 8 with Jenga blocks, blindfolded.

We'll be putting together a Scramble Square puzzle
without speaking to one another, silent.

We'll be playing catch in a circle
with our feet, no hands.
{See the orange ball in the air?}

We'll be writing notes to our President-elect

using our non-dominant hands.
It's super tricky to erase with only one hand available!

I'll have my copy of Hey, Little Ant in Latin out
and see who chooses to attempt language translation.

We'll be writing mirror-image messages about empathy.

And, in the end, I hope that we will have empowered empathy,
that glorious virtue that I firmly believe could be the change
for our superheroes and their future.
Click {here} for more empathy simulation ideas.

Check out these empathy posts for more empowerment:

Why Empathy Holds The Key 
This Is Your Brain On Empathy 
Empathy By The Book 
Teaching Kids Empathy In Denmark A Piece Of Cake

Oh, and if you haven't read UnSelfie by empathy expert Michele Borba yet, 
put that on your Christmas list today.

It has my enthusiastic endorsement.



O Give Thanks

Today I'm feeling thankful
for passion,
for provision,
for partnerships.

As I begin a week-long break away from school
and reflect on this past semester at my home away from home,
I'm thankful for the enthusiasm and motivation,
for the encouragement, support and care
that I see teachers, assistants, mentors and volunteers
lovingly bathe our students in every day. 
 So before break, our leadership team used this template we created to write notes of affirmation, to tell our faculty and staff how who they are and how what they do is key to our successAnd to thank them.

Click on the graphic to download the template.

I got to write one for Fred, our amazing handyman,
whose office is right across the way from mine.
I taped it on his door Tuesday after he'd left, so this is what he found Wednesday morning when he got to school.

That was so much fun, to express our gratitude in that way.
It did my heart good to mine for greatness,
to not only appreciate but to affirm them, 
to reflect on something special and unique
about each and every one of them.

I'm feeling incredibly thankful to work in a place
where generosity isn't just an ideal, but an everyday virtue.
Check out this adorable visual that a third-grade leader made to help inspire a collection of nearly one thousand items for our local food pantry this week.

It was fun to watch students open and close the door
as they walked passed this Food Drive reminder up front.

On Friday, I decided to thank and uplift our students
in the form of a personalized song on my ukulele.
I re-wrote the words and sang it loud and proud 
as students entered our building and headed down the hallway.
It went something like this:

We've got a lot of kindness
in our school.
We've got a whole lot of kindness
in our school.
We've got so very much kindness
in our school.
We've got so many kind kids in our school.

We've got Luke and Lilly
in our school.
We've got Angel and Devrie,
Harley, too.
We've got Grant and Jeremiah
in our school.
We've got a lot of kind kids in our school.

And so on. I added new names as students walked in
and adjusted the lyrics and rhythm to make it all fit.

Later that afternoon, one of the girls came by my office
to thank me for writing a song for her.
And it touched my heart.

Gratitude is circular like that, 
creating a win-win,
touching both the giver and the receiver
in tangible and intangible ways. 

Today I'm feeling thankful ... for you, dear friends.
For your visits to the Corner,
and for your desire to plant, nourish,
grow and harvest seeds of character and strength.

O give thanks ... 


Make Every Day Kindness Day

As we get ready to launch into the most wonderful 
time of the year,
I'm reminded that kindness knows no calendar.
And yet, if want to warm our world as winter sets in,
what better way than through intentional acts
of compassion, service and love?
So here are some low-and-no-cost ideas
for a Kindness Connections Countdown
that we'll be sending home to our families.
Click the graphic to download yours today.

For more kind-act ideas, WonderMomWannaBe posted her
ideas for Christmas Kindness for Kids {here}.

Enjoy basking in the glow of making every day
Kindness Day!


Our True Colors Counselor

Today I'm joyful because of a note I received from a third-grade superhero that sent my spirit soaring; it read, "Thank you for being our true colors counselor."

Her gratitude touched my heart so deeply.
What a cool job it is, to plant character seeds
and watch them take root and grow.

I've been writing about sprinkling kindness like glitter a lot lately.
 Superhero Dr. Jean invited me to guest post at her blog on Tuesday and I'm over the moon with gratitude. Click {here} to read A Kinder World.

My guest post on caring for Free Spirit Press posted earlier today {here}.

And in case you missed it, author Sue Scheff allowed me to share my thoughts about inspiring Kindness Footprints at her blog.

I'm so blessed to get to do what I do,
to be a true colors counselor
and share my ideas about 
warming the world with compassion and kindness.

For more ideas, visit my friend Lisa at Ripple Kindness.
And {here} for a Christmas Kindness Countdown Calendar.

To our Veterans and their families:
Happy Veterans Day tomorrow.
We honor you, we celebrate you, we thank you,
and we will never forget your service and sacrifice.


425 Too Many

Today's topic isn't the usual cheerful post that you're accustomed to at the Corner because this morning we recognized All Saints Day in church. It's a time set aside to pray for the families of those who've died this year, that they would find comfort and peace in their grief. They rang a bell for the four members we lost which felt somber and sad

Before I went to that service, I read this staggering statistic
in 2014, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age died by suicide. 
This year, one of those was a dear former student of mine. 

Thinking about that tragedy takes me back to the first time I realized that people died by suicide, when a man from our little farming community who had been a renter upstairs in our home, who had painted the pin striping on our walls, who had been a family friend, shot himself. I was so young and his passing was shrouded in such secrecy that it really messed with me. I couldn't wrap my little heart around why Mr. P would take his life. Maybe it was an accident? I initially hoped that it was a mistake. Then I thought I could have done something, said something, prayed harder, anything, to keep him from killing himself. I worried about his wife and his daughter, who was one of our babysitters. What would their lives be like? I had nightmares about it during which it would happen in our basement instead of his. It was really rough and I had no one to talk to about it. 
Because it was a secret. 
As if it hadn't really happened. 
Even though it had.

One death by suicide is one too many.
425 seems unfathomable.
425 futures lost.
425 families broken.
425 dads forever changed.
425 mamas who don't think they can go on.
425 communities in shock and despair.

What can we do to release this epidemic from its stronghold?
I can't help but think that talking about mental wellness
is the best place to start. I know that it would have helped me
as I tried to make sense of losing Mr. P all those years ago.
If we could save just one by not keeping silent,
it would be worth it. 
Beyond worth it.

Have you ever heard Kevin's story?
He jumped off the Golden Gate bridge in an attempt to take his life.
He says that as soon as he jumped, however,
he didn't want to die.
Instant regret.
He didn't want to go away, he just wanted the pain to go away.
{I can't help but wonder how true that would be for those 425 we're losing every year.}

And now he uses his story of struggle and survival
to encourage people to do whatever it takes, 
to build a network of support
so strong 
that you never have to suffer with that much emotional pain.
His inspirational message is simply powerful: Recovery happens.

But it we don't talk about the struggle, recovery may not happen.
Because it stays a secret.
And if we lose hope through the tough times,
lives will continue to be lost.
Precious lives, with promising futures.

For suicide prevention strategies & resources, visit NAMI
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
 National Institute of Mental Health
or NASPonline.

And please continue those courageous conversations.
Find a counselor or trusted adult to confide in.
Seek out a Rehab Center if drugs are involved.
Plug in to a support group.
Reach out to a friend or neighbor.
Or call a Suicide Lifeline.

We simply can't keep quiet any longer.
Not when our future is at stake.

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