7.03.2015

It's About Heartset

Today I am super grateful for summertime.
My day started at Starbucks with my friend Deanna. Then we did some yard work before lunch at the German Restaurant. After a really good nap, I read and relaxed some more and we just got back from an icy treat, shaved ice at SnoBeach. Summertime sure tastes good.

While I was with Deanna, she let me tell her all about my presentation at NAESP yesterday. Every detail. Like how I woke up at 4 am and shuttled from LA to Long Beach at 6 am and got to the Convention Center at 6:30 for my 9 am center. How I got it all set up and put a book on each of the tables as a door prize for the one brave soul who would volunteer . . .


for the uplifting balloon activity we'd be starting with.


I also told her how I was greeting guests in the hallway when a man stopped by to tell me that I'd have a better chance of filling the room if I had a better title for my session. In his defense, it was 20 minutes to start time and there was only one participant in the room so far. His advice caught me by surprise, because I thought my title was pretty good, albeit a little long in comparison to the others.

Empathy, Compassion & Kindness:
Success Skills That Will Change School Climate For Good.



It wasn't the length that he was referring to; his suggestion was that I choose my words more carefully, to draw more people in. He said words like grit, motivation, or mindset would be better. I'll be honest; it hurt my feelings a little bit.

As I was sharing that with Deanna, she wondered out loud, 
But what you do is more about heartset than mindset, right?

That's it! YES. It's about the 4-Hs.

My session was about how 
head (empathy), 
heart (compassion), 
hands (kindness) and 
health (culture and climate).

Just like in the Pledge I learned when I was 9.


To a counselor, the heart piece is pretty important, for sure.
But mindset, grit, motivation and lots of inspiration 
were definitely woven in. I promise!

It occurred to me while he was mentoring me that I could flip through my slides and show him that I love mindset and grit, that it's totally in there. At least three times, including the info on this slide from Sylvia Duckworth,



on this slide that I created, 


and on this one from Andrea Stephan (click it for source).


But I didn't. I just listened, and thanked him. He asked me for a business card, and we ended up trading books. Do you know his book? It's definitely got mindset written all over it. Click the picture for a You Tube read-aloud.


I've thought a lot about what he said and I feel blessed that he would take the time to stop by and connect with me before the room started filling up.

And out of my processing and reflecting, I learned the word
 heartset. 
From Deanna. Because I have the summer off. 
And the luxury of meeting my friends for coffee and conversation.

What did you do today that grew your heartset?





6.30.2015

Magical Mindsets

Today I'm excited about the book I read on my way to and during my first day of Character Camp: The 7 Mindsets To Live Your Ultimate Life
by empowerment experts Scott Shickler & Jeff Waller.


And WoW - it's a game changer!
The way it came to me says almost as much about the book as the content that has drawn me in. You see, I signed up to get the 7 Mindsets weekly challenges by email and was immediately intrigued by the insight and inspiration, so much so that I shared out one of the stories on Twitter. Well, one of the authors sent a private message thanking me for helping spread the word. My pleasure, I thought, we certainly can't get too much of a good thing, right? Then I got another message asking me if I'd like a copy of the book, no strings attached. Wait, what? Of course. Absolutely. No question. I love books and I love studying mindset. So I thank them profusely and send them my address. And then, get this: I get the package with a copy for me and a pay-it-forward copy. Two copies. And I noticed that this book is a 1for1 book, which means that for every book purchased, one is donated to a student  through the Magic Wand Foundation. How cool is that? 
These guys truly are walking the talk. 

So I made this graphic using a picture I took from my airplane window en route to Character Camp earlier this week.


It is by no means meant to be a substitute for delving into their amazing content and challenging yourself to live the ultimate life, but rather to pique your curiosity about what exactly these magical mindsets are and how they can work to our benefit. First, let's listen in:


Now I need to make something really clear: I'm calling these 7 Mindsets magical but, in truth, it has nothing to do with tricks or mirrors or illusions. They're only magical in that they will transform your life, if you take them to heart and work through them with intention. On purpose. Leaving nothing to chance.

I love that the book is glittered with inspirational quotes.
Here's one that I hadn't heard before that really resonates with me:


It's how the We Are Connected chapter begins.
Each chapter provides a Step-by-Step Approach for that Mindset In Action along with a Mindset in a Minute review. This "blueprint for an extraordinary life" is research-based and grounded in real-life examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things once they unlocked the memes that could have kept them from being the best they could be. 

So that's it. I am not giving any more of this treasure trove away. You simply must check out this book and read for yourself how changing just one thought can forever change your view of the world and how you experience it. 
Then check back and let us know what you think.

Thank you, Scott and Jeff, for giving me much to digest, process, and reflect upon as I move forward with intention into every new day and opportunity. 




6.29.2015

A Letter From Character Camp 2015

Dear Reader,

I really must get one of these shirts
Character Camp 2015 has been AmAzInG so far. The flight went smoothly and I met two new friends on the plane. The weather is a cool, dry 75 degrees and the sunshine feels good on my skin.

Last night, I enjoyed dinner with my friends Mike and Diane from Film Clips for CharacterSuch a kindhearted couple! They're working on something new so stay tuned for details. Then I met up with filmmaker and friend Jennifer from The Good Long Road blog for dessert and we savored not only some tasty frozen yogurt but also a breathtaking sunset before returning to base camp.

Soon I'll head to Character Counts! headquarters for a meeting; the National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) conference that I'm here for actually starts tomorrow. Check out this slide I made for my presentation called Empathy, Compassion & Kindness: Success Skills That Will Change School Climate For Good. Who wouldn't want to be at Character Camp talking about these champs?

Click picture for info on Moorhead's Farms.
Before I left on my adventure, the boys and I picked 13 lbs. of these tasty treasures. It's an annual tradition, to head to the Conroe area and spend a few hours filling our buckets with these bush-ripened treats. And every year, I'm reminded of Jaime Vollmer's Blueberry story. It's a powerful metaphor about the students in our class.

Tomorrow night at Camp, there's an online #teacherfriends Birthday Bash going on ... and you're invited! As this Chat's first #GuestEduCelebrity, I'm donating a signed copy of What's Under Your Cape? to three lucky chat participant winners. Won't you join the Fab Four and me at 8 pm {CST} on TweetDeck to celebrate?
It's a good thing that there's wifi here at Camp, because look what popped onto my Twitter feed yesterday; it's Jill from Kids For Peace, on location in Arizona at the American School Counselors Association annual conference. Is your school signed up for the Great Kindness Challenge 2016 yet? Super excited that she's also headed to NAESP Wednesday so we'll be reconnecting at Character Camp as well.
Other campers I'll be seeing include Kim from Joy in Sixth and Shawna from The Picture Book Teacher's Edition.

Must sign off now as I want a bowl of that oatmeal with brown sugar and cream before the mess hall closes breakfast down.

Love from a very happy camper,



6.25.2015

Aaaargh You Up For A Kindness Party?

Today I'm excited because I've been re-reading Dave Burgess' treasure,
 Teach Like A Pirateand it beautifully dovetails with something adventuresome. creative, and daring that we're trying tonight on FB: A Kindness Party!


Consider it a hook, to engage our readers by sharing stories and strategies for making kindness an intentional, purposeful ritual in our homes, our school and our communities. And it's your chance to chat with some ordinary individuals who are doing extraordinarily kind things.


Door prizes include a copy of my book, What's Under Your Cape?, and two Carol McCloud titles, Have You Filled A Bucket Today? and Growing Up With A Bucket Full Of Happiness. Just click either graphic above at 8:00 pm {CST} and be transported to the fun.

We'll swap ideas like the Which Wich? #FlagYourBag campaign. If you decorate the back of your sandwich bag, they will recycle it by filling the bag with goodies to send to the troops. Isn't that AmAzInG? So, here's mine. It was a blast to color. All it took was a Penny of Time, and it creates such a citizenship win-win 


I'm just delighted that we're reading Pirate as a faculty because I connect personally and professionally with so many parts of Dave's pirate treasure, especially the engagement, passion, and movement pieces. 
In fact, I used this quote from his book in mine.

 Shelley makes the best graphics!
Then I sent him a copy of my book, to thank him for his ins-pirate-ion, and he invited me to host a #tlap chat last September, on Labor Day. In case you missed it, here are the questions we discussed. 

My friend Jen and I are planning to channel our inner pirates and host a practice chat in the second part of our Hashtags and PLNs and TweetChats, Oh My! workshop in our August Tech Symposium, so we're going to use these questions.

And last, a story from yesterday. I was driving the carpool when I saw a homeless man on the corner of 288 and Binz. At the red light, I gave him $5 to help him out a bit. After he thanked me, he introduced himself and told me that he'd be happy to help me if I were ever in the area and needed anything. 
Isn't that thoughtful, his offer to lend a hand, to pay me back.
Because kindness matters, 
even when things aren't going very well. 
Maybe especially then.  
See you tonight!





6.24.2015

Fertilizer, Floss & Feelings

Today I'm hoping that you're curious about how the three things in the title connect. First, the fertilizer. It was late the other night, past dusk but not yet dark, when John saw rain on the radar and decided to spread fertilizer out front, to help the yard stay resilient during the Texas summertime sizzle. The timing was perfect; he got the chemicals spread just before the heavens opened up. But a setting was off. Just look at our lawn, one week later. It's all splotchy. Like polka-dotted. It's an odd look, really, especially if you don't know the story. 
The lush dark grass was hit; the thin light spots were missed. 


Interesting, you might say, but what does that have to do with floss? Well, I went to the dentist yesterday, for my six-month check up and cleaning. As I prepared for the visit, I realized that I have not done a very good job of flossing this spring. Usually quite diligent about the care for my pearly whites, I decided to be transparent when Carol, my hygienist, inquired as to my recent dental-care habits. I told her that I was rocking the brushing part but delinquent in the flossing area. And get this; I didn't get any points for my honesty. In fact, she fussed at me. She told me that brushing without flossing is like showing up for class without having done the homework. She added that, in fact, the flossing is way more important than the brushing because you can miss a lot of spots by just brushing. She wondered why a teacher like me would bother coming to class without her homework, so she put not one, but two packs of floss in my goodie bag. 
She says it's only twenty days worth. And it can't be hit or miss.



By now you might be able to predict what the fertilizer and the floss have to do with one another. First, let me bounce forward to the feelings part of the post. 

After the dentist, I went to see the movie Inside Out

Click the graphic for Heather's 20 Counseling Themes post!
{Spoiler alert} It's the moving story of an eleven-year-old girl as told by her feelings: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. As Riley navigates her new normal after relocating to San Francisco from the Midwest, Joy works very hard to create a happy experience for her by keeping the other feelings at bay. But when Riley's feelings get all mixed up and she starts to lose sight of who she is, it ends up being the mix with Sadness leading the way to help Riley be resilient and propel her through the hard to arrive at the happy. 

Here now, some outcome inquiries to help connect the spots dots:

What might happen in our classrooms, homes, communities, world if we don't fertilize evenly? How do those who get the fertilizer benefit? How might those who don't get the fertilizer suffer? How often should we fertilize? What is the end goal of fertilizing? And how might we need to adjust when there's no rain on the radar? 

How does this compare and contrast to my flossing fiasco? 

Do you agree that completing follow-up assignments is more important to our learning than simply showing up to class? Why or why not? What happens when we show up unprepared, without having done our homework? How do we ascertain that these two things work in concert to maximize the benefits of both?

Finally, these Inside Out reflections:

Are feelings ever mutually exclusive or do they work best in unity? How do we (and our stakeholders) benefit when we accept, embrace, and willingly feel all of our feelings, easy and hard, comfortable and uncomfortable, weak and strong? What might it be like if we didn't? Might we end up out-of-sorts, a little like the lawn? Or worse, risk a disease, like gingivitis? Would the same be true if we try to protect our children or students from experiencing certain, perhaps less-desirable feelings? How will they learn to be resilient if we don't let them experience adversity and push through the feelings that follow?
    
Inside Out is a creative masterpiece that I will undoubtedly go see again 
and one I enthusiastically recommend. I also recommend 
fertilizing carefully, flossing routinely, and feeling deeply 
as you unwrap today, the gift that is our present.







6.23.2015

Ten Steps To Bloom Where You're Planted

Today I'm delighted and grateful to welcome school counselor Heather Thomas, who has some super suggestions for bouncing forward amidst challenge and change. Thank you, Heather, for this gift to our readers.


Hello! I’m Heather – author of the blog The Helpful Counselor. I love connecting with other counselors and educators through my blog and social media.

My blogging journey began 3 years ago out of my desire to connect with others school counselors. You see, I was the only elementary counselor for 3 buildings and 1,500 students. While my district has 5 fantastic (and supportive) school counselors at the secondary level … I felt isolated professionally. I often joked that I WAS the elementary counseling program.

Last year, I met with our superintendent, and with the support of my 3 principals, we attempted to write a grant for more elementary counselors. I was thrilled about the possibilities!!!

I must admit that it felt great knowing that my superintendent and principals were in full agreement that we needed more coverage at the elementary level. They valued what I did and wanted more school counseling support. After 8 years of advocating for more elementary counselors, I was finally getting some serious traction! Long story short, our attempt came up short and I remained the only counselor at the elementary level.

Fast forward to the 2014-2015 school year. Our budget fell waaaay short and my position was cut … leaving no elementary counselors to help my kiddos. My heart broke as I thought about all of my “frequent flyers” and the support they would no longer receive. Luckily, I went back to school about 7 years ago and received my special education and secondary English certification. It took me 3 ½ years of taking 2 classes a semester…fall, winter, spring, and summer. I drove twice a week for  1 ½ hours (each way) and I took a year off to complete my two semesters of student teaching.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! Not only did I have 3 young kids (2, 3, and 5) but I also worked full time. There were times that I felt like it would never end, but I was chugging along – one semester at a time. Looking back, while the struggle was real, my decision to improve my skill-set is one of the best choices I have ever made. As fate would have it, a special education position opened around the same time my counseling position was cut. But, it wasn’t easy.

Besides teaching Young 5’s- 5th grade counseling lessons, I had no experience teaching academic topics at the elementary level. I was unfamiliar with the content and teaching children with disabilities how to read, write, and solve math problems was intimidating to say the least. However, I love a challenge. I’ve always pushed myself to grow professionally. I viewed my new position as an opportunity to get an insiders’ perspective of the inner workings of a classroom and the challenges that special needs students face in the academic setting.

My goal in writing this post is not to share how difficulties of my new placement, but to remind everyone who reads this to make the most of tough situations and bloom where you are planted. Your situation might not be as radical as mine, but blooming where you are planted is solid advice no matter where you are in your career (or even personal life). I love this Zig Ziglar expression:


Click graphic to download a pdf ~ Thanks, Heather!
It’s simple but true! Below you will find key steps in keeping your spirits up and improving your situation. I hope you find them as helpful as I have.

1.     View the challenge as an opportunity to grow. There is something to be said for the adage, “that which does not kill you, will make you stronger.” Working outside your comfort zone will allow you to sharpen skills. Adding new skills to your bag of tricks will only help you along your professional and personal journey.

2.     Magnify the good and shrink the bad ... at least in your thoughts. Our thoughts shade how we view the world around us. When we spend a lot of time thinking about what is wrong, we sabotage the rest of our thoughts. Like attracts like and that definitely goes for our thoughts! (You can read more about keeping a positive frame of mind here.)

3.     Remind yourself about the root of your career choice -> to help children ... right? Isn’t that what we are in this for to begin with? If you are able to work in a position where you help kids, you are still able to meet your ultimate goal.

4.     Look for the next opportunity. When we become comfortable, we tend to overlook chances to find our true calling. There was a time I believed that I was meant to work for Michigan Department of Human Services. I interned with Protective Services and loved the rush I got knowing that I was truly protecting children and families. To put it mildly, I was overly confident in the interview and didn’t get the job. I was devastated. However, it pushed me to find a different job which turned out to be Whaley Children’s Center, a residential and foster care agency. My experience at Whaley pushed me to get my Masters degree, which led me to obtain my school counseling endorsement. I was later told that my experience at Whaley is what made the difference when I applied for the counseling position at my current district. (You can read more about seizing the moment here.)

5.     Be open to new experiences … aka get out of your comfort zone. While at Whaley, I worked with preteens and teens who were diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and RAD. Most of the children I worked with came from extreme family situations that would break your heart. Others were one step away from the juvenile justice system. Working in the inner-city of Flint and Detroit made me feel needed and valued to the point that I vowed to always work in the inner-city with the neediest of the needy. Imagine the culture shock when I was placed in a rural Young 5’s-K and elementary building for my school counseling internship. I fell in love on Day 1!!!

6.    Share some of your experience with the kids you serve. My students struggle to overcome diversity every day. Learning about some of my challenges in life helps create a safe sense of community where they are more likely to take risks and open up to me. 

7.    Use your struggle as an opportunity to let your professionalism shine. Administrators are inundated with complaints about what the staff in their building doesn’t like and they are often forced to make tough decisions. It’s important to be honest and advocate for your preferences, but just think about your admin’s reaction when you inform them that you plan on making the best of your current situation and then continue to put forth your personal best in your role.

8.    Create a mental image of you being successful. Envision yourself achieving great things. What does it look like? What would it take to achieve that level of success? Now start making SMART goals and taking steps (no matter how small) toward your new definition of success.

9.     Say kind things. Counselors are great at being supportive of others, but we don’t always do such a hot job with ourselves. We need to stop and we need to stop now! Belittling our accomplishments and not practicing self-care put us on the fast track to self-doubt…which is never a good thing! (Read more about practicing self-care here and here.)

10.   Watch out for self-sabotage. It’s not always easy to spot, but it usually takes the form of justifying our actions when we don’t make the best decisions. Self-sabotage is when we feel we deserve an extra scope of ice cream because we worked out today. Self-sabotage is when we refuse to sign up for committee’s because we’re upset about our new placement. I know I’ve been guilty of both in my past … neither got me any further toward my goals.

Ultimately, the only constant in life is change! Like it or not, it’s true.  In order to find peace within ourselves, we must come to the understanding that there are factors outside of our control and that nothing in life is guaranteed. All we can do is enjoy the ride! I would love to hear about how you overcome challenges in the comments below.

All my best on your journey! Be sure to catch me on the web for more ideas on how to bloom where you are planted!!! Need help teaching kiddos to bloom where they’re planted? Be sure to check out my counseling games and activities on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Heather Thomas





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