Happiness & Harmony

Today I'm grateful because I got the sweetest tweet this afternoon, from a counselor in Indiana. Look at her super  silhouette:

And as delighted as I am at her thoughtfulness,
I'm really energized that she is getting ready for next year already.
Isn't that inspirational?
We're not even at the end of this school year yet,
and many of us are exhausted,
tuckered out,
But not Ms. Kozuch.
Or maybe she is.
{She has to be, right?}
But instead of staying in PJs all day and watching the Hallmark Channel (like I did),
she's planning, embracing, doing. For next year.
Forward thinking.
I admire that in a role model. 
It inspires me. 
It makes me happy.

True confessions:
Things have not felt very harmonious in my heart lately;
in fact, it has been chaotic, messy, painful.
But with every tweet, text, email, and call of support,
I feel like I'm turning a corner
and finding myself again.

What I'm learning in the process of change is how much I value 
the loving kindness and care of friends and family near and far,
not only when things are working in concert with ease, 
but also in times of discord and dissonance.

That's when thought, word & deed harmonize for me. 
It's a formula for happiness.
And a chance to feel hopeful again.

Cape up ... a new school year is just around the corner!


Developing Leaders

This morning I woke up with leadership on my mind. When I stumbled on #satchatwc, it moved to my heart. After the chat, I went on a walk and felt it literally going to my feet and filling me with all sorts of plans for the upcoming school year in my new space at my new school, and now I'm really excited about developing leaders.

This weekly Saturday-morning chat, moderated by the motivational and effervescent Shelley Burgess, starts at 9:30 am CST and lasts an hour. I use TweetDeck to follow along and weigh in. On the chance that you've not been a part of a Twitter Chat before, here's how it goes. 

On Twitter, we have 140 characters for our answer.
Today, that wasn't a hard framework to work within,
but sometimes it's tricky and we have to be creatively concise.

Our topic this morning was The Leadership Countdown.
Here are the questions {published with Shelley's permission} and my responses, followed by a few of my favorites.

Empathize, equip, empower, engage with energy & enthusiasm.

That's how I answered. Then I read through all of the other reflections and I truly connected with this heartfelt response from my friend Steph Frosh:

And I love this one, from Art Liberman:

How would you answer that reflection question?

Thank you for being here, friend.

Another favorite answer from Steph: 

Talk about the power of collaboration, moving from me to we!

I know it won't work.

Here's a good one from Shelley: That's how it's always done.
and an illustration of Amos to go with it.

Don't these culture-killer reflections set your mind spinning?

Give kind, get kind. {Kindness is the real global warming, after all}

And one of my faves, this one from Jessica Torres;
Make your words count.

Another winner from Danielle Brown: Share your awesome today.

Be someone's SUPERHERO.

And this one, from Jonathan Kegler {and God}:

And a fan favorite from Beth Houf: Walk the talk! 

Let's grow. 

More wisdom from Steph:

Dave Burgess added these two words: Join Us.

My one little word: Kindness.

Other reflective OLWs I connected with: 
impact, resilience, relationships, transparency,
authenticity, innovation, engagement,
passion, outreach, growth.

Shelley tells me that in just over an hour, there were some 2000 tweets, retweets, favorites, and interactions. Click {here} to read through the archives. 

Now I'm heading to the pool for some reflection of a different kind along with some much-needed Vitamin D.
Before I go to soak up some sunshine, riddle me this:

How are you developing leaders for tomorrow today?
{Oh, and don't worry about your word count.}


PPBF: I Wish You More

As graduation time comes back around, 
I'm super excited about today's PPBF pick.

Title: I Wish You More
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: March 31, 2015
Suitable for: ages 5-8 (and up!)
Themes: inspiration, motivation, wishes
Brief synopsis: The words on each page in this thoughtful, inspirational gem express a wish of all things good for the reader:

Opening page: I wish you more ups than downs.


See more pages and download Teacher's Guide {here}.
The story behind the story as told by the illustrator {here}.
Read a review at Cool Mom Picks blog {here}.
Check out another review at Sal's Fiction Addiction {here}.

Why I like this book: As you may know, I'm always in the market for a good book, one that will grab me and refuse to let go. So the other night when I was browsing at Barnes & Noble, I was pleasantly surprised to happen on another newbie by the dynamic duo of Rosenthal and Lichtenheld. I read it in the store, but left without a copy for my shelf because I wasn't sure I needed more books right now. I was wrong. As I reflected on my way home, I wished I'd have bought a copy, and the very next morning I went back and bought four. It's that good. 

And not just for this time of year, though it'd be perfect for that special grad. I picked up a copy for myself, copies for two friends who find themselves at a crossroads in their life, and a copy to keep on hand.

I wish you more will than hill ... 
who wouldn't savor hearing that right now?

And how would I use this beauty?

As a gift, I can imagine finding a complementary scripture, inspirational quote or uplifting song to write alongside the wish on each page. 

In the classroom, I can imagine students making a wish page for a class book or individual booklets for parents, teachers, caregivers. 

I imagine students creating a bumper sticker. Here's mine:

I imagine writing wishes on address-label-sized stickers to seal the wrap around the napkin and plastic-wear at a local fast-food place.

I imagine a visual display on which we post students' wishes for one another and for our school family.

And I imagine using this treasure as a Reader's Theater and/or performed for special guests like Grandparents or Veterans.

What do you imagine doing with this precious book of wishes?
Leave your answer in the comments, then head over to 
Susanna's blog for more PPBF titles. 


A Time To Grow

As many of you know, I've been struggling with the news that I'm moving with my rising third graders next year, and that my struggle has nothing to do with where I'm going and everything to do with where I've been.
Because moving toward acceptance takes time. 
Getting my heart to catch up with my head takes time.
And finding grace in the grief of letting go takes time.
But of this I'm sure:

For the first fifteen years of my career, I didn't put down any roots.
In fact, I never stayed anywhere more than four years before
shaking things up a bit,
 changing direction
and moving on to something new.
I worked in Wisconsin for my first year out of college,
then moved to Texas and worked at a junior high for a year.
A job opened up for me at Friendswood High School and I stayed there four years before taking a leave of absence to explore Seattle and check out the possibility of becoming a counselor. {What a great place to do that, I know!}
Then I came back to Texas, got married, and taught for four more years at FHS before heading to a neighboring district for a year as a high school counselor. Then we moved to WI for a year and when we got back to Texas, I worked as a counselor at yet another high school for three more years. 
When I felt the pull to leave secondary education, I went for a year to a middle school and the Westwood position opened up. I had a steep learning curve to climb, but it would be worth it to be back home where my own children were now attending school.

I thrived on change.
Change invigorated me.
Change is good and I was good at it.

But the last fifteen have been different, because I stayed.
I found something that I really connected with, so
I put down roots that go really, really deep. And wide. 

So it's been a while since I've had to change, and let's face it, change is hard. I know. Please don't email or text those words to me right now. I get it. It's most helpful when people validate how hard it must be to let go. Because I'm working on moving toward acceptance, really I am. I know that it's time to get growing, because if we never change and grow, we'll never have anything new to offer.
I asked a group of firsties in the Counselor Cafe today
what they would do if I left Westwood.
First they gasped, then they said they'd be sad.
After hardly any time at all, Megan said,
We'll do the character you taught us.
So for today, I'm planning the renovations for that sound-proof former band hall where next year we'll be mining the treasures that lie within our superhero middle-grade leaders. Now I just have to decide which sounds better, 
Leadership Lane or The Values Vault.
Let's grow!


PPBF: Nobody!

Today I'm delighted to feature this thought-provoking newcomer
from our friends at Free Spirit Publishing.

Title: Nobody!
Author: Erin Frankel
Illustrator: Paula Heaphy
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Date: April 28, 2015
Suitable for: ages 5 - 9
Realistic Fiction
Themes: conflict, bullying behaviors, problem solving
Brief synopsis: A boy in Thomas' school is behaving in such a way that it makes Thomas feel like a nobody. With the necessary help and support from family, friends, and trust adults, Thomas finds that he can feel like somebody again.
Opening page: I used to like school. But that was before somebody decided to make my life miserable.

{Excerpt from Nobody! by Erin Frankel and illustrated by Paula Heaphy, copyright © 2015. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.}

Visit the Free Spirit page to download the Leader's Guide.
Read a five-star review at Hall Ways.
Watch the Conscious Discipline clip Bullying Road Signs.
Compare and contrast with these titles that also have 
an anti-bullying theme:

Alley Oops by Janice Levy, Band-AidChicken by Becky Hinton, Billy Bully by Ana Galan, BirdChild by Nan Forler, Carla’sSandwich by Debbie Herman, Don’t Laugh at Me by Steven Seskin, Hey Little Ant by Phillip & Hannah Hoose, JungleBullies by Steven Kroll, Juice Box Bully by Maria Dismondy, MySecret Bully by Trudy Ludwig, One by Kathryn Otoshi, Say Something by Peggy Moss, Simon’sHook by Karen Gedig Burnett, Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig, You’reMean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinski

Why I like this book: If we don't talk about bullying behaviors or, worse, if we turn a blind eye, then the problem grows and children suffer. Their families suffer. We all suffer. Books like Nobody! help create an awareness of the devastating damage that even just one child's mean thoughts, words and deeds can do to someone's heart, mind and soul. Children deserve to feel safe at school, to like school, to thrive in school, so first and foremost, we must address it.

This 44-page social story is very real.
It approaches a sensitive subject with transparency and grace.
But the text doesn't leave us with a problem;
it offers up plausible solutions like thought-switching.
In the back, there are several pages dedicated to comprehending, processing, analyzing and reflecting. There are also two pages for caregivers to help readers unpack the details and understand the implications.

Use this gem to elevate empathy by stopping on every page to find out what your students would do, using questions like this:

What does Thomas want? How can you tell?
What would you need if you were Thomas?
If you were Patrick or Jay, what would you do differently?
What might it be like to be Kyle, the boy with bullying behaviors?
What would you want/need if you were he?
Have you ever felt like a Nobody?
What did you do?
Have you ever been the child with bullying behaviors?
Who helped you turn those behaviors around?

For more anti-bullying resources, visit
Author Trudy Ludwig's Bullying Basics 
Huffington Post: On Bullying

Thank you, Kid Prez and Soul Pancake, for this reminder:

Check out this book, then go to Susanna's blog
for today's other PPBF picks. 


When Learning Takes Wing

It has been a quiet week here at the Corner as I reflect on my time at Westwood Elementary and prepare to move to the Bales side of our combined campus. 
What were my goals? 
What did I accomplish? 
Did I make an impact? 
What would I do differently? 
How could I have been better?
What will people say about my time there?
What did I reflect?

I keep this plastic heart and winter pen in my office;
tonight they worked together to form this butterfly
as a reflection of the challenge in front of me,
to spread my wings and fly.
The foil is supposed to serve as a make-shift mirror.
It's a tool to help my littles reflect,
because the real learning happens in the reflection.
Always in the reflection.

The other day, my friend Laura talked about a rockin' reflection exercise she used with her junior high choir kiddos. Students sat with their backs to a mirror while their classmates wrote their heartfelt affirmations on the white board behind them, all around the mirror. Then the student who was being affirmed turned around, looked at herself in the mirror and read those affirmations.
Out loud. 
Uplifting words of kindness and love.
Their classmates' gift.
From the heart.
About him, about her.
Not a dry eye in the room.
And repeated requests to do it again. Soon.
Proof positive that learning takes wing 
when we're willing to step out of our cocoons 
and fly.

Something to think about from Jay Danzie:

What do you reflect?

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