Building Empathy

Today I'm excited because I get to talk about one of my favorite topics: empathy!

If you've been a reader at the Corner for a while, then you know about the Becoming A Better You series by Marian Nelson and Kris Yankee. I'm so so delighted to share that I've had a sneak peek at book #3 and its meaningful message makes it well worth the wait. It's due out next week; click the graphic above for more info and/or to pre-order.

It's not so much a storybook as it is a guide for its reader. 
It's a litany of ideas and examples through which children can stretch their empathy
Simple, every-day ways. 
At home, in school, in their communities. 
Through acts of kindness and service. 
By working to understand one another's feelings.
It ends with reflections and tips to help evoke empathy
in our future leaders. We must teach empathy so students can cultivate compassion and practice kindness.

Here's a wonderful quick clip that will complement this text:

We build empathy by witnessing it and experiencing it.
What scenarios will you use to put this method to the test?
Visit these articles for more ideas:


B2S Books 'n Boards

Here's a first look at this year's Character Case.

I took the picture on bended knee to see it from the vantage point of a first grader. I always want to know which book they'd pick if they could only choose one. I asked our AP, and he said he's curious about What Do You Do With An Idea?  I also like to ask them what they think is going to happen in the book, just from their glance at the cover. Second-grade Emma had the whole story about the penguin in Flight School figured out, and it was great fun to listen to her prediction. I put one book that we talked about last year in peace class, The Invisible Boy, in there just to see what they remember about that kindness lesson. It always warms my heart that they carry nuggets away in theirs. One third-grade girl was curious about Maddi's Fridge because why would there be a story about a refrigerator? The Day I Lost My Superpowers fits nicely with our superheroes theme and my review of The Most Magnificent Thing will be coming next week.

The character cam also caught these visual displays:

Photo booth beauty, superheroes in PE,

And first grade is the place to bee.

I just love the creativity and craft of a great bulletin board!
Then I got this shot from a counselor in North Carolina
and it was the proverbial frosting on my cupcake:

Her name is Sara Crist of Crist Counseling, superhero by day as a school counselor at Olde Providence ES in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools-Charlotte, NC and by night at her part-time private practice. You can follow her on Twitter {@cristcounseling} for tweets about both.

What was terrific about your Tuesday?


How FAMILY Matters

Another school year started, another first day in the books.
Things went extremely well, with beautiful "I've missed you!" bear-hugs and heaps of hope and happiness. Hope for a successful new year and happiness to be reunited with our school family. Because in the end, for us, it's all about family.

So that I'm not misunderstood, let me say that achievement is important, too. We know that our students come to us to learn so that they can achieve success for a bright, opened-door future. But we also know that they don't learn from someone with whom they're not connected, so look what we feel like has to come first. Family. Family first.

F is for feelings. We have to allow our kids to feel. They're coming to use with a bundle of feelings: easy ones, hard ones, pleasant ones, uncomfortable ones, big ones, and small ones. Honor them, the children and their feelings, because if we don't allow our students to emote, the feelings will sneak out as behaviors down the road, some of which won't be desirable.

A is for appreciation. Affirm and appreciate your kiddos. Not with over-the-top, sticky-sweet praise, but with genuine affirmations of positivity and encouragement. It feels good to be appreciated and, more often than not, those who are appreciated will go above and beyond what you expect from them. After all, what we appreciate, appreciates. Teach them to follow up a kindness with a thank-you. Have them write compliment cards to one another. Role play what affirmations look like, sound like, and feel like.

M is for movement {and music}. We must carve out time for our bodies to move to spark important chemicals in the brain. Couple those brain breaks with music to elevate mood and you've got a recipe for success. Dr. John Medina suggests moving our students every ten minutes to maximize brain power, so you might have to get creative. But you'll buy that time back in spades if you move them enough; you'll see.

I is for integrity. Your students must know what your class values are. Maybe they're set by the school district, like the Six-Pillar framework which, for us, is Board-adopted. Maybe you're a PBS school and your values are wrapped up in your three expectations. Whatever it is, you can't expect students to adhere to standards that they don't know or embrace. We teach students how to count, so why not also teach them that their character counts. First and foremost, character traits are modeled, but we also have to actively teach and reinforce the desired behaviors which accompany the values. Don't forget that there's truth in the adage: If we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything.

L is for love. Unconditional love. Children need to know that they belong. That they matter. That they are loved. Nicholas Ferroni says this: Children who are loved at home come to school to learn; those who are not come to school to be loved. I would add to that that they all come to school to be loved and I challenge each one of you, my kindhearted readers, to find a way to make each one of them your favorite.

Y is for yearning. We want out future leaders to thirst for knowledge so that they yearn to learn. How do you engage your littlest learners? How about those intermediate kiddos? And our tweens? Teens? The more voice and choice you can give them, the more empowering it'll be. Inquiry learning anyone? How about  digital portfolios? Project-Based Learning? Look for tasks in the classroom that you can give up. Pledge to be the guide by their side. Ask lots of questions without fixed answers and give them food for thought with dilemmas to chew on that'll strengthen them academically as well as socially and emotionally.

How will you connect with your school family
this year to make it the best that it can be?


Ready To Launch

We did it. We officially launched our college kids back to their senior year and sophomore year respectively. And we survived without too many tears. Now it's time for us here in Friendswood to launch into the 2014-2015 school year.

Covey wisdom, beginning with the end in mind, coupled with an idea from Autumn Bockart, a loving sixth-grade teacher at Friendswood Junior High. She adapted the inquiry from Linda Ellis' poignant poem The Dash between our birth and our death. We all get to write the story of our dash, every day. And when our students come to us seeking guidance with their dash, we get to help them find and unleash their powers to navigate learning and maximize flight. How awesome is that?

Kind of reminds me of the new Lita Judge book Flight School.

Some of your students will come to you looking like this, an awkward but eager little penguin, showing up to flight school, determined to take wing and fly. 
Just listen to this beautiful exchange from the opening page:

"But you, dear, are a penguin," Teacher replied.
"Undeniable," said Penguin, "but I have the soul of an eagle."

What will it take to change the fixed mindset that says once a penguin, always a penguinWhat do you need to do to empower those passionate penguins to take flight and soar? How do we reframe our look at flying if/when they don't get off the ground with quite as much ease or finesse as the eagles do? And maybe not at all? Discuss the maxim: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. What does that mean? When were those words meaningful to you personally? What was that experience like and what did you learn? Is it ever okay to recalculate your route? When? How? What if it means letting go of your dreams?

More brilliance from the book:

Penguin was right. He did have the soul of an eagle. He just needed a little help with the technical parts. 

As we head into this year's dash, don't our little birds deserve to see their potential as eagles, not their limitations as penguins? We must take our role as flight instructors to assist and support them with "the technical parts" seriously. How will you grow your mindset so that they have permission to grow theirs? What an amazing opportunity lies ahead as we launch into a new year. 


Don't Lose Your Marbles

It's been a weird sort of two weeks without a regular blog; 
here are the top five things what I've learned on the road:

5. I really delight in planting seeds. And my message
What you plant will grow! has been well-received.
4. I really enjoy collaborating with other character educators and seeing the good stuff that's already going on in their schools.
3. I really thrive on challenging educators to want more for themselves {and their kids} and to get better. Every day.
2. I really appreciate the people who are willing to provide transportation so I don't have to navigate their towns in a rental.
1. I really rely on the hotels to have a working blow dryer {don't ask!}.

Based on Carol Dweck's work, here's a popular Mindset slide I found at Mind, Body, Cheer that I've been challenging school family members to think about, for themselves first, then the students under their mentorship and care:

So now I'm home and eager to get back into the groove of things. What a rush to welcome our new families, then reconnect with our returning families back shortly thereafter Thursday evening. Talk about a healthy overdose of hugs and happiness!  
Such a blessing to get to start over again every August. 
To wipe the slate clean and start our stories anew. 
To sharpen our tools and perfect our craft.

Last night my husband took us out to dinner and then to a Games 'n Comics story. There, I found a bin of colorful marbles for ten cents each, and I hand-picked 85 of them, one for each faculty member. I'm making these to put in faculty boxes tomorrow:

It's adapted from an idea that a counseling colleague in cyberspace threw out there; I'm going to sign each of them to remind our faculty and staff that counselors are on campus for them, too.

Because, guess what? The newness of August will wear off. Even the strongest of staff members will start to weaken a bit. Just like magicians have to restock their bag of tricks, superheroes must recharge their energy source. So I want to make sure teachers and support staff alike know that I'm here and available to meet their needs, too.

Oh, and a box of books just arrived from Amazon,
so check back regularly for new reviews and ideas.

Here's to a terrific new year to flourish, thrive and grow.


B2S Bulletin Boards

We're meeting our new-to-district families in fifteen minutes, so all I have time for today is to share a few new visual displays.

Turns out I just thought that I'd done my last board.
This one used to be mine, but I gave it to our GT teacher last year and guess what? She moved. To another district. Down the road. So it's mine again. Today I threw this together, just to splash some character color on the wall.

Just down Trustworthiness Trail, you'll find Mrs. Niland's 
fishy new creation for her second grade swimmers.

Down Acceptance Avenue in our third grade, Mrs. Pendergrast put together her variation of Dr. Fuller's BE Board!

This one caught my eye in McKinney ISD at Bennett Elementary; is their music teacher ready for her superheroes or what?

Signing off to go soar with our superheroes.
Cape UP!

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