Saturday Songs 4

Abraham Lincoln said this about life:  
It's not the years in your life that count.  
It's the life in your years.

An oldie but a goodie, The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics challenges us to take a good look at how we choose to spend the time we have.  I picked it as today's inspirational song, the fourth in this Saturday Songs Series, because it resonates with me 
and makes me wonder: 

Is there an apology I need to make or someone I need to forgive? 


Goals For Good Guest Post

Today I'm excited because Mark Schumacker, a 7th-grade math teacher in Ohio, is stopping by the Corner to share some words of wisdom.  

Goals For Good by Mark Schumacker

In today's society, children witness behaviors that are completely unacceptable, often on a daily basis.  These actions could be as simple as a rude comment, a lack of courtesy or it could be much worse.  Some kids will see or experience verbal, physical, and/or sexual abuse.  Young people are very good at hiding their problems, so don't assume a child is doing fine, based on his/her appearance.

If they are not experiencing these behaviors in person, they see it on television, in their music, and in their video games.  After viewing these behaviors enough, these youngsters begin to think the actions are acceptable or at the very least - normal.  Unfortunately, the next step in their progression is to begin acting out what they see.  If they do this enough, it becomes a habit.  This is such a vicious cycle.

Several years back, I decided that something needed to be done about it.  I can't remove the students from their experiences, but I can provide them with good, nurturing experiences.  This was the basis for my creation of The Character Counts Weekly Student Goals.

  *   Each week students receive a new goal.  For example, during the first week the students' goal is:  "Goal #1:  Try to give a good compliment to three different people this week.  Your kind and uplifting words make more of a difference than you could possibly imagine.  Show staff and students that at AMS, character counts!"

  *   Once I give the students their goal, we discuss the goal (what it means, what it looks like, and ideas to act it out).  I try to provide solid examples of the goal - either through my experiences or I share goals that other students acted out.

  *   I ask the students to do a few tasks when accomplishing most of their goals.

  *   1.  The students are to thoughtfully consider how they will act out the goal. In the case of the above goal, the student would write down the what they want to say and run it past me to make sure it is a real compliment (no saying "great shoes" for example).  The goal should be tailor made for the recipient - as if it would work only for that person.  One child said " You are one of the smartest people I have ever met.  Every day you come in here, do your work, and complete your goals.  Good job!"

  *   2.   The students are given all week to accomplish their goal.  They are welcome to exceed the limits I set.

  *   3.  At the end of the week we either have a class discussion regarding their experiences or I will ask them to write in their character journal.  Journal entries should state who the goal was aimed at, what was said/done specifically, what the reaction was of the recipient, and how did it make you feel.

Last year the students really enjoyed the process.  My advice is stick with it.  Time always seems like an issue, though I believe we can give up 5 minutes a few days a week if it leads to creating good people.  I would also encourage you to try out any goal you will ask your students to try.  By experiencing the goal, you will have more authentic input to share and you will have a better understanding of any issues the students might encounter.  I have listed some of the Character Goals I have used in the past.  If you would like a more comprehensive list, feel free to contact me at mark.schumacker@beavercreek.k12.oh.us

T1  Goal #1:  Try to give a good compliment to three different people this week.  Your kind and uplifting words make more of a difference than you could possibly imagine.  Show staff and students that at AMS, character counts!

Goal #2:  With all of the new gadgets that are available, the gift everybody still enjoys most is gratitude.  This week we would like you to say thank you to any person that does anything for you.  You would be surprised at the amount gratitude one could give in one day.  Give it a try!

Goal #3:  In today's fast moving society, we often times forget to say the most valued word in the English language.  This word is please.  The word please tells others that you are thoughtful and not expectant.  This simple word can take you far in life.

Goal #4:  Regardless of what you might think, everybody struggles and needs encouragement from time to time.  This week we would like you to offer some encouragement to one person that looks like he or she could use it.  This person can be a friend or foe or somebody you would normally not talk to.

Goal #5:  This week’s goal is simple, yet classic. Open a door for somebody today.

Goal #6:  This week’s goal is to show your teachers that you value their efforts, the lesson they are teaching, and the other students in the classroom. You can do this by participating in class, by raising your hand when you would like to speak, and by listening when a teacher or another student speaks.  There is not one person in your class that would not appreciate your efforts...guaranteed!

Goal #7:  This week’s goal may be the hardest one to complete as of yet.  Try to make it the entire day without complaining.  You and everybody around you will appreciate your effort!

Goal #8:  In middle school, EVERYBODY feels self-conscious from time to time.  This week, make it your goal to tell two people (friends or classmates) one quality you like about them.  It may seem silly, but the one compliment can go a long way.

Goal #9:  This week’s goal is a bit different than all the goals we have set thus far.  Make it your goal to tell one or more family member(s) why you love them.  Often times we take our loved ones for granted.  It is important that they know we love them and why.

Goal #10:  Everybody should have at least one person in his life that makes him feel special and many of us have many more than just one person.  Think about who makes you feel special.  Take a moment to thank this person for whatever he or she does for you.  Once again, it is very easy to take people for granted.  Let your person know just how important he or she is to you.

Fantastic ideas; thanks, Mark!  Click {here} to watch Mark's Prezi from the workshop on Integrating Character With Math that he presented in Wisconsin.


Sweet Dreams

Have you seen these adorable hand-made pillow cases?  Our character cam caught Team First leaving their handprints all over them (12 on each side!), along with their signatures once the paint had dried.  Each student went home on the last day with a meaningful memento of their first-grade year.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

photo of pillow case - class memento


Words on Wednesday

So today I'm excited because The Corner on Character has been spotted by the Savvy School Counselor and she's spotlighting my blog at her blog today. Vanessa truly has the gift of encouragement; click the button to read her kind words of affirmation and appreciation.

Do you ever look a word but read it as something else?  
Maybe it's just me, but when I first read this comic, I didn't get it.  

Posted with permission; 
click to go to Dave Coverly's cool site.

I had to ask my daughter, a TX State UIL Spelling and Vocabulary Champ, why the kid thought his parents would be suspicious.  Was it that he usually makes Fs but this time he got a D-?  If so, I'm not thinkin' it's that funny.  That's when I got the look . . . you might know it . . . the one that says, "Really, mom?" 

When she read it out loud, it made a WHOLE lot more sense. Please tell me you saw suspicious instead of auspicious, too.  I cannot be the only one whose brain plays tricks on her.  I think that's why it's SO difficult to edit my own stuff.  I'm patting myself on the back and my brain is saying, "Way to go, self, that's good stuff!" when in reality what I've just written needs to be revised and is oft-times plagued with typos and/or syntax, grammatical, or punctuation issues. 

Seriously, did anyone else see the word suspicious?


Friends (Mostly)

So I was in Wisconsin on Save Your Local Bookstore Day last week and, as we passed by this quaint little bookstore in Waukesha, I suggested we stop by and that's where I found out that WI author Barbara Joosse has another friendship book on the market . . . just look at this AdOrAbLe pair!  

Entitled Friends (Mostly), this diary-style tale chronicles the antics of Henry and Ruby, fast friends who take turns writing entries about how they feel about one another. And I can totally HEAR their sweet, little voices as they talk about being friends and then unfriends (it depends); I think your little learners will like reading about how they get along, fight, make up, and get along again. It's just so real! The one thing I will ask my students when we read it together is, "What might be a better response than 'Okay' when a friend apologizes?" This will be a perfect lead-in to practice giving and accepting apologies. It'd also make an interesting point-of-view lesson. 

There's not necessarily a storyline in this book, so use it as a fun springboard for a writing extension activity; have your students put meat on the skeleton for an interesting sequel to their escapades.


Observation or Complaint?

So while I was at my sister's home earlier this month, I was treated to a sleepover with her cat, Motor.  And I don't use the word treated lightly, because Motor typically won't give me the time of day, so when he crawled into bed with me, I considered it the cat's meow!

Click on Motor's portrait to read What Motor Knows.
After a steam and a shower, I was feeling like a queen in her castle that night, in my sister's loft, with Motor snuggled in next to me, a good night's sleep knocking on my door, until . . .  Motor started to snore.  

And not just soft, serene snoring, either.  He gurgled and gulped and sniffed and snorted.  At first, I figured he was just getting comfortable, then I thought maybe he'll stop once this bad dream he must be having passes, but, the way I remember it, Motor pretty much snored into the wee hours of the morning.  (Unfortunately, we won't have time to talk about 
how I feel about snoring in this particular post!)

Excited to find out if Motor had actually stayed up there with me, Debra's husband asked the next morning how it went.  I simply responded, "Motor Snores!"  I don't know if it was my tone or the bags under my eyes (or both) that prompted his inquiry, but it kind of took whatever wind I had left out of my sails:  
Is that an observation or a complaint?

You see, at this time last year, I was reading this book - A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen - and Rick and I had talked at length about complaining, how we felt about it, why people do it, how we've aspired to stop, and whether wearing a bracelet on your wrist to help you remember NOT to complain would really work. The idea behind the book's 21-day challenge is to put on the purple wristband, switch it to the other wrist every time you complain, and see if you can keep it on one wrist for 
a 21-day consecutive stretch.

The book made me SO much more aware of the toxicity of complaining. And, while I didn't mean to complain about Motor, necessarily, there were so many more uplifting things I could have chosen to focus on instead of making the observation that sounded an awful LOT like a complaint.  Ugh.  
I'm looking for that bracelet now. 
Anyone up for a book study? 


Life Is Like . . .

It was Forrest Gump who coined the phrase, "Life is like a box of chocolates."  And because the power of a strong comparison can help us better understand stuff, I often look for ways to incorporate similes and metaphors into my visits with students (and sometimes teachers and parents!).  I've used the relationship of the coffee filter, hot water, and coffee beans in many mediations over the years, a friendship metaphor, talking with my little ones about how hot water that's run through a filter over coffee grounds can take the bitterness out of a bean and turn it into a tasty treat. And of course, the caramel and the cream don't hurt!  Anyway, I never thought too much, however, about the type of cup from which we drink our coffee until I stumbled across this character clip from Simple Truths.  

Don't get me wrong; I do have my personal favorites because of size or feel, its message or where I got it. And I totally prefer drinking my coffee from a ceramic mug than from a styrofoam cup. But there's an even deeper significance about how Life Is Like Coffee.  

So grab your favorite mug and enJOY this inspirational clip! Then share it with your students and have them write about or discuss the prompt 
Life Is Like . . . 


Saturday Songs 3 & 3 Winners!

First things first . . .  the winners of an autographed copy of the Bucket Book of their choice . . . pulled at random from the Gruener Generator out of a happy bucket (that my daughter decorated) just like this:

Click image for info on Borgman's Feelings Poster.

Louise, Maria and Joanne!

I will be in touch so that I can mail your book; 
let the Bucket Filling begin!

If you didn't win this time, head on over to Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans because I donated another Bucket Book over there to celebrate her 250 followers.  That giveaway has now ended; congrats Christine!

And now on to today's inspirational Saturday Song
the third in this summer series:  

Did you that the L in Vitamin L stands for LOVE?  Empathy is the virtue that allows us to feel and understand what somebody else is feeling; what better way to experience empathy than to spend some time walking in their shoes.


A Project With A Purpose

Today I'm excited about a special delivery I picked up at school yesterday . . . I knew it was coming because of this email I'd received from Wisconsin after presenting up there:

Good morning, Barbara!

I just wanted to make sure that you knew a copy of Kiki's Hats (by Warren Hanson) would be arriving at your school this week. I wasn't exactly sure what address to use, so I sent it to the Westwood address on your school's website.

Once again, I loved your presentation in Jefferson last week. You amazed and inspired, and I love that I can send you this book and share a little of "me" with you. :)

Happy summer!


I'm not sure whether it filled my bucket more to KNOW it was coming or to actually find it in my box when I went there this afternoon to unpack my stuff. Just look at how bright and colorful it is!  Kiki makes these adorable hats and gives them away, just like our knitting club at my school and, although one of my knit-club volunteers had actually shared an article about the Musical version of this story a year or so ago, I just hadn't gotten around to ordering the book . . . and now I don't have to . . .  let's hear it for Random Acts of Kindness . . . thank you, Deanna, for this thoughtful gift!

I'll extend the Berry Fun Bucket Filler giveaway through this afternoon until 5 pm (central), so don't forget to leave a comment to enter!

We picked WAY too many berries . . . 


Do A Ditty & Sing A Song

Many of you know that I LOVE to seal the deal with a little ditty (my attempt at poetry!) or song at the end of each guidance lesson.  The kids know it, too, and they ask for it specifically on the rare occasion that I don't have something musical-related as their launch.  So today I'm linking up with Melissa over at Dilly Dabbles and posting a K variation of one of our signature songs.  Just look at how hard they're concentrating on getting their fingers to work and snap along with the music.  My friend Michelle up in NJ actually has her Kindies sing the original version at the link below every day to launch them into greatness!

Entitled Kids With Character and set to the music of the Addams' Family, this specific version was at the end of a respect lesson.  
(Notice how we incorporated the movements to the hand-jive during the verse):

Character counts! (snap, snap)
Character counts! (snap, snap)
Character counts! Character counts!
Character counts! (snap, snap).

makes Westwood a great place to be!
We speak and act respectfully; 
We're kids with character.

Click {here} for the lyrics to more Ditties and Songs that we use to infuse Meaningful Movement and Music.


Paying It Forward

It started with an idea to repay a debt that had been forgiven long ago, back when Mark was a starving college kid, so he wrote a letter telling his story and included a donation to return that twenty-year-old favor. 
It ended with a story featuring my brother's generosity in the Aspirus Health Foundation's annual report.
Click to enlarge and read all about it!

Don't you love their mission statement: 
Passion for excellence. Compassion for people. 
Have you ever paid someone back and ended up 
Paying It Forward in the process?


Bucket Filling Is Berry Fun!

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music! 

It's blueberry time again at Moorhead Farms, so we spent a glorious hour on Father's Day evening filling our buckets with these tasty treasures!  
Yum, yum . . . 

So today, I'm baking these delicious blueberry muffins!

It also seems like a good time to celebrate my blog's {almost} 200 cyberspace collaborators who leave bucket-filling reflections when they stop by the Corner. Bucket fillers make wherever they go BETTER because they were there! So how about a giveaway?  Let's say I give away not one, not two, but THREE Bucket Filling books.  I've got copies of Have You Filled A Bucket Today? and Growing Up With A Bucket Full of Happiness, both author-signed by my friend Carol McCloud, so if you win, you'll get to choose.

Every comment between right now and Friday (June 22) at noon 5 pm (Central)
will equal ONE entry (just make sure to leave me your contact info.) - - - -  
Are you still dancing?  

Oh, and as a freebie, here's that Blueberry Muffin recipe:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup blueberries

Mix dry ingredients; make a well in center and add eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Fold in blueberries and fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Sprinkle batter with sugar before baking for a bakery crust.
  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  

This giveaway is now closed. Check in on Saturday (June 23) to see if the Gruener Generator selected your entry. Visit Lesson Plans and Dirty Hands for another chance to win a signed copy.


Networking or Netgiving?

Today I'm excited because The Corner On Character has been selected as a Finalist in the 2012 Really Good Education Blog Awards!  (You might remember that I was a judge for the Elementary category.) I am at once honored and humbled to be among such GREAT company in this contest. Thank you to whoever sent that nomination my way. Voting starts today at 10:30 a.m. Eastern and ends Friday at noon, so feel free to click the Finalist Badge graphic on the right and cast your vote for The Corner in the "Other" category or any of the other AmAzInG Education Blog nominees. (You will have to vote for ONE blog in each category for your submission to go through.)

My brother Mark has given me some awesome books over the years, most of them signed by the author whom he's heard speak and managed to meet. The two most recent ones have really spoken to me. I love this first one because of its catchy, clever title: Networking Is A Contact Sport by Joe Sweeney. I've enjoyed learning more about networking, connecting with people, and building rewarding relationships through Mr. Sweeney's wisdom and wit.

The second book, It's Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding, has been another compelling read about relational competence. You can see here that Mark got the author to sign the book after hearing him speak in Milwaukee this spring. In section Three, entitled The Power of Netgiving, the author actually makes a distinction between networking (all about you) and netgiving (all about others):  In itself, networking isn't bad.  It's just not enough. With a paintbrush and a can of paint, you can create chaos or beauty; it all depends upon what's in your heart.  The same is true of networking. When a heart centered on others drives your actions, networking is replaced by something far, far more powerful - Netgiving.

He goes on to explain the difference as he sees it in concrete, reader-friendly terms that just made sense to me. Throughout this masterpiece, Mr. Spaulding, founder and president of Spaulding Companies, addresses relationships using a building metaphor and talking his readers through the differences between first-floor friends and penthouse people. Having read Tommy Spaulding's story makes me want try his suggestions for securing lifelong friendships and then have lunch with him one day and share with him how he influenced me. 

I have truly enjoyed this book, I thoroughly recommend it, and I thank my brother for picking up a personalized copy for me.


For Dad and For Yourself

Happy Father's Day!
Today I'm celebrating my dad (and his dad) and my husband and his step-dad, all of whom are fantastic fathers and incredible role models. I wish I had a picture with all of them in it. Did you see the article about the program in CA where they'll bus kids to see their dads who are incarcerated?  Makes me thankful for my blessings and for programs like Get On The Bus

This shot of John with two of our children is from last week's Beach Boys concert - 
FuN, fUn, FUN!

And now, today's question:  
What do you do for yourself?

I just found an inspirational blog 
(Healthy Green Kitchen) whose author Winnie shared some words of wisdom on self-compassion and kindness {here}.  
Do yourself a favor and stop by to see her GoRgEoUs scenic shots from a recent trip to a reunion at Cornell and read the simply salient suggestions from her One Simple Change series.

So here are some things that I do for myself, that refresh me and make me feel good:  I write, create in the kitchen, take long walks, chat with friends and family, knit, treat myself to an occasional pedicure, listen to music, read, mentor, forgive myself (that one's hard for me!), nap, float on my pool, pick weeds (I know, that's kind of weird but it's relaxing to me!), affirm and encourage others . . . and nap. Yep, I listed nap twice because a good power nap is magical, pure decadence for me.  In fact, I may just go outside and nap by the pool this afternoon . . . zzzzzzzzz.  Cheers to you, Dads!


Saturday Songs 2

So, if I had to pick a theme song, it would have to be Up, Up, Up by Rose Falcon. I love everything about it, especially the happy rhythm and the powerful lyrics. When life gives you lemons, get out your juicers and just TRY to be grumpy with this song blaring in the background. 
Does music affect mood? Pos.i.tive.ly. 
Turn it uP, Up, UP and enJOY the happiness!


Agate: What Good Is A Moose?

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. - Bahá'í Writings

Title: Agate: What Good Is A Moose?
Author: Joy Morgan Dey  
Illustrator: Nikki Johnson
Publisher & Date: Lake Superior Port Cities, Inc. – April 15, 2007
Suitable For:  Ages 4 and up

Opening Page:

What good is a moose?
Agate thinks to himself.
As he mopes at the edge of a lake. 
He looks like a Tinker Toy project gone wrong.
He fells like a big brown mistake.

He thinks of his friends as sparkling gems.
Beautiful, talented, bright.
Oh, how he’d love to shine like them.
Agate sighs. It just isn’t right.

Brief Synopsis:  Agate the Moose isn’t feeling very valuable when he compares himself to his friends (like Opal, Amethyst, and Garnet) who just happen to be the twelve birthstones. In fact, Agate feels “clumsy, disjointed, and loose.” But, like the jewels that are their namesake, his friends work to shed some light on Agate’s inner beauty and encourage him to let his strengths shine.
Themes:  Self esteem/worth, acceptance, respect for differences
Links To Resources:
Visit the book’s page here for Agate Activities. 
Check out the What’s Your Birthstone? page {here}.
Author interview and a sneak peek at the book on You Tube.
Read my review in the Character Educator.

Why I Like This Book: First and foremost, I love this book because my father found an author-autographed copy in a little repair shop in Green Bay; it’s so dear to me because Dad knew it had the kind of message that a counselor (and mom!) like me look for in a book. When Agate the Moose is filled with self-doubt, his beautiful friends help him shift his focus from his drab exterior to his "fabulous, knobbly, glorious, lumpity, terrific, bumpity, incredible, gangly, remarkable, splendid, magnificent, jewel" interior. Like Agate, the verse is sometimes a little awkward, but I think the message that "beauty is only skin deep" far outweighs an occasional rocky rhyme.

Since an agate is an actual rock, the author includes a page in the back entitled Agate, the Secret Jewel.  Let Agate serve as the perfect springboard for a geology lesson about rocks and gemstones. And, since everybody has a birthday, your students will love to refer to it all year long; whenever you celebrate their important day, talk about their corresponding birthstone and let them bring one for show and tell.

As a fun bonus for you, why not dust off those vintage Tinker Toys and let the kids build something unique . . . or Agate?  If you're too young to remember Tinker Toys, do yourself a favor and head out to a resale shop or garage sale NOW!

For more Picture Perfect Book Friday recommendations, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog {here} and don't forget to check back on September 7th for another school year filled with amazing PPBF reviews. Thanks, Susanna, for this incredible resource.


The Singing Policeman

 As a special surprise and a fitting grand finale to an amazing
 Patriotism, Pride and Character conference in Wisconsin, we were treated to a few songs by Daniel RodriguezAmerica's beloved tenor, to launch us from our character collaboration into our summer breaks and ultimately back into the lives of the children and families we are so fortunate to influence. Today I'm feeling grateful that I get to live in a place where we're safe and free and can enjoy music like this beautiful rendition of God Bless America.  Thank you, Daniel, for granting me permission to share your inspirational gift of song.


Guest Post - Wodney Wat

Hello.  My name is Tammy.  I live at a little place called Forever in First. I'm completely humbled and honored that Barbara asked me to hang out with you all for awhile.  

Considering I'm on summer break, I wasn't sure I had anything at my fingertips worthy of sharing.  Then I remembered something that eventually turned into this post.  Even though I've never met Barbara, I can't think of her without thinking of picture books and the power they have to change the hearts of readers, both young and old alike.  You see, I don't have a character education curriculum in my room, but I do have some special picture books.  In my opinion, put the right picture book into the hands of the right person, and the two of them can teach character better than a program ever could, so I'm going to share my absolute favorite book with you all and hopefully convince a few of you that you must have your very own copy. 

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

Meet Wodney.  Wodney Wat.  His real name is Rodney Rat, but you know how it is when you can't pronounce those silly r's.  Needless to say, Wodney's furry school companions give him quite a difficult time.  One wouldn't think poor Wodney in his shy state would ever amount to anything, but by the end of the story, he is obviously the hero of the whole tale.  Where there's a hero, there's also a villain.  That would be none other than Camilla Capybara who ends the story without a friend in the world.  I'd love to tell you more about the plot, but I'd hate to spoil all the fun.

A good picture book is like an onion.  It has several layers, and sometimes it takes several reads to get to the heart of the story.  This is one of those books that we read and reread numerous times.  With every read we peel back another layer and notice something new about the characters and ourselves.  One of my favorite discussions involves making character webs of both Wodney and Camilla.  The students suggest words that describe both characters.  When finished, this is what I write at the top of the chart...

Who do you want to be? 

It might look something like this.  (I apologize for not having a picture of the real version.  One lucky little first grader took it home as a souvenir at the end of the year.)  

"Who do you want to be?''  That question is worthy of staying on the wall until the very end of school.  The message and the characters, Wodney and Camilla, stay with us too.  Their names come up quite often.  "Ooh, that sounds like something Camilla Capybara would say."  That's sometimes all it takes, because who wants to be like Camilla Capybara?  Oh the power of a good picture book, right Barbara?

Right you are, Tammy. Thank you SO much for your thoughtful and insightful post. I am delighted that you stopped by the Corner today to share your wisdom and creativity with us!  

If you don't know Tammy's blog, do yourself a favor and hop on over to Forever in First. She's doing some wonderful work with her firsties and she's leaving Bucket-Filling footprints all over blogosphere with her kind comments and reflections.


Lessons From The Sandbox

Click image to read a review!
Today's post is a simple link to an amazing blog from last week about why it's important that we model and teach 
After you read that blog, hop over to Books That Heal Kids for a review of The Sandbox by Don Rowe for your character building.


Lorenzo's Gift

OK, so today sure I'm excited because I'm headed to my home state to present at and attend a Character Conference! I just love seeing what other character educators are doing and sharing some of our promising practices, so I know it's going to rejuvenate and invigorate me!


And now for the rest of the story. On Wednesday I promised that there was a story coming, because sometimes I wonder if the students in the earlier part of my career got ripped off. I think I can safely say that that happened to Lorenzo. This story has been one that I've needed a week to reflect on before sharing it. It's so weird; I hadn't thought about him in 22 years and this week I can't stop thinking about him. I'm not sure that I've totally digested it myself, but here goes; my son Jacob suggested the pithy title: 

Catharsis Over Queso

After much debate about where to take Jacob for Mexican food the night before he went to Germany for a few weeks, Luna's won out because it's close by and we had a church bulletin which means a ten-percent discount. Anyway, we were enjoying queso and chips while perusing the menu when this man comes to the table and asks what my name is. He explains that he's pretty sure I used to teach at FHS and goes on to say, "I think I was your worst student." Well, "that couldn't be right" I was thinking as my mind flashed instantly back to Hector (click here to remember his story). He told us that he was a 1990 graduate and that he'd caused a lot of trouble in high school, so much, in fact, that I'd kicked him out of my class and made him take Spanish from the teacher down the hall. He said his name was Lorenzo.  

As I tried to remember a Lorenzo and figure out WHY I would have possibly kicked this kid out of my class, I quickly apologize for not doing more to connect with him. He shrugs off my apology and he adds that I'd be glad to know he'd turned his life around and graduated from Texas A & M. He says he's in town visiting his mom and I introduce him to Kaitlyn and tell him that she's a student at UT.  They greet one another, and that's when he says he wants to buy our dinner to make up for how horrible he'd been. He asks John how much he thinks it'll cost and John replies that we're pretty much a $50.00 family of five. So Lorenzo puts $50 cash on the table and says again that he can still see the frustration on my face and he was sorry for all of the trouble he caused. Then, Lorenzo walked off.

I wanted to know more, to remember his story more clearly, to understand what made me do what I did. I see his mom, who was waiting for him at the cash register behind us and, when we make eye contact, she comes over to me. I tell her that I'm sorry I kicked him out of my class and that I hope I wasn't mean to him, and she smiled softly and said something like this: No, he doesn't want you to feel bad, that's not what this is about. When you walked in, he recognized you right away and he told me that you'd kicked him out of your class.  I asked him if he deserved it and he said yes. You disciplined him like we would have and I want you to know that he's a successful businessman because of teachers like you.

She was kind to imply that it was tough love, the reason I didn't let him stay in my class, and maybe it was. Or maybe I was just a young, inexperienced teacher, in over my head and out of tools to help a trouble-making teen. I feel sad that someone has believed for 22 years that he was my "worst student" and I totally wish I could change having given up on him . . .  I just cannot imagine that I thought sending a student to another class was any kind of viable or reasonable solution to his behavior challenges. 

So I've had to force myself to not get too caught up on what went wrong and focus on what went right, on the courage that it took Lorenzo to come to our table and make amends after all those years. I'm happy that he was able to go on to make better choices and do good things in his world. I feel fortunate that Lorenzo was able to forgive me for not finding a way to reach him and I am grateful to him for his generous gift of grace (especially powerful because my own children got to witness it) and some great grub. 

For the record, I find it comically coincidental that all of this happened at a Mexican restaurant
And today I know, without a doubt, that you just. never. know

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