11.30.2012

PPBF: The Forgiveness Garden

My pick for today's PPBF is a predictable yet poignant tale that resembles the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys and/or the Capulets and the Montagues, take your pick. The added bonus is the garden of forgiveness idea.

Title: The Forgiveness Garden
Author: Lauren Thompson
Illustrator: Christy Hale
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Date:  October 30, 2012
Suitable for ages: 4 and up
Themes: feelings, hatred, forgiveness, peace
Brief synopsis: A boy threw a rock across a stream and hit a girl. Their families had hated one another for years and this act was fuel for their fire. As the villagers plot their revenge, what if the girl decides not to get revenge?
Opening page: There was a valley, and through the valley ran a stream. The village of Vayam stood on one side, and the village of Gamte stood on the other. 

There was no peace in the valley. For the two villages had hated each other for a long, long time.

Resources:
Flip through the pages of the book at the MacMillan website {here}
Discover what Wikipedia says about The Garden of Forgiveness {here}
Read a review at the New York Journal of Books site {here}

Why I like this book: 
1.  The realism. From the book cover:  A long time ago and far away - although it could be here, and it could be now - a boy threw a stone and injured a girl.  Students can compare this tale of two feuding families to a real-life situation from their own lives, from current-day experiences, or from something they've seen on television or in the movies.
2.  A built-in cultural lesson. The names in the story are from the Sanskrit language. Encourage your students to research this ancient language and the associated writings. Add some geography and look up Lebanon on a map.
3. A chance to talk about the gift of forgiveness, not only for the person who receives the forgiveness but for one who forgives.  
4. The garden. Discuss not just the metaphor for a forgiveness garden, but also the possibility and potential peace that might come with planting a real Garden of Forgiveness like the one in Beirut, Lebanon.
5.  The feelings. Angry words flew across the stream. Then stones. Talk with your students about better ways to manage anger than throwing stones or getting revenge. 
6. Its open-endedness. What do you think they said? I used the book in a counseling session with a second grader who's at odds with her mom, and when she answered that question, it sounded just like she'd put herself into the ending. (And for the record, she predicted that the boy and girl would get married on page two ....  love it!) I predict it'll be a great springboard for a discussion or an essay.


Oh, and click the Kindness Countdown calendar below to go to my guest post at The Teachers Lounge and get an idea to help kids work on making kindness a habit this month.



11.29.2012

Unrivaled Therapy



Sadie, a trained reading dog, visited our school this week and she was a huge hit! 


A keeshond from Holland, this breed is especially friendly with children and Sadie is no exception. She and her best friend Phil Johnson helped with my small group counseling classes. After hearing all about Sadie and her job visiting hospitals to cheer people up and reading with third graders to help melt anxiety away, we read Good News Nelson, Jodi Moore's new headliner about caring, responsibility, and friendship.

Before we dismissed, we shared our good news in song using the tune of Frere Jacques/Are You Sleeping? with Where is Thumbkin? hand movements.

Hands behind your back:  
Nelson's got news, Nelson's got news.
Right thumb up and out in front: Such good news!
Left thumb up and out in front: Such good news!
Nelson showed he cared and 
ended up with two new friends.
Right thumb slides back behind your back: That's good news!
Left thumb follows suit: Such good news!

Then, we took turns:

Who's got news? Who's got news?
Such good news, such good news!
We had a great Thanksgiving break and now we're back at school.
That's good news; such good news!

Then as it was a specific student's turn, we added their name and sang the first two lines together, then stopped singing and let him/her fill in their good news, ending with a choral that's good news! . . . or great news! . . . awesome news! . . . delicious news! . . . we switched it up just to keep it fresh. Here's an example:

Drew's got news, Drew's got news
Such good news! Such good new!
My teacher came to my house and saw our decorations.
That's fun news! Such fun news!

Singing about our good news with one another and loving on Sadie -- that's unrivaled therapy.

If you want to share your good news about little people doing big things, visit Jodi's new blog about being KIND: Kids Inspiring New Directions.



11.28.2012

Walk The Talk

Kaitlyn made this book for my birthday as she was finishing up the fifth grade and it's still one of my favorites

Here I am being friendly to the kids at my school.
The picture strip slides through the window as the pages flip to tell a story about, well, me. 

When I saw that Kaitlyn wrote 
Character Counts With My Mom!!
I knew that she expected me to not only talk the talk but to walk the talk. 
No pressure . . . 

Here I am, fussing because they're not listening.
It's been twelve years since my first Character Development Seminar and I'm excited to share that I've been invited to join the Character Counts! National Faculty so I'm headed to CC! headquarters to get more training. Such an honor to spread the good word and keep the passion for 
character education alive.


So I flew west to LA last night . . . 


and this is why I always choose a window seat!


God's canvas . . . 

What's got you on fire this week?


11.27.2012

The Pursuit Of Perfection

So I'm watching television and a Lexus commercial catches my attention because of the slogan for its campaign: The pursuit of perfection. Maybe that's a good goal, for a car company, but it's something that'll wreak havoc with people, pursuing perfection. And am I speaking from experience? Sure am. I like to say that I'm a recovering perfectionist, and in a way, it's true that I continue to work on it, but it's something that I still struggle with pretty routinely, trying to be a supermom, superwife, supercounselor, superfriend, supersibling... and do it all. Perfectly.

It's been six years since I wrote this article 
for Daughters magazine, and I have taken my suggestions to heart and put many of them into practice, really I have. All I'm saying is that it's still a challenge, every day. Might always be. Admitting and accepting it are really good first steps, right?

If you want my go-to resources for when parents stop by and need help with this all-too-familiar issue, check out these books:




11.26.2012

Crockpot Monday

Who's ready for a SOUPer Cyber Monday? I'm not sure about the cyber part, but I do know that after a week off, I am going to be super happy for this pot of deliciousness when I get home from work today!


It's a taco soup recipe, loosely based on one my friend Vera shared a few years back. I'm going to serve it with tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. Yum, yum.

Taco Soup

4 cans of beans (I use black, chili, pinto, kidney)
1 can corn
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can mild chili peppers
1 can tomato soup
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 bottle or can of beer (or chicken broth)
Chicken breasts or tenders

Combine all of the ingredients and stir well before adding chicken pieces. Let cook in crock pot five hours, then remove chicken and shred. Cook a bit longer, then serve with chips, cheese, sour cream and guacamole as desired. ¡OlĂ©!

11.25.2012

Promoting Wellness

 I'm talking about self-care at Making It As A Middle School Teacher today, so click her cute graphic below to hop on over there for some tips on making wellness a priority.


I took yesterday off so that we could spend some quality family time hiking through Pedernales State Park in the Texas Hill Country . . . 
talk about self-care . . . just look at how relaxed we are!


What will you do to promote wellness today?

11.23.2012

PPBF: The Twelve Gifts of Birth

Today's PPBF will be a valued gift for your inspirational collection.

Title:  The Twelve Gifts of Birth
Author:  Charlene Costanzo
Photography: Jill Reger
Illustrator: Wendy Wassink Ackison
Publisher: Featherfew
Date: 1999
Suitable for all ages
Themes: values, traits, inspiration, self-esteem
Opening pages:  Once upon a time, a long time ago, when princes and princesses live in faraway kingdoms, royal children were given twelve special gifts when they were born. You may have heard the stories. Twelve wise women of the kingdom, or fairy godmothers as they were often called, traveled swiftly to the castle whenever a new price or princess came into the world. Each fairy godmother pronounced a noble gift upon the royal baby. 

As time went on, the wise women came to understand that the twelve royal gifts of birth belong to every child, born anywhere at anytime. They yearned to proclaim the gifts to all children, but the customs of the land did not allow that.

Simple synopsis:  This royal treasure encourages parents and caregivers to nurture the gifts with which their children are blessed at birth.

Resources:  The Twelve Gifts website {here}
Browse inside the book at HarperCollins {here}
You Tube Music Video: 
The Twelve Gifts of Birth - We All Have Gifts To Share





Why I like this book: I received a copy of this book when our third child, Joshua, was born and I've had the Twelve Gifts poster hanging in my office ever since. Every time I read it, I'm moved by its simplicity and beauty. It shares a positively powerful message of hope and healing

To get students thinking about their strengths, follow up by asking:  
How are you a gift to {your school, your family, your community, your world}? 

Then encourage them to affirm one another with notes that read: You are a gift to {me} because _________. We did this with our faculty one year and it brought great joy to give and receive these little notes. 

Finally, find somewhere to publicly post them. Here's a bulletin board that hangs in our character cafe to visibly share our gifts and keep them alive.





11.22.2012

The Music In Me

Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My Great Aunt Norma taught me to appreciate music starting in preschool by bribing me with a reel-to-reel recorder like this:




It didn't matter whether I was singing or playing piano, when she deemed my performance worthy, she'd press record and the machine would listen in and record me. Then she'd moved the lever to rewind and play it back for us. It intrigued me and inspired me to get better and better. 

So today I'm feeling thankful for the music in me. And for Aunt Norma, who gave me that love for music along with her century-old 
Upright Grand.

And now, with today's technology, I was able to use the flip cam to catch Joshua's piano practice, played on that same musical instrument I learned to play on years ago under Aunt Norma's care in her living room. I especially love that it has a fourth pedal to give it that special harpsichord sound. 

video

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!


11.21.2012

Haunted Yet Hopeful

The poem entitled I Am (written by Laura for the Beat Bullying campaign in the UK) haunts me in a way that no recent writing has; it poignantly drives home the importance of creating safe schools where everybody belongs, where everybody is cared for and loved, where everybody feels valued and valuable.  
A place where everybody experiences respect and joy
Click {here} to see the You Tube film clip version. 

But this next clip gives me hope. Check out this FlashMob collaboration between Churchill Secondary and David Lloyd George Elementary in Canada as they celebrate Acceptance:



These two clips side by side would make a great 
compare and contrast essay prompt or discussion starter, don't you think?


11.20.2012

Thankful For A Good Samaritan

I met a real-life Good Samaritan on Saturday and I can't stop thinking about her. It's actually pretty random how it came to be. She saw the article in the Houston Chronicle last month about our son Jacob, and the part about him wanting to continue his studies in German struck a chord with her. So she sat down and wrote him a letter, first to congratulate him for being such a diligent student, and then to offer him some of the books from the estate of a neighbor who'd immigrated from Germany. She mailed it to the high school and it was delivered to Jacob . . . you guessed it . . . in his German class. Such a heartwarming gesture from a total stranger and such a generous offer for her to make.

So we went over to the house where the books have been collecting dust on a shelf since her neighbor passed away three years ago, and I got to visit with that Good Samaritan while Jacob browsed through the 
foreign-language treasure trove.


They weren't necessarily even friends, she and her neighbor, but when that neighbor needed her, this Good Samaritan was there for her. And when that neighbor could no longer care for herself, the Good Samaritan helped care for her. And now, three years later, she's still working to get some things sold and settle the estate so that the money that's left gets dispersed to the proper charities to honor her neighbor's memory. 

And when I inquired as to why she was willing to do all of this for a neighbor who wasn't even particularly friendly toward her, she said that the story of the Good Samaritan replayed in her heart and that she just couldn't pass by someone in need without lending a hand. 
It's probably that same tug at her heart that made her reach out to a teenager in the newspaper and send him a letter offering him some 
German books to further his studies.

Today I'm thankful to have met that real-life Good Samaritan!





11.19.2012

Cookies With The Counselor

In an effort to put the fun into fundraising, our PTO encourages us to donate teacher treats to our school auction. These treats can include things like grade-level movie nights or pizza parties, guitar lessons with the music teacher, canoeing with the AP, tuck-in-time with the administrators. 

One of my contributions at last year's auction was actually in partnership with author Maria Dismondy because she donated an autographed-copy of her book Pink Tiara Cookies for Three and a tiara cookie cutter so I donated a cookie-baking session. We scheduled it for last Sunday; just look at 
how much fun we had!

We rolled out the cookie dough.

We cut out the cookies.

We baked the cookies.

We frosted and decorated the
Pink Tiaras.



We chatted with Maria up in Michigan via Skype!


We read Maria's Pink Tiara Cookies story.

And the girls all got a Pink Tiara stocking cap -
aren't they adorable?
 Each girl left with a tray of cookies to share and a copy of my grandmother's Sour Cream Sugar Cookie recipe. 
Maria wrote about our Skype visit at her blog {here}.
I'm not even sure how much money the outing brought in for the school, but I will tell you that our time together was priceless!


11.18.2012

Anchors-A-Plenty

I took the character cam out on a field trip and 
look at all of the engaging anchor charts we spotted:








 Anchor charts make me happy!


11.17.2012

Blessings In A Bottle

So our nurse has been giving me these little canisters for over a year now, and I'm getting quite a collection. I've used them before with my anger management classes because they're excellent for popping the top to let off steam, but other than that, they've just been kind of collecting dust . . . 
until now. Enter my newest idea, the Blessings Bottle.


Students decorated the outside of their bottles, 
then wrote uplifting messages meant to cheer.


They decorated the messages to pretty them up, 
then rolled them up and 
tucked them away in the bottles.


Their mission?  To watch for someone in need, 
then bless them with a smile
and a secret message from their Blessings Bottle.


The best part was watching what they got when they gave!


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