AmAzInG Grace

Today I'm delighted to share in post #999
a little bit more about our Buddy Benches.

On the day last week that Girl Scout Troop 26283 presented them to us, 
my little Grace asked how they were going to be used. 
So I asked her how she might suggest using them.
Well, she knew from the skit that the Girl Scouts did that their first use was probably to sit there when you're lonely and a buddy will come. But as we visited, she also expressed concern that we wouldn't just sit there lazily because it's important to play at recess. Grace wanted us to use them with intention, 
on purpose. Gotta love a kid with a plan ...

So I gave her some homework. Make a list of ways that a second-grade girl like you would suggest making the best use out of these beautiful benches. Grace told me as she handed it to me today that she could have kept writing, but she didn't want to risk running out of room at the bottom and writing on her mom's table.

How much are you loving AmAzInG Grace right now?

Here's a clip of the dedication; a huge thank you to
Lisa Norwood from Norwood Photo for sharing her
video and still-shot coverage of the event!

Tomorrow, our 1000th post celebration.
Please join us.


PPBF: One Voice

Last night my husband treated me to an outing 
to hear the Houston Symphony perform back-up
for the amazingly talented Linda Eder.
If you don't know her work,
do yourself a favor and listen to her belt out
Man of LaMancha
She sang it last night. 
Sure enough, I cried.
That's not the only one that made me cry; 
so did Someone Like You
Just pierced my heart. What a gift her voice is.

Today's post {#2 in the countdown} puts us another day closer
to my 1000-posts celebration on June 1st.
And what better PPBF to showcase than 
Cindy McKinley's newest treasure One Voice.

Title: One Voice
Author: Cindy McKinley
Illustrator: Mary Gregg Byrne
Publisher: Illumination Arts
Date: July 31, 2013
Realistic Fiction
Suitable for ages: 5 and up
Themes: kindness, peace, pay it forward
Brief synopsis: On his way to start a project, a young boy in this circle story gives up his seat on the bus and creates a chain reaction that even he couldn't possibly see coming.
Opening page:  "Today's the day!" Jacob whispered to himself. While standing at the bus stop, he thought of all the places a boy could go to ask for donations. He couldn't wait to start working on his new project. When the bus arrived, it was more crowded than usual, and Jacob sat in the last empty seat.


Enjoy a Books That Heal Kids Review {here}.

Learn about the Pay It Forward experience {here}.

Read about an anonymous pay it forward in San Fran {here}.

Watch this You Tube clip and discuss.

{Note: Pay It Forward is a PG-13 film, so consider your audience.}

Challenge your students to start a pay-it-forward project
that doesn't cost a cent.
What do they have that they could give away?
What could they do to change the world?

Why I like this book:  Its message is just so simply powerful.
One small voice.
One child on a mission.
One kind thought.
One generous action.
Countless stakeholders.
And a memorial that reads: May peace prevail on earth.
A Peace Pole, to honor his dad, who's away on active duty,
serving his country. Talk about making footsteps worth following.

It reminded me of the Character Totem Pole at our sister school.

The reflection questions in the end put the
proverbial frosting on the cake.
And the author's suggestions to get involved? Priceless.

Our students got involved by making this kindness PSA.

Check out this book; you'll be delighted that you did.

Oh, and don't forget that you've got a few more days to enter
at the The Really Good Stuff blog to win a copy of 
my new release, What's Under Your Cape? {here}.


Minute Gifts

Today I'm feeling honored and humbled because Brandi Jordan over at Really Good Stuff has posted an author interview on their Teachers' Lounge blog. She is so kind to share with her readers all about my newest venture into the book business and give away a few signed copies of the my new release, so head that way to show her some love and enter to win.


Perhaps you've seen it on a poster or heard it in an inspirational talk: 
How does a child spell love? 
So as we continue to the countdown to 1000 ... 5 - 4 - 3 ...
today's focus is the gift of time.
Maybe you've seen this Simple Truth Movie about that very thing?

I've written about Father Time a few times:
Time In A Bottle
Forever Nine
Cat's in the Cradle
The Gift of Time

So this week, based on an idea from Danielle over at School Counselor blog
I decided to give each of my third graders
a little one-on-one time with a Minute Meeting, which, in some cases, turned into a Two-minute Talk. And guess who ended up getting the biggest gift? How is it that stuff like that always manages to boomerang its way back?

So here's a summary.
I took my iPad and two chairs and put them outside of the scheduled classroom. Teachers let their students come to our talk-time station in number order so I wouldn't miss anyone. The students sat down and I asked if I could have a minute of their time. They pushed the START button on my timer and we were off. 
Q1: If I asked you to describe yourself in one word, 
which word would you choose?
For some, I prompted with "She is ____________."
Q2: What's an important thing that the counselor 
at the Bales side should know about you?
For some I added: "He's the kid who _______________." 
Q3: Do you have any questions, concerns or worries 
about 4th grade next year?
Q4: What are you most excited about?
Q5: What are you going to miss the most about the Westwood side?

Their answers delighted me! Some of my faves:
A1: hardworking, caring, creative, adventurous, respectful, kind
One friend asked, "Does it have to be a pillar word?"
A2: I'm shy, I'm from a military family, I'm a helper, I'm a peacemaker. 
My absolute top pick? My name!
A3: Will the teachers be caring?
A4: new stuff to learn, new friends, the slushy machine in the cafeteria
A5: This may sound silly, but, the puppets ... awwwww!

If you're the parent or guardian of one of those beautiful third graders, thank you, thank you. What a blessing they have been to our building. I'm so glad that I got to play a small role in their development and watch them bloom and grow 
these past four years.

If you're a counselor, you might want to treat yourself to those
 Minute Meetings. 

If you're a teacher, thank you for making time every day to connect with your kids and meet not only their academic needs, but also those of the heart and soul. 
The future is brighter ... because of you!


The Gift of Love

If you logged in yesterday, you'll know that we're counting down as I move toward my 1000th post at the Corner on June 1st.
Yesterday was 5, moving on to 4 ...

And our focus today is living like we're dying
and leaving behind a legacy of love.

I got to see Kevin at Friendswood High School last week; 
he was in first grade when his mom
Jennifer lost her battle with cancer.
I wrote about her {here}.
She was as tenacious as the day was long.
And she fought with ever fiber of her being.
Her little boy is graduating next week. Kevin.
Sweet Kevin.
He gave me a firm handshake and a sly smile.
I told him that the tree we planted in his mom's honor at Westwood was growing strong. And I asked him if he remembers much about her. He told me with an enthusiastic but melancholy grin that he does.
To me, a really sad part of losing young parents is the thought
that their young children might not remember them.

When I was at Jamison, it was a dad who fighting for his life
You know what he told me he was dying for? Just one more day
with his wife, his sixth-grade daughter, and his twin boys.

Have you seen the SoulPancake series My Last Days?

Check out Ryan's story:

I was touched by Ryan's final request ... for love.
Go out and cultivate a sense of love in your community.
Make it your own, just commit to a life of love and connection!

I've also been following the life of Beautiful Sophie on Facebook.
 More love. More heartbreak.

Sophie planned a big celebration for her funeral;
the party is set for tomorrow afternoon.
Her wish? Wear something colorful. No black, please.

I can't help but wonder why sometimes we wait 
until people pass away to tell them how we feel about them.
To show them how we feel about them.
To let others know how we feel about them.
To roast and toast them.
And to make peace.

So today, inspired and moved by these stories of love and loss,
I'm going to intentionally let people in my path
know what they mean to me.
Affirm them.
Smile at them.
Tell them that they matter.
And how they make a difference.
Then I'll thank them ... for their gift of love.


The Gift of Service

Today I'm thinking about being a mom, 
probably because my firstborn turned 21 yesterday. 
What a difference a few years makes.

I called my mom yesterday and caught her en route delivering
 some strawberry-rhubarb pie and doing some visiting.
One of her stops included our childhood family physician, Dr. Dettman.
He's 96 now, and living in a nursing home.
His memory isn't always clear anymore.
He uses a wheelchair to get around.
 And after all of these years, my mom still goes to visit him.
And take him a slice of her homemade pie.
She was giddy with delight at the thought of their time together.
A retired RN, my mom clearly has the gift of service.
And she doesn't keep it hidden away.
She shares it. Every day.

But you don't have to make pie to make someone's day.

Chelsea at Moments A Day recently posted
Visit Love Is The Word for
And Virtues For Life recently posted
100 Ways To Be Kinder.
Jennifer at the Good Long Road is showcasing service in
Awesome Acts of Kindness For Kids 
With a Side Of Gratitude.
Maria Dismondy posted a list of RAKS 
Random Acts Of Kindness here.

Oh, and Jolly Time popcorn is looking for people doing good things;
nominate them at Kernels of Kindness today.

So, in honor of the modeling my mom has done for me,
I'm going to spend the week intentionally looking for ways 
to serve others.
And sharing ways that you can, too.
We'll start by giving this little loaf of bread to 
Joshua's Algebra II teacher.
So Mrs. Morris, if you're reading, breakfast is coming!

Won't this be a fun way to finish out May?
Then, on June 1st, we'll be celebrating 
1000 posts at the Corner.
Let the countdown begin ... 
Five ...  


Remembering Ray Joseph

It's Memorial Day 2014 ... a time to remember.
A time to thank.
A time to honor.
A time to hope.

It's also my daughter's 21st birthday. I cannot believe
that my little girl is officially an adult.

And while my heart celebrates with Kaitlyn,
it still aches for my friends Michael and Deborah,
whose son gave his life at Kaitlyn's age back in 2003,
fighting for freedom in Iraq.
Just after 9/11, Ray Joseph decided 
to put his college education on hold
to go and help the Iraqi children.
He wanted something better for them.

The word "accident" doesn't really tell the story ... at all ...
but I'd much rather remember how he lived than how he died.

We must always remember this incredible young soldier
and all of those like him who have given the ultimate sacrifice
so that we could enjoy today with our families and friends.
We must not forget their families either.
This heartbreaking ballad brilliantly captures what it must be like
in the wake of losing a loved one in the line of duty.
I simply cannot imagine ...

So today I'm dedicating this post with eternal gratitude
to Hutch and his family and friends.
He died a true American hero.
My hero.

An original painting by Deborah Hutchinson

Our hero.

We must find a way to make peace
so that his heroic sacrifice not be for naught.


For Goodness Sake

Today, I'm roundin' up some 
one-of-a-kind ideas!

Click graphic to go to their Inspirations page

Need some help with your spring cleaning? The Littlest Change, a 5013c nonprofit, is teaming up with thredUp to fundraise to create a win-win while you clear out your closets. Click {here} to join their group and get a bag that you can fill with unwanted clothing and ship off at no cost to you. All proceeds will go back to local communities via The Littlest Change.

Our friends over at The Letters of Gratitude have come up with a fun idea; for $5.00, less than a cup of coffee, they'll send three digital notes of gratitude to someone who has inspired you, someone you are grateful for, someone who has helped you heal, or someone who has been a good friend. There are even special notes designed for a teenagers and romantic ones designed for that special someone. What a super idea, repaying a kindness with another kindness, then watch that boomerang return ...

Jill over at Kids For Peace is already planning next year's Great Kindness Challenge. From their website:"I pledge to join together as we unite the big and small." Don't you love this? Can you imagine a world where that's the promise we all made each day? Isn't that cool?

And our friend Lisa Currie from The Ripple Kindness Project wrote this post awhile back with 8 reasons why kindness should be taught in schools. Click the cards if you want them at your school.

Need more service ideas? Visit House of Hendrix to read Gleaning Blueberries for the Homeless, Pennies of Time for Fun Summer Service Ideas, and meet the Hasbro Community Action Heroes

Kindness opportunities abound ... for goodness sake.


That's Enough!

Have you ever asked yourself when enough is really enough? 
And is there a point when enough is really too much?
Yep, that's what I woke up wondering this morning.
I think it's because of this book:

I've been on a cleaning spree and I couldn't decide about this book.
Do I keep it or donate it?
Obviously I purchased it for a reason;
I'm always very intentional when I buy a book.
So I decided to try it out on a first-grade boy who
periodically has invited himself to my office
just to check in with me and, if he gets I get lucky,
he stays long enough to read a story.

This Jules Feiffer thinker is an imaginative first-person narrative from the boy in the top left about the boy in the bottom right.
The boy across the street.
Someone he doesn't even know.
Someone he wishes he did.
Someone he envies a great deal.
And as we were reading, my friend (whom I'll call Collin 'cause that's his name) is saying things like, "Wow, that kid's greedy" and "Stuff isn't really that important, is it, Mrs. Gruener?" and "Who would really want a piranha for a pet anyway?"
In the end, however, we realize that the kid across the street
probably doesn't really have all of this stuff and that the lonely
boy probably wouldn't even want all of that stuff anyway ...
what he really wants ... in the end ... is a friend.

So Collin asks if he can take the book back to his first-grade class to see what they think. As he hands it to his teacher, I hear him tell her that "it's weird!" and ask politely if she could find some time for them to read it together because he wants to know what she and his classmates think. Of course, she does ...

Flash forward to recess. I see Collin and his classmates through the fence on the playground as I'm returning from lunch. As they invite me to jump the fence and come play, one sincere little girl asks me a question I won't quickly forget: 
What can I do about jealousy, Mrs. Gruener?  

Oh, no, have you been visited by the big green jealousy monster? I hear myself reply, to which Collin chimes in that he gets visits from that little green guy all the time when he's around his little brother. I just love that kid! Anyway, we have this brief counseling chat about being green with envy in a group of about six firsties who've gathered to watch and see if I actually will jump the fence or not (while they visit with me about jealousy) ... and I'm still thinking about it this morning.
Because of that book.
What can you do when the jealousy monster pays a visit?
When is enough ... enough?
I think that's a valid question ... 
and there's probably a really good answer
that varies person by person, day by day.
So I've created an I Quit card to try.

Download Frame/Border by Tracee Orman {here}

I'm going to complete these with students who want to
quit a behavior, thought or feeling that they've had enough of:
Feeling jealous
Boasting or bragging
Spreading rumors
Excluding others
Insert your poison {-----here-----}

It may sounds waaaaaaay too simple,
but the first step simply has to be saying,
"That's Enough!"
No more.
Cease and desist.

Make a plan together with students detailing how.
Then, encourage them do it.
With intention.
On purpose.
Every minute of every day.
Suggest posting it on the bathroom mirror
so it's a daily reminder of their goal. 
Or by their calendar so they can check off days.
Remember, only 21 days to break a bad habit
and replace it with a healthier, happier one! 
With a little help if they need it.
From a family member, a friend,
or an accountability group of critical friends.

They can do it.
And, when the behavior or feeling they've had enough of is gone,
they'll be glad they did ... 
and their stakeholders will celebrate with them.

What ideas have you used with success
to help students combat that big green jealousy monster?


PPBF: Dream

Today I'm delighted to share that one of my childhood dreams - to publish a book - is about to become a reality with the release of 
What's Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind
expected to ship next week.
My beautiful friend, the talented author Maria Dismondy,
has invited me to share my thoughts about
this writing experience at her blog today!
Click {here} to read it and to sign up for your chance to win one of three signed copies for your collection.
You can also order yours from my blog.
Thank you for sharing in my excitement.

So today's PPBF is about dreaming.

Title: DREAM - A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes
Author: Susan V. Bosak
With original illustrations by 15 internationally acclaimed artistsPublisher: TCP Press
Date: October 1, 2004
Suitable for ages: 4 and up (My thoughts? 7 and up)
Themes: dreams, goals, hope
Realistic Fiction
Brief synopsis: Journey page-by-page through this poetic reflection of a life well-lived in which dreams are dreamed and wishes become realities. 
Opening pages: 

Once, long ago when all the stars were born, I was a baby. My favorite color was yellow, the color of the sun that peeked in my window in the morning. 

When you're a baby, you're cuddled and comforted in your own cozy little world. You smile and gurgle and fuss and cry and get fed and need changing and sleep and dream. 

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
~T.S. Elliot


Find activities for the book {here}. 
Replicate this Be A Dreamer door decor.
Listen to and discuss the lyrics to the song Dream Big.
Got paper plates and yarn? Make Dream Catchers!
Enjoy Failure's A Myth by the Happy Racers:

Click this bulletin board for a review of the book 
Dream Big. Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi.

Why I like this book: This nice compilation of world-renowned illustrators beautifully enhance this poetic piece of realistic fiction about dreaming. We must encourage our students to dream big early and often, all the while sharing our stories of success as well as of failure so that they learn that sometimes we have to alter (or wait on) our dreams, but to never, ever give up.
To dream.
And to dream BIG.
To soar through the sky
by leaps and bounds.
Because dreams do come true.

Use the quotes on each page as inspiration
by discussing them in morning meeting or
using them as reflective journal entry prompts.
Ask students to share their dreams.
List them on an anchor chart labeled Our Dreams.
Invite them to start planning:
What's it going to take to get where you're hoping to go?
What will it be like when you get there?
What will you do once you've realized your dream?

Remind them that the dream starts now.

Be there to cheer them on if their momentum starts to wane.
Encourage them to track their progress.
Comfort their setbacks.
Support their successes.
Then you just might want to step out of their way ...

For today's other PPBF titles, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog;
 she's just back from an dreamy school visit and has a fun story to share.


Father's Day Footprints

With so much hustle and bustle at a school-year's end, it's easy to forget that Father's Day is just around the corner mid-June. 
So I'm guessing that dads don't get nearly as many 
teacher-inspired, kid-created gifts 
for their special day as moms might ...

At my childhood home, that wouldn't have mattered, because Dad always told us that all he wanted was good kids. 
Kids who behaved. 
Kid who believed. 
Kids who made him proud.

A lofty ideal, Dad, but okay!

Truth be told, I didn't get that then, but I do now.
Especially as my children turn into adults.
And I hope I've made footprints worth following.

One of my favorite homemade Father's Day gifts came from
our son Jacob in 1998. It's a little tattered, because he was in preK back then, but none the worse for wear. And now that he's a college kid forging his way in the world, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Yep, I pray every day that my children will make
footprints worth following like their dad does.

An early happy Father's Day to all of the dads
who do the same 
as they walk alongside their children. 


Teaching Is The Future

Have you seen Gradeable's terrific tribute to teachers? 

Teaching is ... how would you complete that?

As I wander the hallways this morning and check in on our teachers and their classrooms, my heart soars with delight.
The students have grown by leaps and bounds.
And the teachers teach on.
It's not just academics they're covering, either.
They're teaching all of the time.
Unifying with a kindness.
Validating with a nod.
Smiling with eyes that look right at a child
and say "You can do it" and "I love you"
even when I don't like how you're behaving.

A teacher gets a package of looseleaf paper each year, 
some with lines (wide and college ruled), 
some without, and,
like a paperclip, she finds a way to bond them as one
and hold them together while they write their stories.

Then that same teacher who loved and cared for those blank sheets
that she worked so hard to unify and complete
has to be courageous enough to let them go out 
into the world and apply the skills they've acquired.
To write another chapter.
And then to help others do the same.

And so it goes ... a teacher is love.
And that's a big job.

Thank you, teachers, for your investment in our future
and for providing a safe haven for our students as they write their stories.


Buddy Benches

Today we found gold at the end of the rainbow because three Buddy Benches were delivered. Tomorrow morning at our community gathering, they'll be officially presented to our school family by Girl Scout Troop 26283. What a gift! I can't wait to see the skit that the girls have come up with to help our littlest buddies understand how to use them to make a friend at recess.

Then, my heart nearly burst in peace class when a first-grade girl explained character to Junior The Giraffe puppet like this:
First, you learn it.
Then you have it.
Then you have to use it.

I don't know many 6-year-olds who can explain
the three domains of character education so eloquently.
Can you say Day Maker???

To top it all off, I received a surprise care package in the mail
from my friends in Brazosport ISD:

It included this Day At The Beach
which I can totally feel myself enjoying right now.

Keep calm and carry on;
our slide into summer is ever-so-close.

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