4.29.2014

Three Things This Tuesday

Today I'm delighted because I put the finishing touches on my final bulletin board for the year. I find it so exhilarating to create something in my mind
 and then bring it to life visually on a big board. 


I put this fun, brilliantly-colored picture of some superheroes under the Character Cape, for those literal learners who'll actually lift it up to look. 
The limited-edition, reversible capes are on sale now for $25.00; leave me a comment if you'd like to reserve one before they're gone.


I'm also excited because The Corner on Character was included on this AmAzInG and comprehensive list of counseling resources at Masters In Counseling online. It's quite an honor to be recognized in such great company.


Finally, I'm so thankful to have such a great job. This afternoon a third-grade girl stopped by to ask me a question. She prefaced it with another query, wondering: Does my question have to be about character? 
I was tempted with something like ... What else is there?, 
but decided against a rhetorical response.
I just love visiting with kids!

Tomorrow we'll be hosting nine educators from down the road in Brazosport ISD and sharing a little bit about our character framework and philosophy. As I was preparing, I came across this note that a student wrote years ago when I first started thirteen years ago at Westwood:


We created a thousand of these school-wide {each one unique, of course} during guidance peace class and put them on delivery boxes at local pizza parlors to send our character message out into the community. Imagine getting this cheery note on your pepperoni pizza when you order out tonight.

Love one another and be happy ...





4.28.2014

Fly A Little Higher Blog Tour

If you've been a reader for at least a year, you'll undoubtedly remember my Invincible post from last May that featured Zach Sobiech, a young man who was courageously facing and publicly sharing his journey as he battled cancer.

We laughed with him and cried with him as he sang his beautiful ballad, Clouds, which has now touched the hearts of over 10 million people worldwide.


Today's post is part of the Fly a Little Higher Blog Tour to raise awareness 
and give hope to those with cancer. 
To learn more and join us, click {here}.

As such,  we were asked to reflect on one of a few different prompts, and I've chosen to share how a song has helped me through a difficult time.

As many of you know, I've spent the last fifteen months in recovery from a scary, life-threatening head-on collision. One of the big challenges for me was getting over the hurdle that it happened at the hand of a driver under the influence, which labeled me a crime victim of an intoxication assault. It was really hard to reconcile that the fear, emptiness and anxiety I was living with came from 
something so senseless.
Something avoidable. 
Something preventable. 
Something criminal.

I was broken and bruised, literally and figuratively. I had to slow down by necessity. It was clear that I had some work to do, as many of the injuries were physical. I had to work to bend my knee again. And I learned perseverance. I had to teach my ankle to rotate again. I learned to push through pain. 
I had to rebuild the muscles in my wrist. 
And I learned never to take a wrist rotation or grip strength 
for granted again.

For three months, my friends were on hand to give me rides to countless doctor appointments. And I learned dependence, gratitude, and humility.

The injuries were also emotional. Those are trickier, because you can't see them. I had to resign to leave the school year early and I learned first hand about the importance of self-care. I had to attend trauma therapy and I learned to call on my therapeutic resources. When that wasn't enough, my doctor decided I should try medicine to help me manage the hyper-vigilance, panic, and anxiety,
all symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 
And I learned to swallow my pride along with that pill.
I'd been forced to take off my rose-colored glasses, 
but I wasn't willing to let go of my joy. 

And I learned to lean on my Lord. Because through it all, He carried me. And then He sent me a Stephen Curtis Chapman song through my friend Carol. She'd gotten tickets to his Glorious Unfolding concert for her birthday, and she took me along. I just love how God uses people like that to do His work. 
Anyway, the lyrics pierced my heart. 



Lay your head down tonight,
Take a rest from the fight.
Don't try to figure it out ...
Just listen to what I'm whispering to your heart.
'Cause I know this is not
anything like you thought
the story of your life was gonna be.
And it feels like the end
has started closing in on you,
but it's just not true.
There's so much of the story
that's still yet to unfold.

I've listened to that song over and over since I first heard it live last September and it truly helped me turn a corner in my healing.

As she's traveled through her unimaginable grief, Zach's mom Laura has written this inspirational account - Fly A Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a BIG Way. The pain of his death at such a young age must be unbearable. And yet, she's found a way to give God the glory ... 
and fly just a little higher.
 Because of her son and his legacy, 
for herself and her family. 
Grab your copy {here}.


Click the graphic to watch the book's trailer.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your son's story with us and for this opportunity to share a song that has moved me in ways I never thought possible. I hope that you, too, can draw strength from the message behind The Glorious Unfolding. 





4.26.2014

Climate Changers 7

What a week it has been! State testing is behind us for another year {yay!}, my intern officially finished up her hours with me {insert sad face for us but happy face for her!}, and my workshop with the Leadership Academy went really well.

To top it all off, John took me out for an early fried shrimp dinner, where, as an unexpected bonus, I saw my longtime friend Audrey and her family, before he and Joshua headed out to bridge nearby and brought home this bounty. 


Wild dewberries for days. I really wanted to put on my PJs and crawl under the covers while they were on their reconnaissance mission, but, I also knew that if they were successful, John would really want some dewberry pie, so I put bedtime on the back burner for a bit (going to bed at 7 pm is overrated anyway!) and made a pie crust in preparation for this deliciousness.


Happy Saturday to us, right? Of course if you're in the area and you're reading this, we'll share. Let me know you're coming and I'll whip up the cream.

And now that I've whet your appetite, on to today's Climate Changer. I've chosen another person whom I've yet to meet in real life, so we don't have any pictures of us together that I can share, nor can I say that she lights up a room when she enters {though I suspect she does!}. What I can do is invite you to her Pinterest page {here} or her One Great Mom blog {here}, her Mama Teaches homeschooling blog {here} or her Quick Kids Crafts collaborative {here}.

But you're most likely familiar with this week's Climate Changer, the brilliant Brandi Jordan, from the Teachers' Lounge blog at Really Good Stuff, possibly because I interviewed her for a radio spot two springtimes ago.

New Education Internet Radio with TeachingBlogAddict on BlogTalkRadio


Just listen to her velvety voice and you'll feel her inspirational attitude. It was rainy and miserable on that February day that we talked, but her response? 
"It's okay." Climate Changers know that Mother Nature's weather outside isn't as important as the warmth they generate inside.

Among the myriad of positive virtues I appreciate about her, Brandi has the gift of encouragement. She was going through some huge knee surgery issues of her own last year during my recovery, but it didn't stop her from checking in on me periodically and sending love, affirmations, smiles and prayers my way. And despite my injuries, her heartfelt happiness had me doing a little dance every time her name popped up in my inbox. And now that we're both well on our way to recovery and restoration, she's still every bit as cheery and upbeat in our occasional correspondence. And my heart still dances every time we slow down long enough to chat and connect.

Brandi is a wife, a daughter, a mom, a multi-tasker, a teacher, and author and a friend who speaks kindly, cares deeply, and loves generously. I can't wait until we meet in person one day. 

Thank you, Brandi, for being a Climate Changer in my world.





4.25.2014

PPBF: The Orange Shoes

Today's PPBF just begs us to walk in someone else's shoes, 
if only for a spell.


Title: The Orange Shoes
Author: Trisha Hakes Noble
Illustrator: Doris Ettlinger
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Date: September 1, 2007
Suitable for: ages 6 and up (grades 1-4)
Fiction
Themes: poverty, creativity, empathy
Brief synopsis: Delly's class will be having a Shoebox Social soon, but will this child who doesn't even wear shoes until October be able to participate?

Resources:  Publisher's Activities {here}
Writing For Kids blog review {here}
More info about the author and book {here}
Empathy in a (Shoe) Box {here}

Why I like this book:  

Remember Nellie, the spoiled rich girl on the 1970's hit show Little House on the Prairie? Well, she's met her match in Prudy, the mean girl who generates a lot of conflict in this treasure. Fortunately for its reader, this story has a life-like quality that will easily lend itself to a discussion about respecting differences, in particular affluence versus poverty.

Meet Delly. She walks barefoot to school because her family cannot afford new shoes, but the optimist in her doesn't really fret about it, because she loves "the feel of our dirt road under my feet; the sandy places and the dried mud places and the smooth places after the road scraper's gone through." Delly is admittedly happy going barefoot until Prudy weighs in with comments that are ugly and disrespectful. When the teacher announces a Shoebox Social to raise funds for art supplies at the school, Delly worries that she doesn't have a shoebox to decorate, much less new shoes for the social, but her Father surprises her with some beautiful new orange shoes. Along comes Prudy, ready to rain on Delly's parade, but how far will she go to ruin the Social for Delly? Because it sparked a fun childhood memory of our 4H-sponsored Box Socials, The Orange Shoes caught my eye. Because Prudy is such a true-to-life character and Delly is such a wonderful problem-solver, it kept my attention. It's kind of lengthy as a read-aloud, but it's well worth your time, so plan ahead and break it down into reasonable chunks if you need to.

You can use this book when you're discussing rural versus urban life. Make a T-chart to note the differences. You can also use it when you talk about socio-economic issues and class. Make a H-Map, a Venn diagram, or a Double Bubble graphic organizer as students observe the similarities and then differences between affluence (Prudy) and poverty (Delly). What things, if any, overlap? Students could write an editorial about which way of life is more desirable. Finally, go back to Prudy. Have students make a list of the different ways that she showed disrespect to Delly. How did the other students react to Prudy's behavior? How is Prudy's behavior like that of a bully? Did anyone ask her to stop? Why or why not? Ask students if they would have done anything differently at school had they been Prudy? Delly? The teacher?

The ultimate enrichment activity after reading this tale would be to hold a Shoebox Social. Students decorate a Shoebox, then make a lunch that they pack into it. Use this activity as a mixer so students can get to know one another better. Or host it just for fun during lunch one day. Let students help you figure out a creative way for the boxes to change hands. A Shoebox Social can also be used as a service project; you could auction off the boxes, and then take them (and the money they brought) to a local Shelter for donation. Call ahead first, of course, so that you know if they accept food donations and what, if any, dietary restrictions there might be.

Tomorrow we're hosting a Kids Clothing Kids clothes swap,
another reason I've chosen this gem today.
I'm so thankful for our Good News Club's initiative
and I can't wait to see how many kids-in-need we'll outfit!








4.23.2014

Seeds Of Greatness

I love this because it's clever and it's comprehensive.


Purpose, presence, promptness, preparation and perseverance.
Squash gossip, indifference, criticism, negativism.

Lettuce: Be true to ourselves,
be loyal and unselfish,
be faithful to our purpose.

Turnips: Turn up your enthusiasm,
conviction and determination. 

How do you grow seeds of greatness in the garden of your mind?





What A Teacher Wants

I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; one of my favorite things to do is outreach and training. That's why I'm excited about tomorrow evening, a chance to talk school climate with 30 aspiring administrators and six principals.

Source: The Whole Child Blog - click graphic for post

So ... what does a teacher want his/her principal to do
that'll help create a positive school climate and keep morale up?

Since nothing happens in isolation, I decided to take that question to a group of teachers whom I respect and here's what they said:

*Be in the classroom, getting to know students and connecting with us.
*Make room for a Brag Board so we can appreciate one another.
*Show gratitude: A simple "thank you" goes a long way.
*Put random notes of encouragement in our box.
*Back us up with parents; we need your support.
*Affirm us when you catch us doing something good.
*Keep us in the loop with ongoing and open communication.
*Look for positive things to share after an observation.
*Engage us in fun gatherings to bond us as a staff.
*Trust our competence and value our opinion.
*Give us freedom to try new things.
*Treat us to frequent jeans days!
*Know that we'll choose wisely.
*Believe in our judgement.
*Be kid-centered.
*Ask for our input.
*Give us early-release coupons.
*Surprise us and cover our duty now and again.
-One principal gives out a KitKat candy bar with her "Give Me A Break" duty-free time treat.

How much fun will this riveting game of Jeopardy be?




Michelle over at Teach 1-2-3 shared this post. 
And Rachel from Minds in Bloom sent along these ideas.
A few other links I'll share about positive school climate include:



What are your principal's promising practices
to create a climate of caring and a culture of character?





4.22.2014

Testing, Testing

Today I'm excited to wish my Father a happy birthday.
Birthday blessings, Dad!

I'd also like to wish you a happy Earth Day.
Click {here} for some creative ideas for being kind 
to the earth from my friend Jennifer at All Done Monkey.

I'll be spending the day monitoring
our state-mandated STAAR testing.
{I know, it's misspelled. Weird, right?}


I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that we could give our shining third-graders each a stress star (cut from a pool noodle) to celebrate successfully making it to - and crossing! - the finish line of their first official state testing session.

I figured we could attach a note that looks something like this:

Squeeze Me - I'm A
Smart Student,
           Trustworthy Test-Taker,
  And A                    
       Responsible Reader!

Sometimes the thought of testing
eight-year-olds keeps me awake at night.

Does your school do anything special
to help students skate through the rigor
of your state assessments?
How about to celebrate Earth Day?




4.20.2014

Losing To Gain

On a list of things we could do to show kindnessthe suggestion to give away something that you really like jumped out at me. 
Just give it away. 
To someone else. 
So you no longer have it. 
And they do.

came an opportunity for me to try the suggestion out.
A cyberspace colleague was collecting things that she would be delivering to a family whose loved one battling cancer is anticipating an extended post-op recovery time.
Food, mostly, I think.
And items to fill Easter eggs.
So I sent off a Pappa's Gift Card I'd been waiting to use.
And it felt so amazing to share.


Now, I'm not saying it was a sacrifice, really, though that card would have meant a really nice dinner for John and me, for sure. But I remember what a blessing it was to have dinner delivered when that wreck slowed me way down and, when I picture the relief it will bring to someone whose needs are greater, much greater, than ours right now, I'm filled with a beautiful peace and joy to have been able to pass it on, 
to pay it forward.

Mitch Albom's thought reminds me of the sacrifice bunt in softball. I used to love to just swing away as pitches crossed the plate, so I was content never learning how to bunt. But there is typically a batter on a team's roster whose job it will be to put down a bunt perfectly enough to force the defense to make a play at first, whereby allowing the runner at second to advance.
She'll be out, but the team will be a base closer to scoring.
So sacrificing something isn't really about losing at all, 
but rather about gaining.
Sometimes it's personal.
Sometimes it's for the team.
Sometimes it's for a stranger.
It could even be for {gasp} someone you don't like very much.

'Cause when all is said and done,
we're called to love one another,
to help one another,
to encourage one another,
to serve one another,
to be a light in someone's darkness,
for the greater good.

What would you be willing to part with 
in order to carry out a kindness this week?





4.19.2014

Climate Changers 6

Happy Easter!
I woke up to some beautiful blooms inside and outside my window.
 I just love my Easter foliage!


I also woke up wondering who today's Climate Changer would be.
 You see, the more I look for Climate Changers, 
the more Climate Changers I realize I'm blessed with in my world. 

Since I spent a lot of time with high schoolers at my former stomping ground this week, I've selected one of Friendswood High School's finest teachers, Melissa Victorick. Kaitlyn and Joshua both had the privilege of being under her mentorship in Professional Communications (Speech) class and I've had the opportunity to get to know her well through our Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL) program, a course she's taught the last six years.

Mrs. Victorick is the kind of teacher that every child deserves.
 She's pleasant, warm and welcoming. 
She's firm but fair. 
And she's fun to be around. 
It's likely that the poster with this thought was printed 
with Melissa in mind: 
People may not remember what you did or said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

This is a teacher, mentor, coach, guide, and friend who is always giving. So one day a few weeks back, we wanted to give back. Joshua took a little loaf of our zucchini bread to her and just a few class periods later, this note was delivered to him:


He said that at first he thought he might be in trouble because he couldn't understand why there was a note being delivered to him.
 {Kind of tells you how rare this is, right?} 
But then he opened it up and her thoughtfulness made him feel so special. A thank-you note for a thank-you treat ... who does that?
And kind affirmations to boot.
Melissa Victorick clearly has the gift of encouragement.
I cherish my every interaction with her and look forward to the next one as I reluctantly move away from our time together.
She's thoughtful,
trustworthy,
generous and 
gregarious.
And that's why she's this week's Climate Changer.

May there always be a Mrs. Victorick available
for tomorrow's leaders to lean on and go to
for advice or an embrace,
loving kindness or mentorship,
some encouragement,
some compassion,
some understanding,
and limitless unconditional love.

Thank you, Melissa, for being somebunny special 
{I couldn't resist!} in my children's lives 
and a Climate Changer in mine.






4.17.2014

Taking The Wheel

This week has been an emotionally-loaded one for me. 
In a very healing, therapeutic way.
I spent the last two days at Friendswood High School helping with Shattered Dreams. I've been on hand all four times they've done this drinking-and-driving prevention program to read the obituaries of the living dead who are pulled from classrooms to represent drunk-driving fatality stats on any given day. Four years ago, I also participated as the mom of one of the mock-car-crash victims. 
It was intense, to be sure.

Scene from the mock car crash - Friendswood High School 2014
Click {here} to experience the 2012 Shattered Dreams production. That one was difficult for me because I had to read the obituary of my son's girlfriend as she was removed from the junior English class they were both in together. Tears filled my eyes as I imagined what it must be like for Jacob to sit there and hear me read about her life and death.

This year, not only was I there as a counselor, but I was also there as the victim of an intoxication assault. First, I was asked to speak at the parents' meeting. Then I was invited to address the participating students at their all-night retreat. Yesterday, I was approached about speaking to the thousand juniors and seniors at today's mock Memorial Service celebrating the lives of those two who passed away in the mock crash in front of school yesterday.
 Of course I said yes to all three opportunities.

Using a slideshow of the pictures that my husband took at the junk yard when he went to retrieve my personal effects from our totaled vehicle, I started by inviting participants to take the wheel of the car that I was driving when 
I was hit head-on 15 months ago.



Then I shared my story from the wreck ... 
the sights, 
the sounds, 
the smells,
the sensations ...


... to recovery.
I talked about stakeholders and how that,
even though this wasn't a fatality collision,
my life was forever changed for me and my family that day.

And, like the splintered glass of that shatter-proof windshield,



there were a lot of broken shards to try to
piece {and peace} back together.
With ortho appointments.
Physical therapy.
Treating doctor visits.
Trauma counseling.
Anxiety meds and more.

And I ended with how it was 
friends,
family, 
gratitude and God 
that kept me going,
even when the going was grueling.



Some drunk-driving victims aren't as fortunate.
They die or they're left paralyzed.
Lives needlessly lost,
negatively impacted,
and forever changed. 

My hope is that this experience might help deter
someone from taking the wheel and 
driving under the influence ... or 
from making the mistake of
jumping into a car with someone who is.
I encouraged them to plan ahead,
to find a designated driver {or be one!},
to sharpen their refusal skills 
in the event that they'd rather not drink at all
and to drink responsibly once they're of age.

I reminded them that every day they get a choice.
They can do something helpful or something hurtful.
And I encouraged them to commit to helping someone
who might be impaired from making one of those
life-changing mistakes from which they won't get a do over.
Because nothing happens in isolation.
And the effects of our choices ripple out and back.
Every day.






4.15.2014

Loving Your Tax Deduction(s)

What a day! It started bright and early when I picked up the Jo-2-Go from Dunn Bros to serve with banana bread and blueberry bread at our 7 am Coffee Chat.


Designed with dads in mind, the workshop objective was to affirm them and reiterate the importance and influence of their presence in the lives of their most valuable tax deductions, their children
I was so proud of Krystle for her planning and prep; 
here are adaptations of some of the slides that she shared.
Simply click them to go to their source.






Our Assistant Principal, Lee Whitlock, helped out with some real talk, dad-to-dad. Some points he made include: We have the privilege to influence our children for a little while, sometimes subtly, intentionally or unintentionally, for the positive or for the negative. We do this by how we speak, how we spend our money, how we respond to our spouse, the respect we show for authority, how we treat others. Our underlings are always watching; the smallest deed never goes unnoticed. Research indicates that parental behavior rather than their attitudes or words was the biggest contributor to their children's actions. Children whose parents smoke, for example, are twice as likely to smoke. Therefore, there is a strong chance that our children will grow up to do what we do. We must be the parents that we want our children to be. Every day. Now that's an important investment that'll pay huge dividends, don't you think?

He then shared his family's cell-phone contract. 
Click {here} for a copy as well as for our workshop handout.

We launched with this fun Dad's Life clip.

What's your most promising parenting practice?






4.14.2014

The Best

Today I'm excited because my friend was just awarded Montana's School Counselor of the Year. You may remember her from several guests posts she's written, most notably the ever-popular Empathy in a (Shoe) BoxHer name is Tanya Kirschman and I feel blessed by her friendship even though we've yet to meet in person.

When I was injured in a car collision last year, she sent a sweet note and some treats to cheer me. At holiday-time, she sent a JOY statuette. And last week, she sent me a book, 
just because.



And it's not just because she sends me stuff.
Over the years I've received notes of affirmation, just because.
She prays for me and her emails are always Day Makers.
Along with the book came a note, that she thought I'd like this book, 
and if I already have a copy, to please share it with my intern.
Isn't that the best?

It's a vibrant book with an important message:
We don't have to be the best, just be our best.
The best that we can be.
Dog stays busy bragging about being the best,
but my students were quick to notice that
he wasn't comparing apples to apples, so to speak.
When the tables are turned and his friends point out the
skills that they're better at, Dog realizes the error 
of his ways and apologizes. But is Dog done boasting for good?

Lots of food for thought in this little nugget;
I think you'll agree it's a delightful treasure.

Please join me in congratulating Tanya
on this outstanding achievement. What a thrill it was
for me to be contacted by a friend of hers and be in on 
the surprise nomination by writing a letter on behalf of my compassionate and caring counseling colleague.

Tanya, I'm so proud of you.
Keep up the heart work!





4.13.2014

Gardening With Grace

 I have seriously been waiting for this sight for years and years.
My small iris patch in full bloom.
 

You see, irises grew handily in Wisconsin {or at least I'm pretty sure they did!}, but not so much in my back yard in Texas. We've got gumbo for soil and super hot sub-tropical temps, both of which I'm told bulbs don't care for, so I've had minimal success since I planted this experiment. Like one, two, maybe three flowers per season. Until now.

Sometimes life is like that, and we get a bumper crop.
Maybe it's your dream class.
Maybe it's a bonus or other recognition at work.
Maybe it's an answer to a long-standing prayer request.

And, unfortunately, this too must pass.
See the bloom in the center bottom? 
It's already shriveled up and died this morning. 
The brown foliage around it had already done its job and moved on.
 And soon even the buds will be just a memory.

My point? Life goes on and we must go with it.
We can either enjoy the blooms or worry about how quickly they'll be gone. Every day we get to choose.

And is there a classroom connection here? you might be asking.
Why yes, there is. 
I was blessed on Thursday with an invitation to sit in on a strategic planning committee meeting at a school down the road that's planting character seeds to bloom out their garden.
Amber, a second grade teacher with a green thumb, shared a wonderful strategy that she uses to fertilize morning meeting. 
Using a rose-bush metaphor, she carves out time every day to ask her kids to share a bud, a bloom, or a thorn in their lives. 
The bud is something coming up they're eagerly awaiting.
The bloom is something that just happened or is happening right now that they're excited about.
The thorn is a challenge that's got them worried, something they could use help with so it doesn't negatively impact them.
How great is that?

 
Not only do her students have permission to get real with one another, but they're encouraged to feel and to share. And she gets the benefit of drawing patterns as she gets to know her little learners more personally. Who are the children who always share thorns? What might they need from her? From each other? 
That's what I call gardening with grace.

And that's why I love the outreach part of my job.
I get to watch character educators
plant seeds, 
nurture growth,
cultivate and harvest.
It's all there, right before my eyes.
And it's a bountiful experience.

What's growing in your garden today?





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