10.30.2015

Can You Stay?

With another Red Ribbon Week celebration in the books, 
I'm tucked in comfortably on my couch, reflecting.

One of my all-time favorite days of the school year is the day we set aside for our Hometown Heroes Pep Rally. This year marked our 15-year-anniversary of this celebration. We invited members of our High School football team to open up car doors and greet our students as they arrived for school. The smiles on our star-struck students said more than my words possibly could.


Inside the gym, our superhero role models signed autographs before school.



The gym was packed with FHS role models from the band, most sport teams, the color guard, the cheerleaders, the drill team, the student council, and the Peer Assistance and Leadership students, all there to remind their littlest fans about the importance of making healthy choices, not just this week, but for life.

I seriously did not think the week could get much better. 
Until this morning. 
I was invited to be a mystery reader in Jennifer Collins' first-grade class. I chose the book The Legend of Spookley, the Square Pumpkin


I took my ukulele so I could play and sing the last two pages. It was the cutest thing when they sang with me: Maybe one day we'll all discover, that you can't judge a book ~ or a pumpkin ~ by its cover.

Then a little girl whom I can't say I recognized raised her hand. I thought that she might have a connection. Or a story to tell. Instead, she had a question: 
Can you stay?

Well, dear reader, let me just say that words can't adequately describe how it felt, to hear those beautiful words of affirmation. And it got me to thinking about some other three-word phrases that people might need to hear more often. 
Three words that send a heart soaring. 
Three words that someone might be waiting for.
Three transformational words.

Here are a few of those phrases that I think could positively impact a moment, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime.

*I see you. 
*Are you okay?
*Let me help.
*Come with me.
*I forgive you.
*I am sorry.
*Please forgive me.
*You're a light.
*I admire you.
*Let's be friends.
*Help me understand.
*Tell me more.
*You're so caring.
*I trust you.
*You inspire me.
*I miss you.
*Let's get together.
*Please be careful.
*I appreciate you.
*I am grateful.
*Thank you kindly.
*You come first.
*I love you.
*Please stay longer.
*Be the reason.

Don't those three little words feel AmAzInG?
What would you add to this list?
And who do you know that needs to hear these from you?

Before I sleep, a few resources to wrap up Red Ribbon Week, starting with this visual display that the first-grade team put up ...


and some energy-saving tips from our district Energy Guy.

Listen to an Edspiration podcast interview about empathy I gave {here}.

EnJOY a podcast about tackling bullying in the upper grades {here}.
Watch Fresno Unified District's Human Kind masterpiece {here}.

And check out the newbie bullying-prevention emoji.




What a week!





10.27.2015

Keep It Golden

Our favorite ventriloquist, Dennis Lee, traveled to Friendswood to help us kick off Red Ribbon Week, and look who he brought with him to remind us that as we travel through life and as we write and tell our story that we should always be mindful to keep it golden.


Wolf E. and Sweetie Pie


 and Nicholas, oh my!


They talked with us about moving from me to we ...


and reminded us that everybody has somebody who loves them.


We loved how he spelled the word LOVE out of his props so much that we drew it in our some of our reflections.


Spending the day with ventriloquist Dennis Lee is a special treat that we've looked forwarded to with delight and anticipation every year for the past fifteen. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and your camera and join us in Wolf E. Lodge, where you'll enjoy a few memories from this year's show.





Thank you, Dennis Lee, for the booster shot of laughter and love.






10.25.2015

What's Your Anti-Drug?

Today I'm excited because I've worked it out with my friend Shelley to give all of the readers who commented on Friday's post {10/23} a copy of her 


If you left a comment on Friday or Saturday and would like a packet, please email me {bgruener5@gmail.com} and I'll send you the digital file. Thank you, Shelley, for your kindness!

Now, let's be Frank ... how cute is this visual display?

Isn't it cool how much "chains" and "change" sound alike?
My friend Terri Brady came to Bales last week to help us kick off Red Ribbon Week with this clever creation. Our plan is to send home red strips of paper so that students and their families can answer the question: 
What's Your Anti-Drug?

Then we'll link them together to make a red chain border. 
I can't wait to read what their anti-drugs are.

Visits from our PALs start Monday, so I know the halls will be abuzz as those teenage mentors fill our campus with friendship and love.

School family members will get a mustache and a pencil because 
We 'mustache' you to be drug-free
On Tuesday we'll wear our favorite jersey or team shirt to 
Team up against drugs.

On Wednesday, our role models from Friendswood High School will lead our Hometown Heroes Pep Rally before school. That's always a fan favorite that supercharges us and sends us soaring because 
We've got the power to be drug-free.

On Thursday we'll Give drugs the slip wearing slippers, of course.
And Friday will find us dressing up in 50s garb or our costumes, both of which will say Drug-free is a nifty way to be!

So we've got a busy week ahead as we celebrate Red Ribbon Week 
 and say yes to healthy choices. Click {here} to download the mini-poster freebies that we'll be putting around campus, like this one from the creative 

Click graphic for source and freebie download at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Her creations are adorable, so please take a look at her store and support this seller next time you need something. Thank you, Shelly, for generously sharing your time and talent with us!

How will you and your school family celebrate this week?





10.23.2015

PPBF: The Rechargeables

How was your Character Counts! Week? Since many pay-it-forward opportunities came my way, my heart is overflowing with delight. Next week is National Red Ribbon Week, our chance to spotlight saying no to drugs and alcohol and yes to healthy choices, perfect timing for today's PPBF pick.


Title: The Rechargeables Eat Move Sleep
Author: Tom Rath
Illustrator: Carlos Aon
Publisher: Missionday, LLC
Date: May 5, 2015
Suitable for: ages 3-8
Themes: healthy choices, energy, hope
Realistic Fiction
Brief synopsis: In the village of Verve (don't you love that name?), the people are running on empty. Can one little girl help them recharge?
Opening page: In the village of Verve, a mysterious thing has occurred ... all of the people are completely still.

Resources: Visit the author's website {here}.
*Check out a review at The Write Stuff Teaching blog {here}.
*See it on a list of Wild Summer 2015 Books {here}.
*Encourage more meaningful movement using Brain Breaks.
*Plan, analyze and track food intake and physical output {here}.
*Compare and contrast the book with the people in this clip 
from Pixar's Wall-E.


Why I like this book:  In this clever reality check, brilliantly illustrated by Aon, children will journey through the pages with Poppy and Simon as they not only yearn to reawaken the life that they've slowly seen slip away in Verve, but actually look for and find ways to make it happen.

Today's pick beautifully complements Tom Rath's first picture book, How Full Is Your Bucket for Kids, which was all about taking care of our hearts and refueling our emotional reserve using a bucket-filling metaphor. This one's message about the health of our bodies is supercharged using the battery metaphor. Just like with a battery's power, our energy wears down and we need to recharge to stay in the game, to be fully present. When we start to run on empty, we owe it to ourselves (and others!) to plug in to healthy habits like eating the right foods, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate amounts of sleep, and engaging in meaningful movement so we can be the best version of ourselves that we can be. 
To maximize learning.
And growth. 
So that we can serve. 
And lead. 
There's so much food for thought in this little nugget; follow the read-aloud with a goal-setting session after discussing what steps your students think they (and their family members) could take in order to positively recharge and live life with more verve.


I'm super excited and grateful that my friend Shelley at The Write Stuff Teaching blog has generously donated one of her Mindful Bodies, Mindful Learning packets to one lucky reader of this post, so leave a comment and we'll randomly select the recipient from all of today and tomorrow's reflections. 
This offer has now ended and the winners have been selected. Thank you all for your reflections.

Oh, and don't forget to check out today's other 
PPBF picks at Susanna's blog {here}. 





10.21.2015

Caped In Kindness

Today I'm excited because of the kindness of a stranger. A stranger, as in someone I've never met in real life. But the beauty of the Internet, with all of its cautions and concerns, is the global connections we're able to make in cyberspace.
And this happened, because of one of those connections.


If you follow my book's Facebook page, you may remember that Steph Kozuch, a school counselor in Indiana, sent me a picture of the little superhero silhouette on the right, back in June. I posted it because I stood in awe of its adorableness {and the fact that she was preparing in June for the upcoming school year}. We reconnected on Twitter in early October when I complimented her on a picture I'd seen of her classroom decor, which now included the super sweet little girl on the left. I told her I'd asked a volunteer to make these for me but that I was still waiting ... 
and then this:



#share ~ don't you love that?
It seriously never crossed my mind  that she would make them for me. 
And when I sent her my address, this:


Then, when they arrived, in a poster mailing tube, all rolled up so that they wouldn't crease, I felt the warmth of a stranger friend cloaked in kindness. A stranger friend with a big, beautiful smile on her tiny Twitter avatar, and an even bigger heart of gold.

Before I put them up, I traced them and sent a pair to PA. And then another pair to OK. So Steph, your super gesture is rippling out. Thank you for being a superhero of the character kind!

Finding a home for these little cherubs was a wonderful way to kick off Character Counts! Week 2015. Then our celebration continued when I met with this year's Peer Assistance and Leadership students (PALs) from Friendswood High School and collected their cape masterpieces for our 
SUPERHEROES-in-training Wall of Fame.


Teenagers and their colorful character capes.


Each one more eye-catchingly brilliant than the next.


Each one bearing their heartbeat, happiness and hope.


Each one a caped in kindness.


Each one the story of a mentor eager to positively influence our future.


I wish you could see them all in person.
The capes. {And the mentors!}
If you're ever in the area, come on by for a gallery walk.
These are hanging just outside of Leadership Central.

The PALs visited our campus today, for their tour, and their enthusiasm was palpable. They'll start next week in our character building and I can't wait to 
watch them soar.

The future looks bright with these superheroes leading the way.

 Cape up and crusade on!






10.19.2015

Lunch 'n Learn

While chatting on Twitter early last June, someone mentioned hosting a brown bag Lunch 'n Learn. That's my sort of thing, I remember thinking, mostly {if I'm being completely honest} because I liked the way the alliteration made the idea to gather and grow during lunch sound more appealing. Tasty, even. 

The very next day I went walking with my friend April and we started cooking on an idea for this year's first Lunch 'n Learn at Bales.


Our topic would be Morning Meeting and I would invite someone with some experience, say a veteran teacher like April, to share her expertise. To sweeten the invitation for both the speaker and my staff, I'd even offer to make the lunch, {How do chicken salad sandwiches sound?} with the help of a few of my favorite volunteers, of course. Well, that created a win-win, and April's presentation last Friday was AmAzInG.



She talked about her roots as a pioneer, the lone teacher in her building, actually, who was doing a morning meeting when she started teaching twenty years ago. She said it transformed her teaching. And she fondly reminisced about how she recruited a few other teachers to try it, just by modeling how tightly it connected her class. 


She talked about the why behind the coveted circle time 
and she shared benefits of the four (now five) parts to each meeting.


She gave some examples of how her class meetings 
would look, sound & feel.



And she shared resources ... 


to enrich our Morning Meeting ritual and experience.


 So today I'm grateful, that April would share her time and talent with us, and that some of our teachers would give up their duty-free lunchtime to learn and grow.

The important take-away?
You may think you don't have time, but you
do have time. And it'll be a valuable investment!

Next up, a Lunch 'n Learn for caregivers? 
Who knows!
Have you ever hosted a Lunch 'n Learn at your school?
If so, we'd love to read your reflections in the comments.





10.16.2015

PPBF: What Does It Mean To Be Kind?

Today I'm excited because I'm hosting my first Lunch 'n Learn with retired teacher and friend April Darling, who'll share ideas to enhance our Morning Meetings

I'm also delighted to share today's PPBF pick,
 the perfect springboard for class circle discussions.



Title: What Does It Mean To Be Kind?
Author: Rana DiOrio
Illustrator: Stéphane Jorisch
Publisher: Little Pickle Press
Date: August 25, 2015
Suitable for: grades preK-3rd
Non-fiction
Themes: kindness, courage, empathy
Brief synopsis: In this fifth book of the author's What Does It Mean? series, children can cultivate ideas about how people of all ages can show and experience kindness.
Opening page: What does it mean to be kind?

Resources:
*Read a Forward Review {here}.
*Check out this comprehensive Cool Mom Picks review.
*Enjoy this Mamalode book review.
*Download the Publisher's Discussion Guide {here}.
*Download The Kindness Game at Edutopia {here}.
*Revisit this post about Teaching Kindness at Edutopia.
*Share this Kindness video from Karma Tube.
*Prepare to be wowed by these beautiful Kindness Tree visual displays gathered by my friend Lisa at Ripple Kindness blog


Why I like this book: Who wouldn't love the focus of this treasure's actionable suggestions for making kindness a verb. And because kindness knows no calendar, this book is positively perfect for any time of year, especially right now as we're about to kick of National Character Counts! Week

We know that we get more of what we focus on, so putting the spotlight on kindness is spot on. And because of its contagious quality, kindness creates a win-win that can serve as a powerful antidote to apathy, meanness, and bullying. After reading this gem aloud, look up the word kindness using Sign Language. Then research the signs using other words in the book to enrich the text's vocabulary and bring it to life.

My friend Heather made this sign for the threshold to our Hero Headquarters; use it to inspire a Kindness: It's A Sign campaign. Encourage your students to create a sign, a billboard, or a bumper sticker to advertise kindness and post them around the classroom, cafeteria, and hallways. 


Check out this book: it's a beautiful reminder of the charge of James M. Barrie: For today, be a little kinder than necessary.

Then check out today's other PPBF picks at Susanna's blog {here}.

What's your favorite practice for intentionally showing kindness?





10.12.2015

Kindness Online {And Off!}

Today was an inservice day, and we were treated to a visit by Sameer Hinduja, one of the cyber-safety experts from the Cyberbullying Research Center.


So much of what he said resonated with me because he addressed the social and emotional needs of not only the victim, but also the students who bully and the bystanders who freeze and don't know what to do or how to do it. He makes a great point when he says that we can put up fences, but they don't shape or change behavior. We must protect our kids from the inside out! 

Check out these anti-bullying minis that 
Ms. Defibaugh's 4th graders created to spotlight respect.


Check out these resources I've recently read, watched and listened to for our campaign to combat bullying behaviors online and in real life,
 this month and all year long.

Common Sense Education: Digital Citizenship curriculum
Integrity Time: Stand Up Against Bullying film clip
Edutopia: Five-Minute Film Festival about bystanders & upstanders
Edutopia: Resources to Fight Bullying at school
Strength In Numbers anti-bullying clip
The Most Dangerous Apps of 2015
Blendspace: Anti-Bullying Resource round-up
Education World: Anti-Bullying Activities 
Houston Chronicle: Character Counts! activities
Straight Talk about Bullying Behaviors podcast with Trudy Ludwig
Stop Bullying: At-Risk Warning Signs 
Embrace, Engage, Educate: Bullying? Are you sure? 
Huffington Post: Adult Bullying 
Parenting Toolkit: Your Child's Online Behavior 


Phew! What anti-bullying resource would you add to this list?





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