1.29.2016

PPBF: Turn! Turn! Turn!

Today's post will be short and sweet as we wrap up
The Great Kindness Challenge and get ready to celebrate
National School Counseling Week.
Today's PPBF perfectly complements both.

To everything, there is a season ... 


Title: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Author: Pete Seeger
Illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Date: September 1, 2003
Suitable for: age 5 and up
Themes: inspirational, peace, circle of life
Brief Synopsis: Based on the inspiration of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, this book uses text from the Byrds song Turn!, Turn!, Turn! to explore and enjoy the ways people turn through the pages of the book of life.
Opening page:


Resources:
*Read a review {here}. 
*Listen to the song on CD, included in the book.
*Have students draw a time line of their lives; challenge them to make it circular rather than linear.
*Encourage students to write and illustrate another line.
A time to ____ , a time to _____ .
What would you add?

Why I like this book: I've always been a fan of that verse from the Ecclesiastes and this song. Then when my friend Ann brought me a copy of the book, I fell in love all over again. Look how pretty it is sitting on my shelf among my angels. 

To everything, there is a season ...
The circles on every page are beautifully illustrated to put this poetic text into a peace-filled picture. Such a simple yet important concept to remember, especially as we grieve the good-bye of something special and bounce forward into something new.

This week, some of our students worked with our high school PALs to paint a conflict-resolution peace labyrinth and it reminds me of the circular concept in this book.


To everything, there is a season.

We also hosted singer, songwriter, and expert bucket-filler Red Grammer on the Westwood side. Here he is teaching us to use our lids to keep ourselves happy and safe. Click the picture to see Mrs. Quigley's first-grade students teaching him and our audience the motions they use for his song The Power To Change The World.


 And today, we say good-bye to our Principal, Terri, and hello to a new leader, J.T. It's a time of change again at Bales, the perfect time to get quiet and contemplate the circle of life.

Turn, turn, turn.

For more PPBF picks today, turn now to Susanna's blog.





1.25.2016

Hugs From Home

Happy Great Kindness Challenge Week 2016! I'm super excited about our kindness project as we've been working hard to make Valentines for those military personnel who won't be home with their loved ones on Valentines' Day this year. Just look at these beauties, which our heroes refer to as hugs from home.


It has been so much fun creating these treasures together


in Leadership Central.


We're using crayons and colored pencils,

Where's Whitlock? Can you spot Westwood's AP?
scissors and glue,


construction paper, lined paper and plain white.


So many choices, so little time.


While we worked, we listened to Red Grammer, the singer and songwriter who's coming to Friendswood to share his Bucketfilling songs with us this week. If you're local, join us Friday night at 7 pm at Friendswood Junior High for a free concert.

On Wednesday, we'll be painting a Conflict-Resolution Peace Labyrinth on the slab outside between the two schools, another perfect complement to our 
Great Kindness Challenge.


Each student received a Kindness Matters wristband and have been encouraged to start each day wearing it on their left wrist. When they do an intentional act of kindness, they move it to their right wrist to remind them that showing kindness is the right thing to do.


To be clear, kindness knows no calendar, but isn't it amazing to be celebrating it with nearly 5 million other students around the world? Here's to a kinder, gentler, more peaceful place as we warm the world with kindness.








1.22.2016

PPBF: Penelope Perfect

Today's PPBF pick is perfect. 
Well, uh, Penelope Perfect that is.


Title: Penelope Perfect
Author: Shannon Anderson
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Date: August 20, 2015
Suitable for: ages K - 3rd
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Themes: anxiety, perfectionism, resilience, growth mindset
Brief synopsis: After her house losing power causes Penelope to oversleep, the mishaps in this young perfectionist's day align to brew the perfect storm. Can she survive an imperfect day and learn to let go of some of her perfectionism in the process?
Opening page: 

They call me Penelope Perfect.
If you know me, I'm sure you agree.

Have you ever heard of Old Faithful?
Well, that geyser has nothin' on me!

Copyright © 2015 by Shannon Anderson. 
Excerpted with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. 

Resources:
*Read this article for tips on Putting Perfectionism In Its Place.
*Read Magnificent Mindsets to spark a growth-mindset discussion.
*Is your perfectionism out of control? Click {here} to find out.
*Play the So What? game with your child(ren) to help get to the root of worries, anxieties or fear and change errant thinking about the end result. Start with a statement: You wake up late for school. Then ask {in a kind, non-judgmental tone} So what? Well, I'll be tardy. So what? I'll miss the morning warm-up. So what? Well ... you get the picture. It's a great way to get perfectionists to see that making the mistakes they fret about aren't likely to ever be something they can't rebound from and resolve.
*Springboard a geography lesson about Old Faithful and geysers. Look up where on the map it is, then challenge students to research other National Parks and find out what, if anything, sets them apart.
*Watch this video clip on resilience and discuss it:



*Make an anchor chart H-map and compare and contrast Penelope's tale with 





Why I like this book: I see a lot of Penelope in me; she loves order and wants everything to line up thrives when everything aligns. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it does pose a problem that could easily spin her out of control when her orderly routine is upset. In true perfectionism form, the more we control, the more out of control we feel. So when stuff that we can't control takes over, it's how we bounce forward from those upsets that will ultimately make a difference. Such an important life lesson for people of any age. 

The activities and suggestions in the back of the book will help the readers who tend toward perfectionism work toward letting go of some of the worry and anxiety that's associated with that fixed mindset. Life will go so much more smoothly when we learn to celebrate mistakes instead of letting them paralyze us, a gift Penelope receives in the aftermath of her imperfect present and the laughter that ensued. Use the claim ~ Laughter is a resilience skill. ~ as a conversation starter or as a writing prompt to find out if/how they've used laughter to jump a high hurdle or overcome an obstacle.

Check out this book; I think it'll be the perfect addition to your collection. 
Then head to Susanna's blog for today's other PPBF titles.

Update: The evening of the day this posted, my Dad sent a message to me with a quote he'd just read: Perfection is the enemy of good.
 We are all connected, aren't we ...







1.20.2016

We've Got Your Back

Today I'm inspired because we kicked off our Great Kindness Challenge 2016 a few days early by inviting this superhero from a neighboring junior high to engage our students in her backpack project to help Houston's homeless.


Her name is Reagan and she's super passionate about her cause.
But this crusader's cape, well, it looks more like a backpack.
And though she doesn't help others for accolades and awards, I would like to affirm her work by mentioning that she is a recipient of the 
Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Award.

It all began, she told a very still audience of 1000 students at our weekly Wednesday Warbles gathering, with a question
Do you have a backpack?

She went on to explain that initially it was feelings of guilt about not being able to help the homeless person who asked that question that urged her fifth-grade self back then to ask her mom to take her to a store to buy some backpacks for them. When her mom told her to look for a more creative way to meet that need, Reagan only had to go to her room to find the first few backpacks that would kick off that initial collection of one hundred and twenty five backpacks three years ago. This year, her goal is to collect a thousand backpacks. She confidently told our students that it shouldn't be a problem to meet that lofty goal, because "I've got you." That's when she invited them to help her collect backpacks as a part of our Great Kindness Challenge next week. Kids helping kids; isn't that the best?

Check out her four-minute presentation here.


If you're in the Houston area and would like to donate to Reagan's We've Got Your Back project, you can bring your gently-used backpacks to Westwood or Bales any day next week.

Thank you, Reagan, for being a beacon of light 
and making our world a kinder place to be!





1.17.2016

Joyfully Enough

Today I'm thinking about my 2016 one little word:

Paper design by Barbara Leyne

What if every day we remembered to recite this mantra?
What if we felt it, believed it, embraced it?
What if we taught it to our children?
What if they lived it?

Yesterday Joshua spent the day at an All-Region band rehearsal
with a Director named Preston Hazzard from Frisco ISD. I immediately admired how he connected with our teenagers and was moved to tears when he expressed gratitude to them as they were about to take the stage. He has an obviously happy personality, and their time together resulted in a phenomenal performance of five beautiful pieces, most notably a mashup of Beethoven's Ode to Joy and John Adams' A Short Ride In A Fast Machine called 
joyRIDE by Michael Markowski (shared with his permission). 


The cool part for the musicians on stage that day is that this piece was written when the composer was just a senior in high school. It's incredible what kids can accomplish, when inspiration and passion meet dedication, determination and drive.
And here's the connection: Like Mr. Markowski's musical masterpiece, 
life is a joy ride.
It takes us all over the place.
It can be fun and adventuresome.
But it can also be riddled with unsettling obstacles.
Sometimes it's played out in a major key, sometimes in a minor one.
Sometimes it's big, sometimes it's small.
Sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down.

And what an unbelievable difference it makes
when who we are, what we've done, and what we have is
enough.
Sufficient. 
Plenty.

As we exited the concert, we were treated to this 
gorgeously-colorful layered cloud canvas.


And I left there hoping that our children always know that when they give their personal best, 
that it is enough.
Whether they've earned a spot in the All-Region band or not.
Whether they've made all As or not.
Whether their life is on a high note right now or not.
That who they are,
what they have,
what they're doing,
that it's all enough.

And when it doesn't seem like enough to them,
that they know whom they can turn to and trust
to remind them that they are joyfully more than enough. 






1.15.2016

PPBF: Bowls Of Happiness

Today I'm delighted to add a cultural gem to our ever-growing PPBF list.


Title: Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City
Author: Brian Tse
Illustrator: Alice Mak
Translation: Ben Wang
Publisher: China Institute in America
Date: November 17, 2015
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Genre: Cultural Studies
Themes: Chinese culture, happiness, prosperity
Brief synopsis from Simon & SchusterPiggy's mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

Opening page

Mommy says, "At the sight of Piggy, my heart leaps with joy!" That's because my nickname is Piggy.

Mommy remembers when she picked me up, right after I was born, with my pink body, my wide cheeks, and my large nostrils. "Oink, oink, oink!" I cried and cried, just like a piggy. So Dad said, "Might as well call her Piggy!"

Resources
*Check out the five reviews from Good Reads {here}. 
*Read a thoughtful endorsement from Unleashing Readers {here}.
*Compare and contrast Bowls of Happiness with a blog post I wrote a few years back called The Bowl.
*Let Piggy's story spark a discussion about nicknames.
Do you have a nickname?
What is it?
How did you get it?
Who gets to call you by that name?
Is there anyone who does not get to call you that?
What do you think of Piggy's nickname?
If you could pick your own nickname, what would it be?

Why I like this book:  As a character educator, I am always looking for enrichment resources that support cultural traditions and awareness, especially when it's time for a special celebration like Chinese New Year. Though the publisher recommends it for children ages 4-8, I actually read it with a fourth-grade boy and I think he may have even connected with it more than I did.

This book holds so many possible directions to springboard. In the second part of the book after Piggy's creative fantasy through the pictures on Mom's bowl, the reader gets a peek into the cultural beliefs about happiness in the Chinese world. Then, some challenging imagery and insight about the symbolism behind the bowls among the Chinese Emperors, more historic engagement, and a challenge: Make your own bowl. 

And while it'd be really cool to have students color the template in the book or make a papier-mâché bowl, imagine the extension possibilities 
if your child(ren) could paint images on a porcelain bowl 
or, better yet, sculpt and fire a clay bowl.

If you're looking for a service component to enrich the reading of this book, plan a soup supper and decide whom you want to feed. My friend Tina in Missouri does this very thing in her Art classes with a project called Bowls For Hunger. Ask your students how they might mimic that project or use that service-learning idea for something they could do as a class, like host an International Epicurean day. Whom would they invite and what would they serve?

Finally, open up a discussion about the differences between happiness and joy.

For a list of today's PPBF picks, visit Susana's blog next. 








1.12.2016

Kelso's Choice For Families Review

Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend Heather Salinas back to the Corner on Character to share her reflections on the Kelso's Choice For Families Kit.

*********************


Kelso's Choice for Families is an invaluable tool for equipping children ages two and up with problem-solving and crisis management skills. (The package stated five years and up, but my two and a half year old was able to join in also with the help of older siblings.) We received this kit a few months after Mrs. Gruener re-introduced the concept of the "school" version to the students in my daughter's Intermediate School. The family version is closely modeled after the school version; because of this, my children were already familiar with the language and it became a natural progression into the "home" version.

The materials that come with the kit are very clear, motivating, and adaptable. There is a fun and informative video for families to watch together that explains the program. It includes explanations about what type of problems are considered "big" and "small" and how to successfully manage a conflict. In addition to the DVD there are also supplemental activities, a workbook, reward chart, crafts, posters, and more. It is a very inclusive kit! For my family, watching the video together and starting the program prompted some amazing family conversations about life, family, and faith; it led to some great family bonding moments!


Our home currently has seven children under the age of twelve, and in the beginning this kit was utilized multiple times a day! I think the reason the kit worked so well is that there is such rich, complex information broken down into a way children can easily understand and adapt to their own situations. The days following us starting this program, I noticed the children solving their "small" conflicts on their own and directing each other to the chart when a problem came up -- a built-in accountability! The distinct choices given to solve issues in the kit were extremely adaptable to any "small" conflict that came up. I did give my children the freedom to choose a solution from either the "younger" version or the "older" child version once a conflict came up. I could tell my children gained a sense of pride and empowerment to make the choice themselves. As the weeks went on, I noticed a big difference in my children's independence and desire for responsibility.

I would highly recommend this program to families with any number of children, as Kelso's Choice for Families could also be utilized for extended family, friends, sports teams, etc. I strongly believe these same conflict management skills will help my children in future relationships, in the workplace and beyond. We are very thankful to have this kit at home as my children (and their conflicts) grow and change over the next years.

Author’s Note: I am so thankful to Mrs. Gruener for inviting me to review this product! My husband and I have been married for 10 years and have four amazing children (ages 9 to 1), two dogs, three birds, 10 turtles, 11 chickens, and a yard full of wildlife! Our life never stops being interesting! 

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southwestern University in 2002, and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in 2004. For the last five years I have run my own full-time dog boarding business that I absolutely could not be more blessed by! On a part-time basis, I also edit criminal court transcripts for Harris County.

******************

Thank you, Heather, first and foremost for your friendship, and then for your willingness to share your thoughts, insights and perspective with our readers.







1.10.2016

JOY Is A Choice

Today marks the three-year anniversary of a horrible head-on collision that left me physically broken in two places and emotionally broken into many more pieces than that. Sometimes I feel like I'm still in recovery; other times I feel like I'm doing okay navigating my new normal. One of the lessons I learned through that whole ordeal is that JOY is a choice. Every day.


So today's post is a preview of a message I've been invited to share at our Community Prayer Breakfast first thing tomorrow morning. 

My message ~ Inspiring JOY ~ will be simple but powerful:

Look up. In a broken world, we will only heal and thrive when we fix our eyes on our higher power and draw our strength from that omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present Source.

Look around: Our world is a better place when we lead with a servant heart. What needs do we see in others and how can we fill them?

Look in: What can we do for ourselves so that we are fed physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? We simply cannot serve from an empty vessel. 

There you have it:  J ~ O ~ Y. 
It's a choice. 
Every day. 

For homework, I'm going to encourage our youth to name three people in their lives whom they promise to reach out to when life gets dark and their joy is threatened, like what happened to me in that wreck three years ago.


Above all, I want them to know that they are surrounded by people who love and care about them. And that joy is a choice and always, always within reach. If you're in the Houston area, join us tomorrow morning at 6:30 am in the Friendswood High School cafeteria.







1.06.2016

Picture This

Today, a gallery walk through some of the newest additions
 to our character building.

This growth-mindset display is now in the front hallway, right next to our Six-Pillar banners outside of our Admin Team office space.


Our freshly-painted Values Mural is on the back hallway, 
just outside of Pod B and down a bit from our library.


Yesterday as our muralist was finishing up, a fourth-grade boy walked by and said aloud, "Hey, look, self-control. That's what I'm working on!" I just love the extension possibilities with a wordle like this painted on the wall. This morning one of our fourth-grade girls remarked, "I like it because it reminds me of Westwood." I silently whispered, "Me, too, Grace. Me, too."


Just outside of my office, this Clothing Exchange icon
so stakeholders can find our clothing closet more easily.


And just inside Leadership Central, these.


Our maintenance man, Fred, is housed in the office by our counseling classroom, so I added some color and love to that wall with some wall stickers.

And here, my newest creation, an inquiry board with a Star Wars theme, to get our padawans thinking about how they'll use the force for good in 2016.



UPDATE: What a blast to join author Maria Dismondy for an exclusive interview about inspiring empathy, compassion and kindness with actionable strategies to help our superheroes soar.

 

Watch it on You Tube after March 2nd {here}.





1.02.2016

Mining With Mason

Happy 2016.
Today I'm excited to introduce you to Mason
and his value-able masterpiece of self-discovery.


Authors: Chelsea Lee Smith
Illustrator: Elaheh Bos
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: November 4, 2015
Suggested for ages: 5-10
Themes: virtues, values
Brief synopsis: Mason loves digging in his backyard to find treasures; on this particular Saturday his finds include "a rusty screw, a bottle cap, an old plastic bead, and a mud-covered rock." It's in his follow-up conversation with his mom that Mason discovers that, just like his mud-covered piece of quartz, he's got beautiful virtues hidden deep inside.

Resources: 
*Free Printable Enrichment pages from the creators {here}. 
*Encourage students or staff to write down the virtues that already shine in them or the virtues they want to work to polish. 
Make a visual display like this BE board,


this Find Your Treasure set from Scholastic,



Why I like this book: Parenting our future is an important job, one that simply cannot be left to chance. In this jewel, penned by author and parenting expert Chelsea Lee Smith (Moments A Day blog), Mason's mom intentionally seizes a teachable moment to nurture her son's development. Not only does she give Mason some valuable new vocabulary, but she also hands him some concrete insight to hold on to by drawing a priceless parallel between the quartz he discovers hiding in the yard and the gems he discovers hiding in his heart.

Using a mining metaphor, she encourages her little explorer to polish 
the virtues within as he works to become the best ME he can be.

Check out this book; I think you'll discover that it's essential 
for your character-development collection. 






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