Savoring The Path To Serendipity

Friday morning, I was in a sort of end-of-the-year funk,
just going through the motions,
watching the minutes click off of the clock.
Before the first hour had passed, I had a text from a friend,
asking if I'd seen that there was an active shooter in Santa Fe.
Wait, what? Our Santa Fe, just down the road Santa Fe?
My AP and our maintenance man both live in Santa Fe.
Before long, news that an officer was down.
And then, the update that eight young lives were taken.
Just like that.
A kid killing kids.
I absolutely couldn't catch my breath
at the thought of us losing our most precious resource.
Two teachers died, too; 
heroes who couldn't stand the thought of their students being shot.

After school, when our own students had left for the weekend
and I could relax and reflect,
I sat in our comfort chair and I cried,
for the devastated families whose loved ones aren't coming home,
for how horrifically frightening and long that day must have been,
for how painful the days, months and years ahead will likely be.
I cried for innocence lost. 
And I felt overwhelming helplessness.

If ever I needed The Path to Serendipity
and get a booster shot of healing and hope, 
it was this weekend.
And look what was waiting on my doorstep when I got home. 

There are so many nuggets of inspiration in this one little treasure to help us unwrap the present and discover life's gifts.

As I devoured through the text savoring every sentence, I found myself making so many connections with principal and author Allyson Apsey, from our upbringing in the midwest to battling bullying in high school to working with intention to live a life that matters.

This authentic, bold leader is the real deal.
And her spot-on reflections are positively uplifting.
Even in her journey's stops which require tissues,
Allyson is able to find sparkly diamonds 
where it seems there's nothing but dust.
She reminds us that it's all about
what we choose to mine.
Even when life gets painful.

She credits her years of experience as well as 
for many of her myriad wise insights and connections.
I especially love the reminder about Glasser's belief
that everyone has five basic needs,
belonging, fun, freedom, power, and survival,
something to keep in mind the next time
we happen upon an argument, 
a conflict 
or a challenging behavior.
I know it'll help us not only professionally
but with personal relationships as well.

Oh, I could go on and on, but instead
I'll invite you to check out The Path to Serendipity;
I'm quite certain you'll be thankful that you did.

Thank you, Allyson, for sharing your heartbeat;
I could feel your passion and your joy on every page.
{Oh, and you were right; I loved the forward by Brad Montague!}


PPBF: A World Of Pausabilities

Today I'm feeling mindful of the world of possibilities
that unfolds before our eyes every day.
But only when we pause to unwrap the present.

Title: A World Of Pausabilities
Author: Frank J. Sileo
Illustrator: Jennifer Zivoin
Publisher: Magination Press
Birthday: February 13, 2017
Suitable for: ages 4-8
Themes: mindfulness, being present
Brief synopsis: This rhyming text encourages children to press pause in their lives so they can focus on slowing down and being present.
Opening page: 
Do you know what a PausABiLity is?

Check out my read-aloud of the story poolside here:

Read about other mindfulness titles from Magination {here}.
Peruse reviews of the book {here}.
Sign up for the Calm Schools Initiative {here}.
Check out my mindfulness Pinterest collection {here}.

Why I like this book: In a world that's increasingly hectic and demanding, it's so important that our littlest learners learn to press pause so they can breathe and think. This brilliantly-illustrated, Mom's-choice award winner aims to teach children ways to choose calm and quiet. In the back of the book, there's a bonus two-page spread directed at parents and caregivers to educate them on the benefits of practicing mindfulness.

I appreciate its focus on enjoying what's in front of us, mindfully aware, without judgement. After sharing the book, head outside to see what's in bloom! Take in the sights, sounds, smells and feels.

Look what I spotted in my backyard yesterday afternoon.

After a nature walk, grab some chalk 
and draw a picture on the sidewalk.

Can't get outside? Enjoy a water fountain inside.

One of my students brought this bird fountain to me this week after telling her grandma that she wanted to find something to match my personality. Isn't it beautiful? It sounds so soothing and brings peace and calm to my office.

Encourage your older students to write an acrostic poem
using the word PAUSE:

P is for peace.
A is for awareness.
U is for understanding.
S is for senses.
E is for emotions. 

In which other ways do you awaken your senses while you 
breathe in calm and enjoy the world of endless pausabilities?

Looking for more new titles?
Head to Susanna Hill's blog for more PPBF goodness next.


Volunteering Kindness

We've done it, just finished our 15th year of our Knit-for-Service Club meetings. Doesn't this year's group of volunteer needle-workers look adorable?

Third, fourth and fifth graders volunteer their time,

to knit a cap to help save the life of an underweight preemie.

Photo credit: Save The Children
Unravel details about our 15 years of knitting to serve
 {here}, {here} and {here}.

Here's our keepsake Knit One, Save One video; 
these young knitters are now high school seniors about to graduate. 

I'm told a few of them still use their skill to help others.

Volunteering is contagious like that; once you get the ball rolling, you'll want to keep on helping out. Lisa Currie from The Ripple Kindness Project wrote about the helper's high in this kindness post. Volunteering has been shown to help improve the health and well-being of volunteers and donors.

And no, you don't have to have a special skill to be a volunteer;
anyone can see a need and fill a need. Consider these opportunities right in your own neighborhood: washing a car, raking some leaves, shoveling some snow, mowing a lawn, watering some plants.

Need a nudge launching a volunteer campaign of your own? Why not sign up with WE Volunteer Nowan inspired way to organize a student volunteer activity. Whether you want to visit a senior home, donate to a food pantry or raise awareness about a cause that your kids are passionate about—like safe driving or recycling— this campaign is an easy way to get started.

 Simply enter here on WeAreTeachers and you’ll get an instant download from WE Volunteer Now, full of information on how to start a volunteer campaign at your school. You’ll also get access to grade-specific lessons you can use right away. 
WE Volunteer Now Campaign Resources include:
·       A step-by-step guide on how to get started with service learning curriculum in your classroom
·       Volunteering ideas
·       Teacher checklists to keep you on track
·       A worksheet for you to complete with your class—by the end you’ll have a solid idea of which volunteering option is best for you!
·       We Volunteer Now curriculum
Made possible by The Allstate Foundation, the WE Volunteer Now grants help schools and youth groups in their effort to give back to their local communities in a creative and unique way. As a bonus, 500 schools will receive a $250 grant to use towards their volunteer project. The grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to all eligible schools/groups, to be used toward supporting your volunteer project. The eligible school or youth organization must:
·       Have an educator, administrator, or adult group leader to fill out this application 
·       Be based in the U.S. and registered in the WE Schools program
·       Plan to use the provided funds between October 2017 – October 2018
·       Include students/youth participants in grades K-12
·       Participate in the WE Volunteer Now Campaign
Check out the reasons to join WE schools {here}, then enjoy these benefits:
Inspire your students to make a real difference. When you join the WE movement, you’re giving your students a chance to make a difference in their neighborhood and in the world. Together you’ll find something you are passionate about and can work toward as a group.
Fit service into your curriculum with ease. You signed up and took the first step. Now, you can use the WE Schools Kit to figure out which action or campaign your students want to work on throughout the year. The kit is packed with ideas for teachers and students to brainstorm ideas and set goals.
Earn your way to WE Day. Once you’ve decided on a project, finished your good deed, and reported your results, you’ll get a chance to earn your way to WE Day. It’s a stadium-sized event (there are six held annually in select cities across the country!) that brings together amazing speakers and performers. And YOU and YOUR students could be honored; students can tune in and watch live.
Be a part of something huge. Last year, 4,200 schools across the United States signed up and participated in WE Schools. That’s 1.3 million students! Plus, over 3.1 million viewers watched the WE Day Special on CBS this past August.
Help your students earn service learning hours and AP credits. High, middle, and even elementary schools are requiring students to log the time they’ve spent on service learning and volunteering. The WE Schools framework gives your students more options to gain volunteering time in ways integrated with your lessons.
Instill a love of volunteerism in your students (that they’ll have forever) just like we've done with our knitters. In a hectic world that values achievements and grades, it can be tough for students (and their parents) to make the time for giving back. WE Schools and the WE Volunteer Now campaign show us all how accessible volunteering can be.
Sign up for WE {here}.  

NOTE: This post is brought to you by WeAreTeachers, the Allstate Foundation and WE. Please join me in thanking them for their sponsorship.


Making Something Spectacular

Today I'm thinking about how cool it is when parts come together 
to make something whole.

About how seemingly small pieces quickly combine 
to create something really special.

About how every little contribution

makes a big difference.

It's something that has been on my mind for a while now, something that came to the forefront today as our fifth graders started to paint their mosaic mural.

Each student paints their portion of the mural, whose theme this year depicts how our school and community came together to help one another recover and restore after hurricane Harvey blew through.

UPDATE: After day 2.
Finished masterpiece: Restoration

We actually once made a rainstorm five-hundred-students strong at one of our character assemblies, to illustrate what happens when we all do something small to create something big.

In unity, strength.

I love experiencing the magic when parts of the whole 
unify to make something spectacular.


PPBF: Yoga Frog

Today's PPBF is so stinkin' adorable; prepare to fall in love with Yoga Frog.

Title: Yoga Frog
Author: Nora Carpenter
Illustrator: Mark Chambers
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Birthday: May 29, 2018
Suitable for ages: preK-3rd grade (and beyond)
Themes: mindfulness, relaxation, yoga
Brief synopsis: Travel with Yoga Frog through 19 yoga poses to help you 
re-energize and get back in touch with your happy self.
Opening page: 
Every morning, Yoga Frog wakes with the sun and stretches his arms high above his head. Sometimes he's still tired. Sometimes he's even a tad grumpy. 
He isn't really a morning frog.
When he's not feeling his happy, froggy self, or if he wants to feel better, Yoga Frog knows just what to do: yoga! Join him! 

Resources: Check out the author's website {here}.
Read a Publishers Weekly review {here}.
Do yoga with Frank the Frog and Cosmic Kids {here}.
Sing the I Am Yoga song with Emily Arrow.

Compare and contrast Yoga Frog with I Am Yoga by Susan Verde. 

Why I like this book: Such a playful way to introduce our littlest learners to the practice of yoga as a way to stretch, relax and regroup. The author and illustrator work together in harmony to explain and show the poses, sharing their everyday names along with their Sanskrit names. I loved the bonus Note To Parents in the back along with a perforated fold-out poster of the precious frog 
practicing all of the poses.

In a world in which children are increasingly stressed out,
it's so important to find ways to stay in the moment,
to relax and restore, and to unwrap the present.

Check out this book for help with doing just that.
Put it in a calm-down caddy or a Peace Room.
Then head to Susanna Hill's blog for today's other PPBF picks.

Oh, and May the Fourth be with you. 


Puppet-Tree In Motion

Today I'm excited because I was invited to share how puppets have helped me and shaped my school counseling story on a #StoriesInEdu podcast.

Do you have any puppets?
We have a parrot, an eagle, a wolf, a sloth, a bird,
a toucan't toucan, a kitten, two pigs, a turtle,
a bronco, a pack rat, a cow, a bear, a giraffe,

Hi Junior!

a caterpillar, and a pirate.
Am I forgetting anyone?
Here's they are, our Puppet Patrol, hanging out in the Puppet-Tree 
that Kaitlyn made for us in an architecture class.

It was such a blast, to go back 18 years and reminisce about Seymour, my first puppet, and remember what happened when I first got to Westwood and forgot to grab that baby harp seal when we evacuated for my first fire drill there.

Who knew that the littles would think the puppets were REAL?

And to talk about how I engage all learners from preK through 5th grade 
with our squawker, Winthrup, who tends to worry.

To share about the time that some third-grade girls
gave up recess to gather some rocks for my thieving Pack Rat,
so he has his own and doesn't have to steal anymore.

And to plant ideas for using the puppets as a tool to facilitate conversations, to solve problems, and to integrate them into curricular areas, like writing.

And to let them be kids for a bit and play.
Because play heals.
And it's just flat-out fun 
for young and old alike.

And today, this note from a fifth-grade girl
who is going to miss us.
Can you feel the puppet love?

The interview is also available as a You Tube clip:

How do you unleash the power of the puppet?

I'm so grateful to the Bretzmann Group and to Mandy and Josh
for this amazing opportunity. It was great fun chatting with them.

Speaking of gratitude, how will you thank 
your favorite teachers next week?

Click the image below to go to a guest post
I wrote for my friends at Prosign Design
sharing some intriguing ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week.

Happy May.


PPBF: I Walk With Vanessa

This week we had the pleasure of sharing some kindness from the kitchen after picking wild dewberries and baking a batch of kolaches. 

Turns out I baked a memory for these grandparents; 
this thank-you text from their daughter fed my soul.

Kindness doesn't have to be great to be grand;
sometimes it's the littlest things that mean the most.

Today's wordless PPBF tackles cooking up kindness at school.

Title: I Walk With Vanessa
Author/Illustrator: Kerasco√ęt
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Birthday: April 24, 2018
Suitable for ages: 4-7
Themes: empathy, compassion, kindness
Brief synopsis: When the new girl at school has an encounter with a cruel classmate, another girl notices and shows empathy, compassion, and kindness 
by befriending her and offering to walk with Vanessa.
Opening page:


Read a Publishers Weekly review {here}.
Get ideas for Kind Acts at this Passion For Kindness page {here}.
Download free kindness posters at Ripple Kindness {here}.
Listen to Episode 13 for a Kindness Podcast {here}.
Visit this Pinterest collection for Kindness Integration ideas.
Compare and contrast this wordless book with 
Kathryn Otoshi's Draw The Line ... 

or Henry Cole's Unspoken.

Make a bulletin board to put kindness on the wall.

Why I like this book:  To be honest, I was kind of frustrated when I first opened the book and didn't find any words. I really wanted to know the story. And I really wanted there to be words. But the more I thumbed back through and paid closer attention to the pictures, the more excited I got about letting the students use the absolutely adorable illustrations to tell the story in their words. From their perspective. With their emotions. Brilliant!

I just shared it with a group of 4th graders
and they noticed something I didn't;
the book starts with a stark white background
(maybe it was snowing?)
and ended with kindness adding beautiful color.

Couple that with a bonus in the back of the book for children and adults on how to counter bullying behaviors with intentional acts of compassion and kindness and you've got a recipe for success.

Check out this kindness multiplier; it's the kind of story you'll want to read again and again. Then put on your kindness cape and come to someone's rescue, one kind act at a time.

Visit Susana Hill's blog for other PPBF picks.   


The Magical Mindful {Earth} Day

Good morning and happy Earth Day 2018. How will you show love to Mother Earth today? In partnership with our HEB grocery store, we've been collecting plastic grocery bags all month long; Mrs. Tallman's Green Team has been counting them for us. Thumbs up to them for their heart work.

To date we've got 1456 and counting on even more
to come in this week so we can save them from our landfill.
Every little bit helps.

Today I'm excited because it's my Dad's 81st birthday.
Such a great God wink, that my father, Farmer Bob,
who made his living off the land,
would be born on Earth Day.
Check out this Fuel Up to Play 360 clip 
that was shot on our family farm, 
to encourage kids to get outside and play 
in the great outdoors.

I'm also delighted to share this mindful treasure that releases today;
 I predict it will be a future favorite in our mindfulness collection.

With so much stress and anxiety in today's world, practicing mindfulness has become a critical part of my professional (and personal) learning journey.

From the publisher: 

“Imagine an immersive story that helps children learn about who they really are: part of a deeply and wondrously interconnected world. Deborah Salazar Shapiro integrates her knowledge of mindfulness with her personal passion for helping children become more aware of their integrated role in the life of our fragile and precious planet in this important contribution that will help develop a child’s compassionate and courageous mind. Bravo!” 
 Daniel J. Siegel, MD, Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine

“I am a proud immigrant who wants to contribute to the well-being of all living beings. Growing up in El Salvador, witnessing the effects of a civil war, natural disasters, and extreme poverty taught me at a very young age to appreciate the things I had,” says Deborah Salazar Shapiro, who is combining her experiences with mindfulness and heart-based practices to bring to life The Magical Mindful Day, a children’s book for people of all ages.

On a visit to the beach with her mother, Gaby, the main character of Salazar Shapiro’s debut book, and her best friend, Baba, encounter a talking cat named Oreo who introduces Gaby to many aspects of mindfulness—noticing the present moment, caring about the environment, and protecting the earth and all its creatures. Together, they share a bond that transcends time and place. The Magical Mindful Day takes children on the adventure of becoming mindful and shows them that joy and caring go hand in hand. Parents, teachers, earth lovers, and anyone who wants to encourage children to be more mindful will find much of value in this delightful tale.

These lessons translate to readers, as Salazar Shapiro encourages them to engage with the world around them in the same ways Gaby has, remembering the importance of practicing kindness toward everyone and everything. “Adults can incorporate gratitude into their daily lives along with their children, bringing mindful awareness and appreciation toward the people and things we often take for granted,” she says, inviting parents to work alongside children to foster love, respect, kindness, and compassion.

 “Through practice, I not only discovered the feeling of being alive and more at peace with my awareness of what was happening both in my inner and outer world, but I was also able to see the futility in constant worrying, learned to accept the present as the only thing that truly exists,” explains Salazar Shapiro. An instructor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and a dedicated practitioner of mindful meditation for almost a decade, she practices what she preaches to others, both in her book and daily life.

“It is powerful to be kind and compassionate,” Salazar Shapiro boldly states. In a world seemingly driven by electronics and social media, it is easy to become disconnected from surrounding people and nature. In The Magical Mindful Day, Salazar Shapiro highlights the importance, now more than ever, to guide children how to reflect on the effects of the items they use on a daily basis, especially plastic products, and the power they have to create change by making conscious choices about how they treat the people and world around them. 

I can't wait to get my hands on this magical powerhouse;
isn't Earth Day the perfect timing for its release?

Last week, I was invited to deliver a quick keynote 
to launch the Mindfulness Expo in a neighboring district;
here's the bookmark I created to share with them.
To download, click front {here} and back {here}.

I printed them out on blue card stock to give them out at my talk at the Bay Area Alliance luncheon this week as well. Can't wait.

Looking for more ways to awaken your senses?
Check out Postcards from Texas clips {here}.

Or just watch this Mindful Minute I made in Wisconsin;
experience the sun set over our family farm as you
breathe in the beauty to enjoy Mother Nature's gift.

Listen for the geese.
Look for the moon.
Spot the pile of snow.
Imagine how it feels and smells.

Here's to mindfully appreciating the magic of our Earth today
and protecting its resources for a better tomorrow
as we make every day Earth Day.

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