Because Kids Deserve It

I've never been a huge fan of the word deserve and the entitlement that it can easily conjure up in my mind, but when I see it as #kidsdeserveit
my thinking totally starts to change.

Kids deserve creativity, so yesterday I wrote this song on my morning walk
 and then I learned to play it on my ukulele ...

all of that before stumbling on this post about creativity that asks
Coincidental? I think not.

It got me to thinking about what exactly my students deserve from me. 
So I made a list.

They deserve someone who thrives on connecting.
And giving them a safe place to learn and grow.
And helping them make strong character choices.
And showing empathy, compassion and kindness.
And coaching them to be a trustworthy friend.
And sparking their passion and energy.
And cultivating a growth mindset together.
And taking chances. 
And messing up. And being okay with it. 
And apologizing. And breathing in grace. 
And forgiving. Over and over again.
And affirming one another, so that they know they matter.
And expressing gratitude.
And modeling how to be a servant leader, 
who makes the world better.

Because kids deserve all of that ... and more.

They deserve my best. 
Every. Day.
When I met with them today, we played a little game. 
Because kids love games.
I covered up the skills that as a counselor I can help with ...

and the students predicted what each icon represented.
It was serious fun ... and they were rockin' it!

We walked around our new space and I told them a bit about
our Sensory Room
Kids love stuff that taps into their senses.

We even used our stage to role-play introductions with our new friends. They were so engaged that their thirty-minute block of time just flew by. 
Because kids love acting. Or watching. 

One of my third graders asked if they could come back every day.
 Best affirmation ever.
We wrapped up the visit with a snippet from Jon Gordon's
The Energy Bus for kids.

So this school year, I pledge to be joyfully in the moment, 
to work on loving what is, 
and to give my best effort in all I do.

Because kids deserve it.


The Power of the Circle

Today I'm energized because yesterday afternoon I got to visit my high school PALs for a few minutes. Those superheroes-in-training exude excitement about the chance to empower and supercharge those special someones under their care this year. I gave them each one of these capes to decorate as we anticipate and eagerly await their flight to our campus:
Click to order yours from Really Good Stuff.

It's a visual representation, I told them, of who they are.
Our first impression of them and what they'll bring to us.
We can't wait to see their superpowers posted on our walls.

Speaking of superpowers, I found this tiny treasure on my morning walk ...

and it made me think about the power of circling up.
Part of the excitement about my new space is that we've got lots of room now, 
to huddle up, 
to sit and stand in a circle,
to sing, move and laugh together.
Knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder, sometimes hand in hand even,
with the person beside us.
Eye to eye with the friends in our group. 
To utilized inner-outer circle pair and share time.
To engage in team-building time.
And to look at each other with a message that clearly conveys
"I see you. You matter!" 
as we play to learn and connect to lead. 

On my walk I also got to thinking about the circular nature
of collective responsibility {So much interconnectedness when I walk}.

In our #leadupchat Twitter talk this morning, Bob Abrams shared this food for thought nugget that was posted on a wall in the gym at a Chinese school, so I attached it to the picture I took this week of Joshua in his new FHS letterman jacket.

Such a powerful reflection question ... 
How do I make my school proud?
... one which we could ask ourselves wherever we go. 
How do I make myself proud? 
My family proud?
My friends proud? 
My community proud? 
My Higher Power proud?

And why might it matter?

 I guess it boils down to this:
What goes around comes around.
And therein lies the power of the circle.

How do you use circle time to empower your super class family?


WE Rock

Today I started in the hallways, with the ukulele, playing the one song I know, so far. Sometimes I'd just strum, other times I'd sing the lyrics. I started switching chords and asking, "Is this a happy chord or a melancholy chord?" Most agreed that C is happy - to which I'd say "that's cause I'm happy to C you" - and C7 is a bit more melancholy. {I might be on to something for a future lesson} Anyway, this fourth-grade girl whom I'll call Grace {because that's her name and I so needed a little grace this morning} asks me if she and her sister can sing the song with me. You can pretty much guess what I said. And how I felt. When we finish, she tells me it's National Day of Forgiveness. As I'm about to respond to her, her sister quickly adds,
"Let me guess, that's your favorite day."
Uh, yeah!
I can't confirm that today actually is National Day of Forgiveness,
 but here's what I do know: ♥=warmed. 

Here now, my first week back-to-school in review.

On Tuesday, I made a WE Rock (and wrote a little ditty) for each staff member at my new school. It was a follow-up to our staff development time together, during which I encouraged them to always be on the lookout for intentional ways 
to move from me to we.

Together we're rock-solid and can splash bigger, so seize those opportunities to circle up and feel the power of WE!

Speaking of together-power, a cyberspace collaborator from one of my Facebook groups graciously shared this editable template, so I customized it as a visual for when students visit for our Meet The Counselor circle time next week.

And another collaborative ... our reflection mirror.

This spring our Crossing Guard, who also happens to be a mom on our campus (and a former student of mine from a lifetime ago), stopped by to see my new space. I shared with her my excitement about this mini-dressing-room mirror that our maintenance hero, Fred, had found for me. Before I even fully explain my plan to use post-it notes for the reflections, she offers to create the inquiries on her Silhouette. To be honest, I really wasn't sure what that was, but it felt so incredibly kind and generous and perfect, so I said yes

Consider this one of those times that I hope a picture truly is worth a thousand words so it does justice to convey how thrilled I am with how our Reflection Station turned out {especially since taking a picture of a mirror proved particularly tricky!}.

My feeling tiles went in this week ...

and my feelings carpet is scheduled for delivery tomorrow.

I think I'm ready. Here's what the character cam caught
as I walked the halls and checked in on my school family.

Check out this collage of the hand-drawn-and-painted banners outside of Pod B; what can you tell about our brand from these visuals?

And inside Pod A, I spied some supercharged third-grade work!

Yep, the 2015-2016 is off to a stellar start.

Six other resources you might useful today include:

Small Acts Big Change 9 Acts of Kindness Calendar

Traits of Good Character Freebie from Savvy School Counselor

Ten Little Lunchbox Notes download from Mama Miss

And, my favorite inspiration, Kid President, to share some 
serious fun, some end-of-summer passion,
 and an incredibly important reminder for us all.


The Changes Cha-Cha-Cha

Today I'm excited because I started my 32rd year in public education. I also started a new job at a school that's new to me, working with students at a different age and stage than I'm used to. And I got my new laptop today. You could say that I've stepped out of my comfort zone a bit whole bunch. 
Sing it with me: Ch-ch-ch Changes

Taking my new ukulele to school today felt like a pretty big leap of faith. So did wearing the grass skirt (that my friend Annie gave me last May) over my new outfit. Would I be able to play the chords fluidly enough? Would the kids think it was cool? Would they recognize the song and {gasp} maybe even sing along?

It was yesterday morning after church that I decided on The Lava Song, a Pixar Short that played before Inside Out at a theater near you this summer. I started the repetition I'd need for the muscle memory to pull me along and varied the words slightly to make it a welcome-back tune. Then this morning, I watched for third graders (my comfort zone kids) whom I could serenade.

I'm happy to report that I survived the jump. Welcoming students to Bales with a song was a total blast and well worth the blisters on my finger tips and my thumb. Here's a clip that one of the moms caught and graciously shared:

So this year, I'm making it my mission to embrace the Changes Cha-Cha-Cha and dance it fervently, with energy, passion, and grace. Care to join me?

Time now to work up my next song:
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine ...


Building Relationships, Changing Lives

Today I'm excited because we got to spend this morning
Building Relationships with passion
When the Mr. Whitlock asked me before my workshop if I thought it'd be life-changing, I wasn't exactly sure how to answer. My plan is always to plant seeds that will sprout and grow; it's always my goal to make a difference. And tonight, as I reflect, I'd have to say that yes, it was life-changing, because every time we're reminded to love a little extra on a child, with intention and on purpose, 
it absolutely has the power to change a life.

We began our session with an inquiry ~ What do you want to remember about the 2015-2016 school year? ~ and a Minute to Win It competition: 
Let's build goal posts to represent our end goal.

Fun is the ticket to engagement, and challenges like these really are wonderful hooks to engage our learners.

We talked about what the year would look like as we connect our classroom families and we reviewed and reinvigorated our commitment to Capturing Kids' Hearts, conducting Morning Meetings, and empowering students with Kelso's Choices.

One activity resulted in two visual displays showcasing the treasures that we bring, one in the Westwood Cafeteria ...

the other just outside my office in the front hallway at Bales.

It was an action-packed three hours.

We moved.
We laughed.
We listened.
We circled up.
We played with balloons.
We buzzed with a buddy.
We reflected.
We colored.
We connected.
We cried.

And after we wrote notes to express our gratitude to someone who has positively influenced our journey, we shared them with one another, out loud, to practice publicly appreciating and affirming our loved ones.

We launched with this clip from Parkway Schools in Missouri, to encourage them to experience school through the eyes of a child.

It's a passionate reminder that every day we get a chance ... 
to step into someone's story 
and change the trajectory of his or her future. 
For good
And that's a touchdown for both the gift giver and the recipient.
Click {here} if you want to see my slides.

Happy new year.


Our Brand Promise

Tonight as I unwind and get ready for bed, I'm thinking about the word brand. Not as in brand new, like the outfit I wore to kick off the 2015-2016 school year. And only sort of like brand your herd of cattle, like we did back on the farm. I'm talking specifically about a school's brand, about identifying our product and aligning what we want our customers to think, experience and feel with what they actually do. Look at the card from our District Convocation this morning:

It made me think about branding, and wonder how these words were chosen ... 
and by whom. 
Then I wondered what words I would have chosen, 
what words our stakeholders would choose?

Then my mind went to a picture from a Southwest Ad that I took in the airport on my way to CA. What can you tell about the Southwest brand? Can you tell what they want us to think? What sets them apart? What makes them unique? Authentic? Desirable?

Note: I added the thoughts written on the airplane.

Now go back to our FISD brand.
Couple the word cloud above with our district mission:

Leading To Achieve Excellence In All Endeavors

Can you tell who we are? 
Can you tell what we stand for? 
Can you tell what sets us apart?

How will we know if our Brand Promise delivers?

And, because we're in customer service, let's talk branding in your school, in your classroom, in your family, even.

Click to follow @steph_frosch on Twitter

What does your brand look like, sound like, feel like?
How can you make sure it accurately showcases your identity?
Who are your brand ambassadors?
Why is branding important?
And how do you share out your school's story?


My Friend Grace

Today I'm frustrated because I had an epic Mommy fail.
A Friday fail.
A FlaVorIce fiasco.

By now you're probably thinking Oh, no, what happened?
Well, here's the backstory.
It was last night, as Joshua was headed back to Marching Band practice, when he mentioned that he needed to put twenty of these FlaVorIce in the freezer because he wanted to surprise his French Horn section with a treat at break on Friday morning. I told him to go on the practice, that I'd do it for him. And we both went on our way, never giving it a second thought.

This morning at o'dark hundred, as Joshua was getting ready for Marching Band, he asked if I could help him get those frozen treats into an insulated carrier ... 

and that's when I froze

I went numb, actually, and my heart sank. He must have noticed, because he added, "you did put them in the freezer last night, right?" 

I was frozen, but they weren't.
I'd failed. Big time.
And it was a time when failure didn't feel like an option.
Nor did it feel like a first attempt in learning as seen on these cute little minis that keep popping up on Pinterest.

Click for source and to download.

So my brain kicks into problem-solving mode.
When did he need them by?
Would they freeze in time?
If not, where could I buy some frozen ones?
Surely I could sneak them up to the school.

But he shrugged it off, hugged me, and told me not to worry about it, that he could do it next Friday. When I checked the calendar, there wasn't a practice scheduled for that day. so I suggested Monday. Surely they'd be sufficiently frozen by Monday! But he said no, that wouldn't work. Why not? I pushed.

Joshua: Because it's not alliteration.

Me: Wait, what?

Joshua: Alliteration.

Me: You've lost me.

Joshua: Like Watermelon Wednesday. This was going to be Friday Freezer Pops. It's okay, mom. It's fine.

And I started to cry. 

I'd let my boy down, in a big way, and he was comforting me with a gentle reminder about my friend GraceI was beating myself up for forgetting and he was forgiving me, no questions asked. I was trying to make it better, and he was telling me that it's okay.

Forgiveness on a Friday; how's that for alliteration? 

When John got back from dropping him off, I asked if Joshua was as upset about the freezer pops as I was, and he said no. There's a part of me that will always feel frustration that I foiled Joshua's plan to treat his section to a FlaVorIce at break. But the bigger part of me is grateful for and blessed by his forgiveness and grace.

When's the last time you got a visit from your friend Grace?


Expectancy & Value

Today I find myself at once exhausted and energized after experiencing three days of passion and inspiration at our Technology Symposium, so here's our #futurenow15 in review.

Tuesday kicked off with a keynote by George Couros, an administrator and lead learner from Canada. We're cyberspace collaborators on Twitter, so the coolest thing was that he recognized me Jen and I headed to the front to welcome him before his talk. He grabbed Jen's phone and we took this group selfie:

His message? Let's stoke curiosity, not compliance.

George challenged us to remember why we became educators in the first place, to change the trajectory of a child's future. He encouraged us to remember that if we want to inspire meaningful change, we have to make a connection with their hearts before we can connect with their minds. And he emphasized that innovation is the big game changer in education.

He also fostered a growth mindset with the Be More Dog clip.

After his session, Jen and I presented a TweetChat workshop; 
click {here} for our slides.

Jen and her daughter made these cool shirts for us!
After our Twitter orientation, we hosted a mock chat that you can find in the #futurenow15 feed if you're interested. The best part was the Scavenger Hunt we sent our Tweeps on to encourage them to use Twitter after they left our class. I Tweeted out some clues and the first one to reply with the correct answer won and got to go to that person's door to find and claim their gift card. Tweet! 
Here's a sample clue:

Gift card found on Mrs. Reed's door.

Day 2 brought Erin Klein of Kleinspiration fame from Michigan to Friendswood to talk about learning spaces and writer's workshop.

 She, too, talked about reaching our students before teaching them. Why we especially connected with Erin is that she's not just an expert, she's a practitioner, a second-grade teacher in the classroom, doing what we do. Priceless!

Secondary teachers got to experience Amy Mayer while we in Erin's keynote. I enjoy a Google Docs breakout with Amy later that day.

Today we were treated to Dr. Curtis Chandler. The thing that endeared me to him was that he was on stage playing piano as we entered the auditorium. I knew instantly that I'd connect with what he had to say.

His first point was to connect with each of our students. 
Even the prickly ones. Especially the prickly ones.
Then he talked about Expectancy Value Theory that so very closely parallels what it says on our Character T: I Can. I Will.

I came straight home and made this slide.

It parallels this Effort Chart that a Twitter contact recently shared:

Then I ran some errands and took a nap.
Because I am all techered out for today.

 How are you preparing for this year's superheroes?


Irrationally Crazy

It started as an affirmation ...

I saw your new room last night; it's so invitingly warm and welcoming. Your Dr. Seuss paintings are incredible. I admire your artistic talent and flair.

... punctuated with a bit of humor. 

Oh, and if that adorable Lorax canvas goes missing after I'm gone, I promise I had nothing to do with its disappearance.

It ended with a kindness I will never forget.

 A stowaway in my luggage, with this note written on the back, 
and signed by the BEAutiful artist herself:

Because today I really needed someone like you to cross my path.

I don't usually run out of words, but this was one of those times. 

It was for me. 
From Beatriz.
Just because. 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot ... 

Her gift lives out the essence of my message that day,  
my challenge for each teacher in that California cafetorium, 
and everywhere I go ... to be the one.
The hero you needed as a child.
The one who cares more than a whole awful lot.
The one who lights up the darkest of places.
The one who goes ga-ga ... 
crazy even.
Irrationally crazy.
Just because ...

So today I'm grateful ... for an irrationally-crazy gift from Beatriz.
One that punctuates Dr. Seuss' words a whole awful lot.
One that makes me want to be better, kinder, more generous.
Because even grown-ups need that one.


Small Acts Big Change Guest Post

Today I'm delighted to introduce my guest blogger, a ten-year-old named Gracie, a real-life superhero who's making the world better, one kind act at a time
Thank you, Gracie, for your leadership and inspiration.

Hi! My name is Gracie Dundee, and I am 10 years old. I have always wanted to make a difference in the world, and I started volunteering when I was 2 years old. In 2012, my sister and I started a nonprofit charity called Small Acts Big Change
Click to follow us on Pinterest
Small Acts Big Change is all about kids helping kids change the world. Our goal is to teach kids how important it is to give back and show them that they can make a difference through kindness and service. We coordinate many projects each year that benefit animals, people and our environment, including 9 Small Acts of Kindness, the Neighborhood Grocery Bag Campaign, Operation 500 Books and The Write Stuff.

My dream is to help create a world where everyone is kind and good, a world where people want to work together to make life better for everyone. I want to grow Small Acts Big Change so that someday we have over 1 million kids working on kindness projects with us all over the world. I think we can make the world a wonderful place for ALL animals and people, and I know this change starts with kids. Each of us really can make a big difference through small acts of kindness and service. 
Please don't let anyone ever stop you. 

Doesn't our future look bright 
with Peacemakers like Gracie lighting the way.


Building Community

Happy August! Today I've got back-to-school on my heart and mind. 
Check out this shot of Bales Intermediate, my new school.

Consider this Zig Ziglar reflection:

How do we connect with kids so that they know that they matter, 
so that they feel loved? I started the day on an hour-long Twitter Chat {#sunchat} set aside specifically for as an intentional icebreaker idea swap.

Here's the first resource that grabbed my attention from the Four O'clock Faculty blog connecting Pixar ideals with student motivation. 
How will you help your students become better people?

One of Rich's big points has to do with the power of the morning meeting. In fact, he says that it is the "most important part of a classroom." And I wholeheartedly agree. Here's my school family, a few years back, circling up to reconnect.

So how will you build community when you get back to school,
 first with your faculty, and then in your classroom family?
What does your ideal community look like, sound like, feel like?

A small-group activity that Clifton Taulbert facilitated in Juarez asked us to choose one word to describe our ideal community, then share those words with our table-mates before weaving them into a 30-word vision statement. 

Once you've created the vision, then the real work starts. Icebreakers help to relax and energize people before an activity, task, or cause. They serve to build trust and help break down barriers, so that our work together goes more smoothly.

A photo booth was also suggested, like the one set up in Mexico.
Look at how good it feels to be wanted!

Click {here} for details about a B2S Selfie Adventure.
Other icebreakers suggested in the Chat this morning include:

Click for original post and more details.

Check out Ten Timely Tips.

Make Autobiographical Trading Cards.
Play Conversation Jenga.
Take this compass personality inventory.  
Play the Name Chain Game.
Non-Icebreaker B2S Things To Remember.
Writing Prompts To Launch The School Year.

One year we asked our teachers to design a school shirt,
after which we had them model their designs.

Endless possibilities to connect abound when you're building community! 
Need more inspiration? Visit my Pinterest page for Classroom Connections & Team BuildersWhat's your favorite community builder?