A Gratitude Discount

Happy Monday! Today I'm excited to announce that Tiffany G. from Missouri has won the Kelso's Choice Kit for Families. And get this ... our friends at Cerebellum want to thank us for our interest in their product with a gratitude discount off one of their Kelso items. Don't you love the sound of that?

Coupon Code: KCTHANKS15
Shop here: Kelso's Choice
Terms & Conditions: Get 15% off of any one Kelso item (including the new Kelso’s Choice for Families kit!) Not valid with any other discount or offer. Expires December 1, 2015.

On another note, as we roll into October,
it's time for me to unplug for a bit.

I wish I could say that this cat is as therapeutic as she looks.
But she's not.
Not cuddly at all. Not one little bit.
She is good, though, at knowing when to play ... and when to rest.
So I'm taking a self-care cue from her.
And taking a break.
To rest, restore and reboot.
Because we all know that we can't serve from an empty vessel.
Not to worry; I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

Until then, cape up and crusade on.

And, in the words of Kid President, keep "making cool stuff happen!"


Daring To Be Brave

Hello dear reader, and happy Friday.

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a fun new book
that just might help your child understand and conquer a fear or two, 
but not before I tell you about my trip to NASA yesterday.

John's supervisor invited me to talk with a few leadership giants
about Fixed and Growth Mindset, so I went to share Carol Dweck's work with a Star Wars spin that I adapted from {here}.

I have it on good authority that they really connected with the Mindset song 
I wrote for them and played on the Ukulele.
You are my Padawans, my Mindset Padawans ...
Anyway, so many fun presenting opportunities presenting themselves.

And now, today's book review:

Title: Daredevil Duck
Author & Illustrator: Charlie Alder
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Date: May 12, 2105
Suitable for ages: 3 and up
Theme: courage, friendship, fear
Brief synopsis: Daredevil Duck only dreams of being brave. Will he be able to muster up some courage when mole's yellow balloon gets stuck in a tree and he needs Duck's help?

Opening page:

Resources:  Read the thoughts of a five-year-old {here}.
Read a review at Kids' Book Review {here}.
Read Keila Dawson's PPBF post {here}.
Compare and contrast this Duck tale with another book
with a conquering-fears theme from this list
Share this motivational clip about courage {here}.

Why I like this book: If you've already watched the little clip, you've seen the flip-flap feature that instantly endeared me to this treasure. I love lift-the-flap books, but it's rare to find them beyond the Board Book stage. 

Daredevil Duck totally wants courage to be his superpower. He wants do brave stuff, to be a superhero, but time and time again, his fear gets in the way, and he's scared silly. This is super common in younger children, so I predict they'll connect with this beautifully-illustrated Duck tale that has sent my heart soaring.   

As an enrichment idea, encourage students to create their own Fear-This Flip-Flap book listing or drawing out things that scare them. Under the flap, they can show ways in which they imagine processing through to conquer that fear. Give them a yellow balloon as a tangible reminder about Duck and his adventure.


Planting Our Peace Promise

Yesterday we celebrated International Day of Peace
and today I'm still feeling it.

The energy, the excitement ...

the passion, the peace.

This year instead of making the pinwheels in Art class, students took the Pinwheels for Peace template home to work on them as a family. 
And wow, did we get some AmAzInG homework back. 

It's our gift to the community, this peace sign, one thousand pinwheels strong, whirling our promise to be peacemakers out into the world.

Decorated with colorful symbols and reflective words that depict peace, each pinwheel, like the family that created it, tells a story.

 How incredible it was to congregate for our annual planting event under beautiful blue Friendswood skies, to share with the world
 that peace has to start somewhere ... 

why not let it begin with us.


Strength, Comfort, Hope & Peace

Today is a somber Sunday for my extended family; 
a season of sorrow enshrouds us as we say good-bye to little Jack.

This is how I want to remember my young cousin, 
ready to take on the world of Kindergarten, 
with his John Deere lunchbox in his hands 
and a sweet sweet smile on his face.
That's why this isn't a post that's coming very easily to me.
In fact, I wasn't going to write it at all.

But I don't want to miss the opportunity to honor and thank everyone who prayed with us during Jack's short illness and share our gratitude for the compassion and kindness you have shown during this difficult time.

You've lit prayer candles to give us hope.

You've written heartfelt poetry to make us smile.

You've sent us beautiful music to lift us up.

You've hosted a bootcamp to support us financially.

You've unified to draw on strength that we don't have right now.

And you've found inspirational words to help us heal.

You've called, texted and emailed; all of these treasures wrap us in a huge hug and bring us strength, comfort, hope and peace.

We are grateful to everyone who is willing to journey through this grief alongside of us. Because it won't be easy, to wade through this season of sadness. 
In fact, because we love so deeply, it's going to be painful.
Excruciatingly painful.
Heartbreakingly painful.
Some days, it may seem impossible, 
especially for those closest to Jack, 
to keep going now that he's gone.
We might look lost.
Or feel angry.
We might just need you to sit and cry with us.

But our family's faith is strong, just like little Jack was,
and it will get us through what lies ahead, until we meet again.

So today, we ask that you remember Jack's parents, Jason and Renee, his big sister Ella, and his extended family and village of friends in your thoughts and prayers. 

We celebrate the gift of five years that this little angel was here, 
to make us laugh and bring us joy . . .

and we take comfort in knowing that Jack's guardian angel made an appearance in the nurses' station monitor just as he was about to fly to his heavenly home.


PPBF: When A Dragon Moves In Again

It's Friday, Friday, a PPBF-Friday and guess who's back?
I predict you'll be on fire for today's pick.

Author: Jodi Moore
Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Publisher: Flashlight Press
Date: September 1, 2015
Suitable for: Kindergarten through 2nd
Themes: imagination, new baby, sibling jealousy
Brief synopsis: This sequel to When A Dragon Moves In finds our little tyke and his family nesting as they await the arrival of their baby. Will there be room enough for Dragon in this family of five?
Opening page: If you help your dad build a castle, a dragon might move in.


*Visit the author's inspiring page {here}.
*Compare and contrast the author's two Dragon books.
*Make an origami dragon head using these You Tube instructions.
*Click {here} for some dragon coloring sheets and printables.
*Activity idea: Infuse movement into your read aloud by encouraging kids to do a jumping jack, mountain climber, squat thrust, burpee, or the dance move of their choice every time they hear the word dragon

Why I like this book: This hilarious text takes an honest and authentic look at the sibling jealousy that can ensue when a new baby joins the family. From bowling with baby bottles to flying for the newborn like a superhero, the dragon-boy dynamic duo does its best to get the attention {connection} that a middle child craves when an infant sibling arrives.

Expect the boy blaming his antics on his dragon to spark a discussion about real versus pretend, about honesty and dishonesty and beg the age-old question:
Is it ever okay to lie? 

And then prepare to be wrapped in a blanket of warmth by the very real snuggle scene; the author's powerful words paired with the illustrator's brilliant visuals will reach down into the depths of your emotional reserves to endear you to this heartwarming treasure

Check out this book; it'll be the perfect addition to your collection
 and a really fun gift for that mommy-to-be in your circle.

For today's other PPBF titles, visit Susanna Hill's blog {here}.


Making Your Mark

Happy International Dot Day. How are you making your mark? At Westwood and Bales, we are celebrating creativity, courage and collaboration and the Peter Reynolds classic story The Dot through our Music and Art classes. Oh, and we're all wearing polka-dots. On picture day. It'll make for a good story later. 
Click {here} for some great activity ideas.
We're having a blast making our mark(s)!

We're also celebrating sweet role models ~ Grandparents ~ this week with a sweet roll breakfast this week. It was so awesome to see the cafeteria filled with these heroes. One of my third graders actually stopped as I was greeting at the door to proudly introduce her three grandparents to me. As I was shaking their hands, I heard her add: And grandparents, this is Mrs. Gruener. Her job is to make sure kids at this school are happy. How's that for a job description!

In other news, I'm getting ready for my next whole-group counseling class. We're going to start by fixing these fixed mindset statements and unlocking them 
into growth mindset reframes. I can't wait.

And finally, a quick update from Leadership Central: I had some special visitors yesterday when kindergarteners from Mrs. Krail's class stopped by to surprise me. So I pulled out a puppet, read them a story, and played The Lava Song on my ukulele while the ones who knew it sang along.

Guess who made their mark on my heart ... 

Have you entered our Kelso's Choice For Families kit giveaway yet? If not, click {here} to do that next.


Kelso's Choice For Families

As many of you know, we have been using Kelso's Choice at school for almost a decade to equip and empower our learners with the skills and confidence to solve their small {bothersome but not threatening} problems on their own.

We've got a special spot set aside in each room at school for

in heavily trafficked areas, we've made the nine problem-solving choices from the Kelso conflict-resolution wheel available as engaging visual displays.

Today I'm over-the-moon to announce that now there's a Kelso kit to support the work of parents, guardians, and caregivers in the home. Introducing ... 

I was chatting with Nicole Terzic, Product Development Manager at Cerebellumand she graciously agreed to give us a little intel 
on this new conflict-management empowerment tool for families.

I'm so excited about the new Kelso's Choice For Families parenting kit. Can you tell us about it?

Nicole: Yes, we are very excited about it too! Kelso’s Choice for Families is a fun, easy-to-use kit that will help your young children learn how to solve small, kid-sized problems on their own! It is modeled after the Kelso’s Choice Conflict Management curriculum kit that has been loved by child specialists and educators for over 20 years. In a nutshell, this kit is for parents to use with their young children (recommended for ages 5+) to teach them 1) how to identify a problem as being safe for them to solve on their own and 2) how to select and use one of Kelso the Frog’s nine problem-solving “choices” to bring peace to a situation – all without the intervention of an adult. What parents will see after using the kit is that a problem between siblings will no longer end in tears, physical fighting, or tattling, and children will be equipped to handle internal frustration if a conflict happens between themselves and an adult, like a parent.

Children will also be given tools to handle a BIG problem that must always be taken to a trusted adult to resolve. This kit is also a really effective tool for children with learning or developmental disabilities. The secret to its success with all children is presenting seemingly complex information in an easy, fun, concrete way that young minds can grasp onto.
The Kelso’s Choice for Families kit comes with:
·         1 Workbook with instruction and plenty of crafts. Is accompanied by a CD-Rom with printable materials.
·         1 Reward Chart to encourage your kids to use each of Kelso’s Choices (printed front and back with two different designs)
·         2 Posters of the Choices Wheel, a clear, colorful visual tool to help your child learn each of Kelso’s Choices
·         DVD with two short vignettes of real children using Kelso’s Choice to solve common at-home problems
Go {here} to download a free Kelso’s Choice for Families craft. It’s my absolute favorite!

How does this kit differ from and/or complement the Kelso’s Choice Conflict Management curriculum kit that many schools use?

Nicole: The essence of the two kits are the same – and by essence, I mean that the Kelso’s Choice for Families kit will teach the same core values as the Kelso’s Choice Conflict Management curriculum kit. Both kits will teach children the difference between small and Big problems, and will teach children each of Kelso’s nine choices. The difference is HOW the information is taught, and the depth at which the lessons are taught. A home setting is somewhat spontaneous, and instruction happens during sporadic moments of opportunity whereas a curriculum is much more structured, and each lesson follows specific goals. At first glance, it may seem like the home kit is an abbreviated version of the curriculum kit, but the overall method used to instruct the children is very specific to the respective settings.

Why parenting?

Nicole: For years we’ve been getting requests from parents to come out with a Kelso’s Choice kit that was specific to their needs, and at a price point that they could afford. Parents would find out about Kelso’s Choice from their children who learned it in their classrooms, or school counselors and teachers (who were also parents) would bring Kelso’s Choice lessons they learned on the job into their homes. But there was never a comprehensive resource to bring the Kelso’s Choice lessons into the home – until now!
Plus, knowing how to solve small problems is not at all a school-specific skill. It affects almost every aspect of a person’s life, in all stages of their lives, and what parent wouldn’t want to help their child along in learning how to navigate that aspect of the world?

Why now?

Nicole: We always knew we wanted to create a kit specifically for families, but it took a while to figure out how to properly execute it. The authors, Diane Lee and Barbara Clark, have a very high standard for the Kelso resources, and wanted to make sure it was clear, had quick instruction, and would be effective in a completely different environment than that of a classroom.

One of the biggest challenges was to make sure that the instruction was clear enough for any parent or guardian to teach, without having to have professional training. Part of that process was having parents without any prior experience with Kelso’s Choice review the workbook of lessons and activities. We had to really make sure we weren’t using language that was foreign to someone outside of the education profession, and we had to make sure there was clear value in every activity we included in the book. 

After we felt confident in being able to effectively translate a full curriculum into a quick, yet comprehensive tool for home, we had to figure out how to make it affordable, which was its own challenge. But after years of having a home kit on our wish list, we were finally able to create something we know lives up to the Kelso standard of quality, and one that we know will live up to parents’ expectations!

How do you anticipate this product helping or changing families?

Nicole: I’ve spoken to several school counselors and teachers over the years and the feedback I always get is that the Kelso’s Choice methodology works to significantly reduce tattling and conflict among children, as well as improve communication skills and build the confidence in children to resolve small problems. Friends end up having better friendships, children are able to move on from conflicts quicker – making more time for the important stuff in life - and adults get to see children become more independent. These have all been consistent results from children learning Kelso’s Choice. Plus, I also know that kids flat out, unequivocally LOVE Kelso the Frog and are so responsive to his lessons. I think parents are going to have no problem getting children excited about learning Kelso’s Choice, because, let’s face it, that’s half the battle. The rock-solid methodology that Diane Lee and Barbara Clark have created will be a sure-fire way for kids to be problem solvers on their own in no time! I really, truly think this kit will make a big, positive impact on families' lives!

I know you're always creating. Can you give us a sneak peek at what's next?

Nicole: We don’t have any immediate plans for new Kelso resources, but we always love to hear what our customers and followers want. We take your feedback very seriously! Please leave a comment on this blog, on our Facebook page or email us (kelsoschoice@cerebellum.com) with suggestions. We’ll keep a lookout!

Thank you, Nicole. We appreciate you. 
And now, more hoppy news; we're giving away a 
Kelso's Choice for Families kit to one lucky reader!

Enter now for your chance to win; then check back here 
on Friday, September 25th, to see if it's you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Under A Rest

If you're in a place like we are, where Labor Day is observed, it's likely you're enjoying a rest from your labors on this three-day weekend. Or at least I hope you are. Some of us find it harder than others to sit still, to just be. But since we cannot serve from an empty vessel, the holiday weekend begs this inquiry:

If the answer is yes, I'd love to know what your best strategies are,
 to rest and restore, 
to refresh and reinvigorate,
to rejuvenate and re-energize
If the answer is no, what are you waiting for?

We've touched on the subject of self-care a few times before.
Click {here} to re-read Erin Mason's guest post
and {here} to remember Heather Thomas' resilience reflections.
Vanessa wrote about making a difference {here}
and I tackled the topic of compassion fatigue {here}.

I also shared ideas for self-kindness on this inspirational mini:

What other tools can we add to our self-care arsenal?

Laughing: Treat yourself to a funny show or movie.
Connecting: Call someone you love, just to reconnect.
Reading: Escape into a fictional novel, just for fun.
Exercising: Take a long walk or bike ride with a friend.
Listening: Put on some soft music and meditate or pray.
Creating: Do something artsy to spark your creative juices.
Soaking: Relax with a long bubble bath or a hot-water foot soak.
Writing: Revisit something you wrote years ago and reflect.
Shopping: Give yourself permission to take in some retail therapy.
Being: Sit by the pool or on your porch & enjoy a sunrise or sunset.

What's your promising practice for spending quality time
under a rest?


Master Classroom Management

Today I'm excited because I've got three whole days {without too much planned} that I can spend digesting the treasures in this book I've been reading.

From the publisher: Dr. Jerry Evanski’s approach stems from a simple and practical idea: that classroom management is based on teaching methods that keep your students interested and engaged, not on disciplining students when they misbehave. As he says, “Poor teaching strategies can trigger behavior problems. You can prevent problems before they occur.”

Based on significant review of educational research that is sprinkled throughout the book, Dr. Evanski has developed a program that offers one simple skill a day to build a repertoire of classroom management techniques. After eight weeks, teachers have mastered 40 new skills that cover the key teaching areas of:

-       Getting attention
-       Keeping attention
-       Engaging students
-       Teaching the lesson
-       Getting participation
-       Giving directions
-       Communicating
-       Transitioning

Here is a sample of some of the skills covered in the book:

-       Your Teaching Spot - Teach students to associate specific locations in your classroom with different messages—one spot for teaching, one spot for announcements, etc.
-       The Big Picture – Help students establish the context for what you’re teaching by showing them how it fits into what they are learning throughout the year.
-       Acknowledge the Effort – Encourage participation by teaching students how to enthusiastically acknowledge the effort of their classmates.

Why I'm loving this resource: The first thing that draws me to this book is that Dr. Evanski's ideas, many of which are backed by brain research, 
exude engagement, motivation and funI have a feeling that educators like me will learn and grow by leaps and bounds as they tailor these tips to fit the needs of the students in their classroom families. 

The second sticking point is how the book is set up, with an idea to test-drive every day of the week for eight weeks, to facilitate learning and implementation. 

The third-and-equally-important reason I'm endorsing Dr. Evanski's work is that it's a tool that supports my firm belief in disciplining through proactive modeling, teaching and practicing of skills rather than with a reactive punishing of skill deficits. Isn't that what our students deserve from us? And isn't that how we hope they'll lead when they're in charge? 

Check out this book; I predict it'll be a positive influence and support as you work with intention to create a culture of dignity, caring and respect in your 
character building.

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