Mindful Moments

With so much concern about the rise in anxiety in children, adolescents, and young adults, I'm super excited to find equally as many resources for combatting that anxiety, from nurturing a growth mindset to intentionally spending more time in the moment.

First, a few strong mindfulness resources:

Join Cheryl Jones in a few simple Mindful Desk Movements
Enjoy these in-the-moment resources from Mindful Schools
And practice Spider-Man Mindfulness

Then, some recent growth mindset finds:

A Growth Mindset animation featuring the Tortoise & the Hare
A treasure trove of Growth Mindset Lesson Resources

Engaging, thoughtful clips from Class Dojo, like this:

And from Mindset guru Carol Dweck: When a Fixed Mindset is Better Than a Growth Mindset ~ wait, what?

What amazing mindset or mindfulness treasures 
have you unearthed lately?

Now I must get back to our garden; there's some planting to do
in this moment.


The Kindness Crusader

From time to time, a counseling colleague will reach out in collaboration, sometimes with an inquiry or a request for help, other times with a "Hey, I adapted your idea and this is what happened." Today's post is the result of a combination of the two. After I spoke at TCA in Dallas, Kelly Locke from Wilkinson Elementary in Conroe sent this note:

I didn't have exactly what she was looking for, but we tossed ideas back and forth; once her script was complete, she kindly agreed to share what she wrote.

Aren't these two AdOrAbLe?

The Kindness Crusader by Kelly Locke

Good morning! Today is the last day of National Random Acts of Kindness week, and the day that you will finally find out why I needed so many toilet paper rolls! Today’s theme is “Let Kindness Be Your Super Power” so in class you will be making kindness superhero cuffs. Create your own kindness superhero design. Plus, as a treat I have asked the Kindness Crusader (a local superhero) to answer some important questions for us.

Kelly – Kindness Crusader, thank you so much for being here today. Our students would really like to know what super powers you have and why they are so special.
K.C. – I have magnetic powers. When I want something, it is automatically drawn to me.
Kelly – Wow; that is awesome. So, that power is sort of like kindness, right?
K.C. – I’m not following you.
Kelly – Well, when you are kind to others, more people want to be around you. It is as if they are drawn to you.  
K.C. – I’ve never thought of it that way, but yeah I guess it is.
Kelly – What is another super power you have?
K.C. – I have the courage to stand up for others when someone is being unkind to them, but I’m not sure that is a super power because anyone can do that.
Kelly – Really? It is that easy? How could our students stand up for others and help them when they are in trouble?
K.C. – Oh yeah, it is super easy. All your students have to do is stand up for what is right. If you see someone being rude to another student you can say “At Wilkinson we are always nice to each other.” Or “Wilkinson Lions care about each other and don’t say mean things to one another." Then offer to walk with the student who had the mean things said about them.
Kelly – I noticed that you didn’t say anything mean back to the person who was rude first. Don’t you want to get them back for what they said?
K.C. – Getting someone back can be tempting at times, but that is spreading unkind words, not being a kindness superhero.
Kelly – Oh ok. Kindness superheroes do the right thing even when it is tough. Ok, so I think we have time for one more super power.
K.C. – I have special vision that helps me see people from a really far distance that might need my help. I’m always on the lookout for the opportunity to swoop in and help others.

Kelly – I don’t know if any of our students have special vision, but are there ways they can look for others to help?
K.C. – Oh sure!! It is really very easy. All your students have to do is open their eyes to the world around them and see how they can help. For example – if someone is walking down the hall with a huge load of books they can hold a door for them or help them carry them. If they notice someone sitting alone or not having a friend to play with at recess they can go over and be their friend. There are lots of ways to be kind to others. You just have to open your eyes and see what is happening around you.
Kelly – Kindness Crusader, thank you so much for joining us today. I know that we have a lot of great students who could be kindness superheroes just like you.
K.C. – It was my pleasure to be here. And remember students – being kind sometimes takes courage, but the more you practice it the easier it becomes. Sometimes you just have to wake up, look in the mirror, and say…”I’m going to be a kindness superhero today!” Have a great day!

I'll bet those kindness cuffs turned out cute. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your engaging work with us. Your students are undoubtedly blessed by your creativity, passion, enthusiasm and love. Cape up and crusade on!  


Super-Rare & Special

Today, some reflections, sparked by this tiny treasure.

have been a slacker about haven't been very faithful to started power walking again this morning, partly because I haven't been sleeping very well and I'm thinking that exercise will help me, but mostly because I hoped I'd see my first-grade friend, Jax, outside. You see, he's moving away this week so I was pretty sure there'd be a moving van in his drive. And, sure enough, there it was. 
And there he was. 
Playing with the neighbors. 
Happy as a kid can be.
When he saw me, he called out my name and came running into my arms. 
He wanted me to see the rare dinosaur on the U-haul,
and we read the description together, something about the dinosaur's footprints. 

So I asked him what footprints he was leaving in Friendswood, to which he answered "character tracks!" without hesitation. 

That's when he reached into his pocket to pull out the treasure that I'm holding in my hand at the top of this post.

Jax: Here, Mrs. Gruener, I have something special for you.
Me: Wow, thanks. I'll add it to my lego collection.
Jax: It's super-rare.
Me: Are you sure you want me to have it?
Jax: It's okay. I have thousands of them.

And special.
Just like Jax.

And then, just like that, he was off to play with his friends again and I was back in power-walking mode. As I was giggling at the irony of my super-rare lego that Jax has thousands of, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. And, before I was even to the corner, I began to cry sob. 
Big dinosaur tears.
Real raw emotions to wrestle with and regulate.
Sad, because this is so-long for now to a super-rare superhero who has this unique ability to make an ordinary day extraordinary.
And hopeful, because the world is bound to be a better place
with special young people like Jax leading the way.

His teacher and my friend, Amy Boyer, brought Jax and his class to see me this past week, to say good-bye. Since Jax loves Henrietta {Westwood's hen puppet} the most, she made a super-rare appearance and they made a pinky promise to stay in touch.

Can't you just feel the love?

 Henrietta I didn't want to let go.

Because when someone super-rare and special comes along ... 

I'll miss you, Jax. Thank you for making
footprints worth following wherever you go.


PPBF: In My Heart

Today I'm excited because my guest post at Free Spirit about helping grieving students is now live; click {here} to go there for resources and strategies that I think you'll find helpful. Assignment writing is such a fun challenge for me. Another engaging, thought-provoking post I came across this week 
{What's Wrong With Overachieving} might also interest you. 

Scott Shickler, one of The 7 Mindsets authors, and I will both be keynote speakers at this Character Conference in Wisconsin this summer and I can't wait. 

Click the banner for more details.

I'm also tickled pink because our PPBF pick is just perfect
for a counselor (and mom!) like me.

Title: In My Heart: A Book of Feelings
Author: Jo Witek
Illustrator: Christine Roussey
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
Date: October 14, 2014
Suitable for: Preschool and up
Theme: feelings exploration
Brief synopsis: A whimsical, flowery look into the young narrator's heart, 
which houses a wide array of fabulous feelings.
Opening page: My heart is full of feelings. Big feelings and small feelings. Loud feelings and quiet feelings. Quick feelings and slow feelings. My heart is like a house with all these feelings living inside.

Look at how adorable the little superhero on the back cover is!
Read a review at Books That Heal Kids {here}.
A template to make a My Feelings book {here}.
My Feelings Management Pinterest page {here}.
Find a template to make Feelings Tellers {here}.
Share this Dr. Sood clip about feelings and the brain:

Compare and contrast this book with:

Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis
The Way I Feel by Janen Cain

Why I like this book:  I'm a school counselor and this little treasure is meant to encourage feelings exploration, so to start with, there's that. But beyond the obvious, I love the way the narrator tries to put into words how she interacts with certain emotions ~ happy, brave, mad, calm, broken, sad, hopeful, afraid, silly, shy, proud ~ and how they interact with her. It's a refreshing look at what happens to us when the feelings that live inside of our hearts awaken and choose to come for visit. I also love how she refers to her feelings on the opening page as big and small, loud and quiet, quick and slow. To that list, I'd add easy and hard, comfortable and uncomfortable.

Check out this book for yourself or a friend
I think it'll make you feel happy.


Intentional Optimism & Love

Happy Valentine's Day.
Today, I'm thinking about the choice {and power!} of 
positive {and non-negative} thinking and attitude.

That insight came from this little treasure:

If you check out this short, simple inspirational read, 
I predict that you will be positively supercharged!

I'm on a team of Public School Ambassadors in our district who is reading this book, and we decided to see what our stakeholders feel about our school. We sent home a blank heart with the question: What do you love about our school? 

The individual hearts are hanging in our school's front hallway way in the shape of a huge heart that's growing bigger day by day. 

If you're in the Houston area, come on by and read their 
heartfelt, heartwarming reflections and sentiments.

It has been said that we get more of what we focus on. Why not test out that theory with a daily dose of intentional optimism and love?


Thursday Treasure Trove

Today, a few treasures.
First, my Dear Me guest post at Free Spirit.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Why not take the Dear-Me Challenge?

Next, this growth-mindset maxim to remind us that 
anything is possible.

Then, from Daily Good: What If Schools Taught Kindness?

NPR's thoughtful post about What Kids Need From Grown-Ups

Play to Your Strengths from our friends at The 7 Mindsets

For comic relief, this Social Skills for Politicians clip

Finally, check out this passionate and innovative superhero:

E is for enthusiasm.
Don't you just love how excited he gets?

Talk about your Thursday treasure trove! 
Happy reading {and watching}.


Counseling Love

Happy Saturday.
I've been on a self-imposed digital detox regimen,
a cleanse that has revived and refreshed.
Try it and see.
If you have kids, unplug with them and plug in to each other.
I'd love to know how it goes.
{We've been playing a lot of Canasta!}

Today I'm delighted to review my National School Counseling Week; our Superintendent came around on Wednesday with a challenge to complete this sign.

Pretty easy, though as you can see there wasn't enough room
for all of the reasons I love my calling.
Kids came around, too. All week long.
Bringing their hand-made creations of gratitude and love.

I haven't had the chance to read through all of them yet,
but so far the common themes are kindness, peace and fun.
I'll take it.
One of them made an acrostic out of my name,
and the U stood for Ukulele.
Pure joy. And bliss. And happiness.
To kick off the week, I got to meet Dr. Jean.

Fourteen years my elder, she's so full of life, light and insight.
Then I spent Sunday through Tuesday with 2000 other school counselors up in Dallas at our State Conference. On Monday I spoke to a room filled with caring character educators about
 Inspiring Empathy, Compassion & Kindness.
Bucket overflowed is an understatement.

Found author Julia Cook there and spent a little time reconnecting.
And goofing off.

Back home, baked goods were pouring me so that we could spend Wednesday afternoon packing boxes filled with hand-crafted Valentines and home-baked kindness from our kitchens ...

for the eleven deployed servicemen and women whom we adopted.

Twenty-nine boxes filled with 
and love.

On Friday, I got to start this,
our heart-felt reflections about why we love our school.
I can't wait to watch our heart grow.

And there you have it, 
just a few of the many reasons why I love being a School Counselor.

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