Empowering Empathy

Just before Thanksgiving break, our school staff took time out during a faculty meeting to share a little bit about our college colors to inspire out learners to 
dream big.

Here's how mine turned out.

So grateful to Karen S., who created and shared the template.

I'm super excited about how our display pops.

Tomorrow as we launch into our lessons about caring, 
we'll work on empowering empathy.

We're going to start by watching this film clip
without any sound. Just watch, not listen.

We'll talk about what they think happened and what they think about what happened. Then we'll watch it again, this time with audio.

After what I think will be a riveting discussion,
students will get to choose from the following activities in Social Stations, 
to get them stepping into another's shoes
and thinking about how certain situations feel, 
what they would want, 
what they might need to make it work.

We'll be building a huge figure 8 with Jenga blocks, blindfolded.

We'll be putting together a Scramble Square puzzle
without speaking to one another, silent.

We'll be playing catch in a circle
with our feet, no hands.
{See the orange ball in the air?}

We'll be writing notes to our President-elect

using our non-dominant hands.
It's super tricky to erase with only one hand available!

I'll have my copy of Hey, Little Ant in Latin out
and see who chooses to attempt language translation.

We'll be writing mirror-image messages about empathy.

And, in the end, I hope that we will have empowered empathy,
that glorious virtue that I firmly believe could be the change
for our superheroes and their future.
Click {here} for more empathy simulation ideas.

Check out these empathy posts for more empowerment:

Why Empathy Holds The Key 
This Is Your Brain On Empathy 
Empathy By The Book 
Teaching Kids Empathy In Denmark A Piece Of Cake

Oh, and if you haven't read UnSelfie by empathy expert Michele Borba yet, 
put that on your Christmas list today.

It has my enthusiastic endorsement.



O Give Thanks

Today I'm feeling thankful
for passion,
for provision,
for partnerships.

As I begin a week-long break away from school
and reflect on this past semester at my home away from home,
I'm thankful for the enthusiasm and motivation,
for the encouragement, support and care
that I see teachers, assistants, mentors and volunteers
lovingly bathe our students in every day. 
 So before break, our leadership team used this template we created to write notes of affirmation, to tell our faculty and staff how who they are and how what they do is key to our successAnd to thank them.

Click on the graphic to download the template.

I got to write one for Fred, our amazing handyman,
whose office is right across the way from mine.
I taped it on his door Tuesday after he'd left, so this is what he found Wednesday morning when he got to school.

That was so much fun, to express our gratitude in that way.
It did my heart good to mine for greatness,
to not only appreciate but to affirm them, 
to reflect on something special and unique
about each and every one of them.

I'm feeling incredibly thankful to work in a place
where generosity isn't just an ideal, but an everyday virtue.
Check out this adorable visual that a third-grade leader made to help inspire a collection of nearly one thousand items for our local food pantry this week.

It was fun to watch students open and close the door
as they walked passed this Food Drive reminder up front.

On Friday, I decided to thank and uplift our students
in the form of a personalized song on my ukulele.
I re-wrote the words and sang it loud and proud 
as students entered our building and headed down the hallway.
It went something like this:

We've got a lot of kindness
in our school.
We've got a whole lot of kindness
in our school.
We've got so very much kindness
in our school.
We've got so many kind kids in our school.

We've got Luke and Lilly
in our school.
We've got Angel and Devrie,
Harley, too.
We've got Grant and Jeremiah
in our school.
We've got a lot of kind kids in our school.

And so on. I added new names as students walked in
and adjusted the lyrics and rhythm to make it all fit.

Later that afternoon, one of the girls came by my office
to thank me for writing a song for her.
And it touched my heart.

Gratitude is circular like that, 
creating a win-win,
touching both the giver and the receiver
in tangible and intangible ways. 

Today I'm feeling thankful ... for you, dear friends.
For your visits to the Corner,
and for your desire to plant, nourish,
grow and harvest seeds of character and strength.

O give thanks ... 


Make Every Day Kindness Day

As we get ready to launch into the most wonderful 
time of the year,
I'm reminded that kindness knows no calendar.
And yet, if want to warm our world as winter sets in,
what better way than through intentional acts
of compassion, service and love?
So here are some low-and-no-cost ideas
for a Kindness Connections Countdown
that we'll be sending home to our families.
Click the graphic to download yours today.

For more kind-act ideas, WonderMomWannaBe posted her
ideas for Christmas Kindness for Kids {here}.

Enjoy basking in the glow of making every day
Kindness Day!


Our True Colors Counselor

Today I'm joyful because of a note I received from a third-grade superhero that sent my spirit soaring; it read, "Thank you for being our true colors counselor."

Her gratitude touched my heart so deeply.
What a cool job it is, to plant character seeds
and watch them take root and grow.

I've been writing about sprinkling kindness like glitter a lot lately.
 Superhero Dr. Jean invited me to guest post at her blog on Tuesday and I'm over the moon with gratitude. Click {here} to read A Kinder World.

My guest post on caring for Free Spirit Press posted earlier today {here}.

And in case you missed it, author Sue Scheff allowed me to share my thoughts about inspiring Kindness Footprints at her blog.

I'm so blessed to get to do what I do,
to be a true colors counselor
and share my ideas about 
warming the world with compassion and kindness.

For more ideas, visit my friend Lisa at Ripple Kindness.
And {here} for a Christmas Kindness Countdown Calendar.

To our Veterans and their families:
Happy Veterans Day tomorrow.
We honor you, we celebrate you, we thank you,
and we will never forget your service and sacrifice.


425 Too Many

Today's topic isn't the usual cheerful post that you're accustomed to at the Corner because this morning we recognized All Saints Day in church. It's a time set aside to pray for the families of those who've died this year, that they would find comfort and peace in their grief. They rang a bell for the four members we lost which felt somber and sad

Before I went to that service, I read this staggering statistic
in 2014, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age died by suicide. 
This year, one of those was a dear former student of mine. 

Thinking about that tragedy takes me back to the first time I realized that people died by suicide, when a man from our little farming community who had been a renter upstairs in our home, who had painted the pin striping on our walls, who had been a family friend, shot himself. I was so young and his passing was shrouded in such secrecy that it really messed with me. I couldn't wrap my little heart around why Mr. P would take his life. Maybe it was an accident? I initially hoped that it was a mistake. Then I thought I could have done something, said something, prayed harder, anything, to keep him from killing himself. I worried about his wife and his daughter, who was one of our babysitters. What would their lives be like? I had nightmares about it during which it would happen in our basement instead of his. It was really rough and I had no one to talk to about it. 
Because it was a secret. 
As if it hadn't really happened. 
Even though it had.

One death by suicide is one too many.
425 seems unfathomable.
425 futures lost.
425 families broken.
425 dads forever changed.
425 mamas who don't think they can go on.
425 communities in shock and despair.

What can we do to release this epidemic from its stronghold?
I can't help but think that talking about mental wellness
is the best place to start. I know that it would have helped me
as I tried to make sense of losing Mr. P all those years ago.
If we could save just one by not keeping silent,
it would be worth it. 
Beyond worth it.

Have you ever heard Kevin's story?
He jumped off the Golden Gate bridge in an attempt to take his life.
He says that as soon as he jumped, however,
he didn't want to die.
Instant regret.
He didn't want to go away, he just wanted the pain to go away.
{I can't help but wonder how true that would be for those 425 we're losing every year.}

And now he uses his story of struggle and survival
to encourage people to do whatever it takes, 
to build a network of support
so strong 
that you never have to suffer with that much emotional pain.
His inspirational message is simply powerful: Recovery happens.

But it we don't talk about the struggle, recovery may not happen.
Because it stays a secret.
And if we lose hope through the tough times,
lives will continue to be lost.
Precious lives, with promising futures.

For suicide prevention strategies & resources, visit NAMI
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
 National Institute of Mental Health
or NASPonline.

And please continue those courageous conversations.
Find a counselor or trusted adult to confide in.
Seek out a Rehab Center if drugs are involved.
Plug in to a support group.
Reach out to a friend or neighbor.
Or call a Suicide Lifeline.

We simply can't keep quiet any longer.
Not when our future is at stake.


Inspiring Mindfulness

Today I'm thinking about mindfulness.
About being in the moment.
About savoring every second.
About the power of deep breathing.

You see, chaos has come calling a lot lately; 
October tends to be like that.
Lots of planning, lots of running around.
Football games.
Band competitions.
Homecoming Weekend.
Character Counts Week.
Red Ribbon Week.
Fall festivals.
At-risk data collection.
But just because chaos invites us in
doesn't mean we have to go, right?
I found myself helping some fifth-grade girls
breathe through their drama today,
and wondered why I don't do more of that for myself.
Just breathe.
And be.
Just be.
I often wake up craving a nap.
To get away.
To relax.
To restore.
And I think it's a wake-up call
to do a better job with mindfulness and self-care.

So in my research, I've found these resources:
Click {here} for a post for ideas to help us pause & refocus.
Help manage big emotions with these yoga poses.
Check out these fun mindfulness exercises.
A meditation for your wandering mind {here}.


In case you missed my guest post at Free Spirit Press last week on the importance of teaching fairness, click {here} to go there.

And, as an update in our personal journey,

Joshua's high school marching band

qualified as one of the 39 6A bands to march in the

Texas State Marching Band Competition.

So next Tuesday, they'll take their show called

Dot To Dot

to San Antonio to perform in the Alamodome.

As the dots on the field during this year's poetry-in-motion unfold,
engaged spectators are visually inspired with reminders to

Look Forward,
Trust In Something,
Follow Your Heart,
Connect The Dots.

We are so proud of their hard work,
their determination and drive,
their passion and perseverance
in their quest for the best
and we thank the dedicated directors,
the proud and very patient parents,
and the valued volunteers
for giving of their time and talent
to be that village that every child needs.

Good luck, Band.