Friendship Is In The Air

How is it possible that January 2017 has already come and gone?
How is your focus on that one little word helping you?
Mine is hope; here's what spoke to me today.
I like the idea of being joyful in hope.

And our nation is going through some turbulent times,
so I connect with being patient in affliction
and faithful in prayer.

Tonight, a quick post, to express my gratitude
for this uplifting visual display.

Here's how this beautiful bouquet came to be:
I saw a variation of this as a door decor at my former school
that really caught my eye and called my name.
Meant as a Valentine's Day display, it read:
Love is in the air ...

Well, I loved it instantly, that's for sure ... so I sent a Facebook message to the mom (Beth) who created it to ask if she'd come make one for us ... not knowing what the answer would be since she doesn't even have students on our campus. 
Obviously, she said yes!
First I thought ours might say kindness is in the air,
it being during the Great Kindness Challenge and all when I first spied it,
but then I remembered that we were heading in to February
and our focus would be shifting to trustworthiness,
our friendship pillar.
So I switched gears and voila.
She decided to tape the letters up there,
so we can switch it to respect or responsibility,
if the spirit moves us.

On the hearts, we put strong verbs that can help students
 make healthy connections in their relationships.

Be Kind.
Show compassion.
Practice empathy.
Use self-control.
Be a light.
Play fairly.
Take responsibility.
Tell the truth.
Express gratitude.

And so on.

We left a few blank, in case students want to add their reflections.

My heart is soaring because friendship is in the air at Bales Intermediate. And I'm grateful for a volunteer who chose to generously share her time and talent with us.

Happy February.


The Value Of Fairness

Today I'm excited because I got to speak at the Harris County Department of Education Mid-Winter Conference and Joelle, a blogger whose worked I've followed over at Not Just Child's Play for some time now, came to my workshop. What a treat! 

This on the heels of a week of kindness and a month of fairness in the spotlight. Yesterday we started the day with our Fairness Pep Rally. 
My heart is bursting at the seams.

We shared a fairness film clip called Touching Them All and, despite there being 500 intermediate learners in the gym, you could have heard a pin drop while the story of an injured college softball player and an odd ruling on the field played out.

The Character Cam caught the Principal giving out Bag Tags
to those students who'd been nominated for putting fairness into action. 
Every day.
Because we get more of what we focus on.
So much great energy when we spotlight character.

In leadership classes, we've been strengthening our fairness muscles with this activity we did fifteen years ago at the Character Counts! character development seminar. Our job was to read these six applications and decide which child we would award a scholarship to:
Of course we found that difficult to do because we simply didn't have enough information to make a fair decision. And that's the point, right? I've done a WOW Awards variation of this with my younger students, but now that I'm in intermediate, I decided to try this one. Since the activity was originally intended for high school students and/or adults, I altered the bios ever so slightly so that they read like this:

After a little puppet show with my pirate puppet Patch, who doesn't think it's fair that he has a hook for a hand and they don't, we dig in. I tell the students that we have a scholarship worth 100K to pay for college for one of these students. We talk about what the word scholarship means, and a few of them knew that scholarships are typically designated to reward something, like good grades, athleticism, or financial need. It's good to put that out there, but let them know that this scholarship is for students, not for something specific. Be vague on purpose; you'll come back to that later when you get to the point of not really being able to fairly evaluate these candidates against one another without better criteria up front. I ask for a volunteer to read what we know about the first applicant.

After reading about Sarah, I suggest that maybe we should just go ahead and give it to her. After all, teachers don't really make that much money and, well, they do love their teacher, right? Try as I may to convince them to just give it to the teacher's kid, my students convince me that it wouldn't be fair to just give it to Sarah because she's first but that we need to read them all.

So I play along, every once in awhile putting in a plug for one or trying to make it seem unfair, to get them thinking. Evaluating. Reflecting.

And after we discuss whom they think we ought to give it to and why, 
we take it to a vote, at their suggestion, to be fair. 
{None of them thinks paper, rock, scissors ought to decide something this important!} 
They suggest that each student ought to have a voice since they're pretty sure it'd be too hard to agree on just one candidate as a group. And yet, this is what that vote looked like at our school:

We tallied our fifth-grade vote on the left after our discussion made it clear to me that they weren't as set on giving it to Nelda as the younger voters. Their thinking had to do with Matthew possibly being the best steward of our scholarship. I was riveted by their reflections and really wished we'd have had more time to talk it through. We still have three classes that will vote on Monday, so it'll be interesting to see if Matthew gains any more momentum.

Real-life data.
From intermediate-aged fairness ambassadors.
Their argument pretty solid:
The majority wants the scholarship to go to Nelda,
because she needs our help.
Fairness, they explained to me, is all about giving people 
what they need 
when they need it, 
to level the playing field.

Click image for source.

After the results were in, I did try to play devil's advocate one more time. 
Me: Oh, dear, I forgot to tell you that our scholarship donor wants the money to go to a teacher's child.
Them: That's not fair to tell us that after we voted.
Me: You're right! Criteria needs to be set ahead of time and not changed midstream. You sure do know a lot about fairness.

Then, to seal the deal with a movement break,
What a rush that was, to feel the energy of that brain boost.

UPDATE: Monday morning, a third-grade learner came up to me in the hallway with an important inquiry on his heart: Is it too late to change my vote? He said that he'd been thinking about it and he'd changed his mind about who ought to get the scholarship, from Nelda to Matthew because he got to thinking and he's pretty sure Matthew would do a better job with our money. 

The learning is, indeed, in the reflection!

For more ideas on teaching the value of fairness, 
including the concept of equality versus equity, 
click {here} and {here}.


Kindness: It's A Game Changer

What a fantastic Great Kindness Challenge Week we've had.
We've been making Public Service Announcements about kindness
all week long to spotlight what we've seen, including students holding doors for each other, donating their gently-used shirts for our Clothing Exchange, and volunteering to serve at the Donuts With Divas event.

Click image for source.
In addition to all of the intentional kindnesses that our kids have shown, 
I enjoyed putting stickers with affirmations on these cards ...

and creating this visual display in our teachers' lounge.

Click {here} and {here} if you want them.
There will be a few more than you need, so have fun choosing.
Print them out on Avery 5160 labels and trim them slightly
down the righthand side to fit a standard-sized deck of playing cards.

A huge kindness that greeted me at Ward Elementary when I spoke there a few weeks back is this creative display. Doesn't this just send your heart soaring?

Those colorful little capes were absolutely precious, one prettier than the next.

Then this afternoon, I got this in my box:

One of our superheroes wanted me to know that she'd done all 50 of the Kind Acts on the checklist we sent home. Heart warmed!
 Yes, the kindness boomerang is alive and thriving at our school. 

We've been collecting cans for the Souper Bowl of Caring, too.

Aren't our student-made posters super fun!

Oh, and we're making Valentines for our troops tomorrow to send along with our homemade baked goods next week so they'll get there in time for Valentines Day.
If you've got a soldier on deployment, please email me the address so that we can send them some hugs from home and thank them for their service and sacrifice.

We've had a lot going on this week, 
all in the name of
warming the world,
to make it a better place
for our ourselves, 
for our kids, 
for our future.

Kindness is a game changer!

Did you join the 10 million children who celebrated with us worldwide this week? How did it go? What did you do? How did it feel?


Pray For Peace

It's a big day in America, the Inauguration of our 45th President.
And since this election was so controversial and emotionally-loaded, Free Spirit Publishing asked me to write this post with suggestions for helping children who might be experiencing some uncomfortable or difficult feelings. 

Because of the sensitive nature of the subject, I will freely admit I hesitated momentarily when they pitched the idea, wondering if maybe it was a little too controversial for me and not necessarily a topic I'd like to tackle. But only for a split second, because when I visited with one of my third-grade girls shortly after President Trump was elected to assuage her fears about a wall that might separate her from family members, her anxiety was palpable, those tears real. 

So I agreed to write it, even though some might ask,
"Are you kidding me right now?"
or think to themselves,
"Our kids don't even care about the Inauguration."
Some might even say,
"It's the parents, not the kids, who need these suggestions."
And they might be right.

But as riots continue into the darkness of the night,
I'm super glad I did.
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to worry about processing through tough emotions with these strategies,
but the truth of the matter is, 
it's difficult to shield our children from current events,
so we do need them.
Even if we have the television turned off in our homes,
kids go to school with children who are plugged in,
who know things that are way beyond 
their developmental age and stage.
And children talk.
Because they're curious.
And they want to know what's going on.
So they ask questions.
And sometimes they get misinformation.
Maybe yours won't; I sincerely hope that for you.
Please keep your children as far away 
from hate
and corruption
and violence
for as long as you possibly can.
Because they deserve a peace-filled, hopeful childhood
of wide-eyed wonder and innocence.
No question.

But if they do have questions
or are exposed somehow to the
tantrums of the people whom the media are showcasing, 
I hope you'll find a way to calmly assure them 
that they are safe and that we will be okay.
Ask them to come together for peace,
to pray for peace.
To be catalysts for peace.
Without ceasing.
Encourage them to be on the side of America,
our home of the free and the brave.
Maybe even use today as a teachable moment to find out
what cause they might consider a peaceful protest for.
What would their end goal be?
How would they make sure it stayed peaceful?
What might they do were it to start getting out of hand?

In the meantime, let's join Reba in song, 



Come Work With Me

Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
He had so much wisdom to share with the world;
here's the quote I'm thinking about today.

Moving forward.
Doing whatever it takes.
Thank you, Dr. King, for making a world of difference
so that one day we will no longer be unaccepting of 
or biased about our differences. 

I'm also reflecting today on this question of the week;
imagine if you'd have had the chance to work with MLK, Jr.

A few years back, I posted my reflections about five people I'd like to have a coffee chat with; click {here} for that post. 
Now I'm thinking about whom I'd like to work with for a week.
{Or whom I'd like to invite to work with me!}
Thinking about the promising possibility of this is at once
exciting and energizing,
invigorating and inspiring.
Consider one of your edu-heroes inviting you to 
Come work with me.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 
to shadow and learn with that role model
for a morning, a day, a week.
I'm bursting at the thought of that growing opportunity!
And wondering why we don't do that more often.

I know whom I would pick;
who do you wish would invite you and why?


Ready To Go, Willing To Stay

Today I'm excited because I found THIS at the resale shop for 99 cents.
What if we focused more on the blessings in our burdens?

I've had so much on my mind as I head into 
the second semester of my 33rd year.
What a blessing my career has been and continues to be.
I work in an AmAzInG school district 
with enthusiastic educators who are passionate
 about kids,
about connections, 
about character, about growth.

In the last fifteen years, I've also had a bit of a consulting business as I prepare for an encore career in professional development, character education, and motivational speaking.

Over the holiday break, in a courageous self-care moment,
I sent away for my Texas Teacher Retirement packet.
This past week, it came in the mail.
Because I think it's time. 
Or getting really close to time.
But how will I really know when it's time?

I was in tears on Monday trying to figure that out, 
when someone I met said this about it: 
You have to be ready to go, but willing to stay.

I'm not sure I'll ever truly be ready to go,
to say good-bye to my superheroes and our stakeholders.
It will undoubtedly be sad and painful because I continue to strongly connect with what I get to do every day. At the same time I'm feeling called to more and more speaking opportunities. It's something I'm passionate about, to pass the baton, to energize the next generation of character educators. And I'm finding it increasingly challenging to do both, to work full time, and to speak part time.

The cool thing is that I'm kind of in a win-win situation.
I win if I stay with the school family I love;
I win if I (and when) I take that leap of faith.

So for now, my status is blessed.
If you, dear reader, have some words of wisdom,
some insights for me, some questions I ought to consider,
I'd love to read your reflections below. Or send me an email. 
Maybe you've already retired; how did you know it was time? 


Make Time For Kindness

Today I've got kindness on my heart and mind.
I started the day at a Community Prayer breakfast,
and the speaker said that getting up a little bit earlier 
just affords us time for a little bit more time for grace.
That, and a little bit more time for kindness.

Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Today at school the Leadership Team took the morale-booster beverage buggy 
to celebrate our teachers, 
to thank them for their service, 
and to treat them to an afternoon refreshment.

And if I weren't already bubbling over with joy,
I'm tickled pink to share this kindness resource from my friend Lisa Currie at Ripple Kindness. Click the graphic for more information and to sign up.

I'm so delighted and honored to endorse this ripple revolution!

Then, if that wasn't enough of an energy boost, this outrageously creative calendar came in the mail from author Maria Dismondy in Michigan. In a CD case that makes it stand up, it features a month-by-month showcase of the core values in her books. Isn't it super adorable

 I'm so thankful to have such thoughtful friends like Maria.

And speaking of friends, have you signed up for the Great Kindness Challenge yet? My friend Jill at Kids For Peace has over 8 million students worldwide already signed up, well on their way to 10 million. Say you're joining us!

Did you see that MPM School Supplies shared my Kindness Calendar?
Need more ideas for spreading kindness like confetti?
Let's get messy.

When we make more time for kindness,
kindness makes more time for us.

Sounds like a beautiful boomerang to me.


Kindness: The Writing's On The Wall

Happy new year. How is 2017 going so far?
This morning I was all goofed up, because we had a work day Monday, which meant students didn't come back until yesterday. So I woke up thinking today was Tuesday, not Wednesday, and that meant I didn't wear a character shirt. I've been wearing a character shirt every Wednesday for the last fifteen years. 
But not today. 
I totally missed it.

So before school, when a third-grade girl told me that it felt like a Tuesday, I told her I thought so, too, and that I'd forgotten to wear my Wednesday character tee. Then she said that I could easily fix that and suggested that I make a word cloud with all of our pillar words and then tape it on to my new sweater. 
Problem solving at its finest, so innocent, thoughtful and sweet.

This week, I set aside some time to create this kindness calendar.

Click the graphic to download yours.
We've sent home countdown calendars before, 
but I've never thought to put a life-sized one up.

One fourth grader who passed by kindly pointed out 
that the daily numbers are missing, but I replied that because
kindness knows no calendar, I'd left them off on purpose.
Though I'm not certain she was totally on board with that,
she let me know that her birthday was on the 11th, so we counted ahead to find her square and talked about what kind act she could show to celebrate her big day. It was perfect, she said, because
she could send thank-you notes for her birthday presents.
Do I have the best job or what?

So we're having fun as we launch into January and gear up for the Kids For Peace Great Kindness Challenge at the end of the month. What engaging things do you have planned as you kick off second semester?

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