Empathy Ripples

Today I'm thinking about empathy. 
It started when I saw this duck creating these ripples.
All by itself.
Leaving all of these fantastic ripples in its wake.
And I mused that this is how empathy operates.
It starts with one person, just one,
stretching that glorious virtue by
stepping into the story of another
to consider and appreciate his or her feelings.
Happy, sad, mad, scared, angry, afraid.

Listening, really listening, to connect and understand.
Embracing those feelings with a desire to help.
Then mobilizing that compassion so that it results in an action.
That's the way the empathy ripple works.
And when enough people do that, 
those ripples will eventually touch.
So that our world will be a kinder, gentler, and more peaceful place.
So I crusade on, like that duck,
peddling fast and furiously,
nurturing those empathy ripples
working to make sure that they don't lie dormant.
Because here's one of the things I've learned from Michele Borba:
Empathy by itself does no good.
I also learned about this new little treasure from her;
click the image to read her book review and author interview.

Like Michele, I really connect with this newcomer.
I like the real-life examples woven into the text and
the reflection inquiries interspersed among the pages.
I like the discussion questions and activity ideas to promote
and kindness.
And I like the brilliant illustrations and the fun rhyming scheme
that will surely engage and delight young readers
just as the message will strengthen their empathy muscles.

Check out this book and feel what happens when
empathy ripples in your character building.

Looking for more empathy resources?


Overcoming Anxiety

Happy Thursday; seriously, is July almost over already?

Today I'm excited because we're hosting a SnoCones with the Counselors event at our local shaved Hawaiian ice place and I can't wait to cool off with some of our cool school family members! 

I'm also giddy with delight because my first post for We Are Teachers went live this morning. Click {here} for four tips on jazzing up your welcome back letter this year to take it from meh to WoW.

 And I'm so grateful for this therapeutic treasure.

It's no secret that being hit head on by a drunk driver four years ago left me suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Medication and trauma therapy helped me during the darkest times as I bounded into my new normal. But still, car rides are difficult and Anxiety rears its ugly head to try to trick me into thinking that I am not safe. I gasp and fuss at John, my driver and best friend, pretty much without exception, on every road trip we take. And those anxious moments of panic and not feeling safe are not only confined to the car; oft times Anxiety follows me to school, home again, out into the community even. This spring I had a trigger on the day of our school fundraiser and I had to leave the party early. That time, it grabbed ahold of me and held on tightly for an 
entire week. {Have I mentioned that car wreck was 4 years ago?}

So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled on a book that invited me to win my life back from fear and panic. Without telling you too much about this incredible resource, I'm just going to tell you this:
 Reading and digesting it made me realize that I've had it backward. 
I've allowed it to be 
Anxiety overcoming me 
when all along I've had the power to make it 
Me overcoming Anxiety
See? Backward.
To be clear, it's not by any real fault of my own.
Anxiety is tricky that way.
It wants us to be a nervous wreck.
It wants us to believe that we are powerless over it.
It wants us to believe it's there to protect us.
And so much more that you'll learn about in the book.
So many lies.
So much deception.

In her masterpiece, psychotherapist Jodi Aman shares her journey through anxiety and offers authentic accounts of real people who've moved from panic to peace with her counsel. She shares the biology behind fear, offers empowering strategies to overcome anxiety, and provides suggestions for day-to-day ways that we can keep ourselves safe while showering ourselves with compassion and care. 

Thank you, Anxiety Tamer, for sharing your story
and stepping into mine.
Your insight will not only help me personally, but has also provided me a terrific professional resource for when I work with anxious kids who are experiencing anxiety, panic and fear

Me overcoming anxiety 1, 
Anxiety overcoming me 0.
Any questions?


A Singing Math Tutor?

Happy Monday.
Today I've got some resources that'll put a song in your heart.
First, I'm excited to introduce you to Huzefa Kapadia.

I had the pleasure of visiting with this singing math tutor yesterday; what an enthusiastic visionary. Personally inspired after coming across some Flocabulary music videos, this entrepreneur decided to leave his job in Patent Law to pursue his true love: Music. And while he initially recorded these tutorial videos for fun, he quickly realized that there is great value in this effective learning resource. And so Scalar Learning was born 

Huzefa is especially delighted about his success with this particular music video after using it to successfully teach second graders at Seven Arrows Elementary an advanced concept like Mean, Median and Mode. Huzefa told me that it is his joy to be able to use his intrinsic skill set and passion to put together something so transformative. 

His work isn't confined to the elementary grades; you can check out his SAT course {here}. For more engaging and entertaining math videos, including the Pi song, click {here}.

And who are this young musician's superheroes? His parents and all hardworking people like them and his best friend, whom he admires because he is fearless.

Second, I'm inspired by this wise counsel from Principal Bethany Hill ... 

a gentle reminder that every day, we get to choose.

Third, check out Code 7 by Bryan R. Johnson. 

Despite a little initial confusing, I liked this humorous fictional tale that features seven stories within the story. It steps its reader into the lives of some Flint Hill Elementary students who, independently through everyday situations, end up learning some very valuable lessons that they can use collectively later on. The underlying themes of dream big, persevere and collaborate are woven in to this creative chapter book. Download a discussion guide {here} to get cracking.  

Fourth, as July winds down and we prepare to slide into a new school year, I'm so eager for this outing, something new we're trying, SnoCones with the Counselors. It's this Thursday at 4:00 pm, so if you're in the area, please come by SnoBeach to cool off and connect with us. 

We think it'll be something to sing about!


The Wednesday Surprise

Happy Wednesday. Can it really be mid-July already?
I've been waiting for tomorrow night for quite some time now 
because I've been invited to host #EduAR on Twitter.
Here are the details . . .

Click the graphic to read the transcript of the July 20th chat.
and a sample teaser question.

You'll have to join us to share your answer
and read all about what other people are doing to
supercharge the habit of collaboration.

When I saw Dr. Borba's keynote in Austin this summer, she recommended 
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting as a must-have to give our learners the empathy advantage. So I ordered a copy, and she was right. With empathy to spare, this little superhero collaborates with her Grandmother to give her Dad 
a very special gift.

Click the image to hear Debbie Schatteman read this gem aloud.
I'm not going to spoil the surprise, so give it a listen.
Then order a copy or two for your character building.

It makes me think about this character clipa powerful story about a grown man who works diligently to learn to read to make his adult author son proud, but beware: It's a commercial for Bell's Whiskey, so share it responsibly.
That reminds me of this funny shirt with a serious message. 

But I digress. My idea is to share it with the educators in my learning session audiences, making sure to stop the clip right before the son buys his Dad that celebratory shot of Bell's. And, just like I wouldn't wear this t-shirt to school, I won't be sharing the clip with my intermediate students. Would I share it with tweens or teens? Maybe so, but only along with a stakeholders discussion about responsible decision-making. What are your thoughts about sharing the clip?

Don't forget; set an alarm to set sail on the 7 Cs with us
tomorrow night, July 20th, at 8:30 pm {CST}.
Haven't used TweetDeck yet? Click {here} for a tutorial.
It will be a real tweet to see you there. 


Fighting Fearona

Today's post will be a busy one; first, I'm excited to announce the winner of 
Bubble Gum Brain. Our random generator selected comment number 4. 

So if this is your reflection, congrats!
 Please email your postal address so I can get your signed copy on its way. 

Secondly, I'm excited to share another Vlog with you; 
in it, I ask an important reflection question about what hydrates you. 
Click the Magic Beadz image below to watch it on You Tube.

You'll also hear me talk about the book Unmapped Potential by Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard. Click the image below to download the educator's guide to this treasure that tackles those mental maps that we all have, some of which might threaten to keep us from reaching our potential if we're not willing to ask ourselves some serious map-changing questions.  

The authors, also known as the Purposeful Principals, suggest that we admit and become personally acquainted with our negative attitudes and fixed mindsets because we there's benefit in not only claiming them, but naming them. 

Then as an exclamation point on their suggestion, mindset guru Carol Dweck said the same thing in her ASCA keynote and went on to explain their function:

So I've decided to name my fixed mindsets Fearona.

Since I find myself fighting Fearona a lot lately, it really helped me to know that Fearona is only trying to protect me. I need to recognize what she's doing when she's doing it so I can step in and care-front her about it. I'm working on a script to self that goes something like this: Fearona, I appreciate that you're looking out for me, I really do, but I can't possibly grow to reach my potential if you keep getting in my way. Kindly step aside; we've got this. 
I promise to let you know if I need you. 

And then, as if the cosmos were trying to fuel my fight with Fearona, 
Joshua and I spied this banner in Aggieland yesterday. 

Most days, that's him and not me, but I'm working toward integrating that ideal into my mental map, for sure. Have you named your fixed mindsets? What's your most promising practice for unlocking those negative scripts so that you can tap into your greatest growth and become the best version of yourself?

Finally, this month's Free Spirit Press guest post went live this morning, so click the graphic below to go and read my mindfulness suggestions for all students, but especially to assist our learners with ADHD.

Happy 7/13/17; 
don't you love that this week's dates are palindromes?


Growth Mindset Sticks

Today I'm excited because this special delivery made its way
from Nebraska to Texas from my friend Julia! 

It's Julia Cook's latest treasure and it tackles one of my favorite topics, mindset. It's Bubble Gum Brain v. Brick Brain in the ring of life and you'll never guess who has the best chance of success. Okay, maybe you will, but, in true Julia fashion, it's a creative, clever social story that is sure to help facilitate your growth mindset message with the children (and grown ups) under your care. Grow with Bubble Gum Brain as she helps Brick Brain unwrap his fixed thoughts and enjoy savoring the flavor of life with more gusto.

As a school counselor and mom, I especially connected with the Ready, Get Mindset ... and Grow tips in the back of the book.

For fun, I'm going to put this sticker on sticks of bubble gum
and give them away at one of my future learning sessions!

And, as you can see, here's the cool thing: Julia sent two giveaway copies. One way to win a signed copy is to leave a comment telling us your favorite book to stretch the growth mindset ideal between now and Thursday, July 13th, at noon {CST}. We will use a random number generator to select the winner, so check back Thursday afternoon and see if it's you!

The second way to win is to head over to my book's Facebook page and leave a comment over there telling us your favorite book with a growth mindset theme to win. Again, we'll use a number generator on July 13th after noon to choose a winner.

Thank you, Julia, for your generosity.
I'll keep strumming as long as you keep those stories coming.

This giveaway is now closed;
click {here} to see who won Julia's mindset book.


Gatekeepers & My First Vlog

This morning, I tried something new.
I made a video blog.
A Vlog.

Basically it's a four-minute explanation of how I plan to combine this game

with the Inner/Outer Circle activity

for a staff learning session about the services that a school counselor provides. We'll focus 
on belonging, 
on mattering,
on connections, 
on empathy and emotions, 
and on the power of the circle, 
so you can imagine my joy at remembering that Spot It! cards are circular. Anyway, here it is.

Did you catch my cat's cameo?

My friend Lisa in VA, who sent me this game years ago, is going to be field testing the activity in a week or two and I can't wait to hear how it goes. 
If you try it, please post details in the comments below.

I'm thankful to my friend and colleague Gary Smit from the Character Counts! National Faculty for encouraging me to record and share.

And now for today's book recommendation: 
Gatekeepers by edu-hero Tammy McMorrow.

Although I've not met first-grade teacher Tammy McMorrow in real life ... yet ... she is a cyberspace collaborator of mine through our shared love for writing, passion for education, and our commitment to raising character kids. She blogs over at Forever In First and wrote a guest post at the Corner once a long time ago {here}. I'm tickled pink that she decided to publish a book and share her thoughts and reflections. She starts each essay with a quote, something to think about, just like she does on her blog's weekly special, Saturday Sayings. Her words of wisdom invite the reader into a conversation as if you're sitting right there with her, trying to sort things out together. I know that Tammy is a lifelong learner because a few times over the years she has reached out to me for guidance with hurdles or challenges that have come her way. One of them was the exact time she writes about in Essay #36, Learn, Not Pay

She probably didn't really need my help,
but she sought out my counsel anyway.
Her follow-up essay about it is spot on.
She just wanted them to learn.
To be better next time.
To do better next time.
These learners are blessed to have a Gatekeeper like Mrs. McMorrow and I'm blessed to have her as a friend. Check out her book and you'll be blessed by her insights and reflections.


Fully Present, Mindfully Aware, Incredibly Blessed

Right now I'm feeling cheerful and grateful ... 

and incredibly blessed.

But the morning didn't start out like that. Our son came home from his two weeks of service at Camp with an outbreak of poison ivy. We treated it and took him back to Camp for his week of Discovery but this morning we got a call that he didn't sleep at all last night and was on his way to the hospital for a steroid shot. Enter worrisome thoughts like "What if the rash gets to his eye?" and then the berating ones like "What kind of a mom am I?" and I started to head back to Camp to pick up him and make things right, but then Kaitlyn, who's at Camp volunteering called us to say, "We've got this!" They'd gone to the hospital up there for treatment and were waiting for his prescription at the local pharmacy. They'd call us, she added, if they need us. We may have to head that way, but, for now, we're on standby.

 Now. Here. This. 
The perfect time for some mindfulness.
Do a body scan and see where the tension is.
{Um, everywhere!}
Practice some mindful breathing to relax.
Inhale deeply: Smell the flower.
Exhale fully: Blow out the candles.
Use a mantra to center compassionately:
May I enjoy forgiveness, wellbeing, and peace. 
Walk into a happy memory.
Savor the emotions of a wonderful time.
Go back in time and feel the positivity again.
Am I feeling relaxed yet? Restored? Ready for the day?

Such a blessing that I went to that mindfulness learning session two weeks ago at the Wisconsin conference; huge thanks to counselors Mauria Turkowski and Amber Hill for sharing their wisdom.

Mindfulness is paying attention, 
on purpose, 
without judgement, 
in the present moment.
It's a great way to practice self-care and compassion.
It's important to get to know our brains.
Because besides just feeling really good,
mindfulness benefits our brains.
The amygdala, in charge of the fight, flight, or freeze reactions to fear, shows less activity and gray matter density after mindfulness is practiced. The hippocampus, which controls the amygdala and acts like the bank which stores our memories, see increased activity after mindfulness exercises. And the prefrontal cortex, which controls our thinking, our memories, and our emotions because it's the boss of our brain, also sees an increase in activity after mindfulness.    

They gave each educator a Hershey's Kiss
 so we could do this mindful eating exercise.
Go get a Kiss; I'll wait.
Don't eat it yet.
Look at the Kiss with curiosity.
What do you notice?
Weight? Color? Texture? Temperature?
Peel one side and focus on the sound.
Listen. Then smell what's inside.
Move it closer and breathe in deeply.
Inhale through your nose.
Hold it for four counts.
Exhale through your mouth.
Hold that for four counts.
Now open up the rest. 
Place it on your tongue without biting it.
Hold it on your tongue. 
Move it around.
Don't bite it yet!
Pay attention to urges.
Travel flavor down as far as you can.
Can you feel the texture of the warm, melting chocolate?
Savor. Just savor.
Now go ahead and eat it. Slowly.
Open your mouth slightly and breathe in.
Pay attention to the flavor.
Try closing your eyes. Does it taste better?

They said once they learned about the benefits of mindful eating,
they stopped eating fast food in the car. Interesting ...

Then I met Wisconsin educator, Susan Baumgartner, on Twitter and she sent me a copy of this Mindfulness treasure that she wrote. 

I felt so peaceful and pensive as I read through her thoughtful essays, all of which are paired with a picture-perfect photo by Marlene Oswald on a page with a prompt for your reactions and reflections.

Dr. Patricia Jennings reminds us that it's important to be mindfully aware of our own thoughts and feelings so that we can be fully present for our kids. Our emotions, both positive and negative, influence our teaching and are a big part of our classroom environment and our relationships. Mindfulness practices help us recognize the subtle signs of our emotions and model regulation and mastery for our students. 

Check out these rich mindfulness resources:

And now I have this book on order; I'll review it once it's in.

Click image for Kirkus review 

How do you incorporate mindfulness into your home or classroom? 

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