Flooded By Compassion & Love

Today I'm feeling hopeful as the healing begins; we started the day by kicking Hurricane Harvey to the curb, literally and figuratively.
True confessions: We actually went to the wrong house for our
10:00 commitment to help an elderly couple with restoration.
We'd been drafted to move some furniture and remove some wood flooring, so we ought to have snapped when there was no furniture to be moved or wood flooring to speak of. {That, and the couple didn't seem elderly, really, as they were kind of our age.} But we were at house number 302, so we pressed on and removed these soggy baseboards, until we got an SOS from a friend and decided to move on down the road. We figured out later that there's a difference between Lane and Court. 

Maybe we are more elderly than we think we are.

Anyhow, we spent an hour with them, then we landed at a friend's mom's home and were able to get a lot of this stuff out of the flooded house and out to the curb.

It felt good to walk alongside of the homeowner and hear her story.
She'd just finished a remodel, so the carpet was pretty new. 
Until it got flooded. 
And overnight became old.
She smiled with relief when her contractor stopped by to check on her and put her on his calendar for next Monday. Sometimes it's the little things.

So let's back up.
Friday we had off from school with hardly any rainfall to speak of.
We actually wondered if we should have been in school.

Then Saturday morning happened. 
This is midnight, the sky lit up by lightning.
See our mailbox? The water was rising as the rains fell hard.

We had a mini-hurricane at 4:30 a.m.
and by 6:30 am this tree had toppled in our back yard.

Harvey's rage kept hammering into swollen creeks.
By Sunday, those creeks were lakes.
This is the road adjacent to our church that night.

It was unbelievable.
We were landlocked.
And Harvey wasn't done with us yet.
Boat and helicopter rescues were rampant
as some people could only get on their roof and wait.
3000 homes flooded in our town alone
as we were getting a year's worth of rain in three days.
Here's Heather's homeclick the picture to help them.

One thousand of those people without power.
And more rain on its way Monday night.
Tuesday morning our streets were still impassable.
But our house had survived and we were grateful.

I woke up early to bake breakfast for our Police Station
and when I couldn't get there, they send an officer to us.
They'd been working around the clock and
were thankful for our egg casserole and banana bread.

And what a difference a day makes. By Wednesday, the sun was shining and we were no longer landlocked on all sides. The Marines came to town to help finish up the rescues and start the rebuild workout.

Stores were opening back up,
but shelves are still bare because trucks can't get here yet.
Here's a FB update from today; 
so grateful for social media at times like these.

Today it was time to start that restoration process.
We'd planned to take lunch to our nine staff members whose homes flooded, but our pizza place was still closed and many of them were still out of town. Our district leadership team met and agreed that all teachers would call their families to check on them. Tomorrow morning, the district counselors will meet to plan for our return to school on Tuesday. 

Passionate educators from all over the nation have reached out to ask how they can help. Check out these two beautiful comfort cards that are headed our way.

Isn't that a beautiful expression of empathy and encouragement?

Be still my beating heart.

Superheroes like this little friend have set up lemonade stands;
I wish you could have seen her dancing in the streets!

Ventriloquist Dennis Lee and his sister Lisa has been checking in on us 
and they send us their prayers and warm wishes.

And Jax, a third grader from my school, is collecting donations.
Click the image below for more information and/or to contribute.

So many ways to help. It's how we roll.
Because this sort of natural disaster brings people together.
It unites us, ignites our empathy and mobilizes our compassion.
It brings the realization that life is precious.
It reminds us that life is fleeting and that connections trump stuff.
Every time.
People are outside of their homes,
crusading for a cause. To help shoulder someone's burden.
To make someone's life a little easier.
To love unconditionally.
Just like last year at this time with the Pokemon Go craze,
only way better.
Bringing healing and hope, two beautiful gifts.
Flooding our flood-ravished community with love and support.

Want some additional ways to help?
are all collecting for Harvey Relief. 

So tonight as I lay my head on my pillow
and reflect on today,
my prayers are with the people who are starting over,
who have taken their stuff to the curb
and who will need extra tender loving care 
as they recover and restore.
And I'll show my gratitude that we were spared
by distributing your comfort cards
and baking as I have opportunities to feed people,
and listening to their stories of survival and suffering,
and crying with them when it's too hard to talk anymore.

And we'll keep on spreading joy and serving others because, above all, we are called to flood the world with compassion and love.


Taking Back To School By Storm

Today I'm excited because we had seven amazing back-to-school days before Hurricane Harvey stalled school for a spell and gave us today off.

Our staff did some team-building before the students showed up; check out this coverage of our Spot It! circle game that our character cam caught. 
Super fun to watch them laugh, connect, and reflect.

On Monday, we viewed the eclipse in our NASA-approved solar shades.

We spent the week reconnecting and getting to know one another better. 
I put one of these treats in each staff member's box ... 

 and got this bulletin board up inside of our learning space.

I received a beautiful note pad from my friend Tanya in Montana,
 so I used it to write these lunch invitations to our new students.

It's optional so I told their teachers to let them choose, because I get it if they'd rather stay in the cafeteria and eat lunch with their new class family friends. It was supposed to be today, so we'll be rescheduling for one day next week.

One of my superheroes brought me this bouquet of flowers, to cheer me up as I adjust to our empty nest. Won't they look pretty on our new-students lunch table?

And in the back-to-school mail this week, two special deliveries of thoughtfulness, one from a Twitter connection, a card thanking me for my inspiration, the other from my friend Maria, a note with prayers for comfort and strength as we make the transition to our new season at home by ourselves, with no kids living there. 
Small acts of kindness that made a big difference to my heart.

Yesterday afternoon, I tried using Zoom to go live with on We Are Teachers and give a tour of our learning space. A colleague of John's at NASA helped me so much the day prior by doing a practice chat with me and help allay a few of my fears as I stepped out of my comfort zone and used my iPad to connect and grow. 

It was a blast; thank you, We Are Teachers, for that fun opportunity.

On Twitter, one of our friends piggybacked our YET-goals idea; 

isn't it going to look amazingly colorful when it's up?

Speaking of colorful, check out this gem that a Bales alumni created at the end of May in her sixth-grade Language Arts class at Friendswood Junior High.

Using our Bales school True Colors theme, 
Caley wrote about a town that had lost its color, 

only to find it again when once they restored their core values.

Isn't it breath-taking? Thank you, Caley, for living your true colors!

Finally, we got three of these Gaga Ball Pits on our recess grounds.

I'm wondering as I type if they're mini-swimming pools right now.

So tonight, we stay inside while Harvey blows through.
Hopefully, we're back to class on Monday.
Then, on Tuesday night, join us to discuss these questions
on the #teacherfriends Twitter chat.

Happy 2017-2018; how will you take the new year by storm?


When Silence Is Deafening

Whoever coined the phrase silence is golden probably didn't really know what it feels like to come home to an empty house, to start life as empty nesters.

They probably never experienced the deafening silence
of waiting to hear the whistling from your child's bedroom down the hall but hearing the sniffles of your husband's deep sadness instead. I don't guess it's entirely their fault, because sometimes silence can be golden, but today, 
it's really painful. And painfully real.
We are in a season of letting go.
And letting go can be really hard.

But they are in a season of new beginnings.
Joshua is starting his undergrad work at Texas A & M,
and Jacob is continuing there as a graduate student.
And new beginnings can be really exciting and energizing.
Just look at the contagious smiles on their faces.
So how can we possibly be feeling so ... empty tonight?
It's an oxymoron, a bittersweet season, at once happy and sad.
We are delighted for them, of course,
but our new normal sounds and feels strangely silent.
At least for the time being.
No local school events that we need to attend.
No video games that need to be turned off.
No dirty clothes that need to be picked up.  

All of those lasts we were checking off finally finished
and tonight we're experiencing a return
to where we first started. 
We're all by ourselves.
Just the two of us.
Alone. Together.
In our calm and quiet house.
With only each other.
And our cat.
In the loud silence.

At least for now.

I imagine there'll be more tears.
Lots of them.
And melancholy.
Plenty of it.
Maybe even some sleepless nights
as we wrestle with our uncomfortable feelings.
And then, I'm told, it'll be okay.
Fun, even, to be back to just us again.

I suppose it's all about how we choose to look at it.

So onward into this chapter of our journey we go,
our hearts wide opened albeit a bit bruised.

In a providential twist today, after we got Joshua moved in to his dorm and while we were killing time waiting for our lunch place to open, we discovered this adorable book in the bargain bin at HEB. 

Click the image to hear the book on YouTube.
And it perfectly complements today's lesson 
of letting go gracefully.

With every difficult thing that happens on one page, 
an equally good thing is looming around the corner on the next.

Check out these examples: 

It's never fun when you break a toy ...
but you'll have fun fixing it with Grandpa. 

It's the worst to have wet shoes ...
but it's the best to go barefoot.

So here's my page with one of these powerful reframes:

It feels really lonely to say good-bye and let our boys go ...
but we're lucky to love them so much that it hurts this badly.

This Jarrett J. Krosoczka treasure will supercharge your efforts
to unlock fixed mindsets, nurture positive attitudes, build resilience and foster grit in your littlest learners.

Now if you'll excuse me, here come the tears again.
Where did I put that tissue box?


BEeautiful Beginnings

Happy Friday; have you gone back to school yet? 
We finished day three today; what a jolt of joy it was
to savor those last seconds of summer and then
get back to the business of beautiful new beginnings at Bales.
Today one of my students brought this light box to me,
the perfect message for the entrance of our learning space.

Life is good as I start year number 34. 
Lots of laughter and joy-filled hugs
as we reunited and reconnected.

Today at lunch, some of my fifth-grade superheroes saved me a spot and taught me how to take a selfie. Isn't that super fun?

We got a starburst version of Susan Fuller's BE board idea up. 

I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I led six growth mindset learning sessions in the last six days and my favorite part was that my dad and his wife, who were in town for Jacob's graduation, got to attend four of them, leaving my heart so SO happy. 

What a beautiful experience, to spend time with other school families encouraging their calling to build relationships. 
To help them communicate to students how much they matter. 
To help them make school a safe and cheerful place 
that their students can call home.
A place where students feel without a doubt that they belong. 
What a BEautifully powerful concept. 
I'm so grateful to my friends in Angleton ISD and Clear Creek ISD for the opportunity to supercharge their school families and get them ready for their own beautiful beginning.

So tonight, as I lay my head on the pillow,
I'm exhausted but energized.
And I'm ready for an emotionally-loaded weekend
as we take the boys to Texas A & M for the next step
in each of their journeys, Joshua for his undergrad studies
and Jacob to work on his graduate degree.

Need some ideas for engaging parents as partners in your character building? Click {here} for my Free Spirit guest post from this week. I also blogged for School Leaders Now if you'd like to check out my reflections on Restorative Practices. The Spot It! game was a huge success with our staff. 
You might also connect with this list of picture Books That Inspire Hope.

Happy new year.


What Drives Your YET Goals?

Lately I've been thinking about growth mindset and 
the power of the word yet. A lot.
So I posted this invitation on the wall outside my office
for our school family to post our YET goals.

It looked kind of bare with just the word yet,
so I added these three action verbs:


It's really an adaptation of the domains of character:
Head ... cognitive domain ... yearn.
Heart ... affective domain ... embrace.
Hands ... behavioral domain ... try.

Do you have a YET goal?
What haven't you accomplished yet that you would like to attempt?

How will you get from here to there?
What steps will you need to take to arrive at your YET goal?
How will you know when you've arrived at your dream destination?

What drives your YET goal?
What's the why behind the dream?
How does naming the why propel the how?

Don't forget to keep a growth mindset
as you set and pursue your YET goals.
Focus on the process and celebrate the effort.
Don't let hurdles stop forward progress.
Go around.
Go through.
Go over.

Invite mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Do whatever it takes to reach your YET goals.

Need more growth mindset inspiration?

Look at these beautiful notes from a passionate edu-hero
in the learning session I led last week in Angleton.

Let me know if you ever need a Mindset Matters workshop
and I'd be happy to customize one for your school family.

Read what blogger Barbara Bray has to say {here}.
Grow with Eduardo Briceno's reflections {here}.
Learn about the Benefit Mindset {here}.
Check out this Mindset Resource Round-up at Edutopia {here}.


Kindness To The Rescue

It's my last weekend of summer, so today after I lounged as much as I possibly could, the boys and I went on an outing to Barnes & Noble for their 
Teacher Appreciation Week discount. Thank you, B&N. 

Look at this super find by author Kelly DiPucchio 
of Sandwich Swap fame:

Released last month, this adorable jewel features Manny, a cute crusader who loves to play superhero in his colored capes after school by fighting against would-be villains. At home, he's fearless, invincible, brave, powerful, strong. 

But do his superpowers include having the empathy and courage to save the day by standing up and taking on a very real, menacing Tall One who's pushing the Small One around in the school cafeteria? 

Here's the adorable teaser.

Books like this make me kind of sad to not be growing alongside our littlest superheroes anymore, but I bought it anyway because it's a keeper with a beautiful life lesson: It only takes one. 
One caped raccoon. 
One kind act of courage.
One huge difference.

Read it aloud and use it as a springboard for a display 
like the one from my friend Ann Johnson Castro:

Ask students what their superpower is and talk about how they can use those superpowers for good, to make their class, their school, their community, their state, their world better. 

Post their answers shaped like superhero capes or superhero speech bubbles on the board. Encourage them to adopt a moral mantra (like Manny does) to complement their superpower like I am kind. I am responsible. I am caring. I am trustworthy. I am respectful. 

Work with Book Buddies or with classmates to create these cool felt No Sew Superhero Capes. Let students earn time wearing them in class for making 
strong character choices.

Use the story to uncover the issues your superheroes would like to change in their homes, at their school, or in the community. Carve out some time for them to prepare and implement their rescue plans.

Find other superhero ideas at my book's Pinterest collection {here}.

Then teach your superheroes this echo cadence:

Check out Super Manny Stands Up!,
then keep on crusading for good.


The End Of Your Comfort Zone

 Today I'm thinking about mindset after reading this special delivery that arrived in this afternoon's mail.

Click the image for purchasing information.
It's a little newcomer from Boys Town Press
with huge potential to make a positive difference
as our learners struggle to unlock their thoughts of "I can't." 

Not only is second-grade Amelia at a pivotal developmental age
as she vacillates between industriousness and inferiority,
{Enter Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development}, but 
she's also battling thoughts of frustration and self-doubt.
When she's tempted to quit after a setback while building a swing set 
with her dad, he seizes this teachable moment by asking:
Do you want a Down-in-the-Dumps mindset or a
Gonna-Get-It-Done mindset?
It reminds me of Dweck's work on growth v. fixed mindset.

Use this treasure as a springboard for a discussion about
perseverance, stick-to-it-tiveness, resilience & grit.

In the back of the book, find six strategies for parents and educators that will help you as you nurture a growth mindset in your superheroes. Need more ideas? Click {here} for a post I wrote for Free Spirit Press last year.

Make a bulletin board like this one that I saw at 
North Point Elementary this spring. 

Download these freebie Growth Mindset mini-poster reminders
by clicking the image below.

Or make a display like this one posted at Ross Elementary.

Start Growth Mindset journals using Composition Books.
Or buy them from Really Good Stuff {here}.

Dweck suggests encouraging your students to name their fixed mindsets and talk about them in the third person to help them separate what the thoughts are from who they are. I've been trying to adapt that success strategy, too. 

Posted with permission by AP Basil Marin in VA.

Help students (and staff!) goal set for things they can't do ... YET! 

Finally, though it seems so counterintuitive,
start celebrating mistakes as opportunities for growth.
To learn.
To stretch.
To get better.

Step out of that comfort zone and come to life.

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