1.31.2014

PPBF: It's Not Easy Being A Bunny

Happy Friday and congratulations to Lisa, who has a copy of Maria Dismondy's Spoonful of Sweetness coming her way.

And welcome back to PPBF. 
Today I've chosen a classic from my children's childhood.


Title: It's Not Easy Being A Bunny
Author: Marilyn Sadler
Illustrator: Roger Bollen
Publisher: Random House Books For Young Readers
Date: September 12, 1983
Suitable for ages: 3 - 7 years/preK - 2nd grade
Themes: acceptance, knowing yourself, empathy
Brief Synopsis: P. J. Funnybunny is sick so many things, like cooked carrots, putting up with so many siblings, and having long ears. In fact, he doesn't want to be a bunny anymore. So he packs himself up and heads out to trade places with a host of furry friends.
Opening pages:  P. J. Funnybunny was very sad. He did not like being a bunny.

Resources:  Click {here} to visit the author's site and find out more about the Funnybunny series.
Read a review at BreeniBooks {here}.
Mrs. Schmelzer's Bunny Business post {here}.
Using Puppets to tell an adaptation of the story on You Tube:




Why I like this book:  This book has such great memories for me because we read it over and over and over again when our children were in their formative years. Young children especially love its repetition. Its theme has to do with being okay with, accepting, and yes, even celebrating who you are. P. J. runs away from being a bunny but ends up finding that the grass isn't always greener, 
that sometimes it's just grass.

Ask students how, if at all, the expression 
Home Sweet Home
connects with this story.

For an empathy-elevation piece, find out what animal a student might be willing to trade places with and why. Then ask them to write an "It's not easy being a ___ " about that animal. Ask them what they think P. J. might need and how he might feel as he goes to live with each of these different animals. 
Weave the story into a study of each animal's habitat.
Older learners can make a list of pros and cons of being the age they are, being in the grade they're in, being the gender they are, or being in the family they're in.

I'm taking it into a preK class this morning and I can't wait!

Check out the other two books in this series that our children adored: 
The Very Bad Bunny and P. J., The Spoiled Bunny.

Then head over to Susanna's blog to read her review of Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas and see what other books have been recommended today.



1.30.2014

Taking Responsibility

I clipped this comic years ago because our Kaitlyn was born around the time that this baby Zoe was born ... and, coincidentally, she would also put herself into time out when she'd done something wrong. As a result, Kaitlyn learned the value of taking responsibility (and sometimes a time out!) at a very young age; she really was very easy to parent.


Source: Houston Chronicle circa 1998 ...


I'm also sharing it because I need some comic relief as we're off to court this morning for the plea phase of the State's case against the driver who crossed the center line on that bridge into my lane of traffic last year and hit me head-on. We'll both be there, she to take responsibility and make restitution, and I to read my Victim Impact Statement. And to forgive her. Then let go and move on.

It's going to be an interesting day ... 
if anybody needs me, leave a message and 
I'll get back to you after it's over.

I'm so grateful to those of you who have reached out to me through this ordeal, through prayers, support, kind words. You have been a lifeline to me and I have appreciated every single sentiment.

Oh, and check back tomorrow to see who won that signed copy of Maria's 
sweet new board book. Contest ends today at noon central.





1.29.2014

A Reason To Dance

Love Kid President . . .



. . . and his priceless advice 
to newcomers to our world.




I see so many teachable-moment possibilities with this.
Couple it with a lesson Mrs. Trayers shared yesterday {here}.
Whom will you positively influence today?
What advice do you have for them?
And how will you make today great?

Now, about that dance . . .







1.28.2014

The FUN in Fundamental

Today we're home on a inclement weather day and I'm thinking about fun because of a blog post I read this morning over at PreKandKSharing
It was there I was reminded that:


Then I discovered this fun film clip - Sesame Street style -
featuring one of my favorite musical groups, Pentatonix.




Talk about putting the fun back into fundamental! They're basically just singing the numbers, but it's done in such a way that it promotes the solo, the duet, the trio, the quartet, and the quintet, all getting along and working together to make 
magical music.

I don't know about you, but I also hear a very strong character piece peace. One, I'm basically by myself and that's okay, for now. But add another voice (one plus one makes two) and we're a little stronger; it's more fun because someone's at my side. With three we can do a little more, and so on and so on. 
Teamwork. 
We can't all talk at the same time, 
but we can totally all sing at the same time. 
In harmony. 
With or without instrumental back-up. 
So many choices; such rewarding consequences.

Can't you just feel the fun they're having?
It's like an invitation that begs me us to sing along:

Come and play, everything's A-okay!
Have some fun on this sNOw-school day ...





1.27.2014

Maria's Sweet New Board Book


Today I'm excited because Maria Dismondy's new book is now available 
and I'm hosting her last stop on the Virtual Blog Tour.

Ta Da ... here it is in all of its adorableness:


Geared at a much younger audience than her other titles, this newcomer targets children from birth to age three. The same thing that drew me to Maria's work in the first place - her mission to help people Be The Difference - has endeared me to 

Using six key character words coupled with pictures of babies from diverse backgrounds, Maria's powerful parenting tool answers the question: 
What makes baby super sweet?


Thank you, Maria, for this free download.


I used the book to elevate empathy in a preK class last week and talk with our littlest learners about what babies need. 
Here's a sneak peek at a portion of the lesson:


Here are the words to our fun friendship ditty that we actually circled up for and fell down at the end of, just as if it were Ring Around The Rosey -- good times!:



Then yesterday I found this related post that totally supports why resources like this book are necessary to raise your child's social intelligence.

And Kid President talking to newborns {here}.

It's never too early to start teaching, reinforcing, and modeling character to our infant children. I'm glad that Maria cooked up this delicious title and I see it as a great gift for all of those friends and families who are adding a bundle of joy to their fold, just like Maria and her family, who just welcomed 
a blessed baby boy to their family.

If you'd like a Spoonful of Sweetness, please leave a comment below with your best parenting tip between now and January 30th at noon central. The Gruener Generator will draw one name from all of the entries and Maria will send you a signed copy.

This giveaway is now closed; congrats Lisa 
and thanks for that parenting tip!

I appreciate my friendship with Maria and I am grateful for her partnership and her passion for character and kids.


Maria Dismondy is a #1best-selling children's book author, former teacher, and highly sought-after speaker. Spoonful of Sweetness is her 5th children's book. Maria has a passion for spreading an anti-bullying message and making a difference in her writing, public speaking, blogging and charity work. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband and children. Visit her online {here}; you'll be glad you did!






1.26.2014

Restitution & Restoration

Today I woke up thinking about forgiveness,




possibly because this is an important week for me and probably because 
this story seared such an imprint on my heart yesterday. A fire fighter falls asleep at the wheel after a long day's work and he crosses the center line, colliding with and killing a young mom and her unborn baby boy. How does her husband go on, much less forgive? 

The journey of faith, forgiveness, and friendship between these two men who met by accident under what would seem like unforgivable circumstances will at once astound and inspire you. I find myself so, so grateful that they so willingly and candidly shared it.

Forgiveness is one of those rare things that ends up being as much of a gift to you as to the person you gave it to. Anger, disappointment, sadness, resentment ... those things all try to talk us into holding on to that grudge and saying "No, I won't forgive them. They don't deserve it." We might even think, "Why bother to forgive them? It won't change what happened."

And guess what? Both of those things might very well be true. But at the end of the day, what do we deserve, really? And while forgiveness can't change what happened, it can totally change what will happen. In both lives. Try it and see.

But don't let forgiveness and accountability blur in your mind. We can forgive and still hold people accountable for their choices. That's the idea behind restorative justice. While we may not be able to change what happened, we must always accept responsibility and make amends as we work toward restitution and restoration.

Need some forgiveness ideas?

Click {here} for the Potato Sack metaphor.
Click {here} for games from Creative Youth Ideas.
Click {here} for my PPBF review of The Forgiveness Garden.






1.25.2014

Scrambling Eggs

Today I'm thinking about eggs.
How many references to eggs can you think of?

You're a good egg.
He's a rotten egg.
Don't be an egg head.
You're walking on egg shells.
She's got egg on her face.
That's more valuable than a golden egg.
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.

My favorite has to be this one:


Maybe because I'm a baker.
Maybe because it's so true.
And probably because I see two sides to it.

Mr. Morgan is right that once scrambled, you can't make an egg whole again. That being said, he cautions his reader to choose carefully, and I like that advice.

But the other part that I see is that, even though you can't unscramble them, there are always lots of options for what to do with eggs that you've scrambled. Just add cheese and breakfast sausage. Or make huevos rancheros. Why not throw in some fried potatoes for a German dish. Omelette anyone?

So I'm headed to the kitchen to scramble an egg and make it into my grandma's crumb cake, because my friend Nigs is coming for a visit from England and it'll be the perfect complement to our afternoon tea.

Just for fun, here's that recipe.

Grandma Natzke's Crumb Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup soft butter
Mix well in bowl; take out 3/4 cup mixture for topping.

To the remaining butter/flour/sugar mix, add
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
Beat until smooth.
Pour into 9x13" cake pan. Sprinkle crumb mixture over top.
Bake at 340 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream or with your favorite coffee.

Buen provecho!





1.24.2014

Sprinkling Kindness

If you're a regular reader, then you know that I usually set Fridays aside for a PPBF review. But my two choices of books I'd planned to review were already on the list, so I'm taking a break from PPBF until next week.

Today I'm thinking about kindness because of this pretty bulletin board that my intern made. We added the butterfly post-it notes with students' answers from peace class, things like 
keep your promises, 
read with someone, 
invite someone over, 
listen,
play nicely, 
tell the truth, 
smile at someone.



Want more kindness-conspiracy ideas? 
Read The Kindness Clause in the Character Educator {here}.

How do you focus your kids on kindness?





1.23.2014

Voice & Choice

As many of you know, I value student voice and choice.
A lot! 



So today, I'm sharing some guiding questions that I use
when I'm planning peace-class lessons with my kiddos.

1. Will students get to choose from a number of activities?
2. Will they be able to adjust concepts to a personal interest?
3. Will they choose whether or not to work with others?
4. Will they get to choose their partner?
5. Will they find the topic interesting?
6. Will they find the topic engaging?
7. Will they find the topic relevant?
8. What will their role in the class be today? 
9. Will students have the skills to be successful in the lesson?
10. What might their goals for our time together be?
11. Are the students able to monitor their own progress?
12. How will I know if the students felt successful?
13. Will the students consider this activity fun?
14. How can I guarantee that everyone participates?
15. What prior knowledge will the student need for this lesson?

How do you ensure student voice and choice?

We just found out that we have late arrival tomorrow.
Stay bundled up and enjoy the winter wonderland.





1.22.2014

The Outcome

Happy Wednesday!

I see this sign in Mrs. Quigley's window across the hall 
every time I leave my office.




It's given me pause more than once.
It tends to jump out at me and it makes me think.
Could be because I'm in this new role as an intern supervisor.
Or that I'm starting to think about retirement.
Maybe just because it's clever. 
And true.

As I reflect, I can't help but wonder, in my 30 years, 
how many outcomes I've had a hand in.
How many I've influenced.
How many I've left just a little better.
And how many I could have done better with.

Makes me tired ... and challenges me ... all at once.
The good news?
Today I get another chance to influence an outcome.

Bring it!






1.21.2014

Goofus & Gallant

Birthday blessings to my baby little younger brother Paul!
Wish we were in WI to celebrate with you today.

Who remembers Goofus and Gallant? 
I totally loved reading about them at the dentist office 
when I was a kid!
Check this out ... our service club was featured in the Gallant Kids section, page 21, in Highlights magazine back in August of 2008!



What a highlight for us!

In its 11th year, the Westwood Knitting Club has found nearly a thousand boys and girls learning how to knit and then giving their handiwork away. 

In service to others. 

Bookmarks,
squares for afghans, 
scarves, 
and baby hats.

For good.



To warm them up. And possibly save their lives.

Click {here} for more info on 
our third-grade knit-for-service club.
Sheila at Pennies Of Time invited me to guest post 
last summer and tell our story {here}. 

And now, she's hosting a linky party so that we can share our promising practice for the MLK Day of Service {here}. Thank you, Sheila; what a wonderful collection of service learning ideas!

How are you knitting kindness in your world?







1.20.2014

Change Begins With The People

Today we celebrate the birthday of a hero in history who dreamed of a world where people were judged by the content of their character. This included a non-violent, peaceful place where people of every race and creed could live in harmony.


Do you have the courage to step up and take a stand to help realize MLK's dream even when nobody's looking and even if it might be risky to do so? I came across this thought-provoking clip recently and thought it perfect to celebrate MLK and reignite his plea for peace.

*Note: There is one "bleeped-out" word so it isn't appropriate for all audiences. Its impact might be greatest on those of us who are age-appropriate and have the opportunity to positively influence tomorrow's future by fostering the skills they need in order to be upstanders and step in to help the victims of bullying behaviors.



It might all boil down to the Golden Rule: Treat others the way that you want to be treated. I know which of the people in this clip I'd want want nearby if something like this were to happen to me.





1.19.2014

One More Person

I'm thinking today about life and loss, still reflecting on Dr. Kennedy's passing, I suppose, and enjoying the long weekend in celebration of MLK.



So my question is this: How do you know when you've done enough?  Dr. Kennedy, for example, could have retired after thirty years, forty years, fifty years ... but she kept on working ... because there were more lives to touch, more hearts to capture, more wrongs to right. 

It's probably no coincidence, then, that this Wing Clips film clip from Schindler's List came to my inbox as I'm doing my reflecting. Have you seen it? Schlinder has saved some 1100 lives, but he regrets not having been able 
to save more.  One more. Two more. Ten more.


That clip just left me with an empty feeling. So many lives saved, but Schindler's heart ached for the ones that were lost, the missed opportunities, the ones he muses that he could have saved had he put people over possessions.

At the end of the day, you simply must be able to say that you gave it your best effort and focus on what you were able to do rather than 
what you weren't able to do. 

But never, ever stop fishing for that one extra soul.





1.18.2014

She Got Her Standing Ovation

I haven't blogged much this week because I've been so busy running away from the grief and great sadness that I feel over losing one of our long-time administrators, Eunice Myrlene Kennedy. In fact, I haven't known Friendswood ISD without Dr. K and there's been this lost, numb feeling inside since last Sunday afternoon when I heard the news that she'd completed her earthly journey and had gone to sing with the heavenly choir.

Don't get me wrong; it's not like she was my best friend. In fact, if I'm totally honest, she kind of scared me. When I think back to the one time she evaluated me in my Spanish class in the late 80s, I left her office in tears. Not happy tears, either. Terrified tears. But I will never forget what she said: Yeah, you're good, but you could be better. That was not what I wanted to hear, but it was good for me to be sure. She saw something greater in a rookie like me and she wasn't afraid to help me cultivate it.

Dr. Kennedy was in her 55th year in our district. Yep, she started working here before many of us were even born. Just think about how many rookies like me she helped! When she came to town, some of the students were still riding horses down a dirt road to school. She started a a physical education teacher and coached girls' basketball for nine years. During that time, her team only lost one district game. It's not that she told them she had to win; it was the opposite, actually. She worked them hard so that they would not fail. For Dr. K, it was all about best effort.

In 1969, she decided that Friendswood High School should have an all-school musical. Year by year she added to her dream with a choreographer, a pit band, a stage manager and scholarships. Our Jacob got the Piano Lady scholarship just last year for playing trumpet in Guys and Dolls, his third musical. In all, she produced and directed 45 musicals. This fall, she helped cast what would have been her 46th. She challenged and stretched students from all walks of life to get on that stage (or help behind the scenes) and give it their all. And when the curtain rose to a sold-out house, for 45 years, Dr. Kennedy would quietly take her seat in the front row and bask in the fruits of her labor. She thrived on those applause,
 for the kids and their best effort.

Yesterday at Dr. K's service of life celebration sixty of Dr. Kennedy's stars came back to sing for her one last time. It was an angelic choir or Musical Cast Alumni that sang How Great Thou Art, The Benediction, and the Hallelujah Chorus in beautiful harmony for their role model, mentor, teacher, coach, principal, counselor, and friend. In harmony. With love. 

Both older children were blessed to play in the pit band for Myrlene's Musicals. Dr. K even came to Kaitlyn's graduation party two and half years ago. Makes me wonder how many parties, weddings, baptisms, funerals and other celebrations she attended in her 78 years of life. Though she never had biological children of her own, she had more kids can any of us could ever count on her mind and in her heart. And she knew them all by name. Dr. K always did what's best for kids.


Dr. Kennedy was a no-nonsense woman of integrity and depth. She knew what she wanted and she went after it and got it. If you knew her, you'd agree that you pretty much said yes if she asked told you to do something. 

The church was packed yesterday to say good bye and thank you to this amazing behind-the-scenes director and we all laughed in unison when we were told that she'd written her own obituary. Because it didn't surprise us. Even as she faced death, Dr. K was working. She summoned people to her hospital bed as if it were her office as she took care of details like planning her funeral, inviting men whom she admired to be her pall bearers, and giving her last-minute revisions for her final musical. A beautiful ending to an award-winning production, her life well-lived. Surely her influence is farther reaching than anyone will ever know.

So when the Pastor took the pulpit and gave us the permission we were waiting for, we gave her a well-deserved standing ovation and thunderous applause with gratitude and appreciation for her influence and love.

Last Monday night, just a day after the lights went down on Myrlene's final act, the FISD School Board voted to name the auditorium where Dr. K spent so many, many hours of her life The Myrlene Kennedy Auditorium in her honor. 

Her legacy of love and loyalty continues ...








1.17.2014

PPBF: The Big Box


Today's PPBF is an oldie but goodie on my shelves that came to mind when we were discussing differentiation and individualized instruction the other day.

Title: The Big Box
Author: Toni Morrison with Slade Morrison
Illustrator: Giselle Potter
Publisher: Jump At The Sun (Hyperion Books)
Date: 1999
Suitable for ages: 8 and up
Themes: self-control, creativity, freedom

Brief synopsis:  Three children who challenge their boundaries and, in an adult's world, "just can't handle their freedom" are banished to life in The Big Box.

Opening Page: Patty and Mickey and Liza Sue
Live in a big brown box.
It has carpets and curtains and beanbag chairs.
And the door has three big locks.

Oh, it's pretty inside and the windows are wide
With shutters to keep out the day.
They have swings and slides and custom-made beds
And the doors open only one way.

Resources: 
Read a review from BrainPickings {here}.
Read a Publishers Weekly review {here}. 
Read the history behind the story {here}.
Find discussion questions at Teaching Children Philosophy {here}.

My suggestions for follow-up include using these reflection questions:

1. Did Patty do something wrong? If so, what?
2. Did Mickey do something wrong? If so, what?
3. Did Liza do something wrong? If so, what
4. Who, if anyone, acted unfairly in this story?
5. The children got really cool stuff when their parents visited. Would you be willing to trade your freedom for those things? Why or why not?
6. Were the children acting responsibly before they were put in the Box? Do you suppose that time in The Box would improve their behavior? Why or why not?
7. Describe a time when you might have felt like Patty, Liza, or Mickey. What steps did you take to improve your situation?
8. Think about the Six Pillars of Character. Give examples of how the three children showed good character and didn't show good character.

And this reinforcement activity:

Please Release Me!

Ask your students to choose one of the children: Mickey, Patty or Liza. They will be writing and delivering a short speech, campaigning for the release of their chosen child from his/her prison sentence. They can do it as a third-person narrative on their child's behalf or in the first-person as the child him/herself. Encourage your students to base their argument on your character values. Allow students to use the following questions as a guide:

1. Why would your chosen character benefit from his/her release?
2. What has your chosen character done to deserve his/her release?
3. How will your chosen character behave differently following his/her release?
4. What has your chosen character learned from his/her time in The Big Box?
5. Where will your chosen character go following his/her release?
6. How will he/she behave?

Why I like this book: This creative masterpiece serves as an excellent metaphor for freedom of self-expression, creativity, and individuality. Based on the adventures of three feisty-spirited children, this book details their youthful antics fueled by their unbridled freedom. Patty is a rebel in the classroom, Mickey upsets his neighborhood, and Liza frees the animals on the farm. Challenged by how to handle their energetic kids, the powers-that-be gather to figure it out. Instead of championing their innocence, celebrating their creativity, and fostering their voice and choice, their grown-ups diagnose the symptoms and treat the illness by forcing the kids to stay within the boxy confines of their orderly adult worlds. Oh, they mean well, but at what cost? 

I came from a home where we were repeatedly told that "children are to be seen and not heard." In schools and in homes, we can be authoritarian and operate under a "my way or the highway" regime or we can adopt a coaching model in which we listen to, mentor and guide. I know which one I would have preferred for my childhood; ask your students which one they think children would do better in. Set up a debate just for fun.

Check out this book; I think that it will generate a riveting discussion 
about creativity, freedom and individuality.





1.15.2014

When The World Says No

Tonight I'm excited because we had such a fun time hosting twenty educators from Ross Elementary, a school down the road in a neighboring district, who were checking out our character climate. Several of them sat in on a peace class with me and my second graders and I was so, so proud of those peacemakers who just went on doing what they do while sharing the room with our visitors, 
no questions asked. 

I just love helping school families as they embark on their trip
down Character Road, especially when they're as eager and enthusiastic as these teachers and administrators are. It was a win-win, really, because as we helped to jumpstart their journey, my battery was totally recharged and 
I fell in love with my school all over again.


Speaking of batteries, have you seen this Duracell commercial? It features Seattle Seahawks Fullback Derrick Coleman, an athlete who, despite his deafness, persevered through overwhelming obstacles and odds to play in the NFL. 
Click {here} to read his story.




Two points that this young man makes that really resonated with me are that he was "picked on and picked last" and that when people told him it couldn't be done, "I've been deaf since I was three, so I didn't listen." 
He didn't listen, and he didn't quit.

Just this morning on my way to school I was thinking about the saying about the difference between a goal and a dream is a plan. What I might add to that is that you need some passion and some people to support you as you work to achieve those goals and dreams. Derrick Coleman had a plan and he didn't let naysayers get in the way of his goals or his dreams. What an inspiration.

May we never be dream squashers!





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