Share This with All the Schools, Please

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One of the BEST stories I have had the privilege to read this year. A touching story of a teacher and her passion for the lost hearts of children, written by Glennon Doyle Melton from MOMASTERY on Jan 30th. Be inspired, encouraged and pass it on! Sammy@TURNING STONE choice

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase’s class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot – and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.
Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11 year old hands – is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives.
And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything – even love, even belonging – has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through those lists – she breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s MATH.
All is love- even math. Amazing.
Chase’s teacher retires this year – after decades of saving lives. What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day- and altering the trajectory of our world.
TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching- it’s our best hope.
Teachers- you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together: “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank you. We thank you for saving lives.”
Love – All of Us

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

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Dear Senia – A Note to a Brave Girl

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Schools and communities across the nation are participating in Anti-Bullying programs this month providing a plethora of tips and techniques on how to handle situations. With respect to all those efforts, I wanted to move beyond providing information and take action. I want to share Senia’s story and reach out to her because she and kids just like her are worth it. Her story will never be on 20/20 or headlined in today or tomorrow’s paper. We are usually hand fed only the worst cases, like the recent and tragic suicide of a 12 year old girl. But, Senia’s story is extremely relevant.  Her story represents the millions of children who listen to daily cruel comments chipping away at their precious beings, and struggle to be comfortable and confident in their own skin. This month consider one child you know who could use an encouraging word to be brave, bold and already beautiful.  You can follow the link below to Senia’s post.

 

Dear Senia,

We do not know each other, but I just wanted to let you know how brave I believe you are to share your bullying and peer pressure story. It takes courage to let people know how you feel and what you believe.  You never know how your story may impact someone else who thinks they are going through the same thing, but alone. It takes self-respect to make the empowering decision to be who you are and move through the pressure to act a certain way.  I hope you continue to think of ways to help others work through peer pressure and prevent bullying. Your ideas were very solid and perhaps you may even want to pursue those ideas for your school or community.  Continue to embrace the unique and fabulous person that you are!
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

http://simplysenia.com/2013/10/15/senias-school-paper-on-bullying/
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

All Hands In – Cooperation

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We aren’t seeing stellar examples of cooperation these days. Think government shut down and reality TV dramas. In a society that exalts the best of the best and drools over dog- eat- dog scenarios, cooperative behavior is hardly ever acknowledged or seldom encouraged. It is quite easy to get caught up in a spirit of competition and righteousness. There is nothing like the feeling of being right. It can give us a sense of pride yet open the ugly door to boast, “I told you so, and in your face!” Sometimes, being right is a matter of life and death, like getting the right diagnosis for serious disease like breast cancer. Other times, being right isn’t about anything but our stubborn nature and feeling justified. While stuck in our righteousness, oversights to solutions keep us from moving forward. We should consider if our position is helping to solve the conflict or causing more damage and whether or not the issue at hand is important enough for us to dig our feet into the ground over it. Sometimes, we get so bogged down by the right answers on tests, the right questions to ask, and the right choices to make in life that we ignore relationships with others in the name of being correct or justified. We stomp all over cooperative efforts because, “I’m right, and you are wrong,” is prevailing. Getting all tied up in a competitive moment, we miss the interdependent dynamic that serves everyone. Life is not always right and wrong, win or lose. Most situations in life require cooperation to get the job done. Can you imagine the disaster if all of the individuals working to fight breast cancer held to their own beliefs that they were right and everyone else who put forth a differing position was wrong? I’m sure it took multiple people with a variety of skills, knowledge, and scientific opinions to bring about the strides in research and treatment available today. We all possess something unique to offer, but can we forgo the temporary pleasure of being bona fide and consider the amazing outcome when all hands are in?

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Wonderful Kids – How Do We Get There?

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While enjoying an article on best practices for teaching, I immediately correlated some of the questions teachers were asked to contemplate to parents also. One question stood out to me: Are my actions bringing a child closer or farther away from educational opportunity? Now how about parents? This question is unique in that there is no single goal set in stone for us to consider. Teachers, your job is crazy tough, but the goal is as clear as glass even when it has children’s smudges all over it – educate. Aside from keeping my children alive, you may laugh but they often make this difficult, there are lists of goals that continue to grow and change and change again. We may want to help our children develop respect for others or self-discipline. But, can you remember when the goal was to get them to roll over or conquer potty training? So, the question is, are my actions bringing my child(ren) closer or father away from (insert goal)? An even greater question to chew on is, have we even considered goals for our children and shared those destinations with our kids? I have a good friend who takes an entire weekend away from the normal distractions of work and family life and develops plans for each of her children and reviews the plan from last year. Never looking to create the “perfect child” but to take time to really think and help that child in the way they are bent. Initially, I thought this was a wonderful but not entirely necessary idea. Until it became clear that she and her husband were being intentional parents, not willing to risk raising their children to chance. I know every parent wants to raise children who are all wonderful inside and out but have we examined how to get there?

We all need a little help in becoming the parent we want to be. TURNING STONEchoice is sponsoring a parent workshop series beginning October 16th in Mt. Laurel, NJ. For additional information and registration please follow this link http://www.turningstonechoice.com and hope to see you there.

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Sweet Moments of Connection

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I thought I was being a proactive parent setting aside time in a very busy evening to go for a walk and talk with one of my boys. It was just the 2 of us, a rare and special time together. There were some “things” I wanted to address with this particular child and found our conversation very one sided. I did all the talking and had the impression he would rather have his teeth scraped by a dental hygienist than listen to the very important subject matter I was sharing. Finally, I stopped running my mouth and enjoyed a quieter walk as he discovered a friend to play with. Ugh! This was not what I had planned. Much later in the evening during the bed time rush he decided to share a very serious matter that was on his mind and heart. I could not believe the words coming from his mouth. I had not scheduled this discourse, nor was I prepared for his message. But, I knew although this wasn’t my perfectly planned and scheduled moment for “real conversation” I had to carpe diem and listen. And, what was I thinking? Those real moments of interaction are hardly ever planned. They occur at the most ridiculous, inopportune times, when life is wicked messy and exhausting. Perhaps, he would have shared earlier if I did not already plan the agenda taking up all of the space and time with what I want to address. It’s funny how kids can hit you in a blind spot to help you see clearer. At times parenting and teaching can be a real mind trip! One moment you are excited over a perfectly planned classroom lesson with nothing but complete blank stares from the faces of your students. The next moment your class is going in a totally different direction but you hear the light bulbs clicking off in their precious little heads. One moment a parent can feel like a failure in reaching a child and the next moment connect over the honest and real thoughts of that child while rubbing lotion on their legs. It’s the ups and downs we go through; a mind trip, right.
Remember to hold on to those sweet moments of connection with your students and children and when those down moments have you discouraged envision the victory ahead.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Releasing Mistakes

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Once upon a time, I loathed writing. It was the subject I feared because my writing skills were awful. You see, I could not spell well and because I feared the mistakes I knew I would make, I refused to write words I fully comprehended but had no idea how to spell. To this day, I still struggle with spelling and now understand my challenge as a spelling disorder and not a reflection of my intelligence. This was such a huge obstacle, mainly because I did not understand why I was so “stupid.” I knew what the word was, how to use it and when to use it, but how to spell was elusive. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I chose to be silent about my struggle and continued to fall behind in my writing lessons. If not for the wisdom and compassion of my fifth grade teacher, perhaps I would not have the courage to write this blog today. Understanding the contradiction of my simple prose vs. my higher level speaking vocabulary (I talked a lot), this teacher casually walked up to me during a painful writing session and whispered, “Sam, please write the way you talk, and I don’t care if you misspell. It will be great.” In that single moment, I was liberated from the shackles of error because I was given permission to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, and, “It would be great.” I am positive my spelling issues were more severe than my “Releaser” had imagined, but I had a new found freedom that would grow, and, although I would continue to make the same mistakes over and over, I actually would make fewer of them over the longer road ahead. I have come a long way from loathing writing, and I enjoy it immensely (a word I happened to misspell). I might not be the next Maya Angelou, but I am growing out from the wisdom of a teacher who understood the bigger picture of allowing mistakes and encouraging mistakes to get to the real lessons. Which students will you be releasing today from bondages that keep them from growing and learning?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Live Fearless – Projecting Fear

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My husband suggested a blog discussion on facing fears as he clicked the picture of that freakishly large bug in my child’s hands. (Just to answer the obvious question, that bug is called the hickory horned devil caterpillar.) Instead of facing fear, I’ll share how I projected personal fear to one of my boys. Joseph*, my middle child is absolutely obsessed with bugs. So much so, he received the birthday gift of a real life bug party. This would be the first and last time I would pay someone to bring bugs into my house (think huge hissing cock roaches). Joseph catches bugs everywhere we go. I think he is a bug whisperer. Praying Mantis walk right up to him, butterflies land on his head and chill, and there always seems to be an insect of interest around our home in some homemade habitat for his viewing pleasure. Never has he been afraid to approach or handle any insect. It is refreshing to watch – a child’s fearlessness. But, along comes Mr. Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar and I’m wondering what a creature like that, which clearly belongs in the jungle of the Amazon, is doing in South Jersey. My immediate reaction was to yell firmly, “Do not touch that thing! It could be poisonous.” I know- terrible, right. I dare you to come across this creature and not be a bit cautious. Every family member and friend who actually saw this thing for the first time all had the same reaction –a slight jump back and a, “What in the world is it?” I even commented I thought it might cocoon and turn into a bat. Joseph kept returning to the bug and I could tell he wanted to touch it. But, I had squashed his fearlessness with my reaction and it took him two whole days and a verbal “Ok” from me to say it would be fine. The point is, as teachers and parents we have fears and can project them onto the most fearless people on this planet, our children. Perhaps being more childlike and thinking – what if I did not fear, would change my reactions and life experiences? How much more would our children grow if not stifled with adult fears or even their own? I’m not advocating reckless behavior or ignoring clear signs of danger. I am asking all of us, self included these questions: What would I/we accomplish if I/we did not fear? What would be possible living a fearless life?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice