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

Keep Your Head Up- Body Language Message

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“Don’t slouch. Sit up straight!” Mothers have chanted around the world to their children. I always thought it a nagging, ridiculous demand. I mean, why? Leave the poor kid alone. Yet, I have always been quick to encourage a child on the soccer field to keep their heads up after a demoralizing play or game. I actually get a physical pang in my stomach when I see the head drop and the shoulders fall forward for any kid. You can see their momentary pain without a single word or physical injury. I never bothered to correct my own children on the posture front because I felt I had bigger battles to fight, until I considered the bigger picture: the message of our body language to others and more importantly to ourselves. I am realizing the posture we keep on a regular basis can reveal personal details with the world. Is a student sitting so deeply in a chair as if any moment he or she will be one with the floor? Is a child constantly tapping on tables, chairs, books? With our bodies we say, I’m tired, frustrated, hurt, excited, doubtful, eager, anxious and so many other messages the world receives and we believe of ourselves. I guess in the long run, I do want my children to sit up straight because they have the confidence in and of themselves to believe they are worthy of being a part of this world because they are valuable. So instead of nagging with a “Sit-up”, I tap my chest, lift my chin and sit up straight myself. I know I have been probably slouching all day long myself. I need to “remove the tree from my eye before removing a splinter from theirs”, and set an example. I explain when we sit or stand like cavemen (insert laughter from the boys) we squish our organs (more laughter) and they need room to do their thing. Also, we let the world know we don’t think much of ourselves (insert immediate high lifted posture from all 3 boys). I wouldn’t let the boys engage in self-deprecating talk and fill their beings with negative verbal language. Why should I let the just as powerful body language fill them with the same kind of negativity?

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

Be that Teacher!

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I’ve had some marvelous teachers throughout my educational journey, and I’ve had some that were unmemorable. Mr. Gange is #1 on the amazing list. He brought chemistry to life for me in 8th grade with Table of Elements game style quizzes and team challenges. Everyone in class could break down a chemical formula with confidence and ease, even Todd*, the student who refused to make eye contact or talk to a single teacher. I never had a teacher like Mr. G before or since. Students loved him for being original and thoughtful, and I appreciated him for giving me a lesson on human potential.
According to my shallow 8th grade girl perception, Todd must have been lacking intellectually. Everyone for years could see his red F(s) or the discreet manner teachers would fold his quizzes and exams, as if to whisper loudly, “I will spare you the embarrassment.” He never really spoke much but seemed to scream with his whole being, “I hate school!” No one messed with him. He had physical power and talent unparalleled in gym class and at the neighborhood basketball courts. As wonderful fun Mr. G’s class was, and how to this day I have a love of science, it was the transformation of Todd in Mr. G’s class that taught me something profound. I will never forget the first time Todd spoke in class to answer a question. I think the moment froze because we could not believe he had raised his hand and then answered correctly. Instead of oozing praise all over him, Mr. G gave him a quick, “correct” and moved on. Hindsight tells me, Mr. G was doing internal back flips because he just reached the unreachable. A wonderful beginning occurred that day. Todd came alive in Mr. G’s class. He smiled; he participated and became a contributing team member. I charge Todd’s metamorphosis to the man, Mr. G, himself, a gifted teacher who brought enthusiasm and joy to the process of learning. I learned my basic chemistry but witnessed a human’s potential rise. I am grateful for the experience in knowledge and will never forget Todd’s smile while learning.
I encourage you to be that teacher this year! The one who can reach the unreachable. You may never know what other students you bring along the way. Share the encouragement with others and good luck with the new school year.

*Todd is an alias.

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

Positive Thoughts Control Destiny

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In an effort to organize and prepare for the new school year, I shuffled through last year’s school notebooks, and came across a poem taped to the inside cover of a black and white composition book. Perhaps, you use this poem in your classrooms or in your homes to stay positive. Perhaps, you realize the power of a simple thought can determine a destiny. Enjoy and share with others.

Things to Remember By: Pete Johnson

Always Remember
To keep your thoughts positive,
because your thoughts become your words.
To keep your words positive,
because your words become your actions.
To keep your actions positive,
because your actions become your habits.
And to keep your habits positive,
because your habits become your destiny.

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

My Mouth is a Volcano – Suggested Reading & Review

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A Mom’s Choice Award book by Julia Cook, My Mouth is a Volcano addresses the annoying habit of interrupting others through a child’s point of view with humor and imagery. Louis, a vibrant boy with very important words to share with the world has a lot to say and struggles with controlling his words. Will he be able to keep his volcano from bubbling over onto others with a zangy method mom shares or will he keep erupting? Playful illustrations to match Cook’s words deliver the message of how difficult it really can be to stop “erupting.” A simple, fun read with practical application for all, and an excellent resource to set the tone for classroom behavior in the beginning of the school year. Teachers, parents and child-care workers will reap the reward for reading this witty book coping with social skills, polite conversation, self-control and appropriate behavior. Appropriate for ages 4 and up.

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

Summertime Salute to Teachers

School is out
Thank you to those “hard” teachers
The ones who expect too much
The miracle workers
Social skill workers
Gifted with a special touch
Your time
Effort
Heart
And sweat
Have earned you sweet summer rest
Thank you seems too trite
For extraordinary teachers
Mentoring with such life!

Thank you again for sharing your special gifts, encouraging and empowering children with care and confidence. May you be renewed over the summer and prepared for delightful challenges in the Fall. Stay engaged for suggested summer reading for teachers, parents and children. Please forward along to your favorite teachers. Have a fun and safe summer!

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