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

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

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Empowering Choices Powering Lives

Empowering Choices Powering Lives

Bullying reports will go down when a prevention model is in place. The TURNING STONEchoice character education program will empower students to feel confident and to stand up. Bergen County teacher states. “In my classroom, I have seen most of my students empowered to be able to handle conflicts on their own. In most cases handle the conflict in a positive manner. I have also seen impulsive students really control some of their reactions. A huge benefit is that it empowers my quiet students to be assertive and share their feelings instead of keeping them bottled up. The climate in my classroom has become very positive and I feel a choice-making model truly helps us maintain our positive climate.”

Suggested Reading & Review – The Other Wes Moore

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The Other Wes Moore is a riveting, true story of two lives, one name and the diverging paths that led one to prison for life and the other a Rhodes Scholar. The author examines the overwhelming similarities between two boys: both living in the same poverty stricken neighborhood in Baltimore, both fatherless, both coping with a violent and drug saturated environment and both having run-ins with police at an early age. Among the themes the book presents with detailed examples and honest questions are: the impact of educational opportunity, family influence, expectations, personal choices, and support.
The book is currently used as common reads for incoming freshmen at colleges and universities but is also an accessible read for middle school and high school students who may be impacted by this book. Moore, the author shares in the afterword, “I will never forget the letter I received from a fifteen-year-old young man from Baltimore who has already spent part of his young life in juvenile detention. He said this was the first book he had ever read cover to cover, and after reading it he was forced to think about the type of man he wants to be, for himself and his family.”
A must read for educators, parents and students who need to look beyond the circumstances of life and expect and envision a possible future ahead. Excellent resources are built into the back of the book with a list of over 200 organizations that help young people through their journeys and questions to consider after the read. Here is one for you to consider. The author says to the other Wes, “I guess it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between second chances and last chances.” What do you think he means?

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

Oklahoma Swept Away

OklahomaA class 5 tornado ripped through Oklahoma leaving behind hundreds dead and injured. Although, the area is known for twisters this time of year, the deadly force and size of yesterday’s storm has left communities in complete distress with neighborhoods leveled to piles of rubble.
Regular folks like you and me, going to work and school will not be returning to their families. It is yet another reminder of how precious life and loved ones are, and at any given moment it may be our last. May we be respectful of those who have lost family and friends, by treating ours with grace and appreciation. Today, choose to acknowledge the beauty of a fellow human being and engage with the intention to connect with one another. With respect, we extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/us/tornado-oklahoma.html?pagewanted=2