Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Developing Superhero Character Traits

Many teachers and counselors in Georgia (and no doubt elsewhere across the country), are planning a return to school soon.  Thoughts turn to developing a year long theme of lessons that incorporate many of the important character traits. My virtual friend and counselor extraordinaire, Barbara Gruener, has a book out just in the nick of time to help you get those  plans in order.  What's Under Your Cape? Superheroes of the Character Kind is a treasure chest of creative ideas, books to share and heartwarming stories.  I can't recommend it enough for anyone looking for a comprehensive and easy to follow series of character lessons that will take you through the year and beyond.   

                                                     Product Details

Developing a superhero character is something that is a critical skill to learn  as children grow. What I love about this book is that it uses the acronym, SUPERHERO  to identify eleven important traits and then follows up with practical ideas for incorporating them into the everyday life of the school counselor.  Here are the traits she explores:

U~Unconditional Love

All ages can learn to become superheros.  When we as parents and educators teach and  model these character traits, we can be assured that the thread will continue and ultimately come back to us.

Several of the Wyatt books also are great for teaching skills that you will want children to use all year long.  For the new kindergarten student, Wyatt the Wonder Dog Goes to Kindergarten is a lesson all about doing new things that can be scary but are ultimately rewarding in the end.

For those interpersonal conflicts that are sure to come up between friends, check out, Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Good Manners.  It includes important techniques for turning conflicts into cooperation.

Finally, Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Being Organized is a great book for teaching children how to plan and schedule time. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Three Ways to Slay the "I'm Bored" Monster

A fellow teacher and friend reported to me that her frustrated child told his dad, "Quit getting your nerves on me!"  We've all been there haven't we?  Summer is a time of relaxation and freedom.  It's unstructured days and late nights;  movies and picnics, wild roller coaster rides at the theme park and lazy days poolside.  But eventually something will probably rear it's ugly head.  It's the dreaded "B" word. My kids would usually bring it up after a particularly eventful day spent at Six Flags or Stone Mountain or some other amusement park, where we had been on the go from dawn to dusk.  Just as we get home and I collapse on the sofa, they whine pitifully, "I'm bored." Made me feel like saying... "Quit getting your nerves on me!"

In our fast paced, always tuned in and turned on world, I believe we've created our own monster. Kids nowadays expect nonstop entertainment and often we as parents believe that we are responsible for providing it.  We enroll our kids in camps and classes, go on family vacations and visit local attractions.  By the end of the summer, we are all exhausted.  Instead of being refreshed and renewed, we are tired and frustrated.

What if being 'bored' is a good thing?  What if instead of providing constant activities and structured events, we created an oasis of time for creativity and  free play?  For many kids this would be a novel concept but for those of us in my generation that is what summer was.  It was long days of creating forts and riding bikes.  We roamed the neighborhood or played in the backyard. We played board games and read books (seriously-books). There was of course no technology to keep us indoors.  Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday night Walt Disney were the only times we were glued to the television.

Teaching children to manage their own free time and create their own activities is an important skill.  When we don't learn to do this as children, we grow up to be adults who expect to be entertained as well.  Know anyone like that?  Here are some great ways to encourage children to develop an independent mindset while taking responsibility for their own time management and entertainment.

Use a schedule

Even young children can understand a printed schedule that identifies such activities as bedtime, TV or video game time and free time.  Then define what free time is:  a time to use their own imagination to create opportunities for play. Once they understand that this is their special time, most children will look forward to it rather than look to the parent for guidance.

Brainstorm a List of Activities 

Help your child develop a list or a notebook of activities that they could review to give themselves ideas as to how to fill free time.  Make sure there are lots of activities that don't require someone else, a friend or you to participate.  Children need to learn to entertain themselves without always needing someone else to play with. Here are a couple of more resources to get the creative juices flowing:

Watch how this imaginative nine year old filled his summer days at his Dad's auto parts shop:


  Read a previous post on fun writing activities your child can do for the summer:

Ten Fun Summertime Writing Activities

Expect Some Resistance

If you've been providing constant activity or resorting to video game babysitters when you are tired of it all, you can expect some whining and resistance to having to develop their own sense of imaginative play.  This is a good thing and a sign that you are working in the right direction.

Enjoy your summer while you slay the "I'm Bored Monster"!  Let me know in the comments below how it's going.  What is your biggest summertime challenge with the kids?

Need some great books to share with your child for summer reading?  Check  out the Wyatt the Wonder Dog Book Series, children's books with an empowering message.

Live in the Canton Georgia area?  Come see me at the book signing for the newest Wyatt book:

Book Signing
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning
Three Sisters Gifts and Home Accents
6205 Hickory Flat Hwy Ste #106
Canton, Georgia 
June 26, 2014
Fun for the kids!
Story time, refreshments and crafts

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Visits Three Sisters Gift Shop!


I am so excited to be launching my newest book at Three Sisters Gifts and Home Accents in Hickory Flat, Georgia.  If you live in the Canton area you are no doubt familiar with this delightful store.


In addition to loads of gifts and home accents, they have a charming children's section full of everything a child loves from books to games to clothes.  The Three Sisters have been carrying the Wyatt books since February and I am thrilled to be throwing a Summertime Party for the kiddos on Thursday, June 26th 10:30-12:00.  I hope you will drop by.  I'll be reading Wyatt's newest story, sharing some refreshments and making some puppy dog ears to wear home!  I'll even have a giveaway for a free book.  I hope to see you there!

In my newest Wyatt book, Wyatt the Wonder Dog doesn't make the All Star Baseball Team and he is feeling like a loser. All his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?

As a school counselor for twenty years, one of the topics that came up frequently was how to cope with disappointment and failure.  We all face it at one time or another don't we?  Whether it's not making the team, not getting the part we wanted in the play or not making the grade, we all face failure.  My goal in Wyatt Learns about Winning is to change our mindset about failure and instead of considering it losing out to reframe it as an opportunity to learn and grow.  I realize this is quite a turn around for the average adult, never-mind the average child, but if we as adults can model a learner rather than loser mentality, we will all be better for it.

Can't make the book signing but want to purchase a book?  Here's the link:

Do you have a story to tell but don't know how to get started?  Are you interested in learning how to self-publish a children's picture book?  I've create a guide that will walk you through the process;

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One Word-My Parting Gift

Friday, May 30th was my last day  as a school counselor at Sixes Elementary, my job of twenty years.  It is unbelievable and I'll not sure the full impact has hit me yet. The month of May was full of last moments... last bus duty, last report to turn in, last test to give.  Many of these have been moments I won't miss.  There are other lasts that I will miss a lot.  Last kindergarten guidance lesson.  Last kindergarten graduation program to watch.  Last writing club parents' night.  Last staff luncheon to attend.

At the staff luncheon, there are always moments of great celebration such as when the teacher of the year is announced and moments of sadness as when during the recession, so many teachers were let go.   Some leavings are bittersweet. Teachers who get married and move away.  Teachers who have babies and opt to stay home. This year was no different.  We had new teachers joining us and teachers leaving.

My Parting Gift

Since both my principal and I were retiring, we were each given a parting gift.  It was probably one of the best most meaningful gifts I've ever been given.  Just looking at the picture of it in this blog brings tears to my eyes. Here is picture of it:

Here's the background to the gift...

I've written before about choosing one word to guide you through the year.  I've done it in guidance lessons and as part of activities for the writing club.  This year we decided to do this as a faculty and after a week to think about it, each teacher presented his or her word for the year at a faculty meeting.  We took pictures of the teachers as a grade level with their one word and put it on the website.  It was fascinating to see.  There was Focus, Determination, Listening and Invest among many others.  My word for 2014 is Adventure.  We each wrote or printed the word and hung it outside our office or classroom.  It was a wonderful reminder each time we visited another classroom, what that teachers' focus was for the year.

My One Word for 2014

For the One Word booklet, each teacher was asked to share one word that they felt described me.  The results were fascinating and touching.  Here's the breakdown:

Calm: Appeared six times

Inspirational or Motivational appeared four times

Creative or Innovative appeared four times

Compassionate appeared three times

There were lots of others that appeared only once... but I loved them!

Here's a couple:

This is truly a gift that I will treasure forever.  I've already shared the experience with many others and now with you, my readers.

Lessons Learned

I thought about ending this blog with the last sentence, but I'm a habitual educator and I can't stop without commenting on lessons learned.  
  • It's powerful and empowering to know how you are perceived by others.
  • There are parts of us that we aren't even aware of, that others see.
  • The love and care that we have for each other is so often lost in daily transactions-what if we did something like this regularly with co-workers, friends, family?
What is one word that others would use to describe you?  What if you asked?

Friday, May 30, 2014

After Twenty Years... I'm Retiring from School Counseling

I began my career as a school counselor the fall of 1994. For the past twenty years it has been a dream job. I have loved the school where I've worked and all the students. Some have been more challenging than others but then don't we all have our moments? I've loved the faculty and staff that I've worked with. There isn't a better, more dedicated group of teachers on the planet. They are each one dedicated to encouraging every student to be successful and to be the best they can be. I've loved the creativity of the job and it's focus on making positive changes in children's lives. If you had asked me five years ago if I'd ever retire, I'd have said, "What for?" I seriously thought I'd be 101 years old, wandering the halls looking for a class to share a guidance lesson with.

A Bigger Dream 

But sometimes you get a bigger dream. In the last five years, I've rediscovered the dream of writing and I've published four, soon to be five children's books. It began with this one:

Soon the newest one will be out


In addition, I've published a couple of inspirational/motivational books for adults. It's been a magical, challenging and thoroughly compelling journey that I've ventured forth on. So, May 30th is my last official day at Sixes Elementary. I don't feel that I'm leaving something behind so much as I'm forging headlong wildly, ecstatically and a bit recklessly into the greatest adventure of my life.

A Great Celebration 

Last week the school threw a retirement party for me and my principal, Mrs. Kelly, who is also retiring. 

It was a lovely celebration and we each received a rocking chair with our name on it.  Here is mine...

It is extra special because it was  painted by our talented art teacher, Susan Winchester.  The best part is that there is a picture of the inspiration behind this whole retirement thing on the back.  Can you make out his bandana?  It says retired on it!

Because I love stories, I'll finish this post with a funny student story.  It seems word got out among the students that I wouldn't be back next year and a third grader stopped me in the hall to ask, "Will the new counselor next year be just like you?"  To which I responded, "Well, she'll probably be taller."  At which point, the student dropped to her knees and said, "Do you mean she won't be a midget like us?"  I truthfully don't know where I'm going to get such quality material after I leave....

Thanks to everyone for the memories.

Don't worry, it's the end of my school counseling career but not the end of my blogging!  You can follow the journey along with my buddy, Wyatt the Wonder Dog here:  www.wyatthewonderdog.com

Want to check out Wyatt's newest book on winning and losing?  Here's a description:

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star Baseball Team and he is feeling like a loser. All his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Join Wyatt on his latest “wonder-full” adventure as he learns what it takes to be a winner.

Here's the link:


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thank you Sixes Elementary for a Wonderful (and Surprising) Yearbook Dedication!!

Every year at the end of the year, Sixes Elementary where I work has the yearbook unveiling and dedication.  It is an event that is eagerly awaited by staff and students.

There is music provided by our talented (but a little crazy) fourth graders.

 There is a contest among students to design the yearbook cover.  The top ten entrees are chosen and the winner is announced on the day of the dedication. Here is the talented winner, Kayley Haselhorst who got her art work on the front of the yearbook. 

Last Friday also turned out to be a red letter day for me.  I was surprised to learn that the yearbook had been dedicated to me!!

Thank you Sixes Elementary for twenty wonderful years and the terrific honor of  the yearbook dedication.  It is a day I will never forget!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Helping Children Handle Disappointment and Failure

In January, I wrote a post entitled Embrace the Shake.  It was based on artist Phil Hansen's TED talk about a tremor that he developed which created problems in his drawing ability.  When a doctor advised him to "embrace the shake"  instead of trying to overcome it, he found that it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  Instead of trying to hold the pencil tighter and control the shaking, he began to incorporate the shake into his art.  His message addressed the limitations that we all have and the importance of working within the framework of the limitation.

I believe this is an important issue for students as well as adults.  In my newest Wyatt book, Wyatt the Wonder Dog doesn't make the All Star Baseball Team and he is feeling like a loser. All his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? 

We Learn a Lot from Failure 

Helping children recognize their unique gifts and the diversity of those gifts is important.  When we understand our unique abilities and work in our strengths, we develop a sense of self and increase self-esteem. It gives us focus and direction in life.

One problem we have created in the interest of making sure that all children have high self-esteem however, is that we often have tried to eliminate failure from our children's lives. Both at school and at home we focus on how students can be successful and certainly we all want every child to feel successful in something. We want to identify, develop and celebrate talents. However, we also need to make sure that we don't protect children from occasionally failing at something. Why? Because we all learn a great deal from failure. Sometimes I think we learn more from failure than we do from success.

Some Great Lessons Learned from Failure

Many of life's great lessons are learned from failure or hardship. In fact, if you look into the background of many successful leaders past and present, you will find early lives of adversity. I'm not suggesting of course that we create hardship, there is enough of that to go around! Instead, we need to teach children the right perspective for viewing failure. We need to teach them to expect that there will be times of hardship and disappointment but that if they will put into practice what they have learned from it, they can turn failure into success. We need to teach children that failure should challenge them to do more or act differently or to become better, but not to give up.

Children Learn Winning from Adult Role Models

One way we can do this is by example.  As parents, teachers, and other significant adults, how we handle failure in our own lives will be an even more important lesson for our children than how we handle success. It will be a blueprint for our children as they face failure in their own. We can share with children the times we have experienced failure and the lessons learned.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning is essentially a story about failing in some things but succeeding in others.  It is a story of the adults in Wyatt's life encouraging him to try new things, even as they model trying new things themselves.  I hope this story provides adults with a springboard for discussions around this important topic in order to encourage and empower children to discover their strengths and try new things. 

Join the Wyatt the Wonder Dog pack and get a free audio download of Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Being Organized: