Monday, December 22, 2014
When it comes to serving our country, One (Soldier) Can Count. When it comes to supporting families, One (School) Can Count. When it comes to getting home safe and sound, One (Adorable Little Daughter) Can Count.
We all can make a difference. Just ask J.E. Woodard School in Columbia, Tennessee. They make it a point to teach their students how to be a ONE all year long.
Thank you to David Fitzgerald for his service and to the J.E. Woodard Elementary School for inspiring me today.
Friday, November 7, 2014
I met the most extraordinary boy yesterday through the Pajama Program. (Please click the link if you want to find out about the coolest organization doing something simply spectacular...inspiring reading and providing warm pajamas to under served kids.)
Shane, age 8, and I were reading the book Frieda B. It's a whimsical book about imagination and dreams. It led to a conversation about what we want in our lives. He said his dream was to become a billionaire. When I asked why, I expected answers like "getting a big house" or "buying every video game." His answer shocked me.
Shane: "I want to give it away."I was humbled...for the second time that morning.
Me: "Who would you give it to?"
Shane: "People with cancer who can't buy things on their own."
Before the kids arrived, the volunteers were talking about helping kids. One wise man, Steve, who worked as a volunteer in the inner city Newark (NJ) school system for years talked about cutting through the rough exterior of kids who struggle during their growing up years. His approach was to find common ground and build trust. Common ground can be hard to find when there's an age, ethnic, and demographic difference. He did it by bringing in photos of his dogs.
Trust is like love. Both parties have to feel it before it really exists. -- Simon SinekHe said that it doesn't matter how old the kids are. His advice is to never lose faith. Sometimes middle and high school kids act tough but there's still a child underneath all the layers.
I have to add to that. I think there's also a leader under all those layers. Sometimes we just need the chance to have the conversation.
Thanks Pajama Program, sponsored by Scholastic and Carter's, for providing the platform and the common ground called books to be inspired by the little leaders among us.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
MEDABO is a family charity. My father used to tell the kids to go out and make every day a better one and so my daughter, Alice-Kate, and her cousins decided to make it official by creating these cards. It's mission is simple. Recognize acts of kindness and pay it forward.
Three Cards: Three Unexpected Parenting Lessons
The Sunny Bus Driver
The first card was given to the bus driver on Tuesday. She was incredibly kind to every single person who boarded the bus. Not easy to do when you're a driver in New York City. She connected with each person and sincerely asked how they were. When one regular customer was getting on she showed true concern for his obviously failing health. It made my heart melt.
The next time I saw the driver, she told me that she had given it to her son for doing something good and she asked him to pass it along to someone else who was making a difference.
The Kind Passenger
On the following Friday, I boarded the bus but when I went to pay, I realized that the Metrocard that was in my wallet was expired. I had left the one with $20 on it on my kitchen counter. When I asked a woman who looked approachable if I could pay her in exchange for using her Metrocard, I had another jolting thought. I only had $3 on me. The fare is $6. She didn't even blink. She just stood up and paid my fare.
We started talking about Tangled Ball and early bullying prevention. She has twin 3 year olds but she pointed out something really key to me. Her son had recently used the "hate" word at pre-school. He was quickly corrected but it left her wondering how he even knew the word? (She laughingly said that it could have been a lot of other choice words if he was mimicking her but that she actually never used the word "hate.")
It reminded me that kids are sponges. They'll pick up words and actions that their peers use. So even if you don't do some things at home, once they go to school, they're learning more than their colors.
Early course correction is a good idea.
The Wise Upstander
You run into a lot of crazy stuff on the subway. On Friday, there were a mother/daughter duo having an argument to beat all arguments. It got really heated and everyone on the train was uncomfortable. There was a sigh of relief when they got off but one gentleman didn't just leave the crazy vibes in the air.
He said out loud,. "That's a shame. People just don't say I'm sorry anymore" He continued, "I'm sorry" works. As a matter of fact, I said it to my 6 year-old daughter last night. She was upset that I came home late and I looked her in the eye and said, 'I'm sorry.' And she was satisfied."
His parting words of wisdom: "People are too defensive. Saying I'm sorry is really important."
I couldn't agree more.
Who is Making Every Day a Better One in your life?
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Thanks to the Pacer Center, October has been declared Bullying Prevention Month.
Since I work mainly with Pre-K through elementary schools, I would respectfully like to rename it "Leadership is the Anti-Bully" Month. At these ages, we should remove the labels of "bully," "victim or target" and teach children skills. Learning how to respect themselves and others will benefit them through middle and high school and the rest of their lives.
There are many great social emotional learning programs that have been introduced into schools over the years, including CASEL, The Leader In Me program, National School Climate Center (NSCC) and Yale's Ruler Program, among many others.
Some schools embrace the idea that teaching leadership and social emotional learning is an important part of the student's education while others don't make it as much of a priority. But the schools that do embrace it do better academically. Makes sense. The safer and happier a child feels, the better they perform.
When Kathryn Otoshi, author of the award-winning book, One, and I created One Can Count, we didn't know what to call it. We hesitated to call it a program or initiative. Too complicated. Would people understand if we simply called it a tool?
We wanted to remove any barriers that would make teaching leadership challenging. The truth is that schools DO have too much to do. There IS too much on their plate. Each teacher and staff member can't be asked to be an expert in EVERYTHING.
I enthusiastically support schools who have invested time and money into high-quality school-wide programs that positively impact school climate but not all schools can or have. We wanted to at least provide something simple, inexpensive and that school staff could embrace and make their own. We wanted to inspire schools to give students a chance to step up in very real ways. Practicing leadership includes simple concepts such as older students mentoring younger children. It also includes identifying jobs that students can do as part of the regular school day or even the special occasion days. In other words, any opportunity that doesn't compete but enhances classroom time.
We also wanted One Can Count to be inclusive. We encourage any school to use it in conjunction with any other initiative or program. Teachers and counselors need tools.
I want to thank the 30 schools on Staten Island who used One Can Count last year thanks to Senator Andrew Lanza, who sponsored the workshop at St. John's University, as well as materials and multiple copies of the One and Zero books for each school. Principals, teachers, parent coordinators, and counselors got inspired and had fun. The result? Kids got inspired and had fun, too.
This is a month of awareness but the benefits of the efforts on the part of schools, organizations and parents will last a lifetime.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Did you know that today is National 'It's Almost Impossible to Work Day'? The official end of summer comes too fast.
By September 5th, most kids up to the age of 18 will be back in school in the U.S. so I've designated the 5th as National 'Be Nice to the New Kid Day.'
"Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much." —Blaise PascalIf you've ever had to walk into a school knowing no one, I don't have to explain the importance of a peer introducing themselves or including you at their lunch table or sharing a book if you don't have one. For most kids, the fear and anticipation of starting a new school is like jumping out of an airplane. You know other people have survived but you're not sure you will. That one kind person can feel like soft welcoming ground.
Although I'm sure she doesn't remember me, I'll never forget the girl who was nice to the new kid. When my family moved from a small town in Indiana to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I was going into 8th grade. I didn't know the language. I was leaving the world's best friends right before the best year of elementary. And my new brown and yellow uniform could not have been uglier (the phys ed uniform is too embarrassing even to describe) . A trifecta of horribleness.
To say that I was scared is an understatement. I wanted to be invisible until Carmelina broke away from her gaggle of friends and switched from Spanish to English as she took me under her wing. She introduced me to as many people as she could and although they weren't mean, they didn't pay much attention to me either. I kept thinking how grateful I was to her for getting me through the dreaded first day. Although most of the other girls didn't ever really warm up to me, Carmelina was kind every single day until graduation.
Kathryn Otoshi, author of the award-winning children's book,One, knows that this is a subject near and dear to my heart so she sent me a copy of Wonder. It beautifully illustrates the plight of the new or different kid and the tangled ball of emotions most kids experience. They need mentors. We are their "Go-To Adults."
So when you drop your kids off at school and you remind them to "be nice to the new kid," know you're raising a leader and this former "new kid" is cheering you on.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Sometimes it's not the words that hurt, it's the shrug of the shoulders, it's the no eye contact, it's the looking through a person and not at them. It's the absence of words.
Message is received. You're not important. Your heart shrinks a little more. Kids know when their peers or even adults are not that interested in them. It's like the title of the book and movie by the same name, "He's Just Not that Into You."
This is something that has to be experienced to understand. And that's really part of the harsh reality. Often this is a silent soul crusher because the method of hurting another is off the radar. No one sees it. It's no big deal to others. It doesn't matter. There is no recourse. It is isolating and there is no road map.
No child should feel alone. Correction. No person should feel alone.
Kids don't read this blog so if you're an adult who is made to feel small by being made to feel invisible, please know that your suffering is real. Although we probably have never met, I am sorry if you are feeling diminished in any way.
You are important and fight for yourself. Get new friends. Seek new circles and perhaps look out for a child who may be feeling the same way. See them. Validate their importance.
Your interest is proof of how important you are. Sometimes it just takes one person to remind a child of their value. You won't know it by their words but you'll see it in their eyes.
My hope is that you are seen and appreciated today.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
The 2013-2014 school year was full of light bulb moments.
It started out with this thought: What if we gave young students the chance to shine as leaders? What if we spent as much time creating opportunities for them to practice their leadership skills as we did talking to them about bullying? What if we got a little creative? What if we could inspire the adults and the kids without it being a hassle or taking away from class time? What if we made it inexpensive? Simple? Flexible? And dare I say, what if it was fun?
The answer was One Can Count, based on Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning book, One, and thanks to Senator Lanza, we were able to answer some of those burning questions.
It is the first time that all 30 elementary schools in Senator Lanza's Staten Island district received the tools they needed to start their own One Can Count initiative. It became a chain of leadership. From the free workshop in September to the last day in June, schools made One Can Count their own. Parent coordinators, teachers, principals and counselors embraced the concept that leadership is the anti-bully.
Here's the simple theory: Kids need attention. They'll get it any way they can. So, if you give them the chance to be their best self, they most often rise to the occasion. The more leaders you have in a classroom, the better the balance.
Although it's a children's book, every age, including grown ups are inspired by the power that each of us has to stand up and be the One that steps in.
One Can Count is designed to be a stand alone initiative or work with existing programs in the school to help children value the concept of respect. Bullying is a tangled ball and just like any messy and complicated issue, it often requires many small solutions.
With that being said, I was amazed at what schools accomplished this year. They took this tool and ran with it. They had mentoring programs, art and writing projects, assemblies, leadership counsels, performances, and much more. They created daily reminders of what it's like to be a One.
The year started out with questions but it ended with an answer:
Words of a 5th Grade Leader presenting chain of leadership to Senator Lanza:
Just like the chain, we are connected to one another in our commitment to grow into young leaders. We are a community of learners who recognize that leadership is not just a position, but a process. -- PiumiPart of that process:
Books and Materials
Multiple copies of One and the companion book, Zero, were delivered to each of the 30 schools in early September.
With the generous support of St. John's University, schools came together to hear from experts, including author Kathryn Otoshi and to discuss ideas in which schools could easily incorporate the concepts of leadership.
Materials to help get the tangled ball rolling are free and downloadable here.
Creating the Concept of a Team
Schools had the option of ordering special personalized One Can Count t-shirts for students or teachers.
We're just getting started. Next year our goal is to have every student feel like a leader. -- Parent Coordinator, P.S. 80
Sometimes it just takes One.
Thank you Senator Lanza, St. John's University, Kathryn Otoshi, and especially schools, for delivering hundreds of light bulb moments for me and hopefully Staten Island elementary school students. Looking forward to 2014-2015.