#Kindness Is KEY

Happy new {school} year! Today I’m grateful because of a very special delivery that came my way recently from Sarah T. in Wisconsin; look at that gorgeous antique key on the right that perfectly complements our tiny tribute table.

It just arrived one day, this priority mail, out of the blue, and it made my heart soar. When I texted to thank her, she said when you see a key and it screams your friend’s name, you just have to buy it and ship it south. Her words of affirmation on the note read: Saw this while shopping and immediately thought about you. You’ve made a difference in more lives than you’ll ever know. Keep being YOU. Her thoughtfulness made my day, week, month summer brighter.

I’m spending my Labor Day signing a few books, more joy to fuel my journey.

Then, another blessing, this picture from a family that I babysat for when I was in college; it’s the then-father, now grandfather, sharing our story with his grandchildren at their Grand Camp retreat. Be still my soul.

I’ve gone back to school to teach 8th graders again this year; we have completed 3 weeks already and are having a blast learning Spanish while sharpening our social and emotional learning skills. Here’s this year’s Esquina de Paz (Peace Corner):

They’re getting more and more comfortable using the calming resources in the area to help center them and get them ready to learn. Yay!

Finally, after talking with some friends over at Applied EQ Group about something I tried last year to assess what kind of SEL skills my students were acquiring, Elizabeth asked if she could blog about it, so here’s a link to that post, which came out yesterday.

Ours really is more of a Leadership Lab than your ordinary classroom, and mutual respect and kindness is certainly key when it comes to getting 8th-graders to try partner yoga on their own and then ask you to take their picture for Open House. It’s just one of the reasons that I truly believe that the BEST is yet to come.

Here’s to an incredible 2022-2023 school year that’s one-of-a-KIND.

Her Hand On Mine

Today my soul is still singing from a private reading with a four-year-old birthday girl who my sister knows and loves. I put four keys on a key ring for her and grabbed an extra copy of the book not really sure how well it would go to read a book, written for children in the age group 6-10, to such a young girl. I encouraged her to jingle her keys when she saw Mr. Quigley on a page; at the part about him being deaf, we stopped and shook the keys while holding them tight, to help her understand what his keys sounded like to him. It makes me happy to report that she was with me for the entire book, and I got the BEST feedback when she asked me to read it again.

Hoping to engage her in the author signing, I asked her to help me spell her name. Without skipping a beat, Zoe put her hand on mine, to help me with her name, literally and figuratively. It was a magical moment that I wished could last forever.

This morning I led a growth session, Building Equity By The Book, at the Character Conference in WI; click {here} if you’re interested in seeing those slides.

Inspiring Magical Moments

Today I’m grateful and filled with joy from last week’s school visits in Wisconsin. The week started in Hartland, where I got to read my book and sing with a class of third graders and then two classes of fifth graders. This visit was actually an auction-item donation to support their school building project, time with an author and signed books to the highest bidder. My husband was also there; his donation, a meeting to learn from a planetary scientist from NASA. You could say he’s recruiting, to help keep dreams of space travel alive. My Dad and sister joining us made it extra special.

Our second visit found me at Howard Elementary with a special group of fourth graders in the Green Bay area. To celebrate my book’s birthday, we were greeted with balloons, cookies, flowers and tons of smiles!

It made my soul sing to be able to read the story aloud after sharing its backstory with this school family, connected to us because their teacher, Mrs. Vande Hei, is the sister of my brother Mark’s friend Mike. Sibling love for the win!

While I was talking about their Key Principles, John was sharing all about space down the hall with the third grade team. (Photos courtesy of Howard-Suamico Schools)

We both encouraged them to follow their dreams and pursue their passions, be it writing or science, neither or both. What a joy it was to spend time with that incredible school family; the bonus was meeting their servant-hearted custodian, Jesse, on our way out the door. Then we headed south to Cedarburg, where we walked the streets of that quaint little town and celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary before my third and final school visit. This door to a stationery shop caught my eye and spoke to my spirit.

To say that my day at Westlawn Elementary was magical doesn’t begin to describe the enchanting things that are happening in that school of character.

The morning began with a Character Day assembly; no, Colleen and Stef, not THAT kind of character! There were 300 students in that gym but you seriously could have heard a pin drop as these young leaders respectfully listened, eager to hear what the day would hold for them as they unlocked the magic together.

Since Mr. Quigley’s Keys has served as their “North Star” this year, there was a collective gasp of excitement and joy that I will never forget when they announced that I was there to spend the day with them.

This was my nook for the day as I met all of the students by grade level and shared my story from farmer’s daughter to educator to author, a spot I will forever appreciate because it’s where I got to sing and sign with these beautiful Westlawn Dolphins.

At the end of the day, we presented a copy of the book to their hero custodian, Mrs. Heidi, a role model who is cherished and loved because, in the words of a first grader, “she puts us before herself.”

So many magical moments forever imprinted on my heart; I’m leaving Wisconsin with an extra spring in my step and a more vibrant energy, hope and love in my soul.

Giving Empathy Wings

This special delivery from a 4th-grade reader brought me to tears.

It was an update, about how the class is doing putting their KEY Principle into action, giving it wings, if you will. His KEY is empathy. What this empathy hero’s teacher might not know is that her thoughtfulness was perfectly timed, because this treasure came in the mail just as I was about to celebrate my first Easter without my brother Mark. My spirit needed a booster shot of connection, hope and love, and her empathy winged its way from my home state to deep in the heart of Texas at exactly the right moment. It’s empathy that gives kindness its why; I wrote about it {here}, along with some empathy integration ideas, in case you’ve been looking.

From time to time, our book gets a Twitter shout out; so thankful for this one from Florida. I love that the story whets their appetites for learning ASL.

Our hardcover in the Spanish language has arrived; check it out on Amazon {here}.

I’ll leave you with that beautiful smile, which says more about our joy than my words ever could. Happy springtime.

The Keyhole of Hope & Possibilities

Click the image for a download of this key template.

I’m always honored, excited and grateful to discover how schools around the world are using Mr. Quigley’s Keys to inspire and influence; one of the most recent projects shared with me comes from Lincoln Elementary in the state of Washington. Click {here} to watch their beautiful work of HEART unfold. My soul is singing that a seed our story planted has germinated and blossomed into this incredible school-wide project which this family of CAN-DOER Bull Pups is using to help them hurdle over some upcoming challenges and changes.

As I was creating this template, it occurred to me that you could teach your learners about symmetry so that they can create their own keyhole instead of using mine.

Directions: Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and draw a half circle and a slanted line; it’ll end up looking a bit like a capital R. Cut along the lines, open it up and find your very own, individualized keyhole template.

Write or illustrate the world you see through the keyhole when we use our keys to connection to encourage, support, love on and serve one another. Or let your artists create the prompt by asking them what they are looking for through their keyhole.

What do YOU see when you peek through the keyhole of hope and possibilities?

KEY Strengths On Display

If you’re looking for an activity that will spotlight signature strengths, you’ve come to the perfect place!

Piggybacking off of this KEY template that we shared at Thanksgiving 2015, to thank our staff members for being key to unlocking so many doors for our students and their families …

… I created this from one of Audrye’s illustrations that didn’t make it into the book. Click {here} to download. Put copies on the table at your back-to-school inservice and ask staff members to write words and phrases that describe who they are and what they bring to your school family. Use it to talk about humility and a healthy pride, something they’ll model to the learners in their class family every day.

When the masterpieces are finished, consider attaching a picture of each staff member on his/her page and post it on a Wall of Fame at your school’s entrance. Won’t that make a beautiful visual? But don’t stop there! Ask your students to complete one as well. Better yet, put blank templates out at Open House and ask families to fill them out. Or send them home in the first-week folder and get everyone involved.

Do send me a picture when your KEY strengths are on display!