Collage - reading and drawing1B


I have concluded that teaching is one of the most, if not THE most challenging professions anyone can choose. In addition to subject area expertise, a teacher must have the ability to walk into a room full of unique individuals (each of whom has his/her own set of ever changing challenges) and somehow inspire, cajole and otherwise entice them into learning. Things are made more difficult by an education system that expects all students to learn the same things the same way, and by rigid schedules that have a tendency to interrupt learning just as it gets started. But this is not a rant about our education system, it is a celebration of what I am seeing as I have the pleasure of working with 6 teachers and 150 students in the Valley View School District in Illinois this summer. They not only give me reasons to smile, but reaffirm my belief that human beings – an in particular children – have a deep and joyful desire to learn as well. Given environments where they are able to explore and express what they’re taught, they flourish.  Here then, are some smile inducing highlights!


Acrostic Collage - Jamie1

Creative Kindness is Alive and Well

As part of making kindness real for students, we ask them to come up with words that mean kind (in Spanish too) and then use those words as the basis to write and illustrate acrostic poems.  The results pictured here, and proudly displayed in the hallway of their school, are nothing short of astonishing. They are a reminder that if we provide the reason and the tools, kids will run with and make a project their own. I LOVE these poems, don’t you?

These particular acrostic poems are by Jamie Harbacek’s terrific kids. To see more of their work, visit:

Design My Own Shoe2
Click HERE or on the image above to watch a video of the kids explaining their shoes

Design My Own Shoe

In Lead With Your Heart, one of the main characters decorates her white tennis shoes to express her creativity and kindness. Student in the Valley View Summer Enrichment Program did the same with wonderful results. The images pictured above and in the video come from Yvette Almaraz’s class. You can see more of their wonderful work here:

Jamie-Pawprint Collage1B

Paws for Reflection

We’ve been talking a lot about how each person (and each dog) is unique, with special abilities to be discovered and practiced. Here the kids were asked to imagine what their unique paw print might look like and what those prints say about what makes them unique. These paw prints will be part of the artwork that forms the outer edge of the classes’ Kindness Quilts.

These particular paws come from Jamie Harbaeck’s wonderful group of kids. To see more of what Jamie’s kids are working on, visit:

Acrostic Poem3

CritterKin’s Quilting for Kindness-Yvette

This PowerPoint shares the highlights of our four weeks working together on a variety of exercises to make our quilt.  We think the smiles say it all 🙂

Peter - Acrostic1Peter – Acrostic Poems Collected

This remarkable collection of Peter Kujawa’s students’  acrostic poems will make you smile.

Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved,









Creative Self Reflection

Students have been thinking of paw prints as finger prints. What would your paw print say about you f you were one of the dogs in CritterKin book, Lead With Your Heart?








Acrostic Poem - Team3-V3

Kindness is Alive and Well






Acrostic Poem - Team3-V3