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Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 | 0 comments

Going Awry

Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/critterkin-jena/going-awry

How many of you have direct experience with of the old adage, “The best made plans of mice and men often go awry?”

When it comes to teaching, I think that saying should be changed to read, “The best made plans of educators will almost certainly go awry at some point.”

And I would argue that’s a good thing! Here’s why.

Human beings are storytellers and trial and error learners. We’re hardwired to need excitement and challenges to grow. So when life becomes routine, or the outcomes of our stories predictable, we get antsy and bored, and start looking for new adventures.

When I first met Gloriann two years ago, my latest plan (and I’ve had many in my life) had not only gone awry, but morphed into something I barely recognized.

I’d just completed the 4th book in my children’s book series, CritterKin, and was all set to begin the 5th, when I started getting requests to do video conference calls with classrooms outside the United States.

The next thing I knew, I was planning and hosting an eight-week, global reading, writing, and creativity challenge with 169 schools in 16 countries, and 99% of it was done virtually.

Being a dutiful teacher, I had a three-part plan all laid out for those eight weeks.

  • I wanted to help kids fall in love with reading and writing;
  • I wanted to use story and creative projects to help kids experience and explore topics like being different, bullying, and perfection; and
  • I wanted to use technology to teach some important 21st century skills like empathy, collaboration, and creative problem solving.

But of course the students and teachers blew my plan out of the water. They didn’t just read and write about the themes in my book, they explored them by creating rap songs, games, and videos. They took selfies, wrote slam poems, and taught themselves how to use all kinds of programs and tools so they could meet and learn from each other.

It was one of the most astonishing and eye opening experiences of my life and has redefined how I see myself and my work.

You see, if you’d asked me two years ago what I do for a living I would have said I’m a children’s book author and illustrator.

Now, I say I’m a creative advocate for kids. I still write and illustrate books. I still do author visits and encourage kids to read and write, but now it’s with the goal of empowering them to find and develop their passions and discover what makes them each unique.

In our increasingly complex and conflicted world, in which 65% of the jobs our kids will hold have not yet been invented, I am committed to helping them grow into kind, creative and competent adults who are comfortable with change and understand that even the best made plans are meant to go awry.

If you’d like to know more about my work and join me on my latest adventures, please visit the links below. I’m especially excited about a new podcast I’m launching called CritterKin Kids and would welcome your thoughts and suggestions. You can learn more at http://CritterKinKids.com

http://CritterKin.com
http://NotPerfectHatClub.com
http://CirtterKinKids.com

 

Copyright 2017 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted by on Jul 2, 2017 | 0 comments

Your Reputation Precedes You

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Launching new fundraisers makes me nervous.  I’ve created a project I’m excited to share, but what’s the best way to do that? We’ve all encountered entrepreneurs who can’t seem to stop talking about their ideas, and the thought of going to one more small business networking breakfast makes me cringe.

Fortunately, I have an alternative this time. CritterKin has been in existence for almost eight years now. Therefore, as I launch my new Patreon support page, I’ve decided to let those who have experienced CritterKin firsthand do the talking for me. Here’s the link: https://www.patreon.com/NotPerfectHatClub

“I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the work Jena Ball is doing with kids and Emotional Intelligence / Self Awareness. If you are in the giving spirit, give her a boost. It’s a great way to support art, literature and kids!”  – Allen Partridge, Adobe Systems

“CritterKin was really the most enjoyable experience I have ever had in my 17 years as an educator. I wouldn’t change what we did, and I’d do it all over in a heartbeat!” – Erin Preder, head librarian, John R. Tibbott Elementary School, Bolingbrook, Illinois

“I am so very impressed at the changed mindset of our students! Proud Principal!” – Vicki Lofton, Principal, Citrus County, Florida

“This has been one of the most wonderful experiences I have had in education. Jena, YOU are truly AMAZING and a very gifted writer. My students were glued to their spots on the floor every time I read to them, and they cheered like CRAZY when the story came to an end. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!!” – Gloriann Heikes, 1st. grade teacher, Minnesota

“Jena Ball is one of those people who you meet rarely in a lifetime. The ones who make a great impact on the way you are as a person. Jena is one of them. Heart of gold, empathetic to the needs of others, a celebrated author and someone whose focus is solely on the child being at the heart of the classroom. I have learnt from her that to make a difference, you have to be the change. She is continuously involved in making education better for everyone. Thank you Jena for showing me that life is all about sharing and caring. That surely is the trick to making the world a better place.”  – Sunny Thakral, The British School in Kathmandu, Nepal

“Can’t thank you enough for what you are doing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” – Christina Luce, Second grade teacher, Nate Perry Elementary School

“The work that you are doing is critically important and almost totally lacking in elementary curriculum. It is sooo important that kids get a solid foundation in emotional intelligence and appreciate their value as individuals. I firmly believe that the work you are doing with these adorable and enchanting books, visits to classrooms, and seminars with teachers is improving lives for entire communities.” – Allen Partridge, Adobe Systems

Copyright 2017 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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