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Posted by on Sep 26, 2016 | 0 comments

Don’t Hold Back

arrow-launch2b  I’ve been thinking a lot about difficulty. More accurately, I’ve been experiencing and feeling my way through a series of difficulties that my rat race mind is ill-equipped to handle. While this is nothing new (I’ve known for a long time that the mind’s ability to come up with solutions is useful only in the final stages of a lesson), it is still tempting to let my thoughts run through familiar mazes.

I’ll spare you the details, but when I finally arrive battered, exhausted and without a penny to my name at the same place I began, I finally start to let go. I picture myself as a Kyudo archer practicing “Standing Zen.” The goal is to breathe, be present, acknowledge and release anything that comes up. So many people, so much pain, so much anger, resentment and blame. I breathe, nock an arrow, raise and draw the bow.

In “Standing Zen,” shooting the arrow is not a test of skill, but a way to focus on an inward target – something you are intent on knowing and remembering about yourself. Free from past and future, balanced and focused in the present, you shoot from your heart towards the center of yourself.

I pause.

With every breath I allow who and what I am to pour into that arrow. I infuse it with gratitude and wonder, satisfaction and delight. I cure the wood of the shaft with love of earth – the songs of cicadas and whales and wolves; the light of fireflies flaunting their passion and the cooing of doves nestling into sleep. I stroke the feathers, smoothing the barbs into place so their flight will be effortless and true. Finally, I let myself feel the arrowhead itself – shaped and sharpened with the ability to kill. An arrow like this must only be shot with clear intent – with all the creative chuzpah your heart can muster while focused on the goal – my goal – of expressing, sharing and being abundantly supported for who and what I am in the world.

I take one last deep breath and settle in, gathering my strength, mustering my courage as I pull the string back close to my cheek. When I exhale, the arrow flies, driven by love. I don’t hold back.  - Jena Ball

To learn more about that goal I’m shooting for visit: http://NotPerfectHatClub.com

Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Posted by on Sep 2, 2016 | 0 comments

Books are the Stuff of Dreams

 

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We all know that books and reading are vital to a child’s intellectual and emotional development. And by books, I mean any form that stories take, any way that we can immerse ourselves in the lives of others, learn empathy and compassion and ignite the power of the imagination. This is how human beings learn best – how we make sense of our worlds and take down the walls of fear and prejudice to discover we’re better together.

That said, there is something to be said for a compelling photo that reaches out and grabs your heart. In this case it was a photo sent by the grandmother of a second grader whose class I’d spent time with. The little boy’s name is Mason, and he was one of 600 students in first through fifth grades that I talked to that day. I remember him because he came up while I was talking to his teacher, quietly took my hand and squeezed. No words, just the gentle touch that let me know he was there. When I looked down and said hi, he asked, “Can you sign my book?”

So when the photo arrived later that night I remembered Mason, but was unprepared for how it touched me. The sight of him fast asleep with The Not Perfect Hat Club tucked in the crook of his arm brought tears to my eyes. His grandmother’s email read, “Thought you might like to know Mason fell asleep with his beloved book in his arms. Thank you for making his day.”

I guess I don’t have to tell you he made my day as well. For me, there is nothing better than the love of a child. It’s why I do what I do; why I am so determined to give them the chance to find and celebrate what makes them each perfectly not perfect. I hope you will grab a copy of The Not Perfect Hat Club and let it speak to you as well. Step into my world and take down the walls between us.
- Jena Ball

Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted by on Apr 16, 2016 | 0 comments

It’s Too Late to Go Back to Sleep

Defy Gravity2
I must have listened to twelve-year-old Beau Dermott sing, “I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game,” (from Wicked) a dozen times now, and each time the power of her words and voice take my breath away. In them I hear not only echoes of my own attempts to defy gravity, but a reminder of what is at stake if we continue to accept the rules and limitations of an education system that is focused on corporate profits rather than what is best for our kids.

Each day I log onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and see brilliant posts by educators who clearly understand the importance of teaching the whole child, taking down the walls of our classrooms, incorporating PBL into our curriculums and making social-emotional learning a priority. But intellectual understanding is not enough. We must find ways to implement change; to challenge what we know doesn’t work and begin experimenting with techniques, programs and approaches that we believe will work. As the song says, we must be “through accepting limits because someone says they’re so.”

So where do we begin? We begin by asking – by making our beliefs, concerns and values as trained professionals known to those who hold the purse strings.  We  enlist the aid of our students, who after all should have a say in what and how they learn, and need opportunities to create presentations, write persuasive letters, and practice the research and math skills needed to hire and pay for programs. We create and sign petitions, write to our government officials, speak to our PTAs, parents, boards of education and community organizations. We join and take an active role in Edcamps, conferences and organizations that are committed to effective change. We rock the boat and make waves.

Finally, we keep challenging, questioning and supporting one another. We refuse to see others’ abilities as threats to our own. We share what we learn and celebrate what our colleagues accomplish because we realize one person’s success benefits us all – that we each have something unique and valuable to bring to the table and are indeed better together.

Make no mistake, the revolution that’s needed cannot be accomplished by a few souls working in isolation.  The kind of change we’re talking about will require an army of committed, caring educators who believe that our future depends on giving all children the gravity defying tools they need to fly.

Find Me 
Web: http://CritterKin.com

http://notperfecthatclub.com

Twitter: @JenaiaMorane
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenaia.morane
Email: JenaBall@CritterKin.com
Phone: 919-615-2923

Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 | 0 comments

Faige Meller: A Tweet, A Book, A Review

 

 

This is for the shy ones,

The introverts, ready to observe.

This for the gregarious ones,

The extroverts, eager to be heard.

This is for quiet ones,

The ones waiting for their turn.

This is for the noisy ones,

Too squirmy to be still.

This is for all of these who seek perfection,

When none is to be had.

And here is the door wide open,

Welcome one and all!

By pure happenstance I came across a conversation on Twitter about The Not Perfect Hat Club and sat mesmerized, reading the tweets. But, being me, I quickly joined in with questions and comments. I loved the idea of silly hats and posted pictures of me and my get-ups.

Faige Ballet and Hockey

Then I read blog posts from the #NOTPERFECTHATCLUB that @JenaiaMorane and @martysnowpaw founders of @CrittenKin . Adults shared heartfelt stories about feelings of being bullied, rejected, misunderstood and looking for perfection. My heart went out to them and to the stories that were shared about their students. Unfortunately, this was all too familiar to me from my own personal childhood stories,  as a well as those of  a parent and teacher. I was so excited to hear that a book was in the offing addressing these concerns, not for adults per se, but written for children! A book that children could identify with, in the characters of dogs and children facing their struggles. Then I felt I had to do more than just tweet and post pictures. I decided to support Jena and Marty in any way I could. I dedicated one of my Posts to them and joined their “club.”

image

I was so honored when Jena asked that I preview her book and I did:

NPHC Review - Faige Meller

Here is my review and her delightful graphic

I write this post to share with all of you a book that be a wonderful addition in every school and classroom library.  Hope you get a chance to read it and explore it with your students.

Get Your Copy of The Not Perfect Hat Club Here: http://bit.ly/1jlk3XS

 

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Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Sillyicious – Do the Wiggle Waggle

Wiggle Waggle

Watch the Wiggle Waggle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmn7pG8gL5I

We all need the occasional reminder to be good to ourselves. This is particularly true if you are in a profession like teaching, where you give constantly to others, or are intensely focused on sharing a dream like CritterKin. The work is engaging, demanding and fun, but as the saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack or (insert name) a dull boy.”

Last week I was well on my way to becoming a dull girl. I was busily engaged in blogging, Tweeting, reading to classes, posting updates to Facebook and cropping images for the new CritterKin Flipbooks and slideshows. Then two things happened. First, a series of charming photos of socks began appearing in my Twitter, Facebook and email feeds (see below). You have to admit that there’s something delightful about a bunch of feet wearing mismatched socks; or as my niece used to say when she was three, “socks are sillyicious!”

The photos turned out to be part of the “Lots of Socks Campaign” being held to raise awareness about Down Syndrome. This reminded me of my little friend Maggie whose fondness for bright pink tutus and cowboy boots and spontaneous giggles never fails to brighten my day. Maggie is proof that difference is a good thing and should be celebrated. Besides, aren’t we all a little different in one way or another?

 

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My second dose of sillyicious came at the end of a reading to third graders at Bellevue Elementary  in Nebraska. I’d been playing around with the idea of a CritterKin dance for a couple of weeks, but felt a little self conscious. But there was something about those kids – their open smiles and willingness to bark, squeak, whine and howl like the dogs as the story unfolded – that told me they were all in. If I wanted to be silly, they were right there with me.

“How would you guys like to help me figure out my new dance called the CritterKin Wiggle Waggle?” I asked

“YES!” they responded with glee.

The kids and I danced our way through two hilarious rounds of the song, stopping and starting  when I forgot the words or they got tangled in one another’s feet and tumbled to the floor. It was deliciously silly and kept me smiling for the rest of the week. See us Wiggle Waggle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmn7pG8gL5I

So just a reminder to dance, smile, sing  and get a little silly. And if you and your students are interested in doing a little Wiggle Waggling, just drop us a line at JenaBall@CritterKin.com or give me a call: (919) 615-2923.

 

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Posted by on Mar 23, 2014 | 0 comments

Start with the Heart

 

Start with the Heart - page from PPT1Click link to see visual summary of Start with the Heart:  http://www.flipsnack.com/msjenaia/fzjaxqwy

Something delightful is happening at CritterKin. Our goofy pack of mixed breed mutts, led by their intrepid if slightly offbeat person Ms. Jenaia, is inspiring teachers, students, parents and community organizations to work collaboratively to create projects centered around kindness. The initial catalyst for these projects is the CritterKin series of books, but the kids and their supporters are cheerfully taking the creative baton and running with it.

The result is learning that is at once engaging, entertaining and relevant – giving children the opportunity to learn and practice core intellectual skills (reading, writing, math, etc.) while acquiring the emotional intelligence needed to become respectful compassionate and responsible adults.

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Visit our Pinterest boardshttp://www.pinterest.com/critterkin/

To Find Out How You and Your Students Can Get Involved Contact:

Jena Ball: (919) 454-9917 or JenaBall@CritterKin.com

Find Me on Twitter

CritterKin: @CritterKin
Jena Ball: @jenaiamorane

Find Me on Facebook
www.facebook.com/CritterKin

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