Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Oct 29, 2016 | 0 comments

The Bully in Us All



The Bully in Us All

A unique conversation was begun between myself (Jena Ball) and Sunny Thakral at the start of October, 2016. As most of you know, October is Bully Prevention month, and I was eager to share both my book, Lead With Your Heart, and my thoughts about bullying after using the book to teach elementary school children kindness. You see, I never intended Lead With Your Heart to be a book about bullying. Yes, there are bullies in the story, but it is fundamentally a book about how judging one another by outward appearances and assumptions can lead to prejudice and fear. In other words, the bullying in the book is a symptom – the result of circumstances and events that have shaped the characters’ lives.

To make a long story short, my conversation with Sunny led to a discussion on #INZpired, the spark chat he co-founded and leads on Friday nights. The conversation that night was intense, engaging and left me hungry for more. It was clear that although more and more schools see bullying as an issue, they are struggling to know how to actually deal with and prevent bullying. And so I did what every good educator on Twitter does when he/she is in search of answers, I consulted my PLN. More precisely, I contacted Craig Kemp, and asked if he would consider making bullying the topic for #WhatisSchool in October.

As soon as Craig agreed and a date was set, I knew what I wanted the focus of the chat to be. Writing and teaching Lead With Your Heart had brought up some painful memories – first of being bullied by the daughter of a family friend, and later of seeing seeing a classmate being bullied but being too frightened to say or do anything. Both experiences bother me still, and taught me that given the right circumstances each and every person has the potential to be unkind. And so I chose “The Bully in Us All” as the topic for our upcoming discussion and the blog posts that follow.

I hope that as you read these diverse contributions below you will consider telling your own story. Share your thoughts, opinions and solutions. Let’s dig deep to discover what bullying has to teach us about who we are and what kind of adults we want our students to become.

If you’d like to add to the discussion, email me at: or ping me on Twitter @JenaiaMorane







About Jena
Jena Ball is the beloved author and illustrator of the CritterKin book series and an educator on a mission to ignite creativity and help children discover their unique gifts.  To learn more about her work visit:
The Not Perfect Hat Club:
Workshops and Talks:


Allow Students to Own Their Learning

Travis Jordan, Superintendent, Beulah Public School District 27 in Beulah, ND

What happens when you allow students to own their learning?  The teacher poses a question to her students and then allows them to use their creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills to solve the problem.

This is exactly what happened in Mrs. Julie Zahn’s Fourth grade class at Beulah Public School in Beulah, North Dakota.  Survey results showed that Beulah ranked above average when it came to students being bullied.  The students decided that they wanted to do something about this.  They asked their teacher if they could do a video to raise awareness to bullying.  Their intention was to inspire other students around the world to do the same.

The students drove the entire process while the teacher let them run with it.  Not only did they bring awareness to a great cause – they grew both as a class and individually.  When we allow our students to have autonomy in their learning they often take it to unthinkable levels.  Let’s not be afraid as educators to allow our students to showcase their talents.  Every single child has unique abilities, and with those they have the power to change the world.  Thank you Mrs. Zahn for allowing your students to grow and inspire all at the same time.


The video can be found at this link






About Travis
My name is Travis Jordan.  I’m currently the Superintendent at Beulah Public School District 27 in Beulah, ND.  I’ve been in education for 13 years now.  Six of those years as a Social Studies Instructor in Langdon ND.  Three of those as a HS/MS Principal at Griggs County Central School in Cooperstown ND, and Two years at the Superintendent at that same school.  This past year I served Shiloh Christian School in Bismarck as their Superintendent.  My experiences in life as well as education have created a passion in me to inspire others.  I truly believe that each of us has a distinct purpose in life and we all have the ability to change the world.  You can find me on the following social media sites.

Twitter: @Supt_Jordan
Facebook:  Mrjordansblogs




I am a Work in Progress

Jon Harper, Assistant Principal of a K-5 elementary school

I have zero tolerance for bullying. As an administrator, it infuriates when I find out that a child has been bullied. I always investigate to see if the three criteria for bullying are present: (1) unfair advantage, (2) repeated over time, and (3) causes harm or injury.

These investigations can be emotional and are not easy to perform. I often feel much contempt for the bully, and much sympathy for the person who was bullied. But something just hit me. As I sit back and honestly reflect, I realize that I myself show signs of being a bully. To my own children. And it hurts to even think about.

You see, when I come home from work, there are days when I am physically and emotionally drained. I want to be by myself for just a little while. So sometimes I snap at my kids, despite the fact that they have done nothing but want my attention. I have been doing this for some time, and I know it makes them sad. And as their father, and an adult, I clearly have an unfair advantage.

It’s time I stop and look in the mirror and start practicing what I preach. While I will never accept bullying to occur in my school, I now know that there can be a bully in us all that we probably don’t like to admit. As always, I am a work in progress.




About Jon
Jon is the Assistant Principal of a K-5 elementary school where he lives with his wife and two kids. Jon has taught 1st-5th grade, and has been a math coach and has been in administration for 7 years. You can find him on Twitter @Jonharper70bd and on Bam Radio


Third Graders in Florida Vlog about Bullying

Terry Stoufer’s third grade class at Lecanto Primary School in Citrus County, Florida is focusing on showing empathy and being Upstanders rather than bystanders in the fight against bullying. Here is what Mrs. Stoufer has to say about her class.


Pedro – Click on the image above


Violet – Click on the Image Above


Maddy – Click on the image above 


Brycen – Click on the image above


Sebastian – Click on the image above


“I can see a maturity growing in them. I hear it in their words and see it in their actions. At times, they are still in a “me” world, but they are beginning to look outside themselves. I also see them begin to hold each other accountable. This is not a one lesson fix, or just a week to focus on. It takes time, reflection and many lessons that tie back to their hearts. We have needed to talk about it, share it and have time to grasp and understand it. It is a big…and vital piece in education.”  – Terry Stoufer,


The Power of Empathy
Naghma Khan, Clinical/Addiction Counselor, Noida, India

In my tryst with the varied nature of bullying, I have become painfully conscious of the dynamic roles we play in assorted situations. When I started my journey (almost 15 years back) I believed in the conventional model of bullying; which meant a bully, a victim and some bystanders.


But then I met Raj. Raj was one of my warm, delightful adolescent students. He came to me to talk about how distasteful the school culture of cliques is becoming. Raj was articulate and felt passionately for the cause. I was impressed with the authencity and maturity of this teen. We made plans of dealing with this growing epidemic of ostracizing the children who were not able to fit in the definition of a ‘Cool’ kid or the type of kid you want them to be.

My interactions with his program increased and then I saw it. How beautifully the dynamics changed when the cause changed. Raj, one of my pioneers to fight against bullying, very subtly played HIS share of the role of a bully too.

Once identified, I was able to recognize the pattern in various scenarios. Most of the times there was no verbal threats or physical aggression but the trauma/ sufferings was conveyed through different modes. I saw people changing routes and lunch tables because of the mere presence of someone or a group. The roles kept changing and the actors switched places. With the realization came empathy and a new insightful view.

I have a bully hidden inside me. My insecurities feed it. It comes out when it gets a chance or become too big to stay inside; finds its victim, make him suffer; gets contended and hide back in.

My awareness of this powerful fact, help me to work on it. I manage it everyday and spread this awareness to the community I work with too.

Accepting my vulnerability empowers me! 



Click HERE or on the image above to watch Kim’s video


Kim Sutton is an energetic educator with experiences educating in early childhood, primary and university. She is excited by exploring new ways in which educational technology can be used to motivate, engage and extend independent learning experiences for all learners. She firmly believes in giving students opportunities that will take their thinking and learning outside the box. Critical and creative thought are encouraged so that students can become not just joyful and engaged learners, but extraordinary people who will have profound impacts on their world.

Find her on Twitter @TeachMissSutton



James Anderson
(Click on the image above to read his blog)

A New Zealand Student Shares His Thoughts

Hey, I’m James, a student from Hobsonville Point Secondary School in Auckland, New Zealand. Jena approached me over the Twitterverse to write about bullying and my thoughts about it, so I hope you enjoy what I have to say.

Bullying is one of those issues that won’t go away quickly. It has been around for awhile, and unless we do something it will continue to be a problem. Unfortunately, I don’t see much being done. I guess that bullying gives someone a sense of power or dominance, or a feeling of control over a situation or a person.

From what I’ve encountered in the past, bullies have a background situation that they are struggling with. Often family problems, problems with friends, an overload of schoolwork, etc. contribute to creating bullies. It’s an ineffective and sad way of releasing and trying to take pain away. Bullies will pass their anger and emotions on to someone else to have to deal with. We can’t always shoot down bullies, and label them as bad people, because we don’t always know the full story or what they’re personally going through.

In the end, bullies need to be dealt with in an effective and strategic way that reduces and stops the amount of bullying they do. They must be stopped from doing it in the future. It takes just one conversation with someone to change their life, and every person on this earth has the power to change somebody’s life.

About James

I am currently in my third year of high school and really enjoy being at school and learning alongside fellow students. I wish I was there more often to be honest! Our school is a little different from others here in New Zealand. We operate under a “Public-Private Partnership” system where we have an outside organisation working alongside our school to make it the best it can be!
The Choose Kind Project – Long Island, NY
(Click on the image above to see videos of the students talking about bullying and responses from others in the community)
“During our annual SLIME – Students of Long Island Maker Expo participants participate in Make and Donate activities to help the community. They decorate Welcome Home signs for Habitat for Humanity, decorated Blessing Bags for the Homeless, sewed pillows for puppies at a local animal shelter, created blankets for Project Linus, and wrote thank you letters to members of the armed forces.”  – Kristina Holzweiss, School Librarian, Professional Developer, Author and Maker


A Long Island Eighth Grader Shares Her Story

Hello my name is Elizabeth, but you can call me Liz for short. I’m a 13 year old in the 8th grade. I like drawing, writing and reading. I loved school until 6th grade when I had to leave all my friends in Mississippi to come to New York.  The first day of school was a life-changing event for me. Here’s my story.

It all started when my dad said he got a new job in New York. I was so happy because I always wanted to visit New York. My happiness came to an end when my dad said, “We’re leaving Friday, so I suggest everyone start packing.” I’ll always remember the way I cried when he told us we were moving. I really didn’t wanna leave my friends.

Skipping ahead to Sunday, when we finally were done unpacking, I remember looking out my window and seeing three nice looking girls from my window. They noticed me and waved. I waved back and they started laughing. I laughed as well because I thought they were trying to be friendly. Little did I know that’s how it all started.

Monday morning came along, and I did the usual – brushed my teeth, got dressed, combed my hair and ate breakfast. I told my mom I had a stomach ache to prevent myself from going to a new school in a new town where I didn’t know anyone but my own family. My mom just laughed and said, “You just have butterflies. You’ll be fine.” She grabbed my book bag, handed it to me and gave me a kiss. I walked out the door to my bus stop and saw the same three girls (I won’t use their names) from the day before. So I thought, “Well today’s the day I make new friends I guess.” I walked towards them and said, “Hi.” They looked at me funny, and one of them said, “Do we know you?” I replied with, “Yes..I, I, I mean no, I just moved here.”

“Where did you move from, a barn? Those clothes are hideous.”

I heard the bus come, and quickly walked away from the laughter and humiliation I’d just received. That was just the morning. Throughout the day, these girls were everywhere I was – in the halls, at lunch and in THE BATHROOM!! THESE GIRLS WERE DRIVING ME MAD.

Over the next few weeks, I was tripped, pushed and even yelled at. These girls did not like me, and I was scared to defend myself. I remember being this really quiet, shy, wallflower type of girl,  so I didn’t really make any friends. I’m just not that social. Everyone thought I was weird anyways.

So you’re probably asking yourself, “How did the bullying stop if she was so scared to defend herself?” That’s where my first friend Ashley came in. Here’s how my story ends.

It was the end of the day, and I had just finished working on a science project that took me two days! I was at my locker, and I put the project down so I could open my locker, I grabbed all my stuff and noticed my project was gone. I turned around and there they were holding my project. “What is it?”

“It’s obvi a planet duh.”

“No it’s not, it’s a potato.”

“Maybe it’s a ball. Let’s try it out!!”

That’s when they took my project and started slamming it into the ground. I quickly collapsed on my knees trying not to cry. Laughter filled the hallway. It was so horrible. I was so close to crying until I heard a voice say, “Hey! Leave her alone.” The girls quickly turned their heads.

“Ugh, what do you want?” said one of the girls.

“Leave her alone! She didn’t do anything,” Ashley said, helping me up. “Keep it up and let’s see what the principal has to say about this.”

“Ugh, whatever. Come on girls. She’s not worth our time.” They all practically ran away. I’ll always remember that day when I met Ashley.

So let’s skip to today. Ashley and I are the bestest friends ever. I made more friends whom I care for a lot. And what about the fate of the bully girls? Let’s just say they’ll be home schooled for a long time. But that’s my story. I hoped you enjoyed.  – Liz



Putting a Positive Spin on Bullying

Nick Brierley, eLearning Coordinator and Year 6 teacher, Sydney Catholic Schools

Bullying is one of the tragic realities in the classroom of today. Many students and teachers choose to write about the tragic side, but it is equally important to talk about the positivity that we all have to offer.

Two strategies that are effective in bringing about habits of positive thinking in the classroom are bucket filling and identification of character strengths.

Bucket filling is where small buckets (popcorn boxes, plastic buckets or decorated paper envelopes) are pinned to a wall in the classroom, with one for each students (and teacher too!). Students can anonymously drop a compliment or positive words in another person’s bucket. The class can either read them together and talk about some of the great things that they have learned about themselves.


The identification of character strengths is another strategy, where students are encouraged to identify their best character traits (ie. what do you do best?). Students are also encouraged to identify the character strengths that they see in each other. The confirmation that other people see us as valuable people with valuable qualities is an extremely effective strategy in promoting each other as individuals.


About Nick
Nick Brierley is an educator advocating for student talents, interests and needs inspiring classroom practice. Having ten years experience in primary schools, Nick teaches and co-ordinates eLearning with students and staff at a primary school on Sydney’s north shore. He has completed studies in gifted education, religious education and educational leadership. Nick believes professional learning should be engaging and practical.

Nick is a Google Certified Educator, Google Certified Innovator and member of the Breakout EDU ANZ team working with EdTechTeam ANZ to bring Breakout EDU down under to Australia and New Zealand.

Find Nick on Twitter @mythsysizer

Read More

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:

Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.


Read More

Posted by on Sep 2, 2016 | 0 comments

Books are the Stuff of Dreams


Fuel Their Dreams 800x439

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.

Read More

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 
Twitter: @JenaiaMorane
Phone: 919-615-2923

Copyright 2016 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.






Read More

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.”


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:


Read More