celebrate kindness

What an amazing week for kindness!

I received another donation to the Tiny Tech Cafe (Thanks, Heather Nunnally!) and set my sights on purchasing the “big ticket” items. Realistically, I almost have enough money to purchase the sofa and table/bar stools (which comes to $320 before taxes) and that is EXCITING! It’s really coming together! We are SO close! ūüôā

Of course, my dream includes other items as well… to get enough funding to purchase a bookshelf with current education books available for checkout (any authors willing to offer one of their books?) I’m also hoping to purchase the DoInk green screen app for our 30 iPads so students can learn how to make their own green screen videos independently. (This has to be purchased directly from the Apple Volume Purchasing Plan which is why I asked for funding dollars instead of iTunes gift cards with this project.)

I have BIG DREAMS for the Tiny Tech Cafe, but for now, we will celebrate the small steps forward!

Blessings quote

As I was helping out with Open House Thursday night, a friend of mine (who is also a PTA board member) offered to purchase the bookshelf! WHAT?!?! Yes!

Grace Whitlock, who used to teach with me at Rural Point Elementary, said she was hoping¬†to surprise me with the gift, but then worried she wouldn’t get the right one. I gave her a tour of the cafe (what’s been set up so far) and showed her exactly where the bookshelf would go. This weekend she sent me a photo of the bookshelf and let me know that her husband, Jason, was building it for me.

What. A. Blessing!!!

The week was extremely busy as I spent most of my time helping teachers getting things set up in their classrooms or ready to use for Open House. Despite being out of the computer lab most days, I was able to set up the green screen with the Command Hooks (thanks Susan Miller!), hang the Tiny Tech Cafe canvas logo on the front door, and decorate the display board outside the lab.

(For more information on the SAMR model of instruction, click here! I’m not sure who created the Starbucks example of my poster, but the coffee correlations are attributed to¬†Jonathan Brubaker (@mia_sarx).

I also set out my Pay-It-Forward candy dish that was lovingly made by Sarah Armentrout in celebration of my 100th Random Act of Kindness blog post several years ago.

RAK mints

Next week we have team meetings, so I will have limited time in the Tiny Tech Cafe, but I hope to have all “big ticket” items in place by the end of the week! The first day of school,¬†September 6, would have been my mother-in-law’s 69th birthday (she passed away in March), so I will have a little dedication section set up in her memory.

I would love if you would consider donating to this project, or perhaps share this update with your friends. It’s so exciting to see everything starting to come together!

More to come! Thanks to all who have donated thus far! I could have never achieved this dream without your help!

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“What are you wishing for?”

A teacher asked me this question today and it really made me think. What AM I wishing for? What are my hopes and dreams for this Tiny Tech Cafe? Why am I putting so much effort into this space that, unlike a traditional classroom, will be shared with an entire school?

I’m wishing for joy. ūüôā

See, I adore my job as a technology integrator. I love working with the teachers; I love working with the students. I love the curiosity of learning something new and I even love the struggle of trying to master something just out of reach (although, to be honest, that’s a bit more of a love-hate relationship there, lol.)

I want to learn beside people. Every single person in my school has something they can teach me, from the thirty-year veteran with two degrees to the wide-eyed kindergartener still learning his ABCs. I wish for a space that encourages learning, but in a conversational way. I desire to end the school year more connected, more vested, more committed to my school and community than I am right now.

And all these things bring me joy.

Even though I made a wish list of things I hope to purchase through this GoFundMe campaign, I took it a step further by taking photos of the items I hope to purchase. These are just a few of the things I need to make my wishes come true!

 

WantToBuySofa

A sofa for teachers and students to use for conferences or independent work – $160 at Kroger

 

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A table and two bar stools (only one pictured here) as a workspace for teachers or students – $160 at Big Lots

 

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A tall bookshelf for storing resources and books that teachers can borrow – $40 at Big Lots (Yes, I know it’s particle board, but it was lots cheaper than the solid wood bookshelves!)

 

WantToBuyRugs

A little rug to put in front of the sofa to make the environment cozy for teachers and students – $15 at Big Lots

These four items are my “must haves” and together cost $375 before tax, but there’s no shipping charges (although I do need to find someone who has a truck that might want to help me transport the big items if they won’t fit in my car – any volunteers?)

Right now we have $285, so we are still in need of donations just to get the basics in the Tiny Tech Cafe.

Today one wish was fulfilled by one of our amazing MES parents – Susan Miller stopped by and dropped off Command hooks which I will use to hang the green screen as well as other frames and canvases on the walls. I am so appreciative of our parent support!

 

Command Hooks

Thanks for your donation!

A special thanks also to Amy Gregory who donated to the Tiny Tech Cafe last night! She chose the “Expresso” level of sponsorship and earned a magnet in addition to having her name on our donation poster.

Won’t you consider donating too?

Every little bit helps! Whether you click here to make a donation, or share this post to spread the word, you are making a difference for the students and teachers at Mechanicsville Elementary School.

As always, I appreciate your kindness and generosity. It’s exciting to share my vision with you and include you in my joy!

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During summer break, teachers have to pack up most of their classrooms and either find creative ways to store everything along the walls and on cabinets, or they have to take items home. This means the first day back is a time of hustle-and-bustle, with everyone moving things back in, unpacking, rearranging furniture, setting up.

Several teachers stopped by the lab today as I was bringing in my curtains and coffee maker, asking questions about the Tiny Tech Cafe. It was fun to share my vision with others, especially those who aren’t on Facebook and had no idea what I was trying to do!

Our principal’s presentation this morning focused on three themes for the year: Relationships, Equity, and Relevance. It made my heart so happy to know that my mission for the Tiny Tech Cafe aligned with her mission of strengthening relationships! How cool is that?

Then it was time to get nitty-gritty in the lab. Since this isn’t a traditional classroom, it’s often used as a storage space for items that won’t fit in other places. I opened my door to see dozens of computers stacked on a long table; my teacher’s desk buried under bags and boxes.

It was a little overwhelming to say the least! Thankfully, our sysop had spent time in the room before me and had the student laptops arranged on the other tables (Thanks, Brenda!)

As I started to move things around, a few more teachers stopped by to chat. Two teachers, Carrie Sutton and Jennifer Madison, both offered me easels, which was listed on my GoFundMe wish list! So awesome!

One of the first things I desperately wanted to set up was the coffee/tea station. About a month ago, I had purchased a little table stand at a yard sale and repainted it in a light mocha color with coffee swirls for added decoration. The coffee swirls matched the ones I painted on my canvas, too!

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Transforming the stand from canary yellow to mocha cream.

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Mixing paint colors to make coffee swirls.

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The stand is ready to move!

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A closer look at the detailed coffee swirls.

I couldn’t wait to set up my coffee/tea stand, but I had some major hurdles ahead of me. See, the coffee maker, which would go on this stand, had to plug into the side wall. The wall behind the table with all the computers, which was buried four rows deep.

It took nearly 4 hours to clear everything out of the way (which included me giving away that long table and my oversized teacher’s desk), but the result was totally worth it! Look how cute the space is now!

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And here is my favorite coffee/tea stand, ready for service:

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I AM SO EXCITED!! Who will be the first guest in the Tiny Tech Cafe?

My joy today was compounded when I checked my phone and discovered that three more donations were made to my GoFundMe account since my previous post last night. WOW! A special thank you to Lisa Lockhart, Colleen Herrera, and an anonymous donor! Your generosity has pushed this campaign to $260 which is enough to have GoFundMe add another $50 to the fund!

Oh my goodness, such JOY!!

My next steps in making the Tiny Tech Cafe a reality include purchasing a sofa and bookshelf as well as putting up my curtains and decorating the walls. If enough money is raised through this campaign, I can add more joy with a rug, a floor lamp and some current books by my favorite educational authors, which will available for teachers to borrow.

Thank you, faithful readers, for joining in to support the Tiny Tech Cafe! If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, please click here or share this post and tag a friend! I appreciate each and every one of you!

More tomorrow!

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Wow – where did summer go? With a blink of an eye, my summer fun with family is shifting into another season of school. Although I took a hiatus from blogging (lots of traveling with no laptop), my days were overflowing with kindness – given and received.

Now I’m embarking on another type of kindness and I’ll admit, it’s making me feel REALLY uncomfortable. As many of you know, I’m a technology integrator which means I help students, teachers, and administrators incorporate technology in their own learning processes. It’s an exciting job because technology is always changing, but it’s also a challenging job because… well, technology is always changing!

In my school’s computer lab, I have a desk in the back corner and for years (eight years, in fact!) I’ve always told people, “No, this isn’t my room – I just have this corner I work in.” But my corner isn’t really ideal for working with teachers OR students. If someone wants to collaborate with me, they are stuck pulling up a chair on the edge of my desk or, even worse, we have to scrunch up in between students who are seated at the tables with laptops.

My vision is to create a space that is open and inviting, comfortable seating and welcoming to everyone, kind’ve like the feeling you get when you walk into a Starbucks. I even have a name for this new area – Tiny Tech Cafe. I created a logo this summer, designing it digitally then painting it on canvas.

 

Logo on Computer

I didn’t want to get sued by Starbucks, so I made everything my own except for the green circles.

 

Which brings me to the uncomfortable part.

I have the space, I just don’t have the stuff.

The things I would love to have in my computer lab are actually pretty mundane. A tall bookshelf with some current educational books available for teachers to borrow. A few round tables and chairs. A sofa to sit on and collaborate.

Then my brain gets excited about the possibilities. I could have an area where I offer teachers coffee or tea! I could have another area where I can put up a green screen for students to create virtual reality photos and videos! I could have an area rug and a floor lamp, too!

Calm. Your. Self. Down.

All good things come with a cost and this is no exception. I spent most of my summer scrounging yard sales and online forums for low-cost items and I found some, but not enough to make my dream a reality. I saw an online post about GoFundMe and how they would donate $50 for every teacher’s campaign that reached $250 in donations before the middle of September.

So… I did something I’ve never done before.

I asked people to help furnish our computer lab.

You know that old adage, “It’s better to give than receive?” I will say that it’s 100 times EASIER to give than receive. Oh, how I hate asking people for help (even when there’s no money attached to it!)

But you know what? When you ask for help, people step up to do just that. They help.

So far I’ve had 7 people donate money to my Tiny Tech Cafe campaign. I even had one of my school’s parents offer to buy some Command hooks for me so I could hang all the pictures and canvases I purchased over the summer. Oh, I am so blessed!

I still have quite a ways to go to earn enough money to get the things I need, but I wanted to take a moment and say THANK YOU to those who have made a donation. You have truly warmed my heart and your kindness and generosity will be felt by all students and staff at Mechanicsville Elementary!

TinyTechCafe - ThankYou1

I would love for you to join in on the fun, too, and be a contributor to our Tiny Tech Cafe! Would you consider donating to our campaign or sharing this post? When they say “It takes a village”, it’s so true! In the coming days I will post updates (with pictures!) so you can see how I transform my boring little corner into something spectacular!

I hope you find simple and small ways to bless others with kindness. For me, I am blessed to have you as a faithful reader as we kick off a brand-new school year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let’s make this!”

I looked up from the sink filled with dirty dishes, soap suds swishing warm water across my fingers, to see my six-year-old pointing at the laptop screen.

“Be there in a sec,” I replied, pulling my dripping hands from the water, drying them on a faded kitchen towel.

“Mommy, it’s perfect! We can have an Angry Birds birthday party! Here’s the cake I wanna make!” I peered over his shoulder to see a basic sheet cake covered in green frosting with miniature Angry Birds figures scattered around a fallen wooden structure. The words “Happy Birthday” were piped in colored frosting to the left.

He was so excited, his small body fell into the computer desk as he leaned closer to the image shown. “I’m ok,” he quickly alerted, “Let’s make this today!”

It’s July.¬†

His birthday isn’t until September.

I don’t make cakes.

No, seriously. I don’t make cakes.

My children know I adore themed celebrations. There’s something about the planning of decorations and activities that reminds me of the perfect childhood I never had. And while I don’t bake cakes, I feel compelled to create these timeless memories for my family.

“Mommy! Listen to me! We gonna make this today!” He jumped down from the computer chair and stood in front of me, hands on his hips, his sweet smile replaced with a showdown glare. “TO-DAY!”

I could hear the strains of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” playing in my mind with Clint Eastwood’s swagger reflected in my son’s stance. He was determined to be the last man standing. There was no way I was coming out of this showdown unscathed.

I knew this was a losing battle. He may only be six, but he’s sixteen with persistence.

It’s July.

His birthday isn’t until September.

Why can’t we bake a cake just for fun?

My dirty dishes would have to wait. It was time to make memories. “It’s a trial run,” he shrieked with glee, “Let’s do this!”

Sometimes as parents we need to surprise our children with random acts of kindness. I don’t bake cakes. In fact, in the 17 years I’ve been a mom, I have never once made a birthday cake for any of my three children. I always buy their premade cakes from grocery stores or have them custom-created by friends, with no guilt whatsoever.

But today was different. Today I became a cake baker for my son.

We went to the grocery store and purchased cake mix, frosting, food coloring, and eggs. Returning home, I searched for a hand mixer as he gathered items from his Angry Birds game to decorate the top.

He cracked the eggs. He mixed the batter. He even helped me change the frosting from white to green.

After the cake was baked and cooled, with icing spread from left to right, he meticulously placed the Angry Birds items on top using the picture he found on the internet as his guide.

Cake 4

“Mommy, can you write the words, but let me write my name?”

And with that, his trial run birthday cake was complete!

That’s when it hit me.

This wasn’t about the birthday cake.

It was about the process.

It was about quality time.

It was about taking the time to make memories and validating my son’s purpose in the moment.

And that, my friends, is priceless.

Be blessed with kindness as you look for ways to shine your light in small and simple ways. For Gae Polisner, Cindy Ashburn, and Andrea Kish, I wish you the happiest of birthdays today!

 

 

Last night as the summer sun swept across the horizon fading from the day, my son begged to go to the playground. “Let’s go, Mommy!” The smile stretched across his six-year-old face as I listed all the local playgrounds we could visit. “Pick whichever one you want and we will go!”

He pondered his options, then chose the last one on the list. It was the farthest from our home, but “has the most awesomest rock wall.” Who could resist that?

When we arrived, the playground was busy, but not mobbed. There were a few parents idling around, several teenagers walking the path, and a handful of children running and playing.

Not a single person here shared our skin color.

He ran towards the rock wall before I could even close¬†my car door. “Take a picture of me, Mommy!” His small feet scampered up to the top and there he stood, so proud of his accomplishment.

play1

Another boy joined him at the crest and they spent the next hour playing together. There were no formal introductions, no hesitation, just two boys happy to play with each other.

They ran through the jungle gym and slid down the slide, waiting for each other at the bottom to do it all again. Their make-believe banter echoed across the metal monkey bars as they celebrated their mission of evading dangerous crocodiles below. “Follow me!” they chanted as they zig-zagged through the park, their small bodies darting from one end to the other.

I helped the boys into the swings, their small legs too short to touch the ground, then gave them both five pushes (“and one for good luck!”) Then I sat on a bench to watch the boys swing higher and higher in the sky.

 

play3

As I scanned the playground area, I saw trash scattered across the grass. Keeping an eye on the boys, I walked over and picked up the discarded plates, napkins, and plastic drink pouches, placing them inside the dumpster where they belonged. (Yes, I was struck by the irony of the trash so close to the dumpster with the “Please Don’t Litter” sign attached. My best guess is the trash was in the large box on the dumpster and had blown out from the wind.)

play4

As night began to fall, we wrapped up our playtime with one last spin on the tire swing. “Mommy! I made a best friend today!” my little guy exclaimed as his giggles rang across the meadow.

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Yes, you did, sweet boy.

Yes, you did.

This is how the world should be.

 

 

 

 

 

RAK logo

Photo Credit

Two weeks ago, while attending the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Denver, CO, I had the pleasure of visiting with the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. I discovered this organization in 2014 and applied to be a RAKtivist shortly thereafter. Since that time, I have been inspired by their monthly newsletters and mission to spread kindness around the world.

And now, I can say I have met the ladies behind the label. Bucket list Рcheck!

I emailed a request to visit their office and after a somewhat elaborate walk through the city (my Waze app sent me on a very long path!), I finally arrived just a few blocks from where I started. Thankfully it was a gorgeous summer day and my Fitbit cheered my progress of steps for the day.

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I was greeted by Rachelle Stubby who graciously gave me the tour of their office space, a cozy attic abode atop a historical museum. ¬†I met the other ladies in the office,¬†Kelsey Gryniewicz, Brooke Jones, and Jeana Newsom, and received apologies that the RAK Foundation Director couldn’t meet with me due to a prior engagement. ¬†(With the Dalai Lama. And Lady Gaga. And city mayors and Ann Curry. All part of a panel discussion about kindness. WOW!)

The gals were friendly, kind, and gracious. We chatted about various kindness initiatives and then they presented me with a few surprises! Oh my goodness, such thoughtfulness!

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We then walked a few blocks to a local restaurant where they treated me to a delicious lunch as we chatted and brainstormed ideas for sharing kindness with others. These gals were SO inspiring! I was reminded of southern hospitality; all that was missing was sweet tea and a front porch (we already had the great conversation and cool breeze.)

We talked about extroverts and introverts. Bloggers to follow and books to write. Little Free Libraries and ways to make them work. We pondered the RAK vision and how to get more people involved with random acts of kindness. I was able to share a little about what I do, how I got started, and who was along for the ride. I even gave a shout-out to my school district and the Hanover Education Foundation for funding “A Passion for Kindness” grant that I will implement next year in Lori Cross’ fourth-grade classroom.

It was a solid hour wrapped in joy.

Jeana had to leave a little early for a conference call, but the other gals and I posed for a photo as our time together came to a close. I was humbled that they would make my visit a priority in their day, then had to laugh at my own surprise.

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Rachelle, me, Kelsey, and Brooke

This was their RAK for me.

If you would like more information about the Random Act of Kindness Foundation, you can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or their website. They have free lesson plans for K-12 teachers, a collection of quotes and inspirational videos, even a monthly newsletter you can receive. If you want to join me as a RAKtivist that would be great, too!

All it takes is one person to bring more kindness into this world. Do a random act of kindness. Share your story. Inspire others through actions and words. Kindness is contagious!

 

 

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