Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fearless Gamification = Creative Collaboration!

 "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." - Henry Ford


When students walk into a classroom feeling less than confident and capable about their academic abilities, one MUST consider why.  What has happened in their lives as students that has created such cynicism?  As an educator myself, I do not believe there is one answer that can adequately bring clarity.  However, ALL answers are PART of the truth.  Perhaps assumptions were made and allowed misconceptions to slip by, perhaps the curriculum wasn't written well enough to ensure longevity in the students' memories, perhaps their personal lives at home are a larger focus for them than school is.  This is not a blame game.  The fact is, many students around our country feel this way and the finger can be pointed directly at ourselves.  You see, regardless of the reason for a child to be shut down, cynical, jaded, unengaged, and unenthusiastic, it is OUR JOB as their current teachers to reignite that flame of hope and excitement for learning; because WE ARE HERE TODAY and they matter.

I am often asked about how to do The Fearless Classroom rotations in ELAR when there is Reader's Workshop and Writer's workshop and they need sustained times for both skills to gain stamina and to really hone their skills.  To that, I am writing this post is to demonstrate one simple activity you can do with your students, the reluctant and the eager alike, to get them discussing reading, collaboratively working together, and writing for a purpose.

The Case of the Slain Green Dragon


Using a fifth grade level detective story from extrareading.com , students were grouped together heterogeneously based on academic reading levels.  I believe that there is a time and place for homogeneous groupings, but I also want my more skilled students to be an inspiration and support for my lesser skilled students because we ALL had skills we needs to work on and we are all in this together.  Students were charged with solving the crime of the slain endangered green dragon in the kingdom.  I am dressed as the head of the Department of SIOG (Significantly Important Operational Geniuses) who has come to the class to ask for their help and to brief them on their mission...










There were five suspects and several eye witnesses.  Students read through several pages of eye-witness accounts, testimony, and evidence, collaboratively took notes, asked questions, created charts and drawings, and worked together to make sense of what might have happened.  


Students of all reading levels were able to participate.  Some read the text part by part, some elicited excellent and thought-provoking questions, some provided possible angles and alternative explanations based on the testimony.  Whatever their contribution, everyone participated and felt successful.  









Some groups succeeded in figuring out the actual truth to what happened to the poor dragon.  Others did not.  However, the level of engagement, the level of conversation and negotiation with textual evidence, the respectful collaboration that occurred during this activity was far more important than the right answer.  


THIS is what I mean by being an "idea-driven" rather than an "answer-driven" classroom.  Sometimes, especially in learning situations, it is more about the journey and experience of the activity than the correct answer that makes the greatest impact on students.  


Notice where they are working, that all students are engaged and a variety of strategies and approaches are being used to solve the problem.

So be fearless in your approach, release the students to their own learning.  Set up an environment in which all students feel safe to take risks, supported by you and their peers in their thinking, and where effort and authentic chances are rewarded.  Answers aren't always the most important thing.  Sure they have their place…like on assessments…but if we don't teach kids to LOVE learning and to feel capable and free to explore EVERY angle of problems, then we are simply teaching them that there is always an answer and that if they can't figure it out, they must not be capable.  This unspoken and hopefully unintentional lesson happens daily in our classes… and we must not allow for it anymore.  Be fearless, let your students be fearless.  They deserve the chance.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Looking Back to Remember…Looking Forward in Hope to Honor

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."
--Marianne Williamson

When we ask of our students, "Who do you want to be?"  we often get answers like, "rich, famous, professional athlete, singer…"  Why not ask them who are you not to be? 
It is of no service to the world or oneself to pretend to be too small to make a significant impact.  There is no magnitude in shriveling into minute insignificant wisps because we are afraid that our light will be too powerful for others to appreciate and receive well.  Enlightenment is not about diminishing each other and ourselves.   The younger the child is the more they embrace and celebrate and believe in their light and genius.  They focus on it, create and sustain it, they play with it and cherish it.  They honor and protect it.  But somewhere along the line, they also lose it.  We were born to light this world and to share our genius with each other.  It is our purpose.  And when one of us accepts our own light, love, and genius within, we can begin to open the way for others to do the same.  Being fearless requires pushing forward with all of our light and abolishing self-doubt.  
On this, the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, we look back to remember.  We look back not to dwell in the darkness of that day, but to study the light and the hope that manifested within that day.  As a 5th grade teacher, it is a difficult task to teach such a tragic and personally significant topic to children who weren't even born yet.  They don't have the heart-wrenching connection that kids do who were aware of the events on that day.  But nonetheless, empathy is something we can teach.  So we read stories, watched video clips that were age and school appropriate, but we also talked and shared concerns about why this happened and how we can help it from never happening again.  
Still, I pondered how to teach kids who were either not born yet or just, how impactful 9/11 was and how important it is that we remain humbled and grateful, vigilant to changing the world for the better, and steadfast in our charge and commitment to creating a world of compassionate genius. 

9/11 can be a tricky and scary topic to teach kids. They need to feel safe in their world while still made aware of the potential dangers. I need to be careful to keep it objective…maybe?
What is it that I REALLY want them to take away from these learning experiences? I started to see personal stories from surviving family members of victims of 9/11…maybe those could be our reading passages? But then again, I didn't want to focus on the sadness of that day…

I pondered on….

So my decision…I taught it through letter writing. I wanted my students to write letters to their future selves. To the leaders, the thinkers, the inventors, the changers that they will be. Thank them for the changes in our global culture…conceptualize the world they WANT and DESERVE. Thank the future "them" for the compassion and peaceful world they created. Thank them for tolerance and celebration of difference and uniqueness. Thank them for believing in human potential, human kindness, and love. I wanted them to see the world they want not only in their minds and written words but also in their hearts. I wanted them to conceptualize and hold fast to that image and feeling of having the world they will create, if only we just give them the chance.

I don't want them to be a generation of letter writers about how they lost someone in an attack. I don't want them to be a generation of letter writers questioning why this continues to happen. I wanted them to write letters explaining how and why they were the generation that figured it out…that changed the world…that created the world we've tried to destroy.



You may say I'm a dreamer (yeah yeah yeah I know the lyrics)…

but I DO believe in the genius of kids. And if we, with all our cynicism and jaded judgment, can listen and learn and get out of their way…to just love them and show them HOW to love each other by learning to LOVE each other too…we might just get this ball rolling…..I do believe it is THAT simple.

CHOOSE to matter. Because, in fact, YOU do.


Here are some of the resulting letters from 5th graders who have begun to see the glimmer of their light and the possible impact of their contribution to the world.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for learning how to control your temper.  In fact, all you have control over is yourself and your reactions. Learning this has helped our world become more peaceful because when you don't get upset others don't get upset either.  This helps people who have sadness in their hearts believe in a more powerful emotion: hope.  Hope is so important to keep alive.  Hope is the change and LOVE is the way we give hope to others.  Thank you for always being an example of this.
D. C.

Dear Future Self,
Thank you for working hard and studying.  You have accomplished your dreams and the world is better for it.  Through your work as a medical researcher, you have not only come up with years of advancements in cancer treatment, but after persevering through failure after failure, you've found a cure!  You have shown people to never give up on their dreams and that with perseverance anything is possible.
N. A.


Dear Future Self,
Thank you for helping to create a world where special needs people are included and treated fairly.  Thank you for creating an organization that everyone wants to be a part of because everyone is included and loved.  Thank you for giving special needs people a chance to share their genius and light with the world.  Because of your example, you have changed the world for every person.
A. Y.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for feeding hungry children by collecting canned food and making sandwiches.  No child should ever be hungry and because of you, no child who ever has known you has ever gone hungry.  You may not have changed the whole world, but you changed the world for those kids.  Thank you!
A. B.


Dear Future Self,
Thank you for becoming a police officer who doesn't just make sure people follow the laws, but who helps them to not break the laws again.  Police officers can be a lot like teachers.  They can teach people how to be better.  They can give them resources and show them better ways of thinking.  You have been a great example of how we can use our passions to create a more positive world.
C. D.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for impacting other children by listening to them and allowing them to be who they are.  You have tried to experience every person's story.  The rich, the poor, the black, the white, Christian and atheist.  You have given everyone a chance to share who they are and made them feel like they mattered.  This changed the world.
J. O.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for keeping kindness in your heart and the respect you have.  Thank you for living in love and never forgetting that you matter to the world.  You never doubted yourself which is why you accomplished more than you ever thought you could.  Thank you for not giving up on us.
A. C.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for becoming a scientist.  Your contribution to children around the world who cannot afford care and medicine has created a world where no child dies from illness without a fighting chance.  Your work is important.  Your work matters.  
E. B. 
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for building a community park where the homeless can safely go to find shelters that are nice and make them feel like they are home.  Thank you for putting in a garden that feeds the homeless while they are there.  Thank you for giving them a chance to grow things in the garden so that they learn that they are important to this world too.  You have made a difference in their lives.
J. V.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for becoming a veterinarian and rehabilitating rescued animals to be used as service pets for children who are sick, people with special needs, elderly people, and prisoners.  Animals are friends and they make people feel good and calm.  They can give children hope, help people with special needs feel more accepted in the world, give elderly people someone to be with when they get lonely, and can help give prisoners hope and a purpose so they won't feel like they have to always be a prisoner.  You are very special and the world is a better place because of you.
S. M.
Dear Future Self,
Thank you for learning to sing and using it to sing lullabies to babies who are in the NICU.  They need joy and they need to hear happiness.  Your voice in giving babies who are born early a chance to live.
M. Y.

    

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Being the Change

5th Graders Start the School Year Off with Gestures of Kindness

Being a Choose2Matter classroom in a new grade level on a new campus, it was important for me, the teacher, to ignite the passion for making a difference in the world from day one.  TODAY.  Today is the day to be the change you want to see in the world.  
This first week of school, the entire 5th grade, chose to matter to the rest of the students on our campus.  Each day, we focused on making a difference in the lives of our friends.  Monday, we focused on Kindergarten.  In order to encourage our kinder friends to love reading and to feel supported by us, we created popsicle stick word pointers.  On the stick, we wrote inspirational quotes to remind them that they are important to us.  


The kindergartners were so excited to have "the big kids" share something that the 5th graders made special for them.   Each 5th grader approached a kindergartener by saying something to the effect of, "I made this special for you. You are important to me and this school and I expect greg things from you!  You matter in this world!"  The smiles on ALL of the kids' faces told me that this idea would be a success.

On Tuesday, we focused on our first graders.  We created bead and string abacus as a way to support their math thinking.  We strung colorful beads onto string and tied the string off so that the beads could be easily moved back and forth in a variety of sets.  Using these manipulatives, students can count, add, subtract, and even write multi-addend equations!
Giving these abacuses to the first graders brightened their days and told them in a small way (maybe bigger!) that we want them to be successful.  It showed them that we are here to encourage them and their learning matters to us too!

On Wednesday, we set our hearts on second grade.  We wanted our second graders to enjoy reading, to find a passion and love for reading.  We wanted them to be reminded of our support and encouragement for them as readers.  We created corner page bookmarks that looked like googly-eyed monsters!  
These adorable bookmarks actually inspired many of the second graders to go home and read just so that they could use their bookmarks!  On the back of their monsters we added an inspirational saying to remind them that reading is important and so are they!

Thursday and Friday we created ribboned bookmarks with inspiring quotes and sentiments for our third and fourth graders.  Again, this week was all about creating a sense of belonging and community among the entire school.  Students need to feel that not only are they important to their own classroom teacher, but to every adult and child on campus.  Our fifth graders may have been the ones giving of their time and creativity this week, but we received so much in return.  

Here are quotes from some of the 5th graders about what they experienced in this exercise in compassion:

"What I do matters in this world.  And it is better when you consider others instead of just yourself.  It feels good to help others because it is the right thing to do to help others." --Jacob

"Doing for others actually helped me to believe in myself.  I felt good because caring for others means something." --Ebony

"I realized that I can make a difference in the world.  I could't believe that my little craft could actually mean so much to someone else.  It made me think that if I do bigger things it will mean even more."  --Alliyah







Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Not Just About Changing Lives…It's About Saving Them


I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.
--Neil Galman



Over the summer I received a phone call that would change the course of both me as a professional and of the Fearless Classroom.  On the other end of the call was a voice echoing my philosophy as an educator.  But what struck to the core of me was the statement, "This is about saving these kids' lives."  Instantly, the enthusiasm I felt waning and the cynicism beginning to break down my usually optimistic walls were gone.  Yes!  Of course!  This is WHY I became a teacher in the first place!  We don't get into this profession for the easy.  We want to make a difference, to change the lives of children for the better.  We STAY because of the easy, but we COME BACK and we get EXCITED because of the challenge of reaching children, giving them unforgettable learning experiences, and creating opportunities that they may never have been given had they not been in our classrooms.  But to think of it as actually "saving lives," well, it just put it into perspective again for me.  

My new principal gave me a chance to lead a team, but I never realized the gift she was giving me.  I have four like-minded passionate educators willing to get out of their comfort zones, try anything, and who believes in the genius in all kids.  But more than that, the entire staff feels the same way.  There is a sense of freedom, collaboration, support, and a genuine shared vision for saving lives through creative and innovative learning experiences.  

On this eve before the new school year begins, I am reflecting on my goals for the year, and my gratitude for this incredible opportunity.  We begin tomorrow.  My students will find their passions, their voices, and their genius this year and the world will forever be changed because of their work.  

In preparation for the new year:
I wanted my classroom to feel like home for my students.  I wanted them to find a peaceful place in my classroom in which they can learn, communicate, explore, and make discoveries.  The results of my efforts are as follows:  
 
It is important that students know that they matter, that they have something unique and important to say.  My job isn't necessarily to teach them the curriculum but rather WHO they can be and HOW they can achieve their dreams THROUGH curriculum infused with experiences.  This concept and the You Matter Manifesto comes from Angela Maiers.  And if you don't know it by know, please go to her webpage and become familiar with her and her amazing work!

Part of being Fearless is knowing what BRAVERY truly means.  It isn't about walking through life without careful consideration for consequences and dangers.  It isn't about doing whatever we want without care for repercussions.  To be fearless, to be brave, is to keep going when doubt tries to stop you.  It is believing in your goals and your purpose and never letting naysayers stifle your ambitions.

In the Fearless Classroom, we must research and collaborate in order to refine our vision, our passions, and our learning.  This corner is perfectly suited for just that!

 
Inspired by ISTE's Bloggers Cafe, I created this collaboration and networking area for my students so that they could share ideas and learn from each other in a comfortable space.

Another aspect to my classroom is gamification. This year's game is called, Call of Duty: The Compassion Crusade.  Students are charged with missions where compassion for others and purposeful learning are necessary and expected.  They receive a game guide upon arrival the first day and our first mission is a week long effort to welcome every student on our campus with a gift and a promise that as the leaders of the campus, our 5th graders will support and encourage their younger peers.  Our motto:  We are the change.

We are making popsicle stick word pointers for the Kindergarteners.  These easy to make crafts will encourage our new friends to enjoy reading and will remind them that their 5th grade buddies are expecting genius contributions from them :D  We are writing simple inspiring phrases on the sticks such as, "You Matter!," "I'm proud of you!," and "I believe in you!"

For the first graders, we are creating bead and string abacuses.  We want to encourage our first grade friends to learn by doing and to know that sometimes we all need a little support in our learning.  When they use their abacus, we hope they know that we are supporting them as well.

For our second through fifth graders, we are creating Monster corner bookmarks! We encourage learning though research and exploration.  We hope that the monsters inspire our friends to keep reading, keep learning, and to always remain fearless!

It is our vision as a 5th grade team that 
1.  Students are inspired when they have the opportunity to discover and develop their impact on the world around them.
2.  Students become empowered when they create, collaborate, communicate, and critically think about their learning.

The Fearless Five are ready for the new year to begin.  Curiosity, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Connections, Community, and Compassion are the Great Cs of our 5th grade culture.  And I, for one, and beyond excited to witness the genius that is bound to be discovered and developed this year.

Stay Fearless because YOU MATTER and the world NEEDS your contribution!




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Turning a New Leaf

2014-2015 begins a new journey with a new campus, new students, new opportunities.  The Fearless Classroom continues to evolve and improve.   If you're looking for the previous posts from the past few years, they have been turned into a book!   You can pre-order now and the release date is October 26, 2014.  I am looking forward to the next chapter of the Fearless Classroom as we embark on an adventure of purpose and service based education!   STAY TUNED!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Fearless 3rd Grade Author's Story

The following is the work of a 3rd grader who disliked writing and believed he wasn't good at it.  He blocked himself from letting go of the fear of not writing what he thought the teacher WANTED him to write, or of getting words misspelled, or of making a mistake.  My approach to writing is to first, just write.  Write about anything.  Write to a prompt, get off topic, get back on topic, start over, but just write.  Once you have something you feel is worth expanding, expand.  revise until you feel it is the story you wanted to tell, or the story you never knew was in you.  Edit on a computer to help you find the errors more easily.  Publish with pride and celebrate your genius.  This approach freed this student to write this brilliant story.  With his permission, I am honored to share it with you here:


Homerun Henry
By:  Ethan K.


Whooooosh!  Thump!  Henry felt himself melt into the catcher’s mitt like a freshly cracked egg.  Henry was the fastest baseball in the league.  Everyone watched as he became a blur of white and red each time he was thrown toward the batter’s box.  Batters feared him.  They knew that he was the “Strikeout Superstar” and they knew there was no hope of them ever hitting him.  Henry was the most famous baseball to ever play the game.

But Henry was very unhappy.  He dreamed of soaring through the air like a wingless bird, high above the cheering crowd, the bright lights, the amazed players, and eventually over the fence.  Henry wanted to be a homerun. 

Speed was always Henry’s gift.   From the moment he was brought out onto the practice field, he was speeding past every bat.  Henry didn’t feel very special though.  Always flying into the catcher’s mitt and never flying out to the field. 

He tried to slow himself down.  He would spin himself backwards but that just made him faster.  The crowd would cheer, “Fastball! Fastball!  The ‘watch it go past’ ball!”  He tried wiggling around in the air but this did nothing to stop him from zooming over the plate and into the mitt.  “Change up! Change up! Take you glove and hang it up!” the crowd would roar.   He had always heard that the fastest way to get somewhere is a straight line, so he figured he would take a wide arching approach toward the batter to slow down.  Again, all he heard was the thud of the glove around him and the screams from the crowd as the yelled, “Curve it! Swerve it! But you can’t hit it!”  He even tried to use the dirt to slow himself down but everyone just called him “Wild Man”.  Nothing he did ever slowed him down enough for a batter to hit him. 

At night, after the games, after the crowds were gone and the lights were darkened, surrounded by silence and stars, he dreamed of the land beyond the fences.  He had heard it was a beautiful place where baseballs could be whatever they wanted to be.  Daddies and Mommies would throw them back and forth with their sons and daughters.  Young children would roll them or try to bounce them.  Dogs would fetch the baseballs and bring them back all slobbery wet to the dog’s owner.  It sounded like the most magnificent World Series kind of place to Henry. 

Henry had had enough.  He didn’t want to play anymore.  He was ready to give up on him dream of being a homerun and just settle for hanging out with the old worn out practice balls in the practice ball bucket for the rest of his days.  

The next day was another game day.  Henry didn’t even want to leave the locker where he stayed when he wasn’t playing.  But the crowd had come to see the “Strikeout Superstar” and he had no choice but to go out to the pitcher’s mound and get ready for the first pitch. 

The first three pitches were just like all of the others from every game before.  “Strike one!  Strike two! Strike three!  You’re out!” the umpire grunted.  Henry was miserable.  But when the next batter prepared for the windup, Henry felt a cool, crisp breeze swirl around him like a cloud whispering encouragement to him. 

As Henry zipped through the air toward the batter, he felt the force of the wind pushing back on him.  It became stronger and stronger!  It was actually slowing him down!  Henry perked up and focused on the sweet spot of the bat.

CRACK!  He was hit!  Henry soared through the air, over the cheering crowd, over the bright lights, high above the amazed players.  He couldn’t believe the view!  He saw the fence ahead but he had never been this close to it before.  Doubt started to creep into his thoughts like a snake slithering quietly through grass.

“I won’t make it.  I won’t make it, “he thought to himself.  Suddenly, he saw the fence getting closer and closer as he began to fall farther and farther down.  Just as he dropped toward the ground he saw the fence pass by him and he thought, “I made it!  I am finally a homerun!” 

Henry landed on a soft bed of sweet, fresh clovers and sat wide-eyed staring at the beauty that surrounded him. 

But just as quickly as the joy and excitement filled his new homerun self, a sinking feeling crept in.  There were no daddies or mommies throwing him back and forth with their sons or daughters.  There were no young children to roll him or bounce him.  And there were no dogs to fetch him.  Henry was all alone. 

“Being a homerun isn’t what I thought it would be,” he thought to himself.  Maybe being the strikeout superstar was what I was made to be. 

Just as Henry began to wish to be returned to the field where all of his fans and friends had always been, someone picked him up and threw him back over the fence. 

Henry landed in the outfield next to the center fielder’s cleats.  The smell of the field, the cheers from the crowd, the grit of the dirt felt to Henry like being autographed by all of the people he loved the most. 

Henry was thrown back to the pitcher’s mound, but this time he was excited to get back in the game.  And as Henry raced toward the catcher’s mitt once again he knew that he was exactly what he was meant to be.  And with one more THWACK! into the mitt, Henry smiled and thought to himself, “I’m home.”
 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How the Tale of Despereaux and Choosing to Matter Brought Fearlessness to a Whole New Level of Genius




I was quite serendipitously presented with a thoughtful question last night on social media.  Angela Maiers asked, How big is your brave?  This was a question that I immediately felt would be interesting to bring to my third graders.  Even more perfectly coincidental is the fact that we just began reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo as a novel study this week.  Book one discusses light vs. dark, perfidy and bravery, and judging someone's differences unfairly.  This question of how big one's bravery is was a perfect tie in!  On the drive to work this morning, the radio hosts were discussing the world's most difficult question to answer.  The question, they said, is, What is your favorite feature about yourself?  The discussion explored how confidence tends to be viewed negatively in our society and that young people, especially young girls, are taught early to keep such musings to themselves.  Sure we are capable of showering others with compliments, but to actually compliment ourselves can be tough.  What will others think?  How would we be perceived?  

 I began thinking that this too might be an interesting conversation to have with my third graders. 

So when my Fearless Geniuses walked into class this morning, we finished Book One of The Tale of Despereaux.  We analyzed theme, discussed characters and their traits, learned new vocabulary.  We empathized and shared how the story affected us as we read.  Then, I unveiled these two writing prompts:

1.     What is your favorite thing about yourself?  What is your favorite physical feature and why?  What is your favorite heart feature and why?

2.      How big is your brave? 

They had the opportunity to not only support their thesis statements by discussing textual evidence from the book, but to explore a deeper examination of themselves.  The results of this highly engaging writing assignment are as follows:

Abby:  
In the Tale of Despereaux, Despereaux is judged because he has big ears, is small, and was born with his eyes open.  Even his family judged him.  These are things that made him special and different.  When I think of my own physical features I think I would choose my hair as my favorite.  It is curly and I always think it is funny when girls with straight hair curl their hair to make it curly and girls with curly hair always want to straighten it to make it straight.  I love my curly hair.  I can wear it back and show my face or I can wear it down and show off the curls.  Either way I feel pretty.
Despereaux also has a different kind of character.  He sees the world as some place beautiful and not dangerous.  He enjoys the light and music and a good book.  He loves with all of his heart and no matter what.  He is a lot like I am in this way.  I am passionate about my education but I am also passionate and loyal to my family and friends.  I would not commit perfidy against any of my family or friends.  I am compassionate and would help them rather than betray them.  Despereaux is a very brave when he speaks in front of the King and professes his love for the princess, when he faces the Mouse Council, and when he finds himself all alone in the dark dungeon.  His brave is very big.  My brave is not that big.  Sure I can speak to people from other countries and classes and even give speeches in front of my own friends, but I also have a hard time being brave enough to really put myself out there and take risks when it comes to my work.  I know I am smart.  I am a genius.  But being fearless is tough sometimes.  I still get scared, but when I decide to push through it I always end up feeling a little braver than before.  

Camaren:
 Despereaux was made fun of a lot.  Just because he had differences like big ears and being small everyone looked at him differently.  I don't think I look different from other people much.  What I do like about myself are my hands.  My hands can do a lot of things.  They can hold a baseball bat and hit the ball far.  They can write my thoughts and tell my stories.  My hands can help a friend feel better.  My hands make my mom smile when they hold hers.  Despereaux is a kind and curious mouse.  His heart is innocent.  He doesn't understand why others don't like him.  I am kind too.  When I play sports I am a good sport and tell the other players good game no matter what.  I try not to get mad when other people are not nice to me because being fearless means to find opportunities to set an example.  I know that my kindness makes the world a better place.  Despereaux is a very brave mouse.  He has a lot more guts than he should being so small.  I think it is his confidence that makes him so brave.  He believes in himself.  I have learned that even though things can be challenging at times, I am capable of figuring it out.  My bravery has grown since being in the Fearless Classroom.


Valerie:
In the Tale of Despereaux, Despareaux has many things about him that make other characters make fun of him.  He has to be really brave to not let it get to him.   I think I am pretty and I especially like my hair.  But there have been times when other people have tried to make me feel ugly with their words.  I usually feel hurt and think that maybe they are right.  But after hearing our discussions about it being okay to celebrate what makes us special and after hearing what we think makes Despereaux special, now I feel special and I don't think I will let people make me feel bad anymore.  I think my brave is growing.

Eleasiah:
Just like Despereaux, I have fears.  I am afraid of losing friends, not doing well in school, not being good enough, not being liked.  But I don't let these fears stop me from being who I am.  I may not be the smartest or the prettiest but I am still me.  I am a good friend.  I am a smart and work hard.  I am a great reader.  I have a loving heart and believe in the good in people.  I think if I were in a story there would be a lot of light around my character too.  My favorite feature are my eyes because they are like mirrors of my heart.  My favorite heart feature is my loving heart.  I am a good friend.  My bravery is really big because I am fearless.  Not fearless as in having no fears, just fearless in that I don't let fears stop me.

Ava:
I think I am brave because I will stand up for myself and my friends.  I have been brave for the past two years in class because I have had to work really hard and sometimes it wasn't easy at all.  I am brave when I go on stage to sing in front of a lot of people.  I am strong and courageous.  My brave is my song.

Bethany:
My favorite feature is my vocal cords.  They are the best gift I have.  Not only can I sing beautifully but my words help make the world a better place.  I am brave because I choose words that lift people up but I am also truthful.  Despereaux was honest and loved music just like I do.

I would like to think that my best feature is my passion for educating kids and creating fearless thinkers and compassionate young people.  My BRAVE is LARGE and abundant because being fearless has lead me to some extraordinary experiences so far!