The Most Positive Thing in Your Life: from grade 7 students

Stay Positive

We’re off to another fun year with the grade seven teachers and students and their Happiness Project at North Kipling JMS in the Toronto District School Board.  To start the project off, we decided to use a short questionnaire this year to keep some data. One of the questions was — What is the most positive thing in your life now? Why? Thinking they would say things like “my new iPhone”, I was delighted and surprised about the theme of the majority of their comments.

Overwhelmingly, they talked about their families. In their words, here is a sampling of their comments:

“My mom is the most supportive of me”, “My brothers will always be there for me”, “My family makes me laugh.” “My parents have done a lot for me and my siblings.” “My family because they bring me up and help me, they take care of me and they make me happy.” “My family supports me no matter what the situation is.” “They know me well and with them it’s easy to laugh and smile.” “Without my family, I’d have nothing.”

There were lots of comments about school too, like “Going to school, because I can learn something new.”

And friends . “My friends keep me company and help me out of tuff situations.”

“Playing soccer!” “Helping others because you feel good after.” “Being healthy”

With Thanksgiving weekend coming soon in Canada, these are comments I am thankful for. It’s going to be an awesome project with these students this year! More to come!

Sue Goes High Tech: Using a Promo Video on Your Website

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Having recently completed the process of adding a new promo video to my website, I want to share the my experiences with the process with you. Video is such a powerful medium these days because we are so visually oriented with TV and movies, and film quickly captures our interest.  I have written text on my website about me but as the saying goes —a picture is worth a thousand words —and a moving picture is priceless!

I wanted to have a recent clip so prospective clients could “see me in action”. My website received a fresh coat of paint last fall and I loved it.  Patti Henderson expertly coached me through the re-design process and Greg Rodrigo made it work with his technical website skills.  But, there was one step left to complete the overall design —a video.

I used to have a few video clips of me before the newest version of the website but they weren’t great quality and didn’t show me at my best. I needed a someone better to shoot and edit this one so I went back to Jim Brodie, a professional videographer I had worked with on a very successful project a few years back, called Time to Lead.   Our purpose this time was for me to write and him to shoot a clear message about what I do and why I do it, with the expectation that viewers would do something after viewing. As Jim said, “it would move them to action”. In my case, that would be to think about my message, order my books and/or book me as a speaker.

The most challenging part of writing the script was keeping the filmed version to no more than three minutes. WOW! Jim was very clear that this was the maximum people would watch. He even said the first 30 sec would convince them. WOWEE! So, I wrote and edited the script more than a few times, to get it down to three minutes. I used a great app called Teleprompt+ so I could upload the script onto my iPad and practice with it to get the timing down pat. That worked extremely well. ZOWEE!

The morning of the filming was a cooler day in August, luckily without rain. Jim chose a park setting and he set his equipment up to film it outside. I had a clip-on microphone to capture the sound better. My iPad was rigged up with my Teleprompt+ script right beside the camera lens with a rope he luckily had in his kit bag, and away we went!  I think Jim took about 20 versions using the script. I just kept doing whatever he said being careful to stay in my spot and not move. Jim also asked me some questions for impromptu responses.  A few weeks later, he also filmed me during a working session I led with the principal, vps and program leaders from T.A. Blakelock HS, and was able to merge some of that footage in with what he recorded in the park. The beauty of video is that it can be edited to look like it was one perfect shot and Jim is a pro at editing.  The end result is just what I wanted and I have to say it was fun doing it too, mainly due to Jim’s easy going nature and expertise!

I personally  welcome questions and comments too on www.suestephenson.ca. Take a look!  If you’re interested in doing something like this or any other video project, I highly recommend contacting James Brodie Productions at www.jimbrodie.com out of Unionville ON for his award-winning reputation and results.

 

Staying Connected: successful transitions to grade 9- For PARENTS

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will be sharing the following message with parents of students starting grade nine at T.A. Blakelock HS in the Halton DSB.  Please feel free to use and adapt this for your school.  I have attached the actual postcard and the Powerpoint slides I will be using. Have a look!  It’s based on my book Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humour.

TAB Parents Card Sept 2014    TAB Parents Card Sept 2014.pages

TAB Sept 2014 Staying Connected ppt

The school organized this one hour session for parents in the morning when the grade nines come for their first day in grade nine! Parents will be sharing their own feelings with each other. 

Change is inevitable. It’s the actual weeks of transition to something new that is harder. Life is full of change and transitions —  endings, a neutral zone, and new beginnings. It’s the neutral zone, in between, that varies from person to person. Everyone travels through the neutral zone in different ways. Our hour together will focus on these Seven Keys To Successful Transitions.

1. Stay involved with high school. You’re not done yet.
2. Be trustworthy. Be there to listen & talk about anything.
3. Have a backbone & boundaries. Stay connected.
4. Make some time to do fun stuff & nurture their sense of humour.
5. Let them learn from mistakes & be resilient to bounce back.
6. Focus on and help them use their signature strengths to be happy.
7. Watch for mental health warning signs & get help early if needed. Think of feelings & moods as pleasant & unpleasant vs good & bad.

I welcome your feedback! Have a great school year – no matter what year you are starting! Learning never ends!

North Kipling Comedy Cubs “Stand Up Comedy Showcase”

The Run Throughs
A few days before the final Showcase we held two run throughs at lunchtime. This ended up being a critical part of the success of the Showcase as we could give feedback to each act. We also had to ask certain groups to reconsider their performances because they were too close to the line (or well over it) of being tasteful and appropriate. One of the guidelines was “If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see this, don’t put it in the act.” Some racially and politically-based humour continued to be a point of discussion.

 

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The Day of The Showcase
Showcase2The morning of the Showcase brought out the best in most of the comedians. A few got cold feet and withdrew when they saw the videographer from CBC TV. Kudos to those who found the courage and went for it in spite of their nerves. —Naba; Noor; Cory and Rohan; Adedayo; Sehan, Jaiquon, Kiran, Jonathan and Aingaran (The Melon Show), Karanjah and Chesney; Tashifa, Sabhat and Nain (The Power Puff Girls); Emily and Baarath;, Niveithan and Palram; Randy; and Alim.

The program and content the kids chose dealt with types of parents, out of control shopping experiences, social media, and experiments gone wrong — just to name a few. Thanks to all the courageous grade seven students who took a risk and tried something new with this project whether it was in their classroom performances or in this Stand Up Comedy Showcase. Each one is different — and we should celebrate those differences!

Showcase1To laugh at comedy on TV or in the movies is one thing, but to write and perform comedy in front of others is a totally unique experience. It takes special skills to perform in front of others and hope you make them laugh. These comedic skills will be useful throughout their lives in many ways at work, with friends and at home. We all need to lighten up and laugh more. No one student won the Showcase as students agreed that they were all winners for performing in front of an audience.

CBC covers The Showcase on Our Toronto. WOWEE!
CBC Debbie Lightle Quan picked up the story from the TDSB website and spent so much time with the kids filming their stories after the Showcase. Here is the lead-in to the TV segment:

A Lesson in Laughter: Here’s a unique way for kids to not only learn, but to laugh. A class where stand up comedy has students sitting up and taking note on how to treat each other. Debbie Lightle-Quan has that story and a little blooper of her own.
Would you like to watch the CBC coverage here? Be prepared to laugh!
CBC coverage on YouTube

Shout Outs Go To…
We need to send a shout out to Melbourne (Australia) International Class Clowns Festival for students 14-18 years older. We watched many of their students performing for ideas and inspiration. I included their program, developed by Ian McFayden and Karin Ferrell, as a resource in my book Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humour. We hope to collaborate with them in the future.

Huge shout outs also go to the teachers (Doug Cornell, Marilyn Orszulik, Alessandro Lammana, Ellen Walton and Ian Robertson), the principal Alex Tracey for supporting the program, the comedian-coaches Tyler Morrison and Marc Trinidad, expert photographer Patti Henderson — and above all to the KIDS themselves! We videotaped the entire program and will share an edited version of all the footage in a future blog.

Patti Henderson said in her blog Laughter is the Sound of the Soul Dancing, “This was one of the most insightful, entertaining and worthwhile education projects of my 20 year career in this field… involving an energetic and irrepressibly optimistic and funny group of Grade 7 students. I must say that as I was editing and posting these photos to the gallery, I could not stop smiling! Nothing cleanses the soul as much as the sight of kids laughing. Laughter really is the best medicine! This is especially true in this corner of Toronto where students and teachers often face challenges to joy and laughter.Patti’s Blog Post

Students and teachers hope this pilot project becomes an annual event at North Kipling
JMS. They also hope that by spreading the word, it can be scaled up to share with students at other schools in TDSB. As one of the teachers Doug Cornell said, “We’re on to something new and good here!”

I encourage you to learn from our experience and try this in your own classrooms or schools or living rooms. You could start small and just get your feet wet or you could jump in the deep end and ride the waves of comedy. Let’s share the results and network about this more.

Stand Up Comedy CONTEST Morphs into Stand Up Comedy SHOWCASE

Humour is the ability to see three sides of the same coin. —Ned Rorem

20131228-1Five grade seven teachers at North Kipling Junior Middle School in the Toronto District School Board have decided to tackle the challenge of the twin issues of mental health and well being head-on with a pilot project that focuses on humour and has as its goal the welcome laughter of kids.

After an amazing start to the Stand Up Comedy Project (that I reported on in my last Blog), I delivered a second and a third workshop in November after meeting with the teachers to plan our next steps. Remember, this is the school I had been Principal in and was overjoyed to be working with again! From left to right: Alessandro Lamanna, Marilyn Orszulik, Ian Robertson, Ellen Walton and Doug Cornell. The project has captured the imagination and creativity of everyone involved.

This project uses strategies to encourage skills that aren’t traditionally taught and also offers serious curriculum connections:

  • Developing language skills (oral and written) and creativity
  • Building confidence and a sense of humour speaking in front of others
  • Confronting mental health and well being issues such as body image, anxiety, and perfectionism
  • Learning the difference between helpful and hurtful humour and its nasty cousin bullying
  • Tapping into their courage to take a risk and go beyond their comfort zone

Read more

Hooking Kids on Stand-Up Comedy

“It’s okay to laugh at your own jokes.” —Astley Stewart, student

nk1Imagine grade 7 kids becoming stand-up comedians!  I’ve been having so much fun starting a new project with four grade 7 classes and their teachers from the school where I actually had been a founding principal in 2000.  After the release of my new book Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humour this past January, I spent some time with middle school classes at North Kipling Junior Middle School in the Toronto District School Board exploring their reactions to the content of the book.  This is a large Junior Kindergarten – grade 8 school of about 900 students. Last year we focused on analyzing comic strips as a way into comedy or planned humour.  Moving on to stand-up comedy this year means both writing and performing — an exciting but scary thought for middle school kids! Read more

June 2013 – The Birth of My New Book “Kidding Around” at AATH Conference in San Diego, CA

aathlogoI have been at the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor conference (AATH) in beautiful San Diego for the past week introducing my new book Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humour. I wrote this new book for parents and teachers and other care providers to use with kids. To my surprise, adults have found that while they may have purchased the book to use with kids — they cannot put it down themselves.  So many people have told me how personally relevant and critical it has been to their own happiness and wellness.  So, there’s a KID in all of us and we need to connect that kid to positive psychology! I met so many fantastic people and learned so much at AATH as a first-time attendee.  It is a FABULOUS organization.

Provocative Findings about Positive Psychology and Happiness Levels

Recently I participated in a webinar featuring the work of Dr. Myriam Mongrain, from York University in Canada, that was sponsored by the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA). She was speaking about whether online positive psychology exercises can increase happiness and I wanted to hear how her perspective matched the activities I included in my new book Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humour. There were some strong connections to my book and to my background with the World Laughter Tour. There were also some new learnings—all of which I want to share with you. Read more

May 2013 – Trust and Sustaining Collaborative Cultures

CollaborationIn their book Professional Capital, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves report that, “We do not know how to best develop and sustain these collaborative cultures over long periods of time. Because of this difficulty, contrived or at least arranged collegiality (without the necessary foundation of trusting and respectful relationships) is likely to characterize early attempts for many years to come.” (p.126) We need to work on trust and make it discussable before we can expect changes in a culture. Any time and money spent on low trust cultures will be sadly wasted, and maybe even resented. Read more