Bernette Lindamood is a 22 year classroom veteran teacher that has worked with high school level students and middle school students in Texas and Alaska. Bernette works in the Lewisville Independent School District at DeLay Middle School teaching Teen Leadership and Social Studies. She is a firm believer in teaching students first and content second! Cultivating relationships and modeling kindness, compassion and love are her primary goals in her profession. All kids can learn and all kids need love. Bernette has been married for 29 years and has three grown kiddo’s and two amazing grandkids that are her world.
We talk with Bernette about how the district-wide kindness focus in the Lewisville ISD started, the positive impact that it has had on the students across the school disctrict, and she shares her scholarship winning idea that puts character into action.
“...our job is not just to make sure that they can read, write and do arithmetic. Our job is to make sure that we're pushing kids out that can navigate this world and know their emotions and know how to be kind and know how to treat other people. And we just trying to do it the best way we know how to do it.”
— Bernette Lindamood
- John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong podcast where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today we're talking with Bernette Lindamood. Bernette is a 22 year classroom veteran teacher that has worked with high school level students and middle school students in Texas and Alaska. Bernette works in the Lewisville independent school district at DeLay Middle School teaching teen leadership and social studies. She is a firm believer in teaching students first and content second, cultivating relationships and modeling kindness. Compassion and love are her primary goals in her profession. All kids can learn and all kids need love. Bernette has been married for 29 years and has three grown kiddos and two amazing grandkids that are her world. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Bernette Lindamood.
- John: All right, we are so excited to welcome Bernette Lindamood to the CharacterStrong podcast. I know you've been looking forward to this, but not as much as I've been looking forward to it friend. How are you?
- Bernette: It's awesome. It's awesome to be here John. I appreciate you guys having me on.
- John: Absolutely. And I had the gift of just getting to see you in person this last weekend. We were at the TASC, a kind of state conference for activity advisers, stu co-advisors, National Honor Society. It was wonderful to see you in person and we got a chance to talk a little bit about this podcast coming up. Appreciate you being here and knowing that we try to keep it at kind of that smaller 10 to 12 minute time link, let's dig right in. You're at DeLay Middle School, in Lewisville ISD near Dallas. How far outside of Dallas? I know there's some specific ways that you identify in that area where you're at.
- Bernette: We're about 40 miles outside of Dallas. We're in between Dallas and Denton. People know Denton because of University of North Texas and Texas Women's University. It's and then of course everybody knows Dallas, so we're on that 35 corridor in between Dallas and Denton.
- John: Cool. Well, one of the things that's been incredibly impressive is seeing the district wide approach that Lewisville taken to creating a campaign around kindness, which really then drives home that focus on social emotional learning, character development. Let's start, talk to me a little bit about this #LISD be kind, the campaign. Talk to me a little bit about it and some of the results that you've been seeing.
- Bernette: Okay, so we were first introduced to you guys in 2015 when we, like you were saying at a advanced leadership workshop in Mo-Ranch. And then we just progressively started being drawn to what CharacterStrong is all about. It's right up what I do. I moved back from Anchorage, Alaska and we were big in SEL there. And so Ms. Stamey and I, Allison Stamey and I went to a couple more your things and we just kept saying, "We need this in our district. We need this kindness piece in our district especially." Last year we created kindness week for the high schools and the middle schools and we have a kindness convocation where the students, we have what we call kindness ambassadors. 20 to 25 from each school in the district. And we all come for a convocation and we have a time to talk about kindness. We have a guest speaker, we let them know how important it is.
- Bernette: And then we come back and the middle schools have, in fact two weeks from now, our kindness week is going to happen and the high schools just had their kindness week as well. And we don't do it just for the week though. It's so important that we continue to do it throughout the year. We have all the different extracurricular activities and the clubs that take days to greet at the door. That take days or to have a special project that they do that really promotes that. This week we did a wacky Wednesday and the students were not allowed to sit with their friends at lunchtime. They had to find another table and go meet somebody else. And at the middle school level, whoo, that was crazy. We're just continually pushing it. That this is how the world should be. This is how we want it to be. We just keep implementing new things to try to push that agenda along.
- John: Well there's a few things that are really jumping out to me that I love and you've been in education long enough to know that we experience these kind of waves of thing that come through including the famous we did a kindness week, and that's because we used to do a kindness day. And so the first thing that jumps out is the it doesn't stop there. If anything, you're using that as the launch pad for the continued work that you're focusing on. Maybe come back to that, the difference that you have noticed from that really intentional district wide approach. Because we're talking what high school? Middle school? Is it your elementaries as well? With this district wide approach to it.
- Bernette: Elementaries are going to start. They're not doing as much as we are right now, but they are going to start. I just find that in my school I can only, I speak from middle school perspective, we can see a difference in our students in how many students are getting in trouble for being disrespectful or rude to each other. We all know that social media is a huge issue and bullying on social media is a huge issue and we've seen a difference in how many students we have to write up for that as well. That it's really, they're really being intentional about stopping to think about what they're saying before they say it.
- Bernette: In fact, I had a student yesterday, it was awesome. Came right before this. In my teen leadership class, we're using CharacterStrong stuff and he comes to me and he says, "Miss Lindamood," he says, "I was going to tell you at the door," because I do four at the door. He said, "I was going to tell you about something, but I didn't know if it was kind or not." And I said, "Okay, what were you going to tell me?" And he said, "Well," he said, "I almost got in a fight this morning," And he goes, "but you know what you said 50 times, at least when we've been in this class?"
“We're just continually pushing it. That this is how the world should be. This is how we want it to be. We just keep implementing new things to try to push that agenda along”
— Bernette Lindamood
- Bernette: And I said, "I say a lot of things 50 times dude, what did I say?" And he said, "You always tell us that we're not in control of other people's actions, that we are only in control of our reaction to it." And he said, "And so the kid mouthed at me and I was going to, I thought I'm going to punch him in the face." And he said, "It was like your voice was in my head. And I went, mm, I'm going to walk away from this." And he said, "And I kind of patted him on the back and laughed because I thought, I don't want to get in trouble. That's not. And I said, "Well, absolutely that's kind. You didn't punch somebody's face. That's great." And he goes, "Yeah." He says, "I can't promise you that I'll do it every time, but I want you to know that even if I don't seem like I'm listening, I am."
- Bernette: And he walked out of my classroom. And this is a hard kid. This is a kid that has a hard home life. That has struggles. And I was like, okay, this is what it's doing. This is what teaching kids kindness and being and modeling it for them. And that's the really big thing with our staff and how important CharacterStrong is with our staff is that we model that behavior for them because a lot of students don't get that at home.
- John: Yeah, just to highlight a couple of things. One, that you're intentionally teaching this, that you're making time for it to be taught. That you're intentionally role modeling as a staff by all means never perfect, but where you're going after it as a staff. That we believe in role modeling these behaviors. And the other move I saw was the intentionality of some of the things you're doing by working through different groups, different influencing groups that are in the school to say greet at the door, giving them something very practical to do that is relationally focused, that makes the statement on a regular basis that this is what we're about and no wonder you're having more conversations like the one that you just mentioned. And no wonder you start to see fewer behavioral referrals and or incidences of those things that a lot of times we don't want to see.
- John: And I love that. So powerful and no wonder because you're reaping what you sow in regards to that work. Well how about this, because we could keep going into that, but I think this connects, you also were one of the scholarship winners in the sense of you put in an application for an intentional way to put character into action or put a focus on that and came out as one of our scholarship winners. And so maybe with the time we have left, talk to me a little bit about what that was. And or kind of what your plan is to see then results through that project.
- Bernette: Yeah, it's pretty awesome. What I think of is the broad picture of things and not just kindness but taking each one of those eight essentials and using a month to focus on those eight essentials. We have, we're using our announcements. Of course this month, next month in October is going to be kindness. But we use our announcements to forward that kindness. We're using it in the classroom. We've got a big, we're getting two big posters. The one that says, "Be the I in kind." Our students are taking their pictures where the I is because the I is missing. We're going to do an outreach to one of the activity, senior citizen activity centers and we're going to go with the high school and we're going to have, we were thinking about doing a gaming night for them, because everybody loves Vegas, but we're going to do a dance, almost like a prom for them.
- Bernette: And so we're going to help the middle school and the high school is going to put that on for them as an outreach for commitment. And so we're taking each of the respect, compassion. We're taking each one of those every month and we're doing something specific with it. And we're going to paint our doors with quotes about certain things and each bathroom is going to have, we're going to have a commitment bathroom. Sounds weird, but they have little scenes for the kids to go into. We're just trying to get all of those words and all of those thoughts and all of those ideas and all of those intentions out there as much as possible for our kids so they know the vocabulary. That they know what we're talking about and what that means to their lives. Because they're not going to be ours forever.
- Bernette: And our job is not just to make sure that they can read, write and do arithmetic. Our job is to make sure that we're pushing kids out that can navigate this world and know their emotions and know how to be kind and know how to treat other people. And we just trying to do it the best way we know how to do it. And part of that is using you guys as one of our tools.
- John: And I love how you put that. One of the tools and I think just to wrap up today, I think the power is those things that you're trying by putting a month focus. And these different things that we could be doing related to it. The idea that we need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. We're going to get in front of our students as much as possible. But because of the ground level work, where you're intentionally teaching it and role modeling it, now it's not just about this one activity that we did. Or this one day or this one week. No, it's a collective holistic approach to it. And that's hard work. But that hard work has huge payoff.
- John: And so kudos to you. Kudos to your school, your team, your district for being such a light. If people are not following, they should be following the #LISD be kind. I'm inspired by it every week and just grateful for you friend, and I'd love to have you back late in the year and hear about how some of these things played out. Talk about some of the victories, some of the growing pains, whatever it might've been, so that we can all learn from you moving forward.
- Bernette: Anytime, buddy, I'll talk to you anytime.
- John: Sounds great. Well, have a great day and we'll talk to you soon.
- Bernette: All right bud, I'll talk to you later.
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The CharacterStrong Team is a partnership of educators, speakers, and students who believe in creating sustainable change in schools and helping young people develop the skills of service, kindness, and empathy.