Back To Basics

Posted in Business, Motivational

Back to Basics dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

There is a crisis in the world of education that seems to be growing. Kids are promoting from grade to grade without mastering the 3Rs…Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The feedback I have received from people around the world indicates this is not a problem isolated to the USA. It is worldwide and pervasive.

There is incredible pressure in the US to graduate a certain percentage of students to the next grade level every year. Your job may depend on it. After all, if kids are not learning, it has to be the teacher’s fault, right? Well, that is a partial truth. Every teacher has to take responsibility for the students entrusted to them. However, some things are beyond a teacher’s control.

You have no control over:

  • Kids who are promoted to your grade that should have been held back.
  • Kids who have emotional or mental disabilities and have not been diagnosed yet.
  • Parents who refuse to do their part.
  • Administration that insists on a quota system and does not support the teachers.

It is obviously very frustrating for anyone trying to teach with the deck stacked against them. It is not just frustrating, but is one of the primary factors for teacher burnout. I wish I knew who actually came up with the 3Rs. They were brilliant beyond their years. They understood that there is a basic foundation for teaching that has to be in place for learning to occur. Think of it as the 3 legged stool. If you don’t have one of the legs, you are going to fall, right?

If you can’t read, how do you comprehend written instructions? If you can’t write, how do you communicate with others in writing? If you can’t do simple math, how do you create a budget, understand when someone is cheating you financially, or even hold a job? These 3 basic cornerstones are critical to our health, welfare, and future.

Here is my simple wish list:

  • That every child master the 3Rs before they are graduated to the next grade level.
  • That every child be required to memorize the basic math tables before graduating to the next level. (Obviously this is grade specific. By 3rd grade they should have memorized the tables.)

Why would we want to promote a child to the next level if they have not mastered the basics? It is sad, but it happens every day. If we are doing the right thing as educators, we will make sure that every child gets what they need to succeed, but if they don’t, we have to be willing to hold them back till they are ready. Better they be held back as a child than to be held back or fail as an adult.

I realize this is a delicate subject and nobody wants to humiliate a child by holding them back. The problem is, if we don’t make the tough decisions for them now, those decisions will be made for them when they are grown. The problems do not go away; they compound. I hope we do the right thing for the kids sake and for our future. Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Need vs Want

Posted in Business, Funny, Motivational, Relationships

Need vs Want dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorWants can get you into trouble. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting something, but when you confuse wants with needs you are headed for some pitfalls. We live in a very materialistic age where it is easy to be consumed with stuff. It seems that we are constantly being bombarded with ads to buy this or that. You can’t be satisfied till you get THIS. Then you get it and say, “What was I thinking???”

Recognize this about wants:

  • They tend to be emotional decisions. You want that Mercedes, but you need reliable transportation and can afford only half as much. Be careful about making emotional decisions. Take the emotion out of it and think about the consequences. You may have to live with that decision for many years.
  • They are endless. There is always more to be had. Learn to be grateful for what you have and focus more on what is needed vs. what you want.
  • Wants and needs can be the same thing. When that is the case, go for it. Just make sure you are being truthful with yourself. You really NEEDED that 75” big screen TV because your eyesight was failing you…right???  LOL.

Advertisers will always play to your emotions. They want to create that hunger in your belly that can only be satisfied with their product. There is nothing wrong with advertisers doing their job. Just understand the game they play.

Relationships also fall prey to the wants vs. needs dilemma. People get into wrong relationships every day because they lose sight of what really matters. It is like the lyrics from the country song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Here is the contrast:

  • We want a mansion; we need a roof over our heads.
  • We want to get promoted; we need to do what we were hired to do without complaining.
  • We want a lot of money in the bank; we need to start saving, investing, and live within a budget.
  • We want a meaningful relationship; we need to learn to give instead of take.
  • We want the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. We NEED the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. Come on…you know we are due! LOL.

Next time you are making out your wish list of things you want, go through and ask yourself: “What do you really need?” Start with that list and you will have fewer regrets and a lot more peace.

Shalom!

 

Dan Skognes

Search for Significance

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Search for Significance dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

What are you worth? How can you put a price on something that is one of a kind? It is an age old question for which people seek to find the answer. Does my life matter? Why am I here? Does what I think and feel really mean anything in the scheme of life?

It is a deep subject and not easily answered in a brief blog, but here are a few thoughts to consider if you have ever had those questions or know someone who is struggling with their identity:

  • First and foremost, you have to realize that how you think and feel about yourself may be accurate, but it also could be distorted depending on your life circumstances and your own mental health. Nobody on this planet has had your life. They may have had similar circumstances and can “relate” to how you think and feel, but nobody has truly walked in your shoes. You are unique. Even identical twins are unique because of genetics and circumstances they each experience differently. So my point here is to value the fact that you are unique. There is a reason you are here. You have something to do that nobody else can do like you would.
  • When you question what your purpose is, that is both simple and complex. It is simple in that everyone has a purpose. It is complex in that you and only you can really determine what that purpose is. I, being a Christian, believe that God has created each of us for a “divine” purpose. When my will aligns with God’s will, the pieces start to fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. It may take a while to see the big picture, but eventually you understand the “what.” You may never understand the “why” of life, but the “what” CAN and needs to be found.

I use the Bible and God’s Holy Spirit to guide me in what I do. I realize not everyone shares my faith, but I am simply sharing with you what I have found. I believe God created me with various gifts. I have been told that I am outgoing and creative. I do love to be around people. I love to laugh and I find pleasure in the simple things of life. I discovered my passion for writing in 10th grade and have not stopped writing since. This is definitely part of my purpose…to instill salt and light in a world that is perishing by encouraging and inspiring people with my words. I just try to do my part and let God use my gifts as He sees fit.

Everyone has a purpose. It is up to each of us to discover what that is, then pursue it with all that we have. It is when we walk in our purpose that our steps have true significance. I hope and pray that you take the first step in discovering who you are and why you are here.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Critical Thinking

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Critical Thinking dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

The term “Critical Thinking” has almost become trite as it has become one of the most overused buzz-words in education. It is a great thing to teach someone how to think deeper. It is wonderful to see people question the how, where, when, and why something is done in order to get to the true answer. I wish we were all better at this.

However, there is a dark side to critical thinking. This is where someone has to criticize, berate, tear down, minimize, and basically trash the thoughts, aspirations, and accomplishments of others. This type of critical thinking stinks, and yet it seems many people have settled for having a shallow mind instead of deep thinking. Pretty sad, wouldn’t you agree?

It is easy to have a critical attitude when it comes to politics, religion, and relationships. They are all easy targets. It reminds me of the pot-bellied guy sitting in his easy chair watching the ball game and trash talking how the quarterback is a loser…and this guy never played Peewee Football much less in the NFL.

Having a critical attitude seems to be contagious too. Just go into a staff meeting and start spreading a juicy rumor about someone and see how it spreads. People seem to thrive on gossip…and not the good kind.

When you settle for having a critical attitude, you have gone from being a realist to a pessimist. You probably use the excuse that you are just calling it “real.” The problem is that the vile you spew is self-evident. Why do you feel compelled to tear someone else down? It does not make you bigger in the eyes of others; just the opposite. You are only fooling yourself if you believe that lie.

I have come to the conclusion that people do this because of their own insecurities. They feel compelled to tear down others in a sick way so they may somehow feel superior to them in their own mind. Pretty twisted way to think, and yet it is done every day in countries around the world.

Some days my biggest accomplishment is holding my tongue and not saying what I think. You can’t be a deep thinker if you stay in the shallow end of the pool. Let’s aspire to positive critical thinking and learn to elevate others. This is what we need to master as adults and teach the kids. If we are petty people, we are people to pity.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

The Point

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

The Point dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

Have you ever tried to make your point to someone and get that blank look from them in return? You know the deer in the headlights look? Of course you have; especially if you have kids or have taught school…or you are married. LOL. Getting your point across is tricky because it depends a lot on the receiver being “tuned in” to what you are trying to say. It also gets tricky because it is incumbent on you to deliver a message that they CAN receive.

Once when I was teaching a class of 3rd graders I had an encounter that drives home this issue. It was a math lesson. Need I say more?  LOL. It seems most of the world is challenged with math. I know I struggled with it as a kid. I will admit I am pretty good with basic math now, but only because I memorized my tables and I have had many years of practice.

On this particular day, we had explained a problem on the board. We have been going over this concept for a week, so this was review. We handed out the tests and told them to start. One child sat there staring at the paper. I went over to him and asked him if he understood the assignment. He nodded yes, so I encouraged him to get busy. A few minutes passed and he is still sitting there…like in a daze. I went over and asked him if he felt OK. He did…so I encouraged him to get to work. When he turned his paper in, he made a 30.

Now, in his defense, the class did not do particularly well on the test, so we re-taught it and had the kids who DID get the concept come to the board and explain how THEY did it. After retaking the test, most improved, but not so much our little friend. He got a 40 this time.

It turns out he can’t read…at least not at 3rd grade level. This would have been good for us to know, right? When we started doing math problems he would get stuck on words, but did not want to admit he could not read. Wow. My co-teacher and I just shook our heads. How did this kid get promoted to the 3rd grade? He can’t read, write, or do basic math. He is not a bad kid; just the opposite. He is one of the sweetest kids you can imagine. He is just slow because of his lack of reading skills and his comprehension suffers as a result. Why has he not been diagnosed with a learning disability before now?

We shall see how it is handled by those who make the decisions. My personal opinion is he should stay in 3rd grade and be given special assistance one on one and in smaller groups with special attention to reading and comprehension. Time will tell how that one plays out. I hope we don’t just promote him to make our numbers look better.

Just this week I went to a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee. It cost $2.87. I gave the high school girl $3 and then reached in my pocket to see what change I had. I had a couple of pennies to get rid of, so I handed them to her. She gave me that deer in the headlight look. She stared at the cash drawer a moment…then reached in and gave me a nickel back. I said, “I think you still owe me a dime.” Her manager happened to be observing and said, “She is still working on doing math in her head.” OK…but why do you put someone who can’t do simple math on a cash register? Why do teachers keep promoting kids who can’t read, can’t write, and can’t do simple math?

Maybe my point is pointless, as I feel like I am trying to change the course of the Titanic by waving at it. I do hope that parents and educators get this point however: If we expect our children to grow up into responsible adults, they have to know the 3Rs at the very least. The more we can get them to read on their own the better off they will be. The more we can get them engaged in class the more they will learn. The more practice they do outside of school, the better prepared they will be to move on to the next grade. Homework may be the best thing for them rather than having them zoned out on their XBOX or roaming the streets with their buddies.

If parents and educators don’t wake up, join up, and help kids grow up, we are going to have a bunch of kids who are dropouts, in trouble with the law, and doing things they have no business doing….like experimenting with drinking, drugs, sex, vandalism, etc. The parents and educators both have a responsibility to do their part. I hope and pray we do for the sake of the kids and our own sanity. Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Pursuit of Happiness

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Pursuit of Happiness dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorThe Declaration of Independence says that we have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers had great wisdom in forging the document that helped make America into the great country it is today, and these are three elements which mattered then and matter now.

The pursuit of happiness, however, has become an obsession to many and has in many instances muddied the waters for those who are seeking real meaning in their lives. Happiness is fluid. It comes and goes. It is subject to circumstances, feelings, and the consequences of decisions we make. The pursuit of happiness never ends.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Happiness is found in the journey, not the destination. If you are one of those who says, “I will be happy when (you fill in the blank),” you will never find what you seek. In fact, you are missing the blessings that are coming your way every day. You simply have to recognize the joy of the journey. There is happiness in the voice of a child, the greeting from your dog when you get home, a call from an old friend, helping out someone stranded on the road, the beauty of a rose, etc. You just have to open your eyes to what is going on around you every day. Quit focusing on that person in the mirror and experience the life that is literally passing you by.
  • To find happiness, you have to have a grateful heart. Nobody can truly be happy if they are not thankful for what they have. Learn the secret of contentment. Be content regardless of how much or how little you have. Long term happiness is never found in things, but is found in relationships. Use things. Love God and love people. Never get those confused.
  • Happiness is found in giving, not getting. When you give of your time, your talents, your resources, etc., you are investing in others. It never has been all about you or all about me, as much as we would like it to be. Learn to give if you really want to live.
  • You can never be fully happy if your heart is filled with hatred, bitterness, resentments, envy, or if you are unforgiving. Forgive those who have wronged you and let go of the chains of the past if you wish to find happiness.
  • True happiness is based upon love and peace. When you love God and love people, you begin to understand how to have peace and happiness in the midst of this chaotic world.

I hope and pray that your pursuit of happiness is blessed, and that you find the secret.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Victory Is Sweet

Posted in Business, Motivational

Victory Is Sweet dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorLet’s face it: losing hurts. Losing may suck, but victory is sweet because of the agony of defeat. If we never lost, we would never truly know the joy of winning. It is in the pain that we gain understanding of who we really are.

Mohammad Ali undoubtedly was one of the greatest athletes of all times…particularly in the boxing world. He knew both the joy of victory and the agony of defeat in and outside of the boxing ring. The thing that made him a champion was that he did not let the defeats keep him down. The defeats became his fuel to keep him focused on his goal of being “The Greatest.”

Whether you are an athlete, a teacher, preacher, businessman, or any other profession, you WILL face defeats from time to time. That’s life. How you handle defeat says more about who you are that just about anything else. Learn to take the defeats as temporary setbacks that will prepare you for what you want to do and propel you to be who you want to be.

Failing at something does not make you a failure unless you throw in the towel and give up on your dream.  Stay in the game. Refocus on what you want and determine what it will take to get there. You may have tried a thousand times and failed, but it just might be the next try that gives you your breakthrough.

You have to believe in yourself and your dreams. If you don’t believe in you, how can you possibly expect anyone else to? I am not talking about conceit. I am talking about a healthy self-confidence and a healthy self-awareness that encompasses your strengths and limitations.

Understand your weaknesses and work on them by all means, but focus on your strengths and maximize them. You can’t be great at everything, but there are probably a few things that you CAN do exceptionally well. Do more of THOSE.

Every loss has a lesson. Learn the lesson or be prepared to retake the test.  Whatever you do, don’t stay down. Seek to be “your greatest.” You may be tired, but you haven’t expired.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Tired Teachers

Posted in Business, Motivational

Tired Teachers dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorI wish everyone on the planet could be a teacher for a week. They need to see the hours that teachers put in. They need to see what teachers have to put up with. Lastly, they need to see why teachers are some of the most under-appreciated and under-paid people on the planet.

Most people don’t think about the fact that teachers are spending more time with your kids than you are! Don’t you think that someone you are entrusting your kids to should be paid well?  I admit that the pay for teachers has gotten better, but it is still far from the mark for services rendered. I know teachers that regularly have to take work home with them to finish. They are doing lesson plans, emailing parents, and grading their papers even on weekends. Then they “get” to spend time with their family. Some of these teachers are single parents too. Nobody has their back.

No wonder teachers are tired and burning out at an alarming rate. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • What is a fair rate to pay someone you have entrusted your children to? They are not baby-sitters. These are trained, well-educated professionals that are helping your child develop. In my mind, they should be in the 6 figure range for a full time teacher. Mark my word. There will be a school somewhere that gets this and the best of the best teachers will be flocking to them. There will be no shortage of quality teachers in that school. There will be a waiting line to teach and to sub, because the subs will also be paid double what they make elsewhere!
  • If you are an administrator, please try to quit putting all the extra duties on the backs of your teachers. It seems that it is not enough to be an outstanding teacher. You have to take on things like managing the Cheerleaders, heading up the yearbook project, or a host of other odds and ends that no teacher has time for. Here again, if the pay is commensurate with the duties, that problem is solved.
  • If you are an administrator, try to find more tangible ways to show the teachers that you are in their corner. Find out what are the little things that you can do to give back to them. Do they need a coffee maker in their rooms? Maybe you get one coffee maker that serves a wing of the school. Do they need snacks? Put in an affordable machine that takes cash and credit and has the types of snacks they love. Do they like free dress days (no uniforms or corporate attire)? Give them more of those.
  • Few teachers enjoy doing lunchroom and recess duty. Give them ways to rotate in those jobs or have volunteer parents to assist where needed. A strong PTA can pick up a lot of slack for the teachers in this area.
  • Consider giving teachers who have difficult students some special perks. Give them bean bag chairs, captain’s chairs, mini-tents, fun stools to sit on, rocking chairs, special lighting, etc. Note of warning: I bought 2 round balls for the kids to sit on and they were punctured within a week. Whatever is bought has to take daily beatings and still stand up. This should NOT have to come out of the teacher’s pocket! Special seating has proven to be a GREAT way to manage classrooms. Kids get to choose their seats and keep them for the day as long as they stay on task and don’t disrupt others.
  • Consider giving kids MORE recess time. It is a proven fact that kids who are allowed to expel more energy on the playground are then more focused in the classroom. Better that energy be expended on the playground, don’t you think?
  • Hire more Teacher’s Aides. As an Aide, I do lot of things for the teachers. I sub for them, make copies for them, and assist with classroom management and teaching. I am there so they can take occasional bathroom breaks. I currently work with five 3rd grade teachers. There is another Teacher’s Aide that works with me. I primarily work with 3 of the teachers and she primarily works with the other two, but we often float back and forth to cover one another.

Let’s do our part to start appreciating the Teachers and Educators in our lives. It has to be more than just words.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Storms

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Storms danskognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorI think the only people who like storms are storm chasers and weather men because it pays them, but I am not really talking about the weather here. I am talking about the storms of life, and nobody likes those! For one thing, the only people who get paid are psychotherapists, emergency rooms, drug dealers, and funeral homes!

A few things I have learned about the storms we go through:

  • Going through a storm is like looking in a mirror and really seeing who you are inside and out. It will reveal your fears, your faith, and who your real friends are.
  • Storms come when you least expect them and they often come in multiples. So, expect the unexpected.
  • It is probably a good thing to have a storm shelter. It might be your spouse, you Mom and Dad, a trusted friend, but don’t forget God. He is our ultimate shelter. Have someone you can turn to for advice and encouragement.
  • There are storms that we sometimes create for ourselves. When you do create one, don’t complain when it rains and you get caught in a flood.
  • There is good that can come out of a storm. People will come to your aid in incredible ways, God will answer prayers and build your faith, and you will see life through different eyes. Once you have been through a few storms, you will be able to encourage those who are in the midst of their own storm because you have been through the same thing yourself. You may be the rainbow after the rain for someone.
  • Like the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Learn to navigate and endure, but also learn to avoid storms.

I realize that life is tough for most people. We all have our storms to endure. It might be a failed relationship, a lost job, death of a loved one or dear pet. The list is endless. When you are facing a storm, just remember you are not alone. Seek your storm shelter…and by all means ask God to calm the storm and help you through it. He is often the only one who truly CAN.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Drama

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Drama dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorI admit it, I like a good drama. I like going to a play or a movie and seeing a good drama play out. What I don’t like (and I bet I will get a few amens here) is all the drama in my own life. The funny part is that I don’t go looking for it. Drama just seems to find me. It is called life. Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage; and all the men and women merely players.” Ain’t that the truth?!

As a teacher I am constantly approached by kids to join in the drama they are going through. I was laughing with one of my fellow teachers that we need a drama department. We have all these natural born actors! They can cry at the drop of a hat, scream for no apparent reason, or make you believe the sky is falling when they describe the horrid way someone cut in line ahead of them!

What is not so cute is the drama that adults want to get you to attend. Alas, misery loves company. “Woe is me! I am undone!” LOL, drum roll please. Drama is best kept between you, your maker, your spouse, and maybe your best friend (if they can be trusted). Beyond that it just becomes gossip. I realize how tasty a morsel of gossip can be, but if it is untrue, unkind, unfair, etc., what has it accomplished?

Next time you are invited to join into a drama that someone else is going through, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this person have a history of blowing things out of proportion?
  • Does this person want to stir up trouble for someone else?
  • Does this person want you to join in their misery?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, don’t attend the play. Refuse the free ticket. You will thank me later….even if you are “tempted” by the previews. We all have our own drama that we have to deal with. Why put your problems on other people unless they are a trained therapist, your spouse, best friend, or your dog? Dogs, by the way, are great listeners. You can tell them anything and they won’t repeat a word of it to anyone!  How cool is that?

Shalom!

Dan Skognes