The Science of Play

Posted in Business, Motivational

The Science of Playing dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator1“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers.

As a teacher I love to watch kids play. They want to know what the rules of the game are and EVERYONE has to play by the rules. They love it when they win and you see their eyes dance when they get the right answer. “Yes!” they exclaim, and they high-five one another.

When you teach kids, you are missing out if you don’t incorporate play into your activities. This can be done with any subject and any age. It trains their minds to think strategically, collaboratively, and competitively. It teaches them valuable social skills that they will use all their lives. You don’t have to have a lot of props either. A white board and erasable marker will do.

By the way, kids LOVE using the erasable markers. I remember the first time I was teaching and I saw kids writing gleefully on their desks with markers. I freaked out! I thought they were permanent markers and they were ruining the desks. The kid I scolded looked at me with a puzzled look and then just removed the marks with the wipe of her hand. I laughed and realized there was a lot that had changed since I was in school. I apologized and gave her another marker.

I used Hangman the other day to teach kids some new words. They loved it. I have seen various games used in classrooms….Jeopardy, Password, Wheel of Fortune, and Flash Cards to name a few. You can get elaborate or just keep it simple, but use playtime to teach. The kids will enjoy it and you will be a lot less stressed as the kids are actually engaged instead of picking on one another. They will also help you keep everyone engaged when you tell them that they all have to participate or NOBODY gets to play.

Get creative and have some fun in your class. Let me know what games you use to teach your kids. A child learns best when they are allowed to be themselves and when the learning environment is appropriately stimulating their senses. You engage their mind when you engage their imagination.


Dan Skognes

Girls Rule

Posted in Funny, Motivational, Relationships

Girls Rule dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator1When I am talking to little kids, sometimes I will say things to shock them. It is hilarious!  I ask them, “Are you married?”  LOL. Or, I ask them, “Is this your boyfriend?”  They squirm and shout, “NOOOOOOO! Ewwwwwww!!!”  LOL.

The little kids haven’t quite figured it out yet. Girls rule. There was a great quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding that went something like this: “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants.”  There is so much truth to that.

Another favorite line of mine was from Jesse Jackson.  He was being interviewed and asked about his marriage of 25 years to the same woman and what he attributed his successful marriage to. He said, “In my marriage, I make ALL the important decisions. However, let me add that in 25 years we have yet to have an important decision to make.”  LOL.

Funny how girls go from having cooties to making guys go crazy over them in the matter of just a few years. I was telling a young boy this the other day. I told him, “You want her to treat you like a king?” He said, “Yes!”  I said, “Then treat her like a queen.” This is the problem with so many relationships. The boys / men have not recognized the queen.

I intervened in an argument that a little boy and girl were having at lunch in the cafeteria. The little girl complained how rude the boy had been to her. I looked at him and said, “You had better treat her right. When you mess with her, you mess with me.”  She smiled and gave me a high five.  LOL.

Let me just say that my wife is the queen. I admit it. She rules my heart. I love her and serve her gladly. I am fortunate to have her in my life and I recognize the gift that she is to me. She is like a delicate flower….beautiful, unique…and with a funny way of talking (she IS from Arkansas…LOL). The day I met her, she had me at hello… borrow another famous movie line. She batted those big brown eyes at me and I melted.

So, if you are a guy….wise up and serve the queen. It sure makes life more exciting when you rule together….loving each other, serving one another, and facing the issues of life together. There is a proverb that says a house divided cannot stand. Let the queen know you will be there to serve her and you will have her attention. Stand up to defend her and provide for her and you will have her heart.


Dan Skognes

Teacher Burnout

Posted in Business, Motivational

Teacher Burnout dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorThere is a problem sweeping education that is serious and needs to be addressed. Teacher burnout is quietly spreading throughout the halls of schools everywhere, and yet it is like the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule. Nobody wants to admit it exists and actually do something to fix it.  How do you fix something that is so widespread and massive? How do you address a problem that is not acknowledged as real?

If you are a teacher:

  • Realize that you will never have enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. You have to learn the art of prioritizing. Do those things that are important and resist the temptation to do that which is urgent.
  • Collaborate and solicit all the help you can get. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There are tons of resources at your fingertips on the web and in the minds of those you work with. Use them!
  • Recognize your own worth. Every teacher has those days where they wonder if what they do really matters. It does! Educating kids is one of the greatest callings you can have on your life. What you do is shaping the hearts and minds of generations to come. You matter. Thanks for all you do and the sacrifices you make every day.
  • I know the long hours you put in. I know the pressures you have coming at you from every side. Breathe….and take it one day at a time. Quit beating yourself up over mistakes you have made, and quit worrying about tomorrow. Just do your best today.
  • When you are feeling stressed to the max, take time for yourself. Do something you like to do to unwind and refresh. If you don’t, you will have serious health consequences. Make taking care of yourself a priority so you can be fit for the challenge that teaching gives every educator.

If you are a Principal or Superintendent:

  • Give your teachers the support they need. It is more than lip service. It is giving them the resources they need to do their jobs. This includes copy machines that work, fresh coffee every day, sanitary and fully functioning adult bathrooms, classrooms that are cleaned properly every night, etc. These are the little things that matter to teachers.
  • Give teachers the manpower they need to support their efforts. This includes all the ancillary services…Special Ed, Nursing, Front Office, Security, House Keeping, Counseling, IT, Maintenance, etc. Having holes in any of these areas causes great stress on the team.
  • Give teachers the recognition they so richly deserve. Find ways to celebrate them every day. The worst thing you can do is to take them for granted.
  • Increase the pay for teachers. Public servants should all be paid more (in my humble opinion).

If you are a Parent or just an Adult in general:

  • Treat teachers with TLC. They need to know that what they do matters, and that you appreciate them. Thank them every chance you get.
  • Quit expecting teachers to be the parent for your kids. You have to support teachers and show respect for them, or the kids will reflect your poor attitudes at school, and you will reap the consequences of their bad behavior.
  • Join the PTA. Get involved and give back both physically and financially. Every extra effort you give helps them focus on doing what they were hired to do…educate your kids.

If we all recognize the elephant in the room and address the issues, we can do something to stop the burnout trend. Losing good teachers are bad enough, but the great ones we lose are too costly to count.


Dan Skognes

Effective Teachers

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Effective Teachers dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorAs a teacher’s aide I get to assist in a variety of settings and work side-by-side with numerous professionals. Some are very experienced, and some are brand new. Longevity does not always equate to the best teaching methods, however.

I am a student of human behavior, so I constantly observe to see what works and what does not work with kids. Here are a few things that might help you become a more effective teacher:

  • You don’t have to yell at kids to get their attention. I have seen teachers use very low key methods for getting the attention of very rowdy classes and do it without ever raising their voices. Some of them raise their hand and wait for every student to raise their hand. One by one they get the message. The message is clear…when the teacher’s hand is raised, be silent and look at the teacher. Another teacher said: One, two, three, eyes on me. The kids responded: One, two…eyes on YOU. I was shocked at how well that one worked! Another teacher uses a hand clap that they mimic to get their attention. Whatever works for you….do it without yelling. Too many kids are yelled at when they are at home. You can’t yell loud enough to get the attention of some of these kids. Don’t fall into that trap.
  • The teachers that are extremely effective give clear direction, set the expectation for the project at hand, and then circulate to make sure everyone is on task and understands. They check regularly to see if someone is stuck or not engaged.
  • Effective teachers give kids not just “the what” but “the why.” Kids want to know why they are doing something. What is in it for them? Isn’t that what everyone wants to know when given an assignment? Nobody likes busy-work that is pointless. Let them know how it is going to benefit them. That is the basics of selling, by the way. You sell the sizzle…not the steak, and if you are teaching…you ARE selling. You are selling kids on your ideas, your thoughts, your feeling, and the curriculum at hand. Happy selling.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Inclusion dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

The loneliest place to be is alone in a crowded room. You know the feeling: you walk into a room and you don’t know a soul. Everyone seems to know somebody in the room…everyone else but you, that is.

Imagine what it must be like for a child going to school. I do intervention work with students who have learning disabilities. These kids have a lot in common with old people…they don’t like change. One particular day was challenging for a girl who had her schedule changed. She had just become comfortable with her current routine when it had to change again to accommodate her needs in all of her classes.

You would have thought that she had lost her Mom or Dad. It was that traumatic for her. She confided in us that she did not have any friends in the new class and she was lonely. The teacher asked some of the kids to reach out to her and befriend her. When they did, she lit up. That small act of kindness helped her get back on solid ground again.

When you see a child that is sitting alone it is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could be a clue to some deeper issues if it is habitual. If they are continually alone in a crowded room, they probably need someone to say, “Hi.” That small act of kindness just might be the thing that gets them grounded again. Look for them next time you are at a large event. You will see them standing like wall flowers. They need someone to help them bloom.

Everyone knows that introverts are not likely to reach out first to a stranger; it is not in their nature. If they are introverted with learning disabilities, you can be assured they will not. They need someone to not just see them….but to reach out and engage them. As teachers, parents, and educators, we need to be the ones to facilitate inclusion. If we don’t care, how can we expect the kids to?


Dan Skognes

The Power of Our Mind

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

The Power of Our Mind dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorAn ancient proverb says: As a man thinketh in his heart…so is he. That is pretty deep to comprehend, but what we think gives birth to who we are. That is why it is so important to take every thought captive. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford. Obviously this does not apply to the absurd. You might think you can fly off the edge of a mountain, but you better have a parachute, plane, or bird suit if you expect to survive.

Our brains are the most powerful computers ever made. They work non-stop computing, figuring out things, and helping us live our daily lives. It is pretty amazing when you think about what the brain can do!  If only we would USE it properly. OK, you want to me to burst your bubble? There is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity. According to the Scientific American, that is hogwash (as we say here in Texas).

“It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that most of the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. “Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.”

So if that is true, then why do some people seem to be so smart and some so lacking? That is a complex question, and I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here is what I do know about the brain:

  • Some folks think quickly and others more methodically. The ones that think quickly may appear smarter, but they also can be more impulsive and prone to make poor decisions because they don’t think things through.
  • Some folks can be quite intelligent and yet lack common sense. They make decisions that are illogical as a result and thus appear to be ignorant…despite having a high IQ.
  • Some folks have bought in to the lies spoken over them and come to believe they are less than they really are. That is a tragedy that they have come to believe they are somehow flawed because someone else said they were.

The mind is a wonderful thing when used for good, and tragic when it is wasted. This is one reason I hate drug and alcohol abuse. It robs people of their mental capacity. One of the things I love about teaching kids is this: If I can help them think deep and wide, then they have the opportunity to do things that they might otherwise think impossible. As the story of the little train suggests…..”I think I can, I think I can…..I knew I could…I knew I could.” What we think matters. Our mind is what separates us from all other forms of creation. Every one of us can change the world. How awesome is that?

I want to end with a poem that sums it up nicely:

“If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”

Walter D. Wintle


Dan Skognes