Miracle In Seattle

Posted in Motivational

Shaquem Griffin is not a household name yet. Shaquem made history this week by being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. What makes him unique? He only has one hand! His road to the NFL was next to impossible, and yet the impossible became reality because he never gave up on his dream.

The odds of playing in the NFL are greater than 1,000,000 to 1, so you know that to actually make it, you have to be better than good. You have to be great. Imagine doing that with only one hand!

He had a physical deformity in his left hand that was inoperable. His family made the hard decision to amputate it at age 4 to allow him to grow normally. His Mom’s greatest fear about losing the hand was how he would be treated by other kids. How was he going to take the staring and mean comments that inevitably would come his way? It was not an easy decision, but a necessary one if he was going to have any chance at growing up without a more severe limitation.

His handicap became the fuel to motivate him. He set out to prove the naysayers wrong. He became an incredible athlete. He was able to bench-press impressive weight using a prosthetic hand, and ran faster at his tryouts than any linebacker had done in 12 seasons.

Not only did he get drafted against all odds, but he has become an inspiration to the handicapped youth of America. Dreams can come true for those who are willing to endure and for those who have an unshakable confidence in themselves.

I can’t wait to see him in action. I used to just pull for the Cowboys, but last year the Eagles made me a fan (yes…I now root for them too), and now the Seattle Seahawks have made me a believer. Of course, when they play us, you know I will still pull for the Cowboys.

Great things are happening in the world of football. I love to hear stories that are so positive, uplifting, and motivational. Congrats to Shaquem and to the Seattle Seahawks!


Dan Skognes



Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

It starts early, doesn’t it? One of the first words kids learn to say is, “No!” I love to watch the interaction between kids. Since I teach in the elementary school area, I get to see it all. Kids can be cruel, and part of it is the inborn nature to rebel. It saddens me to see how some kids have this chip on their shoulder and are constantly ready for a fight. The pent up anger has to come out one way or another.

It seems that I spend too much of my day trying to defuse ticking bombs. What can we do as educators to help defuse the situations? Well, it is complicated for one big reason, many parents are the root of the problem. It does not really surprise me to see “attitude” in the parents when it is so evident in their kids. I am not blaming all parents. I know some kids just go off the track at some point and it is primarily the company they keep that is corrupting them.

I was consoling a friend of mine the other day over her child. The kid comes from a decent family but is making all the wrong choices. The Mom was brokenhearted. I hurt for her as I saw the agony of what she was enduring. If kids only realized the pain they were inflicting, perhaps they would think before they did some of the dumb things they do.

There is a rebellious spirit that seems to be quite prevalent in the kids today. It has always been there, but now it seems to be in your face. There is no fear of consequences and no remorse for actions.

I believe we are at a tipping point with education. We have been doing things that seem right, sound right, and just don’t work. If we don’t change our course, we are going to collide with the reefs ahead. The warning signs are all around us. The sirens are blaring. The question is: Is anyone listening? Does anyone care enough to make a change?

  • Kids need role models they can respect and learn from. We can do that even when they don’t get it at home.
  • We need to take the truly dysfunctional kids out of the schools and get them the counseling they need before someone else gets killed. It takes way too long to remove a troubled kid from school. I know why the schools do it. They don’t want to get sued and they have to prove that they have given the kid every possible opportunity to change.
  • We need to pray! I realize that many people scoff at prayer, but for me it is my first line of defense and my best offense. I pray over my school every day and throughout the day.
  • We do need parents to get involved and monitor who their kids are hanging with and what they are doing on the internet. Too many parents let their kids do their own thing and strive to be their buddy instead of their parent. That does not work. Kids needs structure. They need to know the rules and understand that there are always consequences for their actions.
  • We have to change the way we teach. You can’t reach every child the same way. Everyone has a different way of learning and comes to school with their own unique background and individual issues….yet we try to homogenize them and blend them all together. The blender does not work. The truth is, it never did. We just are more aware of it now since they took discipline and prayer out of schools.

No easy fix here, but we can change the course of the ship if we don’t ignore the warning signs.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Have you ever wondered where motivation comes from? Most of us have been to hear a motivational speaker at some point in our lives. We take notes, agree that this is great stuff, then leave and don’t do anything different. What happened?

Hardly a day goes by where we as teachers try to figure out how to get particular students motivated. How do we get them to WANT to learn? I don’t think there is any secret formula to motivating people. The truth is….motivation has to come from within. We really can’t motivate other people. The only person we can truly motivate is ourselves. We have to come to the point where the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.

Obviously there are many things that can help motivate us in the right direction. The greatest motivator I have found is something that we can all do: love them. When you teach kids (or adults for that matter), they seem to sense it if you really care for them or if you are just punching the clock and living for the weekend.

When we are able to love a student for who they are, hold them accountable for their work, and encourage them along the way, there is a great chance that they will eventually come around. The kids who come from dysfunctional homes are numerous and probably one of the greatest challenges we face as educators. The kids get caught in the crossfire and then are dropped off at school for the day.

I am writing this to every teacher who has that kid or kids who just don’t fit in. They come to school with attitude. They pick fights and have a hard time getting into the routine of the day. They would rather be anywhere but school. We just have to give them hope. That is it. If they believe that things CAN change for the better, they will have hope. If they believe that at some point they WILL understand math, they WILL be able to read, and they WILL be able to get along with other kids…they will have hope.

Hope is a beautiful thing. We all need it to survive in this crazy world we live in. Give your students the two things they need most to get motivated: hope and love.


Dan Skognes

What’s In A Name?

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Well, if it is YOUR name, there is a lot in it. It is at the core of your identity. It is one of the first things you hear in life and you cherish hearing people say it. Everyone wants their name known.

Hardly a day at school goes by where I don’t have a kid ask me, “Do you know my name?” Honestly, that is something I have struggled with most of my life, but I am working on it diligently. If I know the kid’s name, they smile and go away happy. If I don’t, I make up something crazy, like “Captain America or Oprah.” At least it gets me off the hook for the moment.

It is easy to remember the names of two types of kids. This first ones excel in class and never cause any problems. Star students naturally stand out for the right reasons. The other ones are the troubled kids. You know them because they constantly disrupt your class and you seem to call out their names every time you turn around.

But what about the other 80% of kids who are your average students. Do you know their names? Do you know their hopes, dreams, and fears? Do you even notice they are absent when they don’t show up?

Here is my challenge not just to you but to myself. Know the 80% like you do the other 20%. Make an effort to call them by name as often as possible…not just when you are correcting them. When we call kids by their name, we reinforce several things in them:

  • Who they are.
  • That we care enough to know their name.
  • That they matter.

Kids have fragile egos that we can help shape, reinforce, and motivate to success. When kids know they are loved, free to be themselves, and accepted for who they are, they tend to have less drama in their lives and in the classroom. It begins at home, of course, but it is reinforced at school.

As educators, we have a sacred responsibility to not just teach the 3 Rs, but to teach life. Life is hard and can be brutal at times for all of us. Give kids the chance they need to succeed. It begins by loving them and calling them by their name.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

It stands for Keep In Touch. At school I regularly greet the kids when they arrive and then I greet them in the halls and classes. The lunchroom takes on a different look simply because so many kids are there at one time.

When I stand at the door of the cafeteria and greet the kids coming in, many of them want to give me a high five or fist bump. Some give me hugs. Some just smile. The fun begins when the little kids want to give me a high five. I intentionally raise my hand as high as I can over my head. I immediately hear a bunch of giggles as about ten kids gather around me trying to give me a high five, but of course none come close. When I lower it so they can reach my hand, they say, “No! Raise it high!” They love the challenge of the game.

Sometimes I will hold my hand down low for them to hit it, but pull it away just as they try to high five me. It is hilarious how some of them get obsessed with winning the game. They will literally chase my hand around my body trying to hit it.

At the end of my cafeteria duty I go to the Teacher’s Lounge for lunch and pass by about 300 4th graders, many of whom I taught last year. The 4th grade teachers are in the hallways with the kids trying to keep them quiet and in line…then I come around the corner. The kids grin and one of them sticks out a hand for a high five. Instinctively kids down the line hold out their hands. I go down the line (much to the chagrin of the 4th grade teachers) giving high fives to all who want one. I know that the teachers probably wish I would go down another hallway…but these are still my kids. They will always be my kids. It is literally a way for me to keep in touch with them…and they love it.

Everybody needs someone to keep in touch with them. There is power in a simple touch. It lets them know you care. Keep in touch with those that cross your path. You may be the one to give them the hope they need to make it through the day.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Funny, Motivational, Relationships

I learned early in life that people are messed up. When I was in 1st grade, the teacher sent me and Johnny down to another teacher’s room to get some supplies. So what did we do? We did what any red-blooded kid would do. We RACED! As soon as we got to the door I proudly exclaimed, “I WON!!!!” My joy was short-lived. The teacher asked a stupid question: “Were you boys running in the hall?” We immediately had the look of shame come over us. She then sent us to the Principal’s office to tell HIM what we did. Good Lord. What HAD we done? We both got a spanking for that. I never even got to plead my case or let him know that I WON!

Later that same year one of the boys in the neighborhood thought it would be funny to push me into the mud at school. It WAS funny….for him. I was mortified. How was I going to explain this to Mom? Later that day there was a knock on our front door. I went to the door with Mom and guess who was there? The kid who pushed me into the mud was on our porch, and he wanted to know if I wanted to come out to play! No apology. No clue that he had done me any wrong. I just looked up at Mom and said, “Nope,” and shut the door. LOL. He had that surprised look on his face.

Recently in one of my classes there erupted loud laughter when one of the boys decided to cut the cheese. Everyone was holding their nose and giggling. Inside I was laughing so hard, but I stoically looked at the group and said, “Everyone does that. It is just a natural body function. We just don’t do that in public.” I thought I had put it to rest, but no…one of the boys called me out when he said, “But Mr. Dan…didn’t YOU think it was funny when you were a kid?” Dad-gum it! What was I going to do? Lie? I could have told them about the contests we had…but I just admitted that I did laugh when I was a kid and redirected them back to the project at hand.

The school counselor and I were talking about it and he started reminiscing about being in school and discussing the planets. He would always start laughing when they talked about the planet with the anatomical name. I told him about one teacher that was teaching about the planets and she used THAT planet as her example. She said, “Just imagine you live on Uranus. What would you see there? What things grow there?” OMG. The class was trying so hard not to laugh and I think I was coughing to cover up my laughter. She never knew what she said was so funny but I was crying from it.

Here is what I know about dysfunctional people: they honestly don’t know most of the time that they are dysfunctional. Everyone but them can see it apparently, but that does not change the fact that they are in dysfunctional bliss. There are a couple of things to do with dysfunctional people.

  1. Correct them, but do it in private. Shaming them is dysfunctional on your part, so don’t stoop to that.
  2. Realize that you may have to put some space between the two of you…especially if they refuse to change

I hate to break this to you, but everyone is dysfunctional at some level. We all have our flaws…even ME, and I am Superman! :o) Just admit it and you are on the road to becoming a responsible adult. I admit that I don’t like being an adult all the time. Sometimes I want to just be a kid and burp really loudly in class…..but alas…I must be proper. I am, after all…an adult. The good news for me is that I can write about it and tell the world! LOL.


Dan Skognes

Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

Posted in Business, Motivational

I love happy endings. Andre Ingram is a 32 years old man (old in basketball terms) and has played for the last 10 years in the minor league. He tutored math to supplement his $19,000 a year salary. The thing is, he never gave up on his dream of playing in the major league.

He recently got called up by the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic Johnson gave him the offer to come and play for one of the major league’s best known teams. Andre did not just show up for his first game. He stole the show. He scored 19 points in his first game and that included 4 three-pointers! The crowd was chanting MVP, MVP!

After the game the coach awarded him the game ball. I was so happy for him to finally see all of his blood, sweat, and tears pay off. He deserves to be playing in the big league…obviously. We will never know what would have happened if he had been drafted 10 years ago, but we do know that he made history this week.

Best of luck to you Andre. God bless you and thanks for not giving up on your dreams. You have given a lot of young athletes hope, and you’re an inspiration to us all. You reminded us that dreams really do come true for those who are willing to endure.


Dan Skognes

Great Teachers

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Great teachers don’t necessarily aspire to be great, but they do have lofty goals. They are the game-changers of education. They question bureaucracy and challenge things that don’t make sense.

I had a couple of great teachers in my life. That is kind of sad when you think about all the teachers I have had, but I am so thankful to have had them nonetheless. They were the ones that taught me to write creatively and helped me think visually.

They painted word pictures when they taught. I wasn’t just reading about Washington crossing the Delaware. I was in the boat with him, heart pounding, the wind blowing in our faces as we wrote history. I did not just read about Julius Caesar. I was there with him and his inner circle, listening to the whispers of those who wished him dead.

Great teachers are not just good story tellers. They don’t just engage the mind. They develop relationships. They make you want to do well in their class. I instinctively wanted to do my best…and I did. Their praise and encouragement were the fuel for my fire. They ignited my creativity, my drive, and my desire for excellence.

Every teacher has greatness in them, just as every student does. For a teacher to step into greatness they have to dive in the deep end of the pool. They have to shed their fears and learn to swim as fast as they can. The beauty is, one great teacher can affect thousands of lives. Every child they teach has a positive ripple effect for generations to come.

I hope you give your best every day. I realize there are days where you just don’t feel like teaching.  That is what separates the best from the rest. When you can give all you have, love the kids, teach the curriculum, encourage and guide them….all while your head is pounding and you just want to lay down somewhere, those are the days that reveal your true character.

I think some days are like playing Survivor. You have all these crazy things to get done…and you just need a piece of chocolate and a coffee to help you through the day. To all the teachers who consistently give their best: Thank you!


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

When we encourage people, they can face life “in courage.” Everyone faces times that they just need someone to come alongside them and say, “It is going to be OK. This too shall pass. I am here for you .”

Life is strange and unfair. Good people get blindsided and unjust people get blessed. Makes you wonder what is going on. Before you jump on me about calling anyone good or judging someone as unjust, tell me that you don’t look at stuff that happens sometimes and just scratch your head.

A good case in point is a wonderful Christian lady that came into our lives several years ago. We became friends at the dog park, and it was apparent that we were destined to be more than just friends. Joann is one of the Godliest women I know. She never complains and is always ready to lift up someone else.

When I was going through a terrible financial situation several years ago, I did not know what to do. I had prayed about it but the pressure just kept mounting. Then we met Jo Ann. We barely knew her when she came by our house one day after meeting with us in the park. She gave us a card of encouragement and a little book called Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray to read. When we opened the book, there was a check for $2,200. Wow. Who does stuff like that? She hardly knew us at the time. My wife and I just sat there and cried together at the grace of God and how he uses people to answer prayers.

Jo Ann told my wife recently that she has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She is refusing to go through chemo and is just making the best of it till she meets God face to face. My wife and I are not sure how to encourage someone like Jo Ann. We are not ready to let go of her. I realize we have no control over the when or how it will happen, but why cancer? Why does she have to suffer? Why her of all people? I realize there is no use asking why, but you can’t help but wonder.

We are going to encourage Jo Ann as best we can, but more importantly, she has reminded me of the grace of God. It is enough regardless of what we are facing. His grace is amazing, and we just need to be reminded of it from time to time to encourage one another. God is there with us. He does not promise us a carefree life, but he promises to be with us through it all and to meet our needs. That give me hope.

HOPE stands for: Hang On Pain Ends.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational

I love competing and winning…who doesn’t? Competing tests our limits. It forces us to break through boundaries we once thought were impossible. Competition is the light that reveals champions. It separates the men from the boys….the amateurs from the pros…the winners from the losers.

I know some people will make the argument that they only compete with themselves. Honestly, I don’t get that. I always compete with myself, but when I compete with others…it takes me to another level, especially when they excel at what they do. When I am competing with someone who is better than I am, it makes me better. Iron sharpens iron. When we compete with others the cream rises to the top. If all I ever do is compete with myself, how do I truly improve? It seems to me that I am setting a low bar to attain if that is my benchmark.

Yes, we need to compete with ourselves, but we need to compete with others to stretch, grow, and break boundaries that we thought we could never attain. If we only compete with ourselves, does that truly make us champions? I don’t think so. When we have conquered our fears, our personal goals, and our self-imposed limitations…that is certainly a level of success, but when we do that AND compete with others and win, then the meaning of champion takes on a new definition. It has depth and significance.

We can settle for the easy route of just competing with ourselves, but if we want the meaning of champion to have any substance…we have to compete with ourselves and others. That is when victory is sweet. That is when we create memories that matter. That is when we make history.

I hope you excel not only in what you attempt to accomplish, but in also in all that really matters to your life and your purpose. May you be the champion that God designed you to be. Just remember that champions don’t just go for their goal; they go for the gold.


Dan Skognes