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.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

K.I.T.

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.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

dysFUNctional

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.

Shalom!

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!

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Encourage

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.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Determination

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

There is an old joke that goes: After one of the catastrophic hurricanes that hit the coast of America, a news crew was cruising the area looking for stories. They came across a guy who was sitting on the rooftop of his home. Water was rushing by the house halfway up to the roof. The camera crew reached the man and started asking questions about his dilemma. As they were talking, they noticed that a hat floated down to the property line and then abruptly turned back and went to the opposite property line. Then it did it again and again. The reporter was dumbfounded. When he asked the homeowner what he thought it was, he said: “Aw, ain’t no big deal. That’s Jeb. He said he was going to mow his yard come hell or high water.”

How many of us do the Jeb thing? We do things that make absolutely no sense because we are determined to make it work? This problem isn’t just mine, is it?

I told a Sales Manager one time that I was like a Pitt Bull. Once I sink my teeth into something I don’t let go. It helped get me the job, but I think that philosophy is flawed if you live in the real world. There is a time to dig in and a time to let go. For us Pitt Bulls, letting go can cause a lot of pain because we can’t admit we bit off more than we could chew, or we bit into the wrong thing.  

If you are a strong-willed person, here is my advice:

  • Learn to let go at the right time. Holding on too long or letting go too soon can cost you. There is a time that is perfect…even for letting go.
  • Letting go does not have to mean you lose. It is a reflection of who and where you are and necessary for survival.
  • If it starts raining and you are mowing, pay attention.
  • Learn the lesson. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

In the words of the great Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Touched By An Angel

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

This is not about the TV show that was on many years ago. This is about a true life Angel that I work with. I had back surgery on Good Friday and came back to work on the following Tuesday. It was probably pushing it to come back that soon, but the rep for the medical device company told me that I would be able to resume work by Monday if I wanted to.

It turns out the Doctor recommends taking it easy for at least two weeks after surgery, but that was not communicated. Tuesday was a long day…no doubt. As I was doing my cafeteria duty, one of the teachers in my school came over to give me a hug and check on me. She asked me why I was back at work so soon. I told her I had used up my days off to go on the mission trip to Guatemala in December, and I burned up my last day on Monday to give me one more day of rest.  She said: “I have nine remaining days off. They are yours if you want them.” Wow!

When someone does something so unselfish, what do you do? It made me tear up. I laughed and told her, “It is not good to make an old man cry.” She reassured me that I could have her days off if I needed more time to recuperate. I thanked her profusely but told her I would only do that if it were a dire emergency. The act of her unselfish kindness made my day. It literally lifted my spirits at a time when I was getting pretty tired.

Things I learned:

  • People who advise you don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart (the sales rep).
  • Sometimes you don’t get the advice you need (the Doctor).
  • Even in difficult circumstance good things can happen (the Angel).
  • Angels are among us. She may not be an Angel in Biblical terms, but at the very least she is a Saint in my book.

I am truly grateful that we have a great team of people to work with. We have our issues from time to time, but when someone needs help, they are there.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

The Lesson

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

I don’t mean to be crude, but sometimes life sucks. I don’t know why things happen like they do, but there is always a lesson to learn. The question I have to deal with is: What now?

One of my fatal flaws is that I believe people will do the right thing. I believe them when they say they are doing something in my behalf. I believe them when they tell me that they are going to do it when they say they will do it. I believe that they have no hidden agenda. How stupid is that? Pretty naive, huh? Shouldn’t I have learned that lesson by now? Apparently not.

The lesson for me is that I have to start paying attention to red flags and gut checks. I have a bad habit of thinking the best even when people are manipulating me. I know God must be shaking His head when I don’t pay attention to the warning signs. Maybe I need some new glasses…at least spiritually.

I don’t want to be a skeptic and always suspect the worst in others, but somehow I have to get to the point where I can see the red flags and listen to the gut checks. I need to be able to see people for who they are, not who they say they are. It really bums me out how some people seem to have no conscience and do whatever they need to do to benefit themselves at the expense of others. It is particularly tragic when these people claim to have morals and scruples. Is it any wonder that some people scoff at people of faith?

It reminds me that I have to be a man of my word…always. Lord, help me to be someone who is authentic. Help me to be a giver…not a taker. Help me to love others the way You do, and help me to forgive those who have wronged me. Help me do what is right, not what’s convenient or just benefits me. Most of all, help me learn the lesson.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Prayers

Posted in Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Prayers are not our last resort. They are our first line of defense. I recently encountered a spiritual battle that kicked me in the gut. Most of the battles we face, by the way, are spiritual. We tend to think of things in the natural, but spiritual battles are going on all around us.

One of the dilemmas I faced recently had to do with people who listen, but don’t really hear you. I explained something critical several times to a couple of people and they nodded like they were tuned in. Then they did something incredible. They totally ignored what I said and did what THEY wanted (even though I was crystal clear on my expectations).

This created a huge problem for me personally and while I vented to a few close friends about the pickle I was in, I realized who had the solution. I prayed about it and God gave me a clear vision of what to do.

I did not explode on the people for what they did (although I could have and I literally could have sued them and won a ton of money and cost them their jobs). I calmly laid out the facts as they listened. They knew they were in the deep end of the pool with no life jacket unless I decided to give them one.

I did toss them a life jacket and asked them to help me get through the predicament that they had caused. I am not sure how all of it will play out yet, but I offered them a peaceful solution to a serious problem. All they have to do is give up some time on my behalf.

The funny thing is that God knew this was going to happen all along. While I got blindsided, God didn’t, and He has the perfect road map to get all of us through it. I believe God let this happen for me to show them mercy. Trust me when I say that mercy was not my first thought! I think God let this happen to them to teach them a lesson as well. Next time, I bet dollars to donuts they listen to who is talking to them and check for clarity.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes

Walls and Bridges

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

This is not about the border wall that has been talked about so much in political circles. It is much more intimate than that. This has to do with walls and bridges that we put up between us and other people: our spouse, our family, our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers (the people closest to us).

Even a fortress has a drawbridge.  Back in medieval times when a castle was built, if they really wanted to make it secure they built a moat around it. I don’t know if it had alligators or not, but just the fact that it was surrounded by water made it harder for someone to get in. The only way to get into the castle was over the drawbridge.

People have a way of putting up walls between themselves and others. Sometimes it is necessary because of abuse or neglect, but often it is just due to hurt feelings and lack of forgiveness. If it is abuse or neglect, be very careful about letting that bridge down. You should never allow anyone to abuse you.

If it is hurt feelings or lack of forgiveness that has caused you to build a wall, consider lowering the drawbridge and allowing the other person into your life again. Forgiving them is the first step in restoring a relationship. Open dialog can only happen if you are willing to talk to them about how your feel and try to understand how they feel.

I realize that it is an impossible dream to fully love everyone, but we can at least do our part, right? We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do. If we do the right thing and lower the drawbridge to allow others in, good things can happen. Don’t allow the fear of getting hurt keep you from having meaningful relationships. Fear and love won’t live in the same room. One of them has to go, and it might as well be fear that you let go of.

You can’t live a life of isolation and expect to reap anything close to peace, happiness, and contentment. Let go of the fear, lower the bridge, and learn to live fully and freely. Love is the bridge.

Shalom!

Dan Skognes