The Right Tool

The Right Tool

 Have you ever struggled to make something work and then all it once it comes together when you try another strategy – or tool?

That’s how learning is. When students find the right tools that fit the way they learn, they can conquer just about any material. Memorization, organizing ideas, notetaking, managing deadlines, putting together a paper or project are all easier with a system, a structure or a simple tool that brings the pieces together. Fortunately, there are some wonderful free, effective resources out there and my “Monday Mission” for the next few weeks is to tell you about my favorites.   

Today let’s take a look at the free learning and productivity app called GoConqr. Perfect name for a Monday, right? GoConqr is packed with versatile features that are useful for teachers, students and project/study groups alike. Create, save and share quizzes, mind maps, flowcharts, flashcards and notes and use them anywhere/anytime with easy from both a desktop or mobile device. You can also easily embed what you create into other tools you’re using. While you’re checking it out, take a look at the  library of materials that have already been created to help you get started. 

Here’s to a great week. And now, fly!

 

Julie

College Transition Advice Books

College Transition Advice Books

It was so fun to see photos of freshmen move-in day at my alma mater this week. It brought back so many happy memories and reminded me of what a huge leap it is to leave the security of high school and home and plunge all-in to a whole new journey. 

Today’s Weekly Reads represent my favorite “how to” books for students heading off to college. There are hundreds of these titles available but these are a few that stand out.

How to Win at College by Cal Newport

I’m not one to quote book jackets but in this case, the comments hit the mark. How to Win at College proves that “success has little to do with being a genius workaholic, and everything to do with having the right game plan.” 

 

Getting the Best Out of College. A Professor, A Dean and A Student Tell You How to Maximize Your Experience by Peter Feaver, Sue Wasiolek and Ann Crossman 

Great practical advice for a broad range of college challenges and choices that come up from students AND their teachers.  What I love most about this one though is that advice is given within the perspective that college is an investment and your first job as a student is to grow it through wise choices, saavy moves, and taking thoughtful advantage of what is offered. 

 

First in the Family. Advice About College From First-Generation Students by Kathleen Cushman

You might be the first in your family to go to college but with the community you’ll come to know in this book (and the first rate advice they provide) you’re not going it alone. From the introduction, “Whether you attend a private four-year college, a state university, or the local community college, you have much to learn from others who have gone before you. In this book, students like you lend a hand along your college journey.”

 

Making the Grade With ADD: A Student’s Guide to Succeeding in College With Attention Deficit Disorder by Stephanie Sarkis. 

Written by a licensed mental health counselor who has ADD herself, this guide covers academics, money management, health issues, relationships with friends and intimates, and planning for the future.

 

Congratulations New Collegians!

 

Julie

Happy Monday, How is back-to-school going?

Whether your classes are off to a fast start or are unfolding at a more leisurely pace, now is the time to get into a strong study groove.

How about a couple of indispensable tools to set the semester up right?!

The first is Quizlet. Every student I have worked with will tell you that note cards are my #1 go to. Quizlet ups this study technique by taking it virtual. You start by creating flashcard sets for the material you want to study using what we call spaced repetition. (Spaced repetition is just a fancy way of saying repetition over time.) Then, using your cards, Quizlet will help you review across your devices and in different study modes. Bonus – you can share your cards with classmates or, find cards that are already created in Quizlet’s library.  And, no paper cards to keep track of.

For some students, the worst part of writing a paper is formatting the bibliography. With ZoteroBib, that’s no longer a challenge. It’s free, you don’t need to download any software, and you can set up a bib in multiple formats such as APA, MLA, Chicago / Turabian, Harvard etc.

And now, fly!

     

    Julie

    Weekly Reads

    Weekly Reads

    Weekly Reads

    Everybody ready for Back-to-School? Or, dreading the return of homework? Today’s Weekly Reads are a few of my top study skills guides that will make all the difference this year. 

    How to Learn. A Guide for Kids and Teens by Barbara Oakley, Terrance Synowsk and Allistair McConville.

    I like this one for late middle school and early high school. Teaches study and learning tips through the lens of understanding a bit about how the brain works. 

     

    Learning to Learn by Gloria Frender. 

    I’ve been recommending this book FOREVER. The illustrations are a little cliché but the tips and techniques still pack a punch. Mastering even just a handful of Gloria’s tools will yield happier study time and stronger grades. Great for early middle school students.  

     

    What Smart Students Know by Adam Robinson

    Way more than a collection of study hacks, the ideas in this book take some thought work and practice. But, the underlying idea is that you learn to teach yourself which is a transformative skill that will work with any subject and any grade level. For high school students.   

     

    How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Maslish

    For parents dreading the frustration of homework time, this might help. The sequel to the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen has great strategies for effective communication, reduction of conflict and ultimately will help you raise a self-directed, self-motivated learner. 

     

     

    Happy Reading!

     

    Julie

    Fast Flight Monday: Back-to-School Shopping List

    Fast Flight Monday: Back-to-School Shopping List

    With the summer winding down (or at least by measure of the calendar – it’s going to be 100+ degrees where I am today) I’m getting my annual happy feels for the start of a new school year.  There’s something about seeing those displays of shiny boxes of new crayons appear in the stores that hits me with a big doses of both nostalgia and optimism every August. 

    With COVID-19 surging back, I find myself a little sad too, and longing for a future less driven by this horrible virus. To cheer myself up, I did a little on-line school shopping and here are a few of my finds. I hope they make you laugh or smile just a bit – or make life just a little easier.  

    • For the Lunchbox:  “The PB-JIFE” is a specially designed knife for stirring, scooping and scraping peanut butter out of big jars without getting your knuckles all peanutty.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, Amazon etc.  
    • For the Backpack: Earlier this summer when vaccines were on the rise and COVID in retreat, I got out of the facemask habit and I’m struggling to remember a mask – especially if I’m flitting from place to place. I imagine kids might experience the same and I got excited when I saw these mask lanyards. Love the functionality but also the personality!  This link https://mommypoppins.com/kids/how-to-make-a-mask-lanyard-or-chain will take you to a mom with a DIY tutorial for the beaded version you see here. Mask lanyards are also available at places like Staples and Target. 
    • For the brain: We still have a little time to dust the cobwebs off before jumping back into the books. Math is one of those subjects that requires practice. Each concept builds on the one before so if a student doesn’t quite “get” something, moving on to the next level can be frustrating. Here are two free sites with math games that will help your student review. And did I mention they’re games? 

    Prodigy Game https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/

    Math Playground https://www.mathplayground.com/

    Just Keep Showing Up

    Just Keep Showing Up

    Time for a Franklin Friday!

    I’ve never had a puppy quite like Franklin. For his first four months as a part of my family, he wasn’t a particularly happy baby. A strong wind, an errant sound he’d not heard before, or the slightest change in his routine brought out his worst. He was fearful, always on alert, and reluctant to play. Other than the occasional interest in food or a treat, he was motivated by something known only to him. 

    In other words, I had no idea what was going on in his head.

    His one form of consistent communication was biting. Hard. Being hungry, needing to go outside, even feeling sleepy and wanting to be put into his crate would all rate a blood-drawing chomp. Despite more training techniques and recommendations than I can count – day after day of life as a dog chew left me feeling rather hopeless.  

    Not only did I feel like a failure, but I was struggling with not liking him very much which is really hard to admit. Who can’t love a cute little puppy? It’s easier said than done when you’re in a constant battle with no common language or avenues through which to understand one another.  Every night, I’d take an accounting of my wounds and go to bed angry.

    Ever feel like that with a student? Over the years I can recall a few who were their own version of Franklin; scared, frustrated and desperate to be heard. These are the students you don’t forget – the “emotional biters” who lashed out in an effort to tell you what they needed , which was often a complete mystery. If you’re big enough to acknowledge it – these are the students who were really hard to like. 

    I saw one of those students from my past recently and am thrilled to say that he’s doing well; a full educated, starting a family, and happy where he is.  As we caught up and shared our lives since the days when we were regularly locking horns, we had a frank conversation about the mutual frustrations we shared back then, complete with a truly beautiful moment of honesty in which he shared that despite the fact he hated me most days, that I helped him be better.  He made me feel exactly the same way. 

    I asked him what got him through the anger and the deep doubts of his own self worth that he carried with him back then and he replied, “the ones who kept showing up for me.” 

    We spend a lot of time as educators and leaders scanning the latest research for new approaches and honing our craft. But what was the most important thing to this young man was not breakthrough research or a shiny new technique. It was simply not giving up. A lesson I will not soon forget. 

     I shared pictures of Franklin and told “war stories” of our time together so far.  I could tell that it was a bit amusing to hear an authority figure from his past admit total failure, but his only advice was to “not give up on the little guy – he would come around.”    

    No $200 an hour dog behaviorist could have given me better advice. Isn’t it a wondrous moment when the student becomes the mentor? 

    So Franklin and I are moving forward. My new approach is to start each day with the intent to show up and be present. To keep showing up until we figure this out. And believe change will unfold. 

    And now, fly. 

     

    Julie

    P.S. I’m happy to say that Franklin and I have reached a sort of détente. The cessation of hostilities doesn’t always hold but every now and then we enjoy playing ball and Frisbee, and I recently was treated to a first-ever bite-free cuddle. 

    Monday Musings and Some Fast Flight Ideas to Make Your Week

    Monday Musings and Some Fast Flight Ideas to Make Your Week

    I don’t’ know about you, but I feel like I’m drowning in projects. It is really exciting to be working on new things, but do you ever feel like you’re in total overload? It certainly makes Monday harder to face.

    Last night as the last few hours of the weekend ticked away, I could sense the “in over my head” feeling starting to creep up on me. Instead of heading out for ice cream with 1,000 calories worth of toppings, I decided the healthy option would be to pull together all of the material I’d collected for a project that is stepping off and  get the ideas that were running around in my head on to paper. That way, Monday would start off with doing rather than searching, and clear direction that would help me avoid a morning of fighting procrastination.

    Mondays are still a drag but some advance organizing with two amazing tools I just started using have made a world of difference.

    The first is Pocket, which is an organizing app that lets you save and organize material from the Internet. With Pocket you can create a permanent, searchable library of websites, articles, even videos without the frustration of a huge list of bookmarks. Why had I never used this before?! Free version will get you started. 

    The second sanity-saving tool I am loving these days is SimpleMind which organizes your brainstorming into a Mind Map. It works for almost anything so it is a great tool not only for organizing ideas but it works well for creating visual study guides, to do lists, organizational charts and project timelines. You can add links, images, notes etc right onto your diagram which happily you can start from one of templates offered. Nirvana for visual learners and listmakers.

    P.S.  Lest you think I toiled away the weekend working, one of the things I saved to Pocket was a list I stumbled on entitled “50 of the Best Indie Movies Of All Time” where I found a treasure trove of films I remember hearing about but didn’t ever see. Started with #33 The Station Agent. Have you seen it?

    When Forward Is Scary

    When Forward Is Scary

    Time for a Franklin Friday!

    I have a colleague and friend who does amazing work with and for young people in rural communities. The structures she’s put into place for youth who have a whole lot stacked against them – especially those who are aging out of the foster system are truly inspiring. And she’s getting great results. 

     You can imagine how pleased I was to be asked to serve again as a mentor for some of her youth over the summer. I’m all in and already thinking about how to level-up my mentor tools and skills because I can’t wait to be  guiding, cheerleading and advising as they take those first steps in finding the best in themselves. That is, until they stop walking. More on that in a minute. 

    Shortly after I received my friend’s call, it was time for one of Franklin’s walks. These are not easy affairs because Franklin is easily distracted. Smells, people, cars going by, and especially sounds from unseen sources stop all forward progress. We can be tripping along at a nice pace and suddenly Franklin will lie down. And we wait. For what, I have no idea. When whatever it is that is going on in Franklin’s head is resolved, he stands up and we move forward. But until he removes the invisible barrier he sees, hears or feels, nothing will get him moving. Not praise, not treats and especially not a tug on the leash. Any attempts to start his engine again results in his play dead pose – rolled onto back – four legs up in the air. Some days it can take 45 minutes to walk a 2 block square.

    While this is like a live comedy show for my neighbors, it often pushes me to a pretty significant stress point. I’ve put hours and hours into helping my little pup grow up and after five months, I still can’t figure out what exactly makes him tick. When I get the leash ready for a walk he goes bananas with excitement and I make sure he always arrives home safely. So, Why?!  And it’s not like we can have a calm conversation and work out whatever the issue is. As this daily frustration continues to play out, I’ve had to dig deep for understanding and more patience than I’ve ever needed. 

    And it got me thinking….

    Have you ever worked with a student over a period of time and feel like they’re really leaping towards something wonderful – and then just on the verge of a breakthrough for no reason they stall? I had a mentee last summer who sprinted right up to the first day of college classes and then…panic. No warning and no obvious explanation.  I was devastated and felt like a complete failure. But as I look at it through the Franklin lens, there was an invisible barrier that only she could see. She wasn’t quite ready to move forward.   

    I wish I could say I have a brilliant new strategy for dealing with Franklin. I got nothin’. But I do have a new plan for my mentees this summer. We’re still going to head out and hit the path toward whatever future they envision – but I’m going to ask more questions and take more time to openly discuss what they see, hear and feel along the way. Most of all, we’re going to work for a healthy balance of pushing and pulling (as good mentors do) and time-out for confronting the things that make moving forward scary and difficult.

    I’ll let you know how all the summer “walks” go. 

     

    P.S.  Franklin is my beautiful (and extremely challenging) new golden retriever puppy. Despite our many difficulties, he is forcing me to try new things, be a better problem-solver, and find new reservoirs of patience and flexibility. I’ll be sharing the trials, tribulations and revelations of growing up with Mr. Franklin Roosevelt on Fridays.    

     

    Julie

    Only Happy News!

    Only Happy News!

    I don’t know about you, but for me Mondays are definitely a mixed bag. Some weeks I jump right into the flow and knock things out left and right. Other Mondays feel like a long, miserable trudge up a mountain – in a blizzard, wearing sandals. 

    Since for many of us, Mondays often focus on what problems need to be solved in the coming week, I wondered,  “what would  Monday look like if all the news I see first thing in the morning news was happy?” So I’m giving it a try.  Here are the places I’m starting my week:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/UpliftingNews/

    Reddit isn’t really known for being a positive news outlet but this subreddit has a lot of offer. It is crowd-sourced so there is a huge range of material offered. Very easy to do a quick scroll through to find something that grabs your interest. In keeping with Reddit’s structure, the posts do invite discussion. Probably more positive to skip that! 

    https://www.optimistdaily.com/

    The new-agey language that describes the site and its readers gave me the impression that it might not be for me (they call their readers Emissaries) but it is one of my favorites so far.  Although it is billed as a “good news” outlet, the site is populated with stories about unbelievably creative thinking and how people are developing wonderful ideas to make the world a better place.  

    https://thehappynewspaper.com/

    This is actually a real newspaper published in Britain 3 times per year by writer/illustrator Emily Coxhead. The paper ships worldwide and reads a bit like a small magazine. Sunshine in your mailbox and a good way to get away from screens for a bit.  If you can’t wait for the post office to deliver your positivity, there is a very colorful (and happy) Instagram you can check out. instagram.com/thehappynewspaper/

    What are your favorite places for positivity?

    And now, fly

     

    Julie

    Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

    Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

    I’m an (almost obsessive) list person. Perhaps you can relate? Do you have crazy long lists of books you want to read, podcasts to catch up on, replays of webinars that you signed up for but got so busy you missed them? Do you also have insanely long lists of tasks to do, projects to move forward, stuff to remember? 

    What lists get the majority of your time and attention? 

    My “go juice” is learning things, thinking about new ideas (or old ideas in new ways) and connecting to other people who are interested in exploring and learning. Allowing myself the time to indulge in activities that ignite that curiosity spark is where I find a lot of my motivation. So why am I constantly holding an empty cup?

    That’s a question I think we’re all still trying to solve, but all of this did get me thinking about the students that I teach and mentor. Have I taught and encouraged them to seek out the moments that spark their curiosity? To refill their cups with “go juice?” 

    By nature of my role in their lives, my work with young people includes a lot of lists. Planning for your future isn’t as simple as an entry in the “to-do” column, but it does require a progression of essential steps and tasks and experiences – especially if the plan is to pursue college – which is a pretty grueling list in itself.  

    I think we’re really good at telling kids what to do. When they’re little we help them organize their day with consistent meal and bed times and other simple routines. As they grow we create lists of daily things to do and in school we introduce homework notebooks and calendars. We help our teens with more sophisticated organizational and time management skills (well, hopefully we’re doing this – they need it!) and all along the way we praise them for getting things done.

    Do we give equal praise when we see our students or children create space for activities that let them think creatively and curiously? Do we model the joy of following an interest into something that is not on a list?

    Anxiety, stress-related illnesses and depression are affecting teens at alarmingly high rates. There are of course many factors that contribute to this growing problem but I do wonder if we a small start could be embedding accountability for taking care of ourselves more consistently and starting at an early age; making sure that every day – or most days- have moments, or experiences for the brain and soul to be curious.  

    To be a better teacher and mentor I want to explore this more. Of course I should start with giving a little respect to that other set of lists! 

    I would love to hear how you are cultivating curiosity and joy in your life – or what moments you create for your children or students to let their imaginations flow.

    And now, fly

     

    Julie