Is Sleep the New Non-Negotiable?

Get off The Hamster Wheel

I was working with a client that was trying to figure out how he could get more work done instead of procrastinating and going down the YouTube & Facebook bunny trails. He finished each day feeling anxious and wrapped in guilt that he had not accomplished more.  Sound familiar?

Maybe you or your student have been on the hamster wheel to nowhere and can’t figure out how to get off. After peeling back the onion, what we realized was that he wasn’t getting enough sleep. We had to focus on how to wind down his day to setup a good night sleep before thinking about strategies to get his work done.

You have probably seen some of the latest research regarding sleep deprivation and the effects on the brain. Just one night of poor sleep can affect cognitive ability, mood, coordination, attention, decision making, among others. Absent enough rest, the brain functions at a much slower rate and we have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, and become more emotional.

Have you ever noticed when you don’t get enough sleep, just finding your keys in the morning can be a struggle? Maybe your sleep deprived kids seem pricklier and more defiant (this also applies to adults.)

Sleep Washes Away The Bad, Cycles in the Good

Sleeping provides the brain with an opportunity to do a “rinse cycle” and get rid of all the toxins that have accumulated throughout the day. When you go to sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid increases significantly, washing away the harmful toxins and waste proteins that build up between the brain cells during waking hours. These toxins have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

Not only are you removing toxins, sleeping is also what enables your brain to consolidate and move information into long term memory. It is this process that then allows the brain to recall and use information to solve problems.  One study showed that teenagers receiving just 18 extra minutes of sleep improved their grades in math and English.  Even the great inventor Thomas Edison recognized the power of sleep to stimulate new thoughts and ideas.  He would put ball bearings in his hand, doze off and when they fell to the ground and the noise woke him up he was able to come up with new approaches. (p. 30-31 a Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D.) This explains why our greatest ideas often come to us during our morning shower!

Turn Screen Time Into Sleep Time

What is it that prevents us from getting enough sleep? Unless you have sleep apnea or some other medical explanation, I’ve got one word for you – screens!  Screens can include anything from browsing the internet, social media, video games, Netflix, and YouTube. The issue of endlessly pursuing electronic devices isn’t unique to our kids or millennials.  It does not discriminate by gender, age, or ethnicity. I too have fallen into this trap that takes away from my ability to do my best the following day.

While staring at screens during the day can be detrimental to our productivity and connection with actual human beings, it’s at night that it sets us up for disaster when it comes to sleep.  It is so easy to get sucked into staying up way past our bed time reading the news or catching up on facebook. The blue light emanating from our devices tricks your brain into thinking its daytime. This keeps it in a higher state of arousal and hyper focus similar to the effect of caffeine or even amphetamines. You might as well just drink a cup of coffee right before going to bed.

“So, am I ok if I just dial up the orange light on my device at night,” you might ask?  It’s not just the blue light that causes problems. When you are watching or interacting with a screen, you are increasing the release of certain chemicals into the brain, like dopamine, and stimulating natural reward pathways that feeds the need for additional gratification.   This is why it is so easy to say just 10 more minutes and then end up binge watching an entire season of Game of Thrones late into the night.

A Good Rule To Follow

In our household, there is a “no electronic devices in the bedroom” rule when it is time to go to bed for all of us.  Before implementing this rule, I struggled, looking at work emails after climbing into bed, which kept my mind racing well after turning off the light.  Now I pick up a book instead and I’m fast asleep in ten minutes. Our goal is screens off at least 30 minutes before bed. Are these evening habits always executed perfectly? Nope, we have good days and bad. But I do notice a huge difference in how the end of my day sets me up for the next.  I feel better, am more inclined to work out, go for walks, and am more patient with my kids when they are being knuckleheads.  Even they freely admit that they are wrecked the next day when they slip and sneak a peek at their devices before bed. Having one policy that applies to everyone reduces resistance and from the minions as we are modeling the behavior we expect from our kids. They love to point out any hypocrisy.  In this case, it’s hard to argue.

So how are you going to close out your day? What is your evening routine? Is it worth finding a way as a family to get an extra 18 minutes of sleep?

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8 New Rules For The 2017/18 School Year

School is back in full swing. With that comes a whole host of new engagement ideas.

Some of the hottest trends right now are flipped classroom, backwards by design, and ideas centered around community engagement.

Whatever your preferred method may be, there is no doubt that the face of education is changing as fast as innovation itself. (Do you want to make a lot of money? Start an ed-tech company.)

As you build engagement in your classroom for the 2017-2018 school year, prepare students for the ever-changing work world and ever-evolving 21st skill set. Here are some New School Rules for doing just that:

  • Sit Wherever You Want: Sit, stand, stretch, jog in place – whatever you need to do to stay motivated. Consider: How long can you stay seated while maintaining attention? As we prepare our students for 21st-century skills, why not teach 21st-century posture? The workplace is a collaborative, open space, full of ideas that need to be given room to breathe.
  • Don’t Raise Your Hand: When is the last time you raised your hand in a meeting ? Did you get heard, or did someone more ambitious talk over you ? Classroom discussion is one of the greatest ways to encourage self discovery. Let the voices flow! Does it get too chaotic? Perhaps. But there’s an easy way to overcome that. Introduce the sessions with a “ticket out the door.”  Students can’t leave until they written down five good ideas they’ve heard.
  • Don’t Do Any Homework: Work life balance is one of the most important job perks.  So students need a good homework life balance. Different schools have different philosophies, but there’s no doubt when a student is learning for eight hours a day that’s probably enough. At the very least, homework could easily be cut back to a couple nights a week or with long-term projects where a night off won’t be a setback.
  • Be Late (Or Leave Early): For many reasons, school starts way too early. Early start times aren’t even conducive to the working parent, who can lose hours a week getting kids to school and killing time before their late-starting job. So, offer students an incentive to be late with flexible scheduling. Kids are growing; they’re tired. Job programs, community volunteering, and other ideas can help give students community experience. As teachers know, if you give students more autonomy, you’ll be amazed at the responsible decisions they make.
  • Come To Class Unprepared: Expect the unexpected when it comes to being a teacher. Well, you should expect the unexpected as a student, too. The best advice students can get this time of year bears repeating: be open-minded, be resilient, be flexible, be varied in your interests, and you’ll be as well rounded as any student out there.
  • Work As Slow As You Want: Every elementary classroom in the country reads the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare. Yet by about middle school, students turn into hares, racing through subjects and grades at breakneck speed. Slow it down. Drive passion. Fall in love with one thing at a time. 
  • Chew Gum: I can’t tell you how many times I was caught chewing gum in class just to be told to throw it out.  I’d have loved to have current research that shows chewing gum increases concentration, increases motivation, and is a super incentive for everyone.
  • Treat Yourself How You Want Others To Treat You: The Golden Rule teaches you to treat others as you want to be treated. That’s good, but if we don’t explain to others how we want to be treated, how can anyone know? Treat yourself right first. Take ownership. Take a high road. Ask for help. Listen. That’s what will come back to you.

Do you like these engagement ideas? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or by contacting us. We always love hearing from education professionals.

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11 NFL Lesson Ideas To Use This Season

Are you ready for some football? The NFL season kicks off this weekend. It should be fun!

With the Broncos being so popular, it’s hard to think of a school in Colorado that won’t have at least a few hundred students wearing the orange and blue on Fridays. Let’s hope they can have a good season, make the playoffs, and bring home another Lombardi trophy.

Football season is a really good teaching tool, too. There are ton of numbers involved. Great heroes (and anti-heroes) to read up on. And the history and geography of all the teams. Here are 11 easy class ideas to integrate football into the class for all students.  

Hope these make some good class connections! Enjoy the season.


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Hide The Homework, and Other Great Tips for Getting Homework Done

Conventional wisdom has us believe that homework needs to be done at a desk in a quiet room in one sitting until finished.  Does it really?  Homework can be a daily struggle for many families, especially those with students that have trouble getting started and sustaining focus. Let’s face it, for most kids homework is a chore.  It’s boring and the executive function and self-regulation skills necessary to power through it are lagging in many kids (and adults for that matter; think about doing your own taxes).  Today’s temptations like video games and YouTube videos only make it harder for homework to compete for our student’s attention.  The good news is you can change all that by mixing up the routine and, believe it or not, making homework fun.

So, hide the homework!

That’s right, take a homework assignment and hide it somewhere in the house and then let them complete it in that location once they find it.  I wish I could take credit for the idea but I heard of it while listening to Leslie Josel from Order Out of Chaos.(Check out her website, she has some great products and webinars).  For example, put the math worksheet in the cupboard and once your student finds it, have her squeeze in between the pasta noodles and canned green beans to complete it.  Depending on the grade level, set a rough time limit for how long it should take. If they don’t finish, move to the next assignment which is hiding in the tub. The point is, the fun and excitement of a game of hide and seek reframes the experience and turns completing their homework into a reward for winning the game.  Creating a game or a challenge around an otherwise mundane task increases dopamine in the brain and activity in the frontal cortex where the process of getting things done lives.

“But,” you say, “my kid is too old to play hide the homework?” So then what? Ask them what they think would work. Where do they naturally work when doing something they like?  Does he like to spread everything out on the floor while laying on his stomach and kicking his feet? Is he more productive studying with friends at a library, tutoring center, or coffee shop? Or maybe he needs several homework locations throughout the house to move to when he starts to lose focus?  Some students may actually like the idea of a body double; sit in the same room with them working on your own thing while they do their work.  Movement, a change of scenery, and interaction with others while working stimulates blood flow to the brain and takes the monotony out of the task.

When my youngest was in 4th and 5th grade, we would ride our bikes to the playground with books and snacks in hand and work on an assignment. When that was complete we would bike to the next location. Sometimes he would take me on some wild rides, but we got the work done. With another middle school student, we would play quick games of connect four between homework problems. Not only did she get her homework done, but my money is on her against anyone in a game of connect four. If your teen has an upcoming test, shoot some hoops while you quiz them. One caveat however – your student will have to give you guidelines as to what you are to do if they get the wrong answer. Take your parent hat off and just be a facilitator.  The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. The moment we start to criticize as parents, it’s game over!

Supporting a creative or more active environment and getting more senses involved increases engagement, focus, and the retention of information. Kids are always complaining that they can’t see how they’ll ever use what they’re learning in school, so take real life scenarios and tie it to what they are studying so it’s more interesting and relatable. For example, to help my youngest son understand the benefits of math, we decided to apply the concepts he was learning to a business idea he had to create – selling human sized gummy bears. He had to figure out how much it would cost, come up with a sales price and calculate his margin. He then decided he wanted to hire salespeople and had to figure out how he was going to pay them. After running the numbers and how many life size gummy bears he’d have to sell to make money, he decided this wasn’t a good idea, but he had a newfound appreciation for math.

All of this probably sounds like a big commitment and a lot of time out of an already busy day but it doesn’t have to be.  The big investment is upfront, brainstorming ideas and a little bit of trial and error figuring out which ones will work for your student. From there, it’s about incorporating homework into the quality time you’re already spending together as a family.  And think about the time and energy saved avoiding the battles over getting homework done, missing assignments and poor performance in school.

At the end of the day, no matter the age or the grade, it needs to be a collaboration between you and your student. Brainstorm ideas and give them permission to say “no” to yours.  Even if their ideas are crazy, run with it. If they say “I want to do my homework on the moon” simply respond, “Ok, how will you do that?”  Let creativity reign and have fun coloring outside the lines while exploring all the different routes you can take from point A to point B.

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28 Great Game Of Thrones Quotes To Engage Your Class

Photo Courtesy HBO

Fall might be in the air, but winter is coming. You know it, your friends know it, and there’s a good chance your students know it. With all the buzz about the hit HBO show, why not take the opportunity to infuse some great references in class? Really, there’s nothing more fun than making pop culture connections with students. And what’s more popular right now than Game of Thrones? It may not be suitable to your younger audiences, but they’ve definitely heard about it. In fact, the show’s become so popular that one teacher recently threatened to discipline his students with spoilers!

While The School Communications Agency certainly does not condone classroom management of the sort, there’s no doubt there are some great lines to help students learn. Here’s some of our favorite and ones teachers could use to great impact. Hope they come in useful! Valar Morghulis.

For teaching strength and self awareness
“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” – Tyrion Lannister

For explaining the need to keep on keeping on
“In battle, discipline beats numbers nine times out of ten.”  – Jon Snow

For turning negatives into positives
“A bruise is a lesson, and every lesson makes us better.” – Arya Stark

For your honors philosophy class
“There is a lot that can happen between now and never.” – Lord Peter Baelish

For keeping all your options open
“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.” – Jon Snow

For compelling students to take chances
“The man who fears losing has already lost.” – Arya Stark

For its great self reflection
“Never forget who you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you” – Tryion Lannister

For teaching conviction
“I will answer injustice with justice.” – Daenerys Targaryen

For motivating the girls in your class 
“I may be small. I may be a girl, but I won’t be knitting by the fire while I have men fight for me.” – Lyanna Mormont

For making sure you know who your friends are
“Leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe.” – Arya Stark

For embracing individuality 
“There are no men like me. There’s only me.” – Jaime Lannister

For being your true self 
“There is no honor in tricks.” – Sansa Stark

For being a noble leader
“A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of the sheep” – Tywin Lannister

For fighting for what’s right
“I want to fight for the side that fights for the living” – Jon Snow

For beating the odds
“A very small man can cast a very large shadow.” – Lord Varys

For playing it smart
“A smart commander does not abandon a defensive advantage” – Roose Bolton

For the best reading motivation ever
“My brother has his sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That’s why I read so much.” – Tyrion Lannister

For those moments when you just need to say “Wrong!”
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.” – Ygritte

For teaching the merits of loyalty
“A man without friends is a man without power” – Renly Baratheon

For being at the service of others
“A man of the Night Watch lives his life for the Realm” – Jon Mormont

For teaching figurative language
“Paint stripes on a toad, he does not become a tiger.” – Sandor Clegane

For getting students to write with passion
“The contents of a man’s letters are more valuable than the contents of his purse.” – Lord Varys

For not backing down
“I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home. And you can’t frighten me.” – Sansa Stark

For taking the high road
“The occasional kindness will spare you all kind of trouble down the road.” – Cersie Lannister

For daring students to dream big
“It’s like stepping into a dream you’ve been dreaming for as long as you can remember and finding out that the dream is more real than your life.” – Jaime Lannister

And.. two for controlling your emotions
“You’re angry. Sometimes your anger makes people do unfortunate things.” – Sansa Stark
“Sometimes fear makes them do unfortunate things.” – Arya Stark

And remember, a Lannister always pays their debts, and that’s a good lesson too.

If you’re a teacher and found this useful, we’d love to know how it went. We’d love your Facebook follow! 

Valar Dohaeris.

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Why It’s More Important Than Ever For Businesses and Schools To Work Together

National and local businesses are among the most untapped school resources. Which is really interesting, because schools are in the business of fostering talented thinkers, innovators, and workers. On the business end, fostering talent at home reduces operational costs. It also helps local companies brand themselves as positive community stakeholders. For schools, creating partnerships with local businesses, from the mom and pop to the large multinational, offers a ton of rewards.

Beyond finances, there are many other ways schools and business can succeed together. When you look at the modern economy, students simply need different skills beyond what a traditional curriculum can take on. They need to understand networking, be adept at communicating strengths, and show technological savvy, among others.

And, critically, they need to have mentors teach them the world they are about to be entering. Businesses can step in and partner with schools, and some are already doing so. There are good ideas, such as internships, already in place. Beyond that, there are two other immediate advantages school/business partnerships can provide.

  1. Business leaders can experience first hand the way rising workers think, react, and generate ideas, because it’s just different. There’s a few other incentives here, too. In addition to lower potential training costs, businesses would also gain key demographic insights. A young entrepreneur could literally change a company’s vision.
  2. Schools can promote their own brand, have channels to grow, and seek vital community involvement. School branding is no longer a passing thought. Schools needs students to pay the bills and get funding. And to succeed. In a fierce educational landscape that includes private, specialized, charter, and public schools, schools have to work extra hard to set themselves apart.

Ultimately, just like schools are in need of sound communication to grow, businesses would hugely profit from interacting more directly with their future workforce. And it’s more than a trend – it’s becoming essential to build the workforce we need.

We are proud to have connected businesses and students together through our sponsor program, and are continuing to develop partnerships within the national education landscape. Thank you for working with us. We look forward to helping even more.

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10 Effective Communication Tips For Teachers, Parents, and Students

The beginning of a school year is an exciting time, with a ton of activity. In addition to building goals, it’s also super important for setting clear, crisp communication guidelines. Purposeful communication makes the beginning of the school year so much easier for everyone involved. A smooth beginning might not guarantee perfection, but you can be sure that a mismanaged beginning is a recipe for dealing with behavioral issues and playing catch up.

August and September are also the months when it seems as if things are happening at 100 mph.  Communication is key throughout the year, so begin early. They can be huge time savers in the end.

Teacher Tip One: Teachers, mail a postcard home and then make a follow up phone call during the first week. Sending a postcard home addressed to students makes them feel welcome in their new class. It also eases anxiety. Sending a card with a personal touch on it, like a favorite sports team or a national park you might have visited during the summer, humanizes the experience as well. In your note, remind the student they are going to have a great year. When the first week of class ends, call the parents letting them know how great their child’s first week was. If this sounds like a lot of work, you are most likely to go to voicemail, based on personal experience. Leave an upbeat message. It will make a huge impression.

Teach Tip Two: Spend the first few weeks with at least one getting to know you activity per day, and be sure it involves oral or written communication. You want to build new relationships right away. You also want to develop a routine where students are comfortable sharing ideas in small groups. Bring the class back together and pull names out of a hat so one or two students can comment on how the activity worked. As always, give them the option to pass, ensuring shy students aren’t put on the spot.

Teacher Tip Three: As a culmination of the first few weeks, invite the principal into your class to firm up rules and expectations. Tell the students the principal is coming as an advocate and confidante. Principals are extremely busy people, so you will only need a few minutes of their time to make an impression with students. Getting students and administration some time together is a huge step in building trust that can come in extremely useful when there are disciplinary issues.

Teacher Tip Four: Have a welcome back party with your teaching team, and be sure to invite family along. Do this early, and as often as possible. Reinforce learning as a fun activity. You can even have themed parties, showcasing work. I used to love hosting international days that the class worked in with history units. We served great cuisine, had a bunch of fun, and reinforced all our learning goals.

Parent Tip One: Parents, write an email to the teacher asking how you can help make the year a good one. In your introductory email let them know that you are so glad that your son or daughter has such a dedicated teacher. Flattery always goes a long way, especially in an inbox. Teachers get dozens of emails a day, so be sure to establish a partnership that serves everyone’s best interest, including the teacher’s.

Parent Tip Two: Attend all the welcome back events you can, and be sure to casually establish a rapport with your children’s teachers. It’s fine to talk shop at welcome events. Likely, you’ll want to set up a formal meeting because teachers are limited by confidentiality in how much they can go into detail with a bunch of other people around. And don’t be afraid to ask for a conference early on. This is often the least busy time of year for teachers and so meeting them for a conference is a lot easier, especially if you pitch it as proactive session.

Parent Tip Three: Find out how involvement will look. An overly strong parent advocate can, potentially, work against the very thing the teacher is working on, like building autonomy. Communication by all parties is important. For example, some kids want to be dropped off at class all the way till high school. Some kids want autonomy by second grade. These are telling signals and can inform all parties on the best way to handle academic, social, and emotional intervention. This is one of the touchier areas, because we all want to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is letting the child work an issue out on his or her own.

Student Tip One: Students, get a planner and a planner buddy who is more organized than you are. This is pretty self explanatory. If you are not organized, you’ll know it. You’re losing things. Missing deadlines. Or your planner make you feel like this. Some students are more meticulous than their teachers. Essentially, make sure the super organized can help the less organized. As a teacher, I’d choose a buddy to help me organize my busy desk, reinforcing their own organization.

Student Tip Two: Be proactive and communicate early with the teacher, letting them know what you’d like to get out of the school year. I’ve had students personally shake my hand after the first day of school. That made quite an impression. If that’s not so easy for you, send them an email, letting them know where you want to succeed. Or chocolate always works. Whatever way is easiest for you, being proactive with a teacher goes a very long way. Remember, teachers are human beings; they like getting nice things. And nothing’s nicer than a student who shows interest.

Student Tip Three: Join a club or, better yet, create one on your own. Chances are there are likeminded people out there who’d be thrilled with your idea. Find a cause. Draft a fantasy team. Build a Minecraft network. Volunteer to grade papers. Above all, get recognized for doing the right thing and for stepping up. School’s got enough social pressures to begin with, so why not come up with something that brings people together? It will definitely set you apart, and open up all kinds of opportunities to be engaged and engage others.

If you find these ideas are working for you personally, let us know! We’d love to hear from you. And thanks for considering The School Communications Agency for all your school communications needs.


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8 Common Mistakes Students Make When Setting Goals, And Ways To Improve Them

It’s baaaaaaack. School, that is. There’s going to be a few moans about that, but honestly, how great is it to get back with your friends, your favorite teachers, and a solid, successful routine. And with classrooms opening already around Colorado, now’s a great time to start helping improve your child’s education through realistic goal-setting.

When engaging in goal-setting activities, keep in mind that students range from the overly ambitious to the easily overwhelmed and every shape and size in between. I’ve had students who were convinced they were going to Stanford in the fifth grade, and I’ve had students who couldn’t tie their shoes in middle school. So, it’s really important to be realistic and also it’s just as important to know what to be realistic about.

Creating unrealistic goals is one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen students make. With that in mind, here are eight goals that can be managed more effectively.

  • Mistake Setting the bar too high Students who want to impress their teacher, mom, or dad can become too ambitious, which while a noble characteristic can more often than not lead to disappointment. Also, it takes the joy from learning. The student I cited above who was convinced he was going to Stanford measured every score, activity, and assignment with this in mind. Anything less than an A+ led to tears. What teacher wouldn’t feel bad about this? Fortunately, we caught this early, and made learning more fun for him, which resulted in just what we thought: better marks!
  • Mistake Setting the bar too low Students who make goals thinking they aren’t good enough can just as easily get lost, bored, and disinterested. They end up falling behind socially, as well, and it becomes a lot of work for teachers and parents to build their confidence back up. Often, those of us who set the bar too low are high achievers in other creative areas that might not be taught in school. Presenting the student with areas to integrate creativity in their work can create a sea change in their motivation.
  • Mistake The goals are not rewarding enough Good goal-setting is incumbent on feeling rewarded when the goal is met. If the goal doesn’t provide meaningful rewards, then the progression is likely to plateau too quickly. When setting a goal with students, ask them how they’d like to be rewarded. They’ll definitely let you know. And don’t be afraid to assert your authority in working with them on rewards. For example, a long term goal like raising their math grade form a C to a B could result in everyone’s favorite – a new video game, but only if it involves high order thinking.
  • Mistake Taking on too many jobs You’ve heard of dress to impress. Well, lots of students say yes to impress. It’s good because they love to help out, but classroom helping is way more effective when the job is highly meaningful to the student and the class. Sure, it’s great to have a student secretary on hand, so when assigning this goal, be sure the student understands there’s more to it than meets the eye. Students love to pass out paper, but when we ran out, they also had to reorder it, reply to any correspondence with a vendor through a quick writing assignment I’d give them, and then be sure it was kept clean and in order. When you do it this way, one job branches out into several.
  • Mistake Not taking enough risks I could usually categorize my classes quite easily. There were the risk averse, and the overly risky. While both presented plenty of opportunities for growth, if I’d have to choose I’d definitely steer students to taking risks, to teach them how to grow. This doesn’t mean setting unrealistic goals, however. It simply means that students learn best just a little outside their comfort zone. That’s the perfect place to present challenges and promote growth.
  • Mistake Goals are too impersonal Goals should be as personal as possible. Commonly, students make this mistake by playing follow the leader. If a particular student makes a goal that works, it is rather easy to copy. After all, we all know what the sincerest form of flattery is. You see this all the time in fads, and learning has fads too. But, fads are only as good as the designer. Goals are our very own designs, and students need to be reminded of this.
  • Mistake Not giving yourself enough time This is arguably the most common mistake in goal setting and often the most frustrating. We all have a tendency to want to see results now!  A good way to overcome this is to be sure at least one goal is a long term goal. Fostering the work ethic gained in achieving long term gains teaches patience and persistence. I think we can all agree this is a really important skill set for a mobile generation of learners.
  • Mistake Not following through When a student reaches their goal, make sure to celebrate it. Then, be sure to build off of it. I taught one student who read all of the 20 classic books she had on her list in half the time she allotted. The class celebrated that by watching an adaptation of Great Expectations. The next day, we set a new goal. She said she wanted to watch more adaptations she loved them so much. Out of that, she grew an affinity for film. That’s how the best goals work. They build one on top of another.

Remember, the best way to set goals is to individualize them as best as you can. You can have all the aspirations in the world and still the single most important thing you can be is realistic. And realistically, the sky is truly them limit when handling goals correctly.

If you’d like The School Communications Agency to work with you in setting realistic goals, we’d love to help. Contact us for more.

Thanks so much!

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The School Communications Agency Has Good News For Colorado Schools


Here’s a tip culled from the classroom. Telling people nice things is the best fremium model there is. All teachers have examples of this. I’d like to share one of my favorites. It goes back several years to when I was assigning classroom jobs like stacking the books, sorting the library, and wiping down the iPads. A few students pointed out I had left someone off the job list. So, I turned to the student and told him his new job – to bring in good news. It was a new class job for them, but a simple and hopefully an effective one. And the boy was an optimist by nature, so I thought it would be the perfect thing for us all.

Well, the first day he forgot that he had to deliver us some good news. So, I said, the good news is you can try again tomorrow. Just bring a piece of good news, I reassured him. I expected it would be a newspaper clipping or something, but no matter, anything you want. He forgot the next day, too. So I said, the good news is you can tell us tomorrow – no worries. I even gave him a copy of the local paper. But he kept forgetting. He needed a more concrete example. OK, I said. He liked baseball. I asked him his favorite team. The Marlins, he said. I opened the paper. Ok, super, they won last night. That’s great, right? Sure is! he said. And then … well… he forgot to bring good news the next day.

I kept reminding him there will always be good news, but I was definitely getting a little worried this wasn’t working. Finally, after two more days without good news he came in with some good news. What is it, I asked. He got up in front of the class. Well, he said, laughing. I kind of forgot. He sat down. There was silence. Was that it? Thanks for sharing, I said, confused. Class ended. So, tell me, what was the good news, I asked him after lunch. He was a precocious kid. I’d tell you, he said, but I literally forgot. He wouldn’t budge. Seriously, I forget the bad news. He beamed – that’s great news, isn’t it?

I never gave up on him bringing in good news, but I won’t lie, I had the very teacherly fear of asking for too much. But he came through in the end. And, he had a really great school year after that, teaching me just as much: no bad news really is good news – who can argue that?

I want to share that example in light of an pretty important consideration – that good, positive, never-stop believing communication is the simplest, most cost effective way to get students to succeed.

The School Communications Agency is proud to help schools communicate more effectively, correlating into student success by:

  • Participating with 141 Colorado schools in creating professional communication opportunities.
  • Reaching over 6,000,000 impressions per year with our school newsletters, and growing.
  • Achieving email open rates of 91 percent, giving parents direct access to vital school and industry updates.
  • And, by raising over $750,000 for schools in our give back efforts, we give students direct opportunities for engagement.  We think that’s really good news. We hope you do, too.

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Teaching is the art of making students believe in themselves. Motivating students to believe is often at the heart of a student’s success. Show me a student who believes in themselves, and I will show you a student who is in charge of their learning.

Ultimately, when a student believes in themselves and finds success, they’ll be off and running.

Keeping that motivation alive during the summer months is a huge step in the right direction. You don’t want your son or daughter to experience the dreaded summer learning gap.

Here are some tips on how to keep motivation alive and flourishing in the second half of the summer. Following these will most definitely help students start their new school year with the momentum they need to succeed.

TIP 1: Embrace Their Uniqueness

Students learn differently, so they’re always motivated to learn in a style uniquely their own. One of the most important things you can do is to be sure students reach down deep to find their true voice, their true passion, and follow that in their learning.

Developing passions requires deep commitment on the part of the teacher and the student, and will only succeed if a truly trusting relationship is established.

With students home for a bit longer, you are the teacher. Build trust by embracing whatever uniqueness they carry. Build this partnership by setting realistic goals for the next year. With each goal, have your son or daughter develop a solution, and support that mission as often as possible.

Tip 2: Foster Their Abilities By Highlighting Success

Continually highlight successes to develop a relationship built on motivation. Even if they are buried, there’s a treasure in there – every student has their share of success stories so highlight successes early and often.

To truly motivate a student is to take a very important stance – everybody from the highest reader to the developing writer has talent.

Remember, students come in all shapes sizes, quite literally. Don’t be mistaken to think that there are easy students and difficult students. It doesn’t matter at what level a student learns. What matters is they feel successful, and the more they do, they more they’ll give you back.

Tip 3: Communicate Their Successes Around

Most importantly from a motivational perspective, success needs to be communicated. The biggest stakeholder in a student’s life is their parent or guardian, so to truly expand on motivational successes, keep those close to you and your child informed including: teachers, relatives, community stakeholders, and friends. It’s not bragging to highlight a student’s achievement. It’s just smart – the more people you can motivate who are involved in a student’s life, the more they will be motivated in their own.

Sharing success might not be that easy after a particularly frustrating day or week. In that case, why not ask the student to list the successful moments they have experienced? Chances are, you will see success in a new light. It’s a great teachable moment and a wonderful opportunity to build a key partnership because communication takes a team effort.

For more ideas, please reach out to us. We are with you for all your motivational needs. And, of course, your communications needs, too.

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