A blog for students, families, and fellow educators. Meaningful reflections, stories, ideas, advice, resources, and homework help for middle school, high school, and college undergraduate students.
We're exploring history, philosophy, critical thinking, the trades, business, careers, entrepreneurship, college majors, financial literacy, the arts, the social sciences, test prep, baseball, the Catholic faith, and a whole lot more. Join the conversation.
Are you a high school student considering engineering as a career some day? If so, you came to the right place to start gathering some initial information and to begin better organizing your thoughts.
Now, the term engineer or engineering may appear to be referencing just one type of field, industry, or career path, but it's a lot more complex than that. See, the world of engineering is immensely vast, with engineers touching just about every type of product, invention, and process that you can possibly imagine.
There are automotive engineers; mechanical engineers; electrical engineers; civil engineers; bio engineers, nuclear engineers - the list goes on and on, up to 21, according to this video:
But though all of these engineers work in different specialties, there are a number of certain characteristics that unite them all - skills and talents that every engineer needs. The characteristics that I often hear the most are:
The ability to collaborate and work as a team
Communication, both verbal and written
Being able to think critically and creatively to solve problems
An appreciation and understanding of math, science, and technology, and how they're all used in creating solutions
If you want to dive a little deeper into these different types of engineering specialties and get a better feel for education requirements and career advancement prospects, visit these links:
Finally, browse the Web site of my friend, Charles Discasey. Casey, as he goes by, is a mechanical engineer here in the Milwaukee area. He also holds the designation of professional engineer, a testament to his mastery of engineering concepts and dedication to his craft and profession. He owns his own business, DKC Engineering LLC. Because Casey works for himself, he not only has to know engineering - he also has to know the skills that go with business ownership and entrepreneurship, as well.
I hope you found this information to be helpful. Thanks for dropping by, and best of luck to you as you continue exploring career options! There's an endless sea of possibilities out there. Don't be afraid to research and ask questions.
Flashcards make for a more effective and enjoyable way to learn.
If you are like most students, you probably have many things to remember and a very limited time in which to learn them. Because of this, it’s important to find quick and efficient ways to study. One of the more efficient study methods that most people are taught as children, involves the use of flashcards. The problem is, however, as most children grow up, they tend to stop using flashcards as a study aid. If like many students, you’ve stopped using flashcards, it’s time to give them another try. Not convinced? Here are some reasons that might change your mind.
1. Flashcards are very economical.
There are many commercially available flashcards that cover a wide variety of topics. Most of them are made from long-lasting materials and can be found in stores for very reasonable prices. For those of you who want to make your own flashcards, the price drops down substantially. You’ll only need to purchase the necessary materials, many of which can already be found around the home. Here’s a hint, index cards make for great flashcards.
2. Flashcards are fully customizable.
Though many topics are available with store-bought flashcards, you might not always be able to find exactly what you are looking for. For this reason, homemade flashcards can be the perfect study aid. You can add all the information you still need to learn, while leaving out the things you already know. Don’t forget to save all of your flashcards for a quick and easy review before midterms or exams.
3. Flashcards take up very little space.
Since flashcards don’t take up much space, they are easily portable. For this reason, they provide an excellent way to study on the go. Just throw a set of flashcards into your pocket or bag and then pull them out whenever you’ve got a spare moment. Some excellent times for running through your flashcards could be during a lunch break, before the start of class, or as you are waiting for the bus. Another great time to run through your flashcards is just before you go to sleep or right after you wake up.
4. Flashcards can make learning more enjoyable.
Because using the same study methods day in and day out can be extremely boring, why not shake things up a bit by using flashcards? Not only will they help to keep you focused for longer periods of time, but many people actually find the change in pace beneficial when the more traditional ways of studying become tedious.
So, if you are one of the many people who used to use flashcards in the past, but have since forgotten their true study merits, it’s time to take another look at this very efficient and cost-effective tool. For the rest of you who have never used flashcards, it’s definitely time to try them out for yourself. Who knows, flashcards might just be what you’ve been looking for to take your study sessions to the next level.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have a background in freelance journalism and online marketing and publishing. Following are a number of my more noteworthy interview credits through the years, interviews that would have more of a regional or even national interest. I hope you enjoy - a lot of neat history, interesting facts, meaningful advice, and fascinating stories here.
Dr. Roehrig was one of Aaron's political science professors when he was a student at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. An expert on Korea, Dr. Roehrig took some time out to share his insights on North Korea following the passing of its leader, Kim Jong-il.
A big fan of The Buckinghams and good music in general, Aaron talks with the front man of a band from Chicago that first broke into the national spotlight during the latter half of the 1960s with hits like "Kind of a Drag", "Don't You Care", "Susan", and "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)".
Alyssa Bolsey and her team are working on a documentary about her great-grandfather, who died in 1962 nearly broke and unknown, despite his significant contributions to the world. Among other ideas and inventions, Jacques Bolsey invented the Bolex movie camera.
Godfrey Townsend is an accomplished musician and singer whose credits include the Happy Together Tour, Hippiefest, the Sons of Cream tour, and a birthday tribute show each year in honor of Eric Clapton, among many other projects. Clapton's own guitar tech has stated that Godfrey Townsend has "...Clapton down better than Clapton!"
Carl Bonafede, legendary Chicago radio personality, band manager, music promoter, record producer, and booking agent. January 2012.
CCR produced some of the best rock to come out of the late 60s and early 70s, and their music is engrained in our culture to this day, appearing in countless movie soundtracks, commercials, television shows, and on radio stations all around the country. In 1995, original CCR members Clifford and bassist Stu Cook, friends since childhood, formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, and the band continues to record and tour all over the world, churning out the classics that generations of fans have come to know and love.
Aaron talks with Mark Dawson, who became lead singer of 60s greats The Grass Roots after Rob Grill's passing in 2011. Mark is also an accomplished solo artist who will have his second solo album out soon, entitled, "Making Noise."
Aaron catches up with the lead vocalist of Wisconsin's very own, Boxkar. This band from Wisconsin's Fox Valley has gone on to, among a host of other accomplishments, win multiple Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards, play The Viper Room (twice), record at the Goo Goo Dolls' studio, and perform in front of a crowd of thousands and thousands of people at the 2005 Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush - the only unsigned band to perform at that Inaugural.
Aaron interviews the founder of the popular '50s-'60sdoo-wop group, well-known foritshits, "At the Hop", "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay", "Pony Express", and "Twistin' USA". Having co-written "At the Hop" and written "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay", David went on to have a successful songwriting career outside of the group, as well, leaving his mark on music enjoyed by new fans over five decades later.
Woodstock performer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer shares with Milwaukee-area journalist his thoughts on our
city, influences, hobbies, advice to aspiring musicians, what it’s like
to be a part of one of the greatest bands in rock history, a special
upcoming anniversary, the age of iTunes, and a whole lot more.
In the fall of 2012, Aaron had the wonderful opportunity to conduct an extensive interview with Mark Dawson, the lead singer and bassist of The Grass Roots, as
well as a talented solo artist. But so many exciting things have come
his way since that interview just a year prior, that Aaron felt compelled
to do a brief follow-up with him to see where he’s at with some of
these exciting projects and developments. Enjoy!
The administrator of the Clark County Museum discusses his love for
learning, the show’s origins and what it’s like working on it, Howard
Hughes, advice for those looking to enter the profession, classic rock,
and so much more.
Up and comer recently out with his second album discusses his broad
musical interests, his recent European tour, how he got started in the
business, Wisconsin’s famous cheese, musicians he’d love to work with, and a whole lot more.
Inspired by an accident a number of years back that could have proven
truly tragic, graphic designer and long-time friend of this author is
on a noble mission to educate people about health insurance with her
Sought-after speaker, TV guest, author, contributor to a number of
popular business magazines, and now fellow team member to this author,
discusses the importance of organizational culture and what it truly
means to have a values-driven business.
A look back at the 70s resurrection of 50s rock 'n' roll by a
guitarist who worked alongside one of the great legends there at the
very beginning. Plus, thoughts on Chuck Berry, meaningful advice for
aspiring musicians, and a whole lot more.
Following are excerpts from a larger paper I wrote during the summer of 2017 as part of my studies in pursuit of a Ph.D. in leadership from Cardinal Stritch University. Each summer, students in Stritch's doctoral program attend what's called the Summer Institute. The SI features a variety of speakers, workshops, and individual and group assignments and activities. Every so often, I'm asked by students - high school, undergraduate, and master's - what it's like to pursue a degree at this level. That said, I thought this was worth sharing. I hope you enjoy it and find it to be of some value to you.
The Practicality of Our Doctorate Program
The 2017 institute was a little more special than perhaps most others prior, in that it marked the twentieth anniversary of the university’s doctoral program. To celebrate the feat, all of the speakers brought in this year were alumni of the program. Tying into my assertion that all leadership is local, this particular institute, with all of the speakers being alumni, served to further reinforce for me the practicality of our program. I found it immensely inspiring and rewarding to learn what alumni are doing in their own communities – and, by extension, the broader region, country, and ultimately, world – to drive transformation, a word that we will return to shortly.
For me, practicality of the credential is very important. By practicality, I mean that the degree holder is working in the trenches, so to speak – in business; in K-12 education; in the non-profit sector; etc. – and not merely in the proverbial ivory tower often associated with academia. The alumnus of our program is a practitioner, connecting theory and practice; working to bridge the disconnect, however real or perceived it may be, between what is taught in the classroom, and what is needed in everyday social and economic life.
For my dissertation, I am researching organizational culture. I enjoy sharing ideas, resources, and meaningful conversations concerning what I am learning in both my dissertation research specifically, and the broader program curriculum more generally. I regularly work and interact with a plethora of community, education, and business leaders in my day-to-day dealings, and it brings me immense joy and satisfaction to be able to engage in meaningful dialogue with these leaders in ways that lead to two-way or small group learning, growing, and the bridging of theory and practice. Most recently, I had struck up a networking relationship with a business coach, and I have taken genuine interest in the exchange of ideas and resources with this coach, which have mostly been concentrated in the realm of culture and employee engagement, topics that we are both particularly passionate about. It is my sincere hope that these exchanges can, in some way, benefit this coach, and that, in turn, they can benefit his clients, most of whom are small business owners.
Transformation, Leadership, and the Doctorate
The overall theme of the institute was transformation. During the institute, I had the opportunity to enjoy a rich conversation with a classmate during a brief break in activity on the subject of transformation as it pertained to obtaining our doctorates. I explained to her that, for me, it feels like obtaining a doctorate in leadership presents a seemingly-odd paradox – on the one hand, each of us are building expertise in a particular area, to the point where we may be considered a top-of-the-line, go-to authority on that area. On the other, however, I realize, at this level, just how little I know about the world.
In this context, I look at it in this way: With an undergraduate degree, one begins the journey in acquiring a particular skillset or a particular body of knowledge. A master’s degree, then, is designed to further hone in, and continue to build on, the skillset or body of knowledge initially explored with the undergraduate degree. With a master’s degree, combined with significant practical work experience gained with the passage of time, the degree holder may be looked up to by colleagues as an authoritative source and an expert in a particular area, and rightly so, to a large extent. For many work environments, from a purely functional standpoint, this is indeed the case, as a master’s degree is usually the end of the road, so to speak, aside from any ongoing professional development, continuing (functional) education, licensing, and so on. The degree holder has essentially maxed out the need in his or her work environment to continue past this level of formal academic degree, and is on the top of his or her world, to continue to make use of vernacular here. Two master’s-level degrees that instantly come to mind here in this case are the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA).
The doctorate degree, meanwhile, does two things, in my mind. First, it continues to build on that particular skillset or body of knowledge initially explored with the undergraduate degree and then further refined with the master’s degree. The holder has acquired expertise in the truest sense of the word, earning the right to make use of the honorary title of doctor and joining an elite 1-2% of the population that have also earned a degree at this level. Second, it tears down all of the knowledge and wisdom previously gained, rebuilding it all in a reimagined, reordered way. Where once the colleague in the office with a master’s degree and years of practical work experience was a master of his or her own small universe in the office, she or he now knows nothing by taking up the doctorate degree – while simultaneously, in a strangely paradoxical way, achieving what only an elite few in the world do. Such is my transformational journey in working toward a doctorate. I now realize how little I truly know, as studying at this level has opened my mind and eyes in ways that the two previous academic degrees can never do. It is difficult to go on explaining this feeling, for words cannot really articulate it.
And while it is true that I am building significant expertise in a particular field through obtaining an honorific that few in the world do, I realize that I am no more intelligent than anyone else. One’s lack of a doctorate is not proof of a lack in intelligence or capability at this level, nor is it proof of a lack of a highly-valued skill and/or expertise. A doctorate is merely one path out of many to build such skill or expertise. I am no better than a financial advisor with a bachelor’s degree in finance or economics, 15-20 or more years of work experience, and a slew of industry-recognized licenses and certifications. Nor am I any better than the farmer or the machinist, both of whom may have no more than high school educations and have been working in their respective fields their entire lives.
Finally, I find myself in genuine awe to be studying at this level, for I never imagined making it to this degree. Shortly before graduating with my undergraduate degree, I had joked with friends, family, and classmates at the time that I was done with school for good upon graduating, for it took me six years to graduate. I never changed anything – I merely kept adding to my studies, ultimately earning two minors and a 12-credit certificate in leadership in the end, as well. There were also semesters where I intentionally opted for a lighter course credit load, as well, because I was active in many student organizations and activities. Studying at this level is a great privilege and responsibility, one that I do not take lightly. It is my hope that what I am learning can be used to benefit others in their own work and service, and, by extension, the broader society.
I'd like to share a piece I wrote back in July of this year. I
generically titled it at the time, "It's time to think inside the box," and I presented a brief talk based on what you're about
to read here to a local business networking group.
Now, some of what you're going to read won't apply to you at this point in your life. It was, after all, written for a group of business people. But you'll easily identify and understand the main takeaway, which is that, oftentimes, the tools, resources, and connections that we need to achieve a goal or greater success are already there in front of us. They're inside the box. Yet, all too often, we're desperately scrambling to find that next big idea, or connection, or resource outside of the box, to the point where we're ignoring what's already at our disposal.
Here's a brief excerpt to get your mind thinking:
...it's important now and then to reflect on and take stock of what's in
the box. What - or who - do we already have at our disposal in our
offices, in our networks, in our day-to-day lives, and in our
interactions with others that we're forgetting about? See, we're usually
searching so far out, that it's very easy to forget about all the
potential, and synergies, and ideas, and creative solutions that are
right there in front of us. Think inside the box for a change.
And here is the piece in its entirety, "It's time to think inside the box," from another blog I run, MilwaukeeBusinessOpportunities.com. I hope you enjoy it and find it to be of some value.
Recently, I was chatting with a couple of students in class, and I asked them what class they had next. They told me they were off to Personal Finance. My eyes lit up with joy and excitement, and even more so when they told me it was a required course. You see, I just happen to be a super fan of requiring a personal finance class, and have been for many years now. In general, I think that at least a couple of business courses should be required for everyone, at both the high school and college levels.
Now, these students didn't quite share my joy. They told me it was an extremely boring subject. And that's when I sprang into action by attempting to offer some meaningful advice, which I think got through to them. And here's that advice:
I really wish I had a course like this in high school, because, if I did, I'm sure it would have helped me avoid some serious credit card issues that I started to run into during my freshman year of college. See, after I graduated high school, I started getting applications in the mail for credit cards. But not just applications - I started getting actual, physical cards in the mail - actual accounts already opened for me without even applying for them! Now, I'm not sure if and how the rules have changed on just sending cards in the mail. I graduated high school / started my freshman year of college in 2001, so this was a while back already.
So I ended up having a few nice credit cards around 18-19 years old. And for a while there, everything appeared to be going good. I was working pretty steadily, and so my credit card debt was easily manageable. Staying on top of it seemed like a piece of cake.
That was until I started scaling back my work hours due to the demands of school (college) and eventually left my job to take a couple of on-campus jobs that both paid less and offered fewer hours. Then all of that spending and debt started to catch up to me and snowballed into a very difficult situation that would take a number of years to completely clean up. That difficult situation included plenty of interest, late fees and other penalties, and phone calls from bill collectors. Not pretty. Not fun.
In hindsight, looking back at my situation, a personal finance course in high school would have really helped me, I'm convinced, in better understanding not only credit, but a variety of other tools, resources, concepts, and strategies that could have greatly aided in better preparing me for life ahead - topics like budgeting techniques, entrepreneurship, student loans, saving, investing, and insurance. A course like this should also be required again at the college level in order to refresh and reinforce the insights gained from the high school class.
So there it is, my advice. While it's not the most glamorous subject around, personal finance is undoubtedly critical for success throughout life, and it can even be made fun and interesting at times. There are many games, simulations, and self- and team- challenges and activities out there that can help make financial education both fascinating and easy to learn. In any case, you need to learn this stuff. Trust us. We were your age at one time, too. Many of us made terrible choices and mistakes with money when we were younger. We'd sincerely like to help you avoid them and get you started in life on a solid footing.
While researching various articles, videos, and Web sites on the subject of personal finance for my own blog post here, I came across theseresourcesthat you may find helpful and interesting. Enjoy!
Inspirational stories and facts about taking chances and not giving up
If you ever want to be successful in career and life, you must not be afraid to take risks - and to fail. That's right. You can't have success and victory without facing failure and defeat and getting back up to try again.
Here are some real examples of everyday people like you and me that etched their names in the history books with their successes. If they didn't choose to learn from their mistakes and defeats and get back up for more, we may have never heard of them.
Cy Young, 1902.
Cy Young - Having played for five American League baseball teams in his 22-year career (1890-1911), this pitcher has an annual award named after him. The Cy
Young Award is given to one American League and one National League
pitcher each year for having an exceptional season. He still holds the
major league record for most career wins at 511. But guess what else? He
also holds the major league record for the most career losses, as well - at 316. Do you think all of those losses racking up over the years stopped him from going out there to give it his best and try again? Not a chance. To this day, Young also holds major league records for most career games started (815), most career innings pitched (7,356), and most complete games (749). Young's career is a perfect example of how it's not possible to achieve the successes without encountering and overcoming the failures along the way.
Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson - Babe Ruth held the all-time home run record for decades before Hank Aaron took it and, decades after Aaron, Barry Bonds. But for quite a while there, Ruth also held the record for most strikeouts! That record has now been held for quite a while by another legendary slugger and Hall of Fame member - Reggie Jackson. Just like Cy Young - can't have all the victories and triumphs without the defeats!
Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy - Were cut from their high school basketball teams. The rest is history, as we know...
Thomas Edison - Now, I've heard different numbers and versions of this story over the years. The famous inventor supposedly failed 10,000 times before getting the light bulb to work. I've heard it was 1,000 times, too. But it doesn't matter if it was 100 times or even 50. The moral of the story is that he simply didn't give up. He kept learning something new with each failed attempt until he nailed it. And the rest, as we know, is history...
Check out many more inspiring stories like these at this page on the University of Kentucky's Web site.
It's important that you come to know and understand the basics of our system of government and politics in our country, not just at the federal, or national, level, but at the state and local levels, as well. So if you're not paying attention in your social studies and civics classes, you better start!
Now, we're not saying you need to become an expert at this stuff. Not everyone wants to be a lawyer, or social studies teacher, or government employee, or run for office. We get it. But having a decent working knowledge base and being able to exercise your rights and responsibilities in an informed manner is critical for our continued way of life. Having a basic foundation is applicable to any job or career you'd like to have, and just about every major life event and situation that will come your way. And here are some practical, everyday examples of how and why this is the case, in no particular order:
If you ever wish to file a lawsuit, or you yourself are ever sued, you'll want to understand your rights, responsibilities, and how the court system works in regard to lawsuits.
If you are ever arrested and charged with a crime, or you ever wish to accuse someone else of a crime, as with the previous example concerning lawsuits, you'll want to understand your rights, responsibilities, and how policing and the court system work in regards to these matters.
Want to marry someday? Have kids? Get or renew your driver's license? Buy a home? Lots of government forms and paperwork to fill out and keep up on!
If you ever want to start your own business, there are a variety of federal, state, and local rules and laws that you'll have to become familiar with and follow.
You'll want to stay current on what political parties and alliances control what legislative and executive bodies - their philosophies and decisions can potentially impact your job security, how your industry is regulated, etc. They'll determine how you're taxed and what your tax money will be used for. Their decisions can greatly impact economic activity, and that impacts you.
If you ever need to file for unemployment, disability, and/or bankruptcy, there are legal systems and processes in place that you'll have to understand and navigate through.
If you ever want to advocate for or against a law, or even a city ordinance in your hometown, you'll want to understand the basics of how these laws and regulations are passed and implemented.
You may or may not be familiar with a concept known as networking. If you're not familiar with it yet, no problem! That's what this post is for. And if you are familiar, this post will be a good review and will hopefully deepen your understanding about this very important life & career strategy and skill.
Networking is the art of building long-term, meaningful professional and business relationships over time. Many of these professional relationships may eventually turn into close personal friendships, too.
You see, as you get out more into the workforce and head off to your post-high school journey - to university, trade school or technical college, military service, etc. - you're going to start coming into contact with other people that you will be working with, or studying with, that can potentially, with time, become valuable connections and resources for you. They may come to serve as professional references when you're applying for your next job or applying for admission into an academic program. They may be able to connect you with others that can help you advance your job or career prospects. They may have knowledge and skill sets that can help you in some facet personally or professionally.
Networking is a big thing. It's a big deal. So much so that there are entire groups, organizations, and ongoing events both large and small dedicated to bringing people together to build relationships and share ideas, resources, and connections. Examples include your community's chamber of commerce and local chapters of Business Networking International (BNI). There are Web sites, like LinkedIn.com, devoted to networking. LinkedIn is a social media site that is professional in nature. It lets you create a profile, share posts with others, send private messages, and a lot more. Instead of having "friends" like you have on Facebook, you have "connections" on LinkedIn.
But it's important to remember that networking is always a two-way street. If you want to take, you have to be willing to give. But if you're willing to give and put in the effort, the results will be amazing!
Let's watch a few videos about networking and how to go about it.
Several studentsI work with are currently in a computer science course and have a strong interest in developing their coding and programming skills. In that light, I thought I'd share a couple of great resources for learning HTML and CSS coding for anyone interested here. A lot of promising, in-demand careers in this field! Happy learning!
So you're applying for a job, and you don't have any (or extremely limited) previous work experience. Hopefully, you now have your very first resume created after learning some tips from my previous post, Creating a resume and applying for work. The next step in the process is to write a cover letter.
A cover letter, put simply, is a brief document (an actual letter) that you turn in at the same time as your other job application materials (your resume, application, etc.). A cover letter is always customized to the position you're applying for. In it, you're explaining to the hiring manager why you believe you're the right candidate for the specific position you're applying for. The cover letter gives you an opportunity to go a little more in-depth with relevant experiences, skills, accomplishments, and stories that shed further light on the value that you're going to bring to the position and the company.
Let's watch a few brief videos I came across on YouTube about how to write a cover letter. After the videos, if you have Microsoft Word on your computer, the newer versions of Word have cover letter templates that you can easily customize. Go ahead and open up Word and simply start exploring and playing around a little bit in the cover letter template area. There are some really cool options.
I recently created some discussion forums to go hand-in-hand with the conversations and content on this blog. I invite you to check out the Mr. Robertson's Corner - Discussion Forums when you find some time. Enjoy!
Yesterday, I had a student ask me for help applying for a holiday job online. We started going through the online application together, when we came across a section for uploading a resume. This student doesn’t have one (yet! - we're about to change that), and doesn't have any formal work experience yet, either. In the little amount of time we had together at the moment, I tried explaining to this student what a resume is and why we should try to put one together to greatly increase the chances of getting called for an interview, and hopefully, ultimately hired. The student seemed a little perplexed, and I was met with some blank stares. But that's certainly okay. A natural initial response for a new experience. We'll get there. I had the same reaction when several students were trying to teach me all about Fortnite one day!
So you're applying for a job, and you don't have a resume or any (or extremely limited) previous work experience. Mr. Robertson and some other great friends and resources to the rescue!
To begin, let's start with some really basic concepts about the nature of work and why we work.
First off, think of yourself as a business.
That's right - take a few moments to think about yourself - just you as an individual person - as your own, truly unique business. You are your own company. And what do businesses have?
For starters, they have bills to pay, right? For us individuals, that could mean a car payment, rent, a mortgage, credit cards, food, medical and dental care, phone bill, childcare, utilities, right?
Businesses also have goals that they want to accomplish. For us individual businesses, that could mean items or services we buy that we don't necessarily need to survive, but that we want to have or to own anyway, right? We want to have the big fancy house with all the video games in the world. We want the Lincoln or the Cadillac instead of the Ford. We want to fly down to Disney World in the first-class section instead of coach. We want to have the best cable or satellite TV package with all the sports channels.
Goals can also mean awards or recognition that we want to achieve, or things that we want to do or experience just for our own personal satisfaction. We want to become known as experts in a subject and have other people in our community or even from all over the country or world seek out our knowledge and guidance. We want to become a high-level manager or executive and have all the rewards - and responsibilities - that come with it. And hopefully, somewhere in there, we have some goals to be able to help other people just for the sake of helping other people, with nothing in return being expected.
You get the point.
So, if you are your own business, what are you selling, and who are you trying to sell it to?
In this case, you are trying to sell a one-of-a-kind product or service - you! Yourself! And your potential customer who's going to pay you money on a regular basis so that you can start accomplishing your own goals and paying your own bills is the business you want to work for.
You see, what you're trying to sell is a package deal containing all of your talents, skills, knowledge, experiences, hobbies, interests, accomplishments, character, past work experience (if you have any), and potential.
But you see, even though we are all truly unique, one-of-a-kind individuals, there are similar talents, abilities, experiences, accomplishments, potential, etc. that we share with others. There's definitely some overlap that exists. And employers don't have the time to call or meet with every applicant to try to determine who's the best choice.
This is where the resume comes in.
The resume is a tool that we each create that summarizes and showcases our unique talents, abilities, experiences, etc. Because employers don't have the time to call or meet with everyone that's applying for a job, we give them our resume to look at instead. We hope that a potential employer will give us a call to invite us to participate in the next step in the process - the interview - based on what they read and see on our resume. So it's very important that we do an excellent job in crafting our resume. The chances of getting a call for an interview rest on this one or two page document that introduces us and our strengths to our possible employer. It's a first introduction, so it needs to be done extremely well.
A résumé (a word with French origins pronounced rez-um-may), or resume, according to this Wikipedia article, "...is a document used by a person to present their backgrounds and skills. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons, but most often they are used to secure new employment."
Introducing the functional resume.
Take a look at that Wikipedia article, and, in particular, pay particular attention to the "Styles" section a little bit further down in the article. This section talks about the main, common types of resume formats that exist. For our purposes here, because you have no (or very, very little) prior work experience, we probably want to pick the "functional" resume format for designing your very first resume.
Additionally, I want you to check out this article on ResumeGenius.com entitled, Functional Resume Samples & Writing Guide, written by Erik Episcopo. This article offers a number of great step-by-step tips and visual examples.
Next, check out this video on YouTube. It's only about 8.5 minutes in length, and the presenter is very easy to understand and offers a great visual example. It may be best to open the video in full-screen mode.
Finally, if you have Microsoft Word on your computer, the newer versions of Word have resume templates that you can easily customize. Go ahead and open up Word and simply start exploring and playing around a little bit in the resume template area. There are some really cool options.
So, if you have very little to no prior work history, what kinds of experiences and abilities can you maybe summarize and highlight in your functional resume? Here are some ideas to help get you thinking:
Do you play any school team or club sports?
Any other types of school clubs/activities you may have experience with?
Any experience babysitting for neighbors or family friends?
Do you volunteer, or have volunteered, for a local charity, or for a school program like best buddies?
Know first aid or CPR?
Can you speak/write in another language (bilingual), like Spanish?
Are you, or were you, in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts?
Are you familiar enough with any particular software programs or other forms of technology (like Microsoft Office, various Apple products, Web design and coding, etc., etc.)?
Do you have a decent grade point average (GPA) that you would be proud to show off, say a 3.0 or higher?
Do you routinely make the honor roll?
If you're applying for work as a sales associate in a retail environment, do you have any experience at all in selling and/or providing customer service? It could be selling concessions at your school's sporting events, or candy for fundraisers, for example.
These are just a few great ideas and examples for showcasing skills and talents in areas like leadership, teamwork, communication, responsibility, service to others, initiative and motivation, and goals. And hopefully, you're actively seeking ways to learn outside the classroom on a regular basis, too.
Now, because you're applying for only your first or second job, I
presume, this doesn't really apply to you at the moment, but eventually,
as you gain additional work experience and education over time, you'll
want to start customizing your resume to better fit the next job you're
applying for or the industry you'd really like to work in. Right now,
your resume is a little more generic, in the sense that we're trying to
show your potential first or second employer that you have some basic
leadership, communication, and other skills established through your involvement
in sports, clubs and activities, scouting, volunteering, etc.
A few key reminders when crafting your resume:
Make sure to use a professionally-sounding e-mail address on your resume, like your school e-mail address or something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't use the silly-sounding e-mail address that you still have from elementary or middle school!
Talk up your talents and skills, but never over exaggerate your abilities and experiences. Don't lie or come close to doing so about anything. If you get called for an interview, know that you're going to be asked about what you listed on your resume. Anything on your resume will be fair game for questions, and you're going to have to comfortably and confidently explain and defend what you wrote!
Use spelling and grammar check, but also have one or two other adults - like teachers or coaches, for example - review your resume. Sometimes, spelling and grammar check doesn't catch all errors.
It appears that it may be written for more the college student in mind, but definitely some awesome takeaways for high school students here, as well. I encourage you to check it out.
I have some of my own advice and experiences to share, as well. My wisdom where it concerns test and exam preparation comes from my time in college, too, not high school (side note: I was a total slacker in high school, and I still have some regrets about that). But again, that doesn't really matter - the overall concepts and strategies are the same. Here are my thoughts, and they all tie together to form one solid and comprehensive plan to get the most out of your tests and exams:
Cram sessions/all-nighters are often useless and not worth it. If you think you're going to make up for an entire semester's worth (or quarter, unit, etc.) of studying the night before your test or exam, you're only fooling yourself. Sure, a few answers may stick around just long enough in your head, but for the most part, you're not going to remember the real substance you need to. Plus, you're going to feel tired, crabby, and just all-around miserable the day of the test, and so having a few basic answers stick around just long enough is not worth all that agony. Instead, you want to get in the habit of periodically reviewing the semester's (or quarter, unit, etc.) key lessons and takeaways in smaller chunks of time spread out across the period of content covered in the test. Doing so will properly store the answers in your long-term memory and prevent the misery you're going to feel after pulling an all-nighter, which, as we know, has very little to no benefit for you whatsoever. The day of your test or exam, review your notes and study aids when you find a little time here and there - at breakfast, while you're waiting for the bus / on the bus, and definitely during study hall if you have one beforehand. If you've been studying and reviewing all along in shorter batches of time, then this review the day of should be light, casual, and stress-free. Consider buying or making your own flashcards.
And speaking of all-nighters, get some solid sleep - not just the night before the big test day, but make it a regular habit. It's absolutely critical to get regular rest, especially at your age, when you're still developing. Go for that 7-8 hour range every night, and try to make your sleeping hours consistently the same each night (like 9pm-5am or 10pm-6pm).
Watch your diet and have a good dinner and breakfast before the test. Good nutrition is always important. I'm not saying you always have to avoid candy, chips, ice cream, fried and other junk foods. I'm far from being the perfect example when it comes to diet. But try to keep these kinds of foods to a minimum, and work in an adequate amount of the healthy stuff on a consistent basis - your vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, good dairy, etc. Before you get a good night's sleep the evening before the big test, eat a good dinner. Follow that up with a good breakfast the morning of test day. Stay away from the high-fat, salty, sugary, and fast food options.
So, to recap:
Cramming and all-nighters are not going to work. Instead, break up your studying and review into smaller chunks spread out over a much larger period of time.
If you follow the first point, then your review the day of should be light, casual, and stress-free.
Get consistently solid sleep, including a good night's rest the evening before the big test.
Watch your diet always, but eat a decent dinner and breakfast before the test.
Consider buying or making your own flashcards as an effective study aid.
I'd like to share a piece I wrote back in June of this year. I generically titled it at the time, "How to generate more and better business ideas," and I presented a brief talk based on what you're about to read here to a local business networking group.
Now, even though I originally presented this to a business group, the message is universal, and it certainly applies to an academic environment. The main takeaway of this written piece/talk is that we mustn't fear creating something that isn't instantly perfect. We can continue to develop and perfect along the way. If we wait for something to come into existence in a flawless state, it will never happen.
Here's a brief excerpt to get your mind thinking:
The lesson here is that, in order to create anything worthwhile – art, written works, ideas, products and inventions, etc. – we can’t be afraid to bring those concepts into the physical realm in an imperfect state. Yet, all too often, we are afraid, and we might not even realize it. We want the concept to come into reality perfect the first time around. And because we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by that fear and indecision and eternal debate going on in our heads, we’re often left with nothing actualized. I can’t begin to imagine how many would-be thought-provoking literary works, useful inventions or improvements, fun songs, breathtaking works of art, and engaging ideas are either sitting in the minds of the living, or are forever lost with the passing of the departed, because improving and perfecting along the way does not, for whatever reason, seem good enough to us. We have to overcome this fear if we want to stop cheating ourselves and one another.
When you think about careers, or jobs, what usually comes to mind? Probably a police officer, fire fighter, doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, dentist, astronaut, and athlete, right? That's a great start, and there's certainly an ongoing need for these types of highly-skilled, dedicated professionals. But this is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to careers and the countless ways that exist to make a living.
The reason why you probably only think of the career examples mentioned a little while ago is because they're examples we've heard talked about and encouraged to dream about since early childhood. Additionally, though, because of your age, it's likely very difficult for you right now to be able to see the endless possibilities that exist out there in the world. You can't yet understand the depth and breadth of the opportunities truly available to you. And that's certainly okay. Nothing wrong with that. Only time and a rich variety of job and career exploring activities can help you better understand the complete picture and connect the dots that you can't yet see.
In short, where ever there's a need or want by individuals, families, businesses, organizations, charities, or communities, there are jobs or future jobs to address those needs or wants. It's this supply and demand that forms the basis of our economy. The possibilities available are virtually endless.
Let's explore a little bit of this vast world. Following are links to a number of articles and blog posts, both internal to this blog and to outside resources, to help you in your journey of exploration and discovery. In no particular order:
Exploring volunteer work and how it can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening skills, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Our freshmen are currently exploring a unit on interdependence, in which they are learning about the many ways people, animals, natural resources, and things are dependent on one another for successful outcomes in whatever form that may take on, or even for literal survival. Following are several examples that I've given to students or that I've heard from students and teachers.
The many parts in a car or motorcycle engine: An engine is made up of many individual parts, components, and processes. All of these individual pieces are dependent on the others working properly in order for the engine as a whole to work properly. If just one of these parts, components, or processes is not working the way it should, then the entire engine may not work at all.
Dependent on the labor and skills of others: Speaking of cars, I love cars, but I don't know how to work on them. Never really had the time or interest to learn, and even if I did, I would certainly not be an expert. Therefore, I am dependent on the labor and skills of mechanics and technicians when I need my car serviced or repaired. Thank goodness there are good people out there with these highly-specialized skills and talents, otherwise I may not have a car to get to work, buy groceries, and have fun! And speaking of groceries, we are dependent on countless people, and I mean countless, for growing, harvesting, catching, hunting, preparing, packaging, storing, displaying, and selling the food we have to eat. The food didn't just magically appear in the store, right? And the store itself - the physical building - we are dependent on the many talents of architects, engineers, designers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and many others for making it happen!
School band and choir: Each individual person in the band or choir is dependent on the other individuals in their own sections - woodwind, brass, percussion, string, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, etc. - knowing their parts and performing well. In turn, the entire unit - the entire band or choir - is dependent on each of the sections knowing their parts and performing well. If someone is off key or off time, the entire performance may not sound right!
Interdependence among school subjects: Without learning the fundamentals of writing and communication in your English class, it's pretty difficult to earn a decent grade on your paper in science or your presentation in social studies. And without the ability to write, speak and present, do math, and understand the role of government and the impact of the broader economy, you're going to struggle in your business class.
Discussion and reflection questions
Now that we've offered a few practical, everyday, real-world examples of interdependence, ask yourself these questions and think about some possible answers.
If you play any team sports or are involved in any school clubs, can you think of any examples where you're dependent on your teammates or fellow club members, and they're dependent on you?
If you have a job, think about your role at work. How are others - like your co-workers, managers, and customers - dependent on you, and you dependent on them?
The food chain - We discussed earlier how we're dependent on countless people to provide us with the food we buy at the store, but how are humans, plants, animals, and natural resources dependent on each other in regards to the food chain? What do we all need from one another? What are our responsibilities?
Think about group assignments for a moment. In many cases, your teacher is going to award one grade for the entire group, and that one grade for the entire group becomes your individual grade, right? So, if you're given a group project to do, how are you dependent on the work of the others in the group? How are the others dependent on your contributions?
As educators, we wish we can teach you everything you need to know to get through life. Unfortunately though, there just isn't enough time in the day, for one, and two, we have many other students to help, as well. Because of these simple realities that prevent us from teaching you everything you need to know to successfully navigate through life, it's important that you seek learning opportunities on your own outside of the classroom to supplement and enhance what we're trying to teach you during the school day.
There are many ways you can learn outside of the classroom, and what's cool is that they don't have to seem like a lot of work. They can actually be quite fun, and they can start with your own hobbies, interests, and career aspirations. Furthermore, all of this learning outside of the classroom can potentially come to help you in completing actual school assignments because you'll have more knowledge, ideas, experiences, and examples that you can write about, present on, and relate to. Let's explore further.
Here are some great examples of ways to learn outside of the classroom setting:
Clubs and activities at school: I strongly encourage participation in these co-curricular opportunities. Clubs and activities are a great way to supplement in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Beyond that, they can provide an opportunity for developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as you learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and valuable networking connections. Some examples of clubs and activities include student government (or you may know it as student council or principal's cabinet), newspaper, yearbook, debate, forensics, or any club with a particular academic focus (like philosophy, psychology, etc.), among many others.
Sports (either school or club teams): Goes along with clubs and activities above - a great way to stay in shape while also learning and strengthening your skills in areas like teamwork, communication, leadership, negotiation, and coordination.
Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org):Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The Web site features an extensive variety of courses and tutorials in areas like math, science and engineering, computer programming, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, career exploration, the college admissions process, and a lot more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.
TED Talks (www.ted.com):Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”. From its Web site:
“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”
Documentaries: I love borrowing documentaries on DVD from my local public library on a variety of subjects, as well as checking out the offerings from time to time on Netflix and the History Channel. If you love the game of baseball, and its fascinating history and legendary characters, I highly recommend Ken Burns' Baseball. I've loaned out a couple of times now another documentary by Ken Burns called Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which not only explores current therapies to combat this dreadful disease, but also takes us through the history of cancer fighting and the pioneering doctors and scientists whose groundbreaking work and ideas have gotten us to where we are today. Through documentaries, I've learned about Milwaukee's Italian-American community, the 2008 financial crisis, the lives and times of captains of industry, the education system, the history of American cars, and, now that I work in a public high school and with a number of special education students throughout the day, various learning and emotional and behavioral challenges.
Conversations: That's right, conversations. Simply talking with others. Interested in exploring a particular career? Wondering how college life is like and what the college admissions process entails? Looking to take up a hobby? Curious about how a particular product is made or how a process works? Fascinated about what it's like to serve in the military and wanting to learn more? Wanting to meet new people and get more involved in your community but not sure where to begin? You can get some answers to these and other questions by striking up conversations with people you already know. Examples include your parents and siblings, your friends' parents and siblings, teachers, coaches, classmates, your employer and co-workers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Newspapers and magazines: Keeping up with events and developments in the broader world around you can potentially prove beneficial for you in numerous ways. Having a decent working knowledge base of news and trends in technology, the economy, government and politics, business, trade, education, and world affairs can position you ahead of the competition in the workplace.
You're asking yourself, "Uuuggghhh...Why do our teachers make us do presentations? That's a great question! The reason is that giving presentations helps build and strengthen a number of key skills that are necessary for success throughout life and career. Trust me, the reason is not to just torture you. It really is for your benefit. Let's explore further.
In order to be successful in any kind of work situation, you need to have solid communication skills. It doesn't matter what you do now for a job, or what you plan on doing years from now for your dream career, you need to know how to interact with others in verbal, written, and even non-verbal ways. You need to be able to express yourself in a clear, concise, professional, and friendly manner, and, at the same time, you need to be able to effectively listen to others in the forms of questions, feedback, and other important information being presented to you.
Giving presentations in front of your class, then, gives you crucial practice for these real-world situations that you will certainly come across repeatedly throughout your life. It doesn't matter if you're giving a presentation in your history class about World War II, or if you're talking about your favorite novel in front of your English class, or if you're discussing the atmosphere in your science class, the skills you're learning are the same - you're learning how to effectively and confidently communicate with others. These are valuable skills that will help you time and time again for the rest of your life.
Welcome to this blog and to its very first post! My name is Aaron Robertson, and I started working as a substitute teacher and special education paraprofessional during the 2018-19 school year. I primarily work at the middle and high school levels, but I have elementary experience, as well. I serve in both special education and regular education environments, and in both public school districts and Roman Catholic schools around the greater Milwaukee area.
A little bit about me
Up to the start of the 2018-19 school year, my work experience had been in the business world. I have experience in areas like marketing communications (particularly online marketing), sales support, customer service, general bookkeeping, training and mentoring, office management, supervising, event planning, entrepreneurship, and freelance writing and journalism. Check out the bigger interviews I've conducted over the years with national musicians, TV personalities, and more by clicking here.
Once active on the business networking and community service scenes, I have experience serving on the boards of two local chambers of commerce, as well as charitable work and community projects through organizations like Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis. I also served in city government in my hometown of Muskego, Wisconsin in two non-elected, appointed posts - as a member of the zoning board of appeals, and as a member of the library board of trustees. I served a long stint as president of the library board, and it was a great honor. Through all of these wonderful activities and organizations, I got to meet and work with a diverse variety of awesome people, and I had a lot of fun learning about their own backgrounds and interests, and what it is they do for work.
Currently, I'm pursuing a Ph.D. in leadership at Cardinal Stritch University, where I also earned my master's and bachelor's degrees. My master's is in management, and my bachelor's is in political science with minors in sociology and philosophy. Originally, I was interested in exploring the subject of organizational culture for my Ph.D. dissertation work. I am now exploring China's artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives, its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its entrepreneurial climate, U.S. - China Cold War theory, and Realism in International Relations (IR). Some day, I would love to teach at the college level. In the meantime, I'm having a genuine blast working with K-12 students.
In my free time, I love car shows, cookouts, the Milwaukee-area festival scene, the Wisconsin State Fair, writing, occasionally collecting sports memorabilia and coins, Milwaukee Brewers games, dining out, movies, music and live concerts, making others laugh with my humor, and learning something new - be it in the form of conversation, documentaries, museums, travel, or getting lost in Wikipedia articles for an hour or two at a time.
I drink coffee like it's water throughout the day, and I've had teachers and students tell me that they've never seen me without a cup in my hand. My mom compares my need for a cup of coffee in my hand all the time to Linus' security blanket.
I have a fascination with older Lincoln cars, particularly 1970s models, which I attribute to watching too many mob movies growing up. I currently have a 1988 Town Car, and my daily runner is a 2009 MKZ. I once owned a 1979 Continental Mark V - it was truly beautiful.
My music interests are quite diverse, and include - blues, jazz, ragtime, a ton of classic rock, crooners like Sinatra and Bennett, 50s rock & roll, 60s pop, 60s and 70s R&B, Gregorian Chant, and some classic country, bluegrass, rockabilly, disco, ethnic, classical, and alternative rock. Never really got into heavy metal, rap, or modern country.
With that said, starting this blog only seemed natural. As time has passed during the last few years and I started gaining experience working with middle school students in school settings, I've been trying to develop more content for this blog aimed at that age group. So, welcome - it's my sincere hope that you enjoy the discussions and resources here and that they come to serve as meaningful and useful supplements to all the wonderful learning taking place in the classroom. This blog is for students, parents and families, and fellow educators. I hope you find this site to be of some value to you, and I'm grateful for you sharing it with others.