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Friday, September 13, 2019

Individualized learning

In the K-12 education field today, there's a real push to emphasize individualized learning, or, to use another term that may be thrown out there from time to time interchangeably, personalized learning - this notion that teachers should find more ways to encourage each student to learn on their own terms. To have students learn what they want or need and through the styles that they want or need - visual, audio, hands-on, projects, papers, etc. - is really the goal of this thing we're calling individualized, or personalized, learning.

But in the end, isn't all learning already individualized, whether we're talking structured environments or unstructured activities? And if so, is this movement nothing really more than just one of the latest fads, one of the latest buzzwords, in K-12 education? Now, full disclosure here - I've worked in private sector business all my life so far, and have only been dabbling in K-12 education for less than 1.5 years as a substitute teacher and instructional / special education aide. By no means am I a psychologist, career-long educator, or expert on learning and brain development. I'm merely raising the question based simply on my own observations and experiences over the years as a non-expert lay person and student myself, for whatever they're worth. Let's explore further. We're about to get a little philosophical here.

As I tried to make the case in a previous post, The double-edged sword of technology, each mind is truly unique, and that's what makes every individual truly unique. With that said, if that's the case, then each mind is going to learn, retain knowledge, and make connections in a truly unique, individualized way.

If you and me are in the same class on whatever - it could be business, math, English, history, any kind of elective, etc. - sure, we're both being exposed to the exact same lectures by our teachers, the exact same assignments, the exact same textbooks and materials, and so on. But, I ask, are they really the exact same? You and me are truly unique, so we're not going to learn, retain knowledge, and make connections in the same ways.

Some examples of where I'm trying to go with this:

You may find one of the course's lessons to be very fascinating. I don't know, maybe this lesson, you feel, is somehow really pertinent to a career you're exploring. Or you just simply find it interesting. Whatever. Meanwhile, I'm bored by that very same lesson and simply dismiss it. No offense to the teacher. I just find that the lesson doesn't mean anything for me. It happens.

I may find one strategy to problem solve that really works well for me, while you may find another strategy that really works well for you. Both strategies get us to the same answer or general conclusion, but we find the other's preferred strategy confusing.

Another, more concrete example here - writing a research paper. We're both given the exact same assignment - the rubric is the same, the general guidelines and overall topic or research questions are the same, and so on. But what I actually research (the sources I consult and cite, the search words I enter into Google or an article database, etc.) and how I write and assemble my paper in the end is going to look very different from yours. It's not the same assignment for us because we're not the same.

What you take away from an assigned reading could be very different from what I get out of the exact same reading. What I find meaningful and relevant from the reading, you downplay and forget about, and perhaps vice-versa.

Finally, high school diplomas and college degrees - we earned the same high school diploma from the same high school in the same year. We then earned the same college degree in the same major at the same university. We both have the same exact sheets of paper, the diplomas, to prove it. Only difference is our names on these sheets of paper. But in the end, we each received very different educations to get there because of all the previous examples discussed - and then some. You may have gotten far more out of your education than I did because you completed more of the assigned readings than I did. You also greatly enhanced your education by learning outside of the classroom, and you took networking far more seriously than I did, so your career prospects are looking a lot better than mine at the moment.

What are your own thoughts and observations here? Can you come up with any examples of your own to add to the discussion? Are there any teachers that want to weigh in? What am I missing? What am I not considering or factoring in?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Letter to a former student

Thank you for the kind words, bud. Really means a lot to me. I'll never forget my time there with all of you. So many happy memories. It was a truly wonderful experience, and I'm a better person because of it. You used the crying emoji. Well, I'm going to admit that I really did cry. And I cried hard for a while, both privately and in front of quite a few good friends.

Like I always say, don't waste this precious time that you have right now, like I did when I was in high school. Learn all you can, in and out of class. Learn about history, business, government, finance, investing, ethics. Learn about leadership and what it means to truly be of service to others. Learn about your rights and responsibilities as a citizen. Learn some valuable skills that no one can ever take away from you. Master writing and communication.

I can tell you're the entrepreneurial type, with your lawn mowing business and all. I can also tell that you're the leader, or one of the leaders, among your close circle of friends. Keep it up, and you're not going to believe how far you're going to go. I'm excited for your future - for all of your futures. Give everyone my best. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

An introduction to Scott Joplin

Sometime in high school, I believe, I first came across the music of Scott Joplin (1867 or 68 - 1917), and he's the focus in this latest installment of my occasional series here on this blog, "Exploring the world of music." Famous for a style of music known as ragtime, and even nicknamed, "The King of Ragtime," Joplin, like many ragtime composers and artists, was a pianist.

Following are just three of the many "rags" that Scott Joplin wrote. Just the tip of the iceberg for the vast body of brilliant work he left for us to enjoy and cherish.

The first one here is called "Maple Leaf Rag" (1899), while the second is "The Entertainer" (1902). You may find that you are already somewhat familiar with these tunes when you listen to them here, as they are pretty famous. This is especially true of "The Entertainer." Both have been used in movies, ringtones, and elsewhere all throughout pop culture.

The third one, "Wall Street Rag" (1909), is also fairly well-known but, I would suspect, not at quite the level of fame and familiarity as the other two.

An interesting note here about "Wall Street Rag" - Joplin, who truly had a brilliant mind, wrote each of the song's parts and transitions in such a way as to mimic the different cycles and moods of the stock market, specifically during the Panic of 1907. You can read more about the background of "Wall Street Rag" by clicking here.

What do you think of this music? What's your reaction? Feel free to share in the comments section below.






How to save without really realizing it

Recently, during a meeting of a business networking group I belong to that meets over breakfast a couple times per month, one of the group's members shared this really neat tip for saving up money for, well, whatever - some sort of goal, a rainy day, a trip, etc. At the end of each day, she goes through her purse/wallet and any other place where change is left over from the day, and she'll put any $5 bills she finds away. Some days, obviously, she won't have any to tuck away, but many days she'll easily find at least one. What a cool idea, I immediately thought when I heard it. What a clever way to save for something without making it a big burden and dramatically impacting your lifestyle. Thought it was a tip certainly worth sharing here.

Cavalleria Rusticana

I'm pleased to revive my occasional series on this blog, "Exploring the world of music," after a hiatus over the summer. In this installment, I'd like to reflect on a classical/opera piece by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni. It's called, "Cavalleria Rusticana (Intermezzo)," and it was prominently featured in the films Raging Bull and The Godfather Part III. Listen to it in the video below, and then let's discuss it.



I don't know about you, but this piece can be highly emotional and reflective in nature for me, mostly in a tragic sense. I don't know if it's because of the scenes where it plays in The Godfather Part III, and, to a little bit of a lesser extent, Raging Bull, but this piece often paints a picture for me of an old man near the end of his life, thinking back on his life - all the triumphs, joy, sorrow, memories, regrets. Thinking back on all the people and moments that touched his life in a meaningful, profound way; all the people that hurt him and all the people he hurt. Thinking about all the unfinished business he's about to leave behind. All the unfinished words that should have been said. But also, hopefully, thinking, "Man, what an incredible journey it all was."

Sometimes, the piece makes me think of someone experiencing deep loss. The loss of a loved one, and the immense agony that comes with never being able to see that loved one ever again in this world. Thanks, Godfather Part III.

But for all the tragedy and the heartache, if there's any good that can come out of thinking about this piece in that light, it's that we should attempt to simply treat others, along with ourselves, better in the limited time we each have.

When you listen to this piece - and I'd suggest listening to it at least a couple of times - what does it make you imagine, or think about? How does the music move you, and speak to you? Share in the comments below. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

PBS video clip on George Custer

Per my recent post on Captain Myles Keogh and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, here's a PBS video clip on General George Custer I recently came across on YouTube. It focuses on Custer's time in the Civil War (1861-65) and on his relationship with his wife, Elizabeth. Very interesting. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Welcome back students!

Hello! I hope this message finds you well, and I hope you enjoyed your summer break! I sure kept busy over the summer with several projects that were a lot of fun for me. Well, it's time to get back to work in the classroom for all of us. For me, that means a long-term substitute assignment as a special education aide at the high school level that I recently accepted.

While it's back to learning in the classroom, hopefully, you didn't stop learning over the summer. As I always explain to students, learning takes on an enormous variety of forms and situations. With that said, learning - and the opportunity to learn - never ends. You don't have to be in a classroom or school setting to learn, grow, and develop. And actually, I would contend, many of the greatest, most meaningful life and career lessons we'll ever learn take place outside of school. But school and the "real world" do certainly go hand-in-hand. While there are plenty of social commentators and political pundits out there ready to attack and instantly dismiss just about all avenues of formal education as being a complete waste of time and money and not having much to do with reality at all, it's clear, at least to me, that there are certainly deep strands connecting the two "worlds." You're not going to be very successful out there in much of anything if you can't read, write, reason, perform basic math functions, conduct research, and understand and subscribe to some sort of ethical and moral framework. Likewise, skills and experiences like networking, learning how to effectively communicate and collaborate with others to perform work or accomplish a goal, customer service, general business processes, mastering software programs and different types of equipment, building or repairing things, working with tools, salesmanship and marketing, computer programming and coding, entrepreneurship, etc., etc., can only come by constant exposure in real settings. You have to just get out there and do it, as they say, and that requires plenty of practice, mistakes, patience, fine-tuning, reflection - and drawing from the skills and experiences you're picking up in class.

Anyways, I think I may be getting off topic just a tad. This was supposed to be a simple "welcome back" post, not a philosophical debate about the merits and shortcomings of formal education, or the current state of the modern-day school system, or how the mind grows and develops. There will be plenty of future opportunities for "those" posts.

Here's to a successful 2019-2020 school year and to your continued growth as a leader! Wishing you all the best. Take advantage of this time that you have to learn all that you can. Don't squander this precious opportunity you have right now, like I did when I was in high school.

Mr. Robertson

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Myles Keogh

Myles Keogh and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876

An Irish warrior that fought for the Pope in Italy and then came to the United States to fight for the Union in the Civil War (1861-65), including at Gettysburg. Met his death at just 36 years old fighting Sioux and Cheyenne warriors in Montana at what became famously known as Custer's Last Stand, and then had his remains shipped to New York for burial. Here's his incredible story.

Myles Keogh
Growing up as a kid, I was quite the history buff. Even though I was on my way to eventually becoming a total slacker in high school, something I don't recommend, I loved to learn as much as I could about a variety of historical eras and events. I loved to play baseball in the street or at the park with my friends, and I played little league for several years (I didn't play high school sports because, again, I was a slacker). But just as much as I loved to play the game, I loved to learn all I could about the history of the game. I was particularly fascinated by the 1900s-1910s era. I loved the designs and artwork of the baseball cards and advertisements from that period. I knew all about the lives and careers of legends like Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Eddie Plank, and my personal favorite because of his wild and unpredictable behavior - Rube Waddell.

For a period of time, I was fascinated with World War II history, and I had a strong interest in the aircraft used in the war - the various bombers and fighters. I wrote on this blog that I recently rediscovered a documentary from 1944 about the amazing accomplishments of the crew of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber that flew bombing missions over Germany from its base in England. I included the full documentary and several clips from a 1990 Hollywood movie about the crew in that post, which you can check out here.

And then there was the period in 2nd-3rd grade where I learned all I could about both the Revolutionary and Civil wars, prompted by seeing my dad's 1976 high school yearbook, the year he graduated. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of American independence, the yearbook featured a section showcasing all the major flags flown in or by the country - flags of individual colonies prior to and during the Revolution; the Confederate flag and its major variants; various battle flags used over the centuries; state flags; and a series of official U.S. flags that showed its evolution leading up to what we now know as its current design. 
 
Finally, getting to the main topic of this post, there was also a period growing up where I learned all I could about what's generally and collectively referred to as the Indian Wars - the various battles and skirmishes that took place out West between the U.S. Army's Cavalry and various Native American tribes after the Civil War. This interest all began when my parents, sister, and myself headed out West on a road trip one summer. I forget how old I was at the time, but I would have been in middle school. We visited Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota; stopped at multiple roadside markers pointing out U.S. - Indian battle sites; ventured into Wyoming for a couple of days; and went into Yellowstone National Park, albeit very briefly due to lack of time. But the highlight of the trip for me was our visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana, site of the June 25-26, 1876 battle and home to a national cemetery for veterans of all wars.

I remember the site being very quiet. It was very peaceful and solemn. It was the perfect place for thinking; for reflecting and just letting your mind wander. Had it not been for all the markers and fences indicating where soldiers and Native warriors had fallen, you wouldn't know that a bloody massacre had taken place there some 120 years (at the time I went there) prior. It was that quiet. I'd love to visit there again someday.

Myles Keogh
Myles Keogh
Recently, I rekindled my interest in the battle and in that historical period in general. But I came across a "new" character - Myles Keogh, a captain in the battle. Keogh led the men of the U.S. 7th Cavalry's Company I. Now, if I heard of Keogh's name so many years ago, it didn't stick with me. See, as a kid, I remember learning all about the roles of Captain Frederick Benteen (who led companies H, D, and K); Major Marcus Reno (who led companies A, G, and M); and of course, Lt. Col. George Custer, the famed "boy general" of the Civil War, so named because he was made a general at the age of 23. They were certainly the bigger names in the battle on the U.S. side, and a lot has been written about them. Benteen and Reno survived the battle, and Reno went on to face accusations of being a coward for many years after, including by Custer's wife, Elizabeth. Custer, of course, along with all the men he directly commanded in the battle, fell to their deaths. Well, Keogh, it turns out, met the same fate.

As I recently started to learn about Myles Keogh and his brief yet extraordinary military career, I thought to myself simply, "Wow..." Here's a man that met his death at the young age of 36 - my age as I write this - and had, in his short career, left Ireland to fight for Pope Pius IX in defense of the Papal States during the [re]unification of Italy; came to the United States to fight for the Union during the Civil War, surviving major battles like Gettysburg, to name just one; headed out West afterward to participate in the Indian Wars; fights and dies bravely in perhaps the most fabled battle in U.S. history; and then has his remains shipped back to New York for burial.

Myles Keogh
Myles Keogh in 1872.
It's said that Keogh's body was found stripped of its clothing, but not mutilated, as many fallen soldiers were. There are a couple of theories surrounding this. A devout Roman Catholic, Keogh wore an Agnus Dei (that's Latin for "Lamb of God") on a chain around his neck, and the Indian warriors may have viewed this as powerful "medicine." Another theory, tying into this one, holds that many of the Indian fighters were simply Catholic themselves.

Keogh's horse, Comanche, though badly wounded in the battle, survived and would go on to live another 15 years, dying in 1891. He became a mascot of sorts for the 7th Cavalry after the battle, and he is currently housed at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum. He is stuffed and in a humidity-controlled glass case.

Read all about Keogh's extraordinary life and career in this Wikipedia article, and check out the two videos immediately below pulled from YouTube. The third video, also from YouTube, is a news clip from 2015 talking about the battle in general and visiting the site.





Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Memphis Belle 1944 documentary

Recently, I had the opportunity to see again a documentary released in 1944 that showcased the Memphis Belle and its crew. The Memphis Belle was a B-17 Flying Fortress, a four-engine heavy bomber produced by The Boeing Company. These B-17 bombers saw heavy action throughout World War II. Many of them, like the Memphis Belle, were stationed over in England, from where they would conduct daytime bombing raids over Germany.

The documentary is currently available through Netflix, and that's where I was recently reintroduced to it. Growing up as a kid, I was fascinated by various World War II - era bombers and fighters, so I had seen this documentary a number of times as a kid.

In a nutshell, the crew of the Memphis Belle became the first to complete its mandatory 25 bombing missions. When a crew completed 25 missions, they could go home. Sadly, so many didn't come close to that mark, shot down by German fighters and heavy anti-aircraft guns on the ground. The crew of the Belle was truly lucky and fortunate to accomplish what it did. The odds of getting to go home, for any crew, were slim to none.

1990 saw the release of a major motion picture film called Memphis Belle. As with many Hollywood films, the story was heavily dramatized for effect. In reality, the crew and plane made it back to base virtually unscratched. Nonetheless, what you'll see depicted in the movie really did happen to so many crews - to so many lives and families - and we must not forget that. The horrors of war are real, and the movie shows what really happened up there in the sky virtually every day of the war.

Following is the documentary in its entirety. It runs around 40 minutes. I've also included several clips from the 1990 Hollywood film.

In the documentary, pay close attention to the artwork on the side of the planes as they take off on their mission. Many of these planes had names, and featured ornate painted images to go along with those names. For example, the Memphis Belle was named so by its pilot. - he had a girlfriend in Memphis. There's another plane called Dame Satan, featuring a blonde woman dressed as the devil. A couple of the planes featured Hitler in insulting or scared poses. And then there's Old Bill, which featured a friendly-looking, bearded, Paul Bunyan - type of guy. At the end, you'll also see England's King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother greeting the crew. They are the parents of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. On a side note, one of the Memphis Belle's crew members, you'll hear, is from Green Bay, Wisconsin!

Finally, if you spot any yellow-painted bombs on the side of a B-17, those represent the number of missions that plane has completed. Yellow-painted swastikas represent the number of German fighters that B-17 has shot down.

Here's a Wikipedia article on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.









Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Busy summer!

Howdy! I hope this post finds you well. It's been a busy summer for me. I'm having a lot of fun with several other projects I've been working hard at over the last couple of months.

For starters, I serve on the committee that runs Muskego Fest, which we renamed this year to DandiLion Daze. The new name is a tribute to the community's once-famed DandiLion Park, which at one time was home to the country's fastest rollercoaster, the Tail Spin. That's right - Muskego was once home to the *country's* fastest rollercoaster. That was, until Six Flags Great America just south of us in Gurnee, Illinois, came along. Anyway, I help the festival with its marketing efforts and booking bands, and I'm having a blast! Those of you that have been following this blog for a while now already know how much I love marketing. Check out this press release I issued back in early June about the festival's name change and some of the other major highlights coming to this year's festival, which runs from August 23-25.

Speaking of Muskego, another big project I'm working on this summer is a Web site I launched called MuskegoWisconsin.com. I also have a Facebook page by the same name, and it has a little over 1,000 fans at the moment. I hope to turn it into a viable local resource featuring Muskego-area news, commentary, networking & business opportunities, nightlife, fun things to do, and community.

Finally, just last week, I launched another Web project, a site called FacebookHelpers.com. I actually can't believe that domain name (Web site address) was still available! I also bought the domain FacebookConsultants.com (again, really can't believe it was available), and I set it to forward to FacebookHelpers.com. My goal for the site is to have it serve as a valuable resource for mostly small business owners and entrepreneurs looking for help in creating and managing an effective Facebook presence. Check out this blog post I recently published on the site entitled, "How this site came to be" - it's a true, and somewhat funny (I think), story about how I got the idea to launch this site while watching The Social Network for what seemed to be the millionth time since its 2010 release. 

Other than all of this, just enjoying the summer weather whenever I can. I'm enjoying cruising in my summer vehicle, a 1988 Lincoln Town Car (a couple pics below). And I'm really looking forward to the Wisconsin State Fair starting in just a couple of days! I'm a big State Fair fan, and go quite a few times each year. Always a fun time.

1988 Lincoln Town Car Milwaukee

Ford 302 V-8 engine Milwaukee

How has your summer been? Get to take any neat trips? Working? Learning any new skills? Doing anything at all besides playing Fortnite or Cookie Clicker? I sure hope so! Feel free to share your summer adventures in the comments section below.

Hope you're doing well and enjoying summer!

All the Best,

Mr. Robertson   

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hello from Mr. Robertson

Hello!

I hope this post finds you well. My position, along with several others, is not being renewed for next school year due to a reorganization taking place. Being an hourly employee, I had to look for summer work anyways, and so I’ve been searching for new employment over the last several weeks. I’ve found work that has caused me to have to leave a little before the school year ends.

This blog will certainly continue, and I hope you’ll stop by from time to time. In the coming weeks and months here, I hope to expand on my Exploring the world of music series and talk more about scholarships and careers. I’m also working to line up several interviews, including one with my friend and former band mate who currently attends the U.S. Naval Academy, if he can make it work. This would be an awesome interview and discussion for anyone who’s interested in pursuing admission into a service academy after high school.

I want to thank you, for everything. As many of you know, I’ve always worked in various business roles, and this school year was my first formal experience in the world of education. Learning is a two-way street, and I learned so much from you. I sincerely hope I was able to have a positive impact in your life like you have had in mine.

Here are some of the main highlights and memorable moments from our time together:

To the group of freshman boys that dug up several photos of me on Facebook from my days in a local band and made a tribute video out of them: That brought me great laughter and joy. Thank you! I also got a kick out of the poster you recently discovered of me at the Muskego Public Library:

Aaron Robertson Muskego Library Board

To the group of gentlemen at prom who asked me if I’d ever consider managing and promoting your rap group: As you know, I’m more of a rocker, personally, as evidenced by this photo that I’m sure you’ve seen already. But I’m certainly willing to give it a try, if you’re serious! I just don’t know if we can book you into Muskego Fest, though…

Aaron S. Robertson bass player

Career conversations – There were several of you who sought my ideas and advice about career paths and any associated training, experience, and schooling that would be needed. I really enjoyed these meaningful discussions with you and helping you conduct a little research. I hope you found these talks fruitful. I know I certainly did. It was wonderful learning from you.

English 11 class – Really, really enjoyed reading and discussing your papers during our unit on education! You covered some deep and interesting topics around the areas of student engagement, year-round schooling, pay for college athletes, the value of homework, and education systems in other countries, among others. My mind is still pondering many of these subjects, and I’ve been checking out some of your original sources to learn even more. Excellent work!

Lessons in “cool” – Between you and the undergraduate college students I work with as a senator in Cardinal Stritch University's student government, I learned that Facebook is now for soccer moms and old-timers; that Twitter isn't much better than Facebook; that Instagram and Snapchat are where it's at these days; and that Converse shoes are, once again, all the rage.    

Some final advice here:

Know that tough times, which we all experience throughout our lives, are only temporary. Never be afraid to seek out guidance and support from family, friends, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, professors, resources in the community, etc. There’s no doubt that many curve balls will come your way throughout your life. But you’ll also have plenty of opportunities for home runs and even grand slams coming at you right down the middle of the plate. Knock ’em out of the park.

Learn something that’s interesting to you this summer. And I’m really hoping you’ll take that to mean more than just mastering the latest moves and strategies in Fortnite, Cookie Clicker, and Minecraft. Learn about a couple of careers you’re genuinely interested in. What will you need for training, experience, and/or schooling? Are there any volunteer opportunities that may give you an edge? Anyone you can chat with during the summer at family gatherings and parties about these potential paths? Anyone in the community that you can interview, shadow, or take a tour with?

What we generically call “drama” – You’re at an age and in an environment (high school) where “drama” has the potential to lurk its ugly head around the corner at any given time. And I’ve seen it take on many different forms. While the issue, whatever it is, may seem like the world to you and your friends/classmates at the time, it most likely means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. It’s not worth losing friendships and potential friendships over. Remember what’s truly important in the end – your friends.

Trust the process. A professor of mine in my doctoral program lives by this creed. Some of the best conversations and learning opportunities can come about when we simply, “trust the process.”

In closing, thank you once again. What a sincere pleasure it’s been getting to know, working with, and learning from, you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can ever be of further assistance to you, such as a job or scholarship reference / letter of recommendation. Take care of yourselves and each other, stay safe, and enjoy the summer. See you around.

All the Best,

Mr. Robertson

Sunday, April 28, 2019

High school booster clubs

Is your high school booster club struggling with membership, participation, and fundraising? Here are some great ideas and strategies to try, and things to ponder.

Ah, the old high school booster club. Long a main staple for supplementing school budgets by underwriting student experiences that enhance learning and create lasting memories. Many also award college scholarships. This largely parent-driven type of organization, like many other types of community service clubs and civic organizations these days, is grappling with challenges centered around areas like membership, active participation, and fundraising.

While this post is primarily intended for parents and others that are typically involved in high school booster clubs, high school and college students looking to get into areas like event planning, fundraising, marketing, food and beverage, entertainment, and/or volunteer work at some point may also find the information and ideas presented here to be helpful, as there are some great suggestions and important trends being discussed.

As with all of my posts, I welcome any questions, feedback, insights, and experiences you may have in the comments section below. Do you have any fundraising and event ideas not discussed in my post that are working well for your own high school booster club? Please, feel free to share in the comments! Let's make this a real conversation and learn from each other. In the end, it's all about providing opportunities for our children, students, and communities.

I've been involved in a number of organizations over the years, including two chambers of commerce. I currently serve as president of the Muskego Lions Club, and I handle marketing and assist with booking bands for Muskego Fest.

What we're learning and seeing the last several years is that the traditional dinner/raffle/auction and golf outing formats, in general, are really struggling. There are too many of these around, and they're all competing for the same wallets and volunteers. When it comes to festivals, in particular, we're finding out that live music and beer, alone, doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore, either. For those of us living in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, it sounds funny to say that, I know. But people aren't buying beer like they used to. In the past, beer sales could be counted on to easily carry the financials for a festival or large-scale event, but not so much anymore. Finally, service clubs and organizations, all over, are struggling with membership and active participation, so fortunately and unfortunately, you're not alone here.

With all of that said, one possible solution is to focus on much smaller fundraisers that are easy and quick to set up, but do more of them throughout the typical year. Meat raffles are always popular. Team up with bars in the area that will let you do them. Ideally, it would be wonderful if these bars will donate the meat. But even if you need to buy it yourselves, the raffle can still be very lucrative. Sell the tickets at $2 each or 3 for $5. 50/50 raffles are still popular, as well. Doing them in conjunction with meat raffles can be fun and profitable. Again, $2 each or 3 for $5 is a good price point to stick with.

Does your high school booster club have the capability to take donations and payments by credit card, and, if so, year-round? There are quite a few great credit card processing options out there that aren't very costly or contract-based. So if you can accept payments and donations by CC all the time, you're making it that much easier for people to give.

Fishing jamborees are extremely popular. If planned and advertised properly, you can potentially bring in thousands of dollars between entry fees, event sponsorships, silent auction items, and raffles, including meat and 50/50 raffles.

A couple of places to chat with here in the greater Muskego area that do jamborees all the time are Danny Haskell's (on Little Muskego Lake), and AJ's (on Big Muskego Lake).

Murder mystery dinners and trivia nights are very popular options, as well. I see both advertised frequently. When it comes to trivia, specifically, I remember when the concept really started to take off in popularity around the mid-late 2000s. I know some old college classmates that started whole businesses based around trivia nights and events in the Milwaukee area and have done well with them. It's a trend that's managed to stick around and retain high levels of popularity, and today, we see a lot of trivia nights and events centered around specific themes, like hit book and movie franchises.

Reverse Bingo is always fun and lucrative. Best paired with a larger event. The concept is simple - rather than trying to fill up a Bingo card, players want to hope that their cards don't hit on a single number. Once a card has a called number, that card is out. The last person standing with a clean card wins the prize. The prize can take the form of a 50/50 arrangement, or, depending on your card sales, a flat dollar amount, like $500. If no one is left with a clean card, which can certainly happen, there is no prize - the house (your club!) keeps everything. A great price point to sell these cards at is usually around $5 each or 3 for $10.   

Do you ever approach other community service clubs, organizations, and foundations for monetary donations and financial/volunteer partnerships? This is a wonderful way to boost (pun intended!) your bottom line, build and strengthen alliances around town, and increase awareness and engagement for your cause.  

How often do you hold business meetings as a club? If it's once a month or once every couple of months or so, is it possible to move to twice per month, but limit the time of each meeting to say 45 minutes or so? We're finding that millennials and young families want to serve and do various charitable work, but they simply don't have the time to meet for longer periods.

Do you have any big annual sponsors? You'll have to promise some incentives for this. Devise a robust marketing package that provides regular exposure for business sponsors throughout the year via various avenues like social media, mailers, fliers, signage, event and game programs, press releases, and direct patronage (holding some meetings and larger events at those businesses). 

Do you have photos/videos from experiences you're helping to fund, like student trips, prominent speakers, scholarship awards, sporting events, post prom, etc.? Share them. Share your story. Proudly let the broader community (not just the immediate school community) know what you're up to.

Hopefully, you've found this post somewhat helpful and informative. Again, I welcome your questions, feedback, insights, and experiences in the comments section below. What's working for your own high school booster club? What's not? What changes have you made to improve your situation?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Using dated sources for research

A number of days back, I wrote a post on how to choose quality sources for research, in which I discussed ways to identify reliable .com sources. Typically, students are generally advised to avoid .com sites because of all the junk that exists out there on the Internet through them, but there certainly are many trustworthy .coms, as well.

Tying into the broader discussion on selecting sources for research papers and projects, today I want to talk about another general rule of thumb we typically tell students to stick to - the one about not using sources that are more than five years old. I'm here to tell you that you can, in fact, cite sources older than five years - older than 105 years - with a catch.

The reason why we typically advise students to avoid sources older than five years is because any information and data contained in them is considered out of date, or quickly heading that way, at that point. Makes sense, right? That general rule, though, assumes we're always talking about present-day, real-time information and data.

But...

If you want to cite historical studies, data, facts, philosophical arguments, biographical information, news stories, firsthand accounts, etc., etc., you can certainly go back in time as far as you'd like to, or need to, if the source is relevant to your work. Absolutely.

A couple years ago, I was writing a paper of my own for one of my doctoral classes. The main article I made use of to build my case cited a couple of articles from the 1890s! But they were highly relevant. I may share that paper here on this blog one of these days. It's about how to gain genuine expertise at something (anything). Simply having 10, 15, 20 years of experience at something does not necessarily equal expertise. It was an interesting paper.

Anyway, happy researching and writing!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weekend dance party

A couple of fun videos of the Peanuts Gang to kick off the weekend. As you'll quickly discover though, these aren't the usual Peanuts tunes...

A special thanks to Mr. Robertson's sister, Amy, for finding these videos a while back.

Enjoy!




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Choosing quality sources for research

When it comes to identifying quality sources for research papers and projects, we often teach incoming freshmen to avoid .com Web sites and, instead, to stick only to .org, .edu, and .gov sites. The reason why we often teach students to avoid .coms is because there's a lot of junk out there among those types of sites. No doubt about it. Anyone can buy a .com and post whatever content they'd like to on it, but the other domain extensions just named, especially .edu and .gov, come with some big restrictions. You have to be an accredited, degree-awarding institution (.edu), or a government entity (.gov), respectively. 

But the truth is that .com sites can potentially be rich sources of factual, unbiased, well-rounded, and well-written information, commentary, and analysis, as well. If you can adequately defend your use of .com sources for your research papers and projects, you can certainly use them. Among the endless sea of .coms out there on the Internet are reputable Web sites like History.com, Biography.com, WebMD.com, ScientificAmerican.com, and countless newspapers and magazines, among others.

Here are some great tips and strategies to help you in deciding if a .com Web site is a trustworthy source that can be included in your research paper or project. Keep in mind that while this post is talking about identifying and selecting good .com sources, the following pointers are certainly useful for evaluating any kind of source.




Look for the author's credentials - If an author or multiple authors of the content (the article, blog post, video, study, etc.) you're looking at are listed, do you see a small section describing their expertise? It may come in the form of a paragraph or several solid sentences, and may describe the author's level of education, number of years working in his or her industry or field, and/or any other information offering you insight as to why the author (or group of authors) should be considered an authority on the subject. This section may even take the form of an entirely standalone, separate page found elsewhere on the Web site.

Google the author(s) of the content to see if any similar articles (or videos, blog posts, etc.) are coming up that they may have written or created on the same overall topic. Using your best judgment, then, does it seem like these content creators and writers know what they're talking about?

Individual author or authors not listed? This can certainly happen, and it is not necessarily a case for alarm. The author may be listed instead as "Staff" or something similar, or not listed at all. In this instance, browse around elsewhere on the Web site. Is there an "About us" or an "About our publication" kind of a page that may give you some clues on the site's credibility? How do the other articles and content on the site look like to you? Trustworthy?   

The use of statistics, the inclusion of opposing viewpoints, links to other Web sites and studies - Does your potential source list any stats or figures? Does it link to any other reliable-looking Web sites, articles, posts, videos, studies, etc. in order to build its argument or case? While your potential source may come from a specific viewpoint or take a specific position on a topic, does it at least acknowledge opposing viewpoints? Does it let you know where the other side(s) is generally coming from?

Opinion pieces, editorials - can you use them? Heck, yes! But again, look for and take into consideration the credentials of the author or authors. Put more simply, consider the source. That's the key caveat here. Everyone has an opinion on everything. But is the opinion you're looking at here an educated one? In other words, is the author building a sound, reasonable argument? Is there a strong case being made that's worth serious consideration? If a former chair of the Federal Reserve is offering his or her opinion on where s/he thinks the U.S. economy is heading in the next few years, and it's published on WSJ.com (the Web site of The Wall Street Journal newspaper), you can trust that it's going to be an authoritative claim. It's going to be rooted in the high-level education and uniquely high-level work experience of the author in the fields of economics and government service. If the piece is helping you build your own case in your research paper or project, then run with it.

Hopefully, you've found these pointers helpful as you navigate the endless sea of Web sites out there on the Internet in your search for quality sources for your papers and projects. Happy researching and writing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A moving film on empathy

Yesterday, our school watched this. It's very brief, coming in at just under four minutes, but it's powerful. It's entitled, "Under The Surface". I thought it was definitely worth sharing here. Not much room for any further commentary or analysis. As you'll see, the film speaks for itself.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Advice for high school and college students

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in November 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value. 

Advice for High School and College Undergrad Students

By Aaron S. Robertson

November 2, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a remodeling contractor in Muskego. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A few days ago, I wrote arguing that the partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets, and that it goes a long way in enhancing Muskego’s workforce development efforts, and hence, its overall economic development. The partnership achieves this by providing students with opportunities to gain practical knowledge and insights into the world of work; in other words, it seeks to bridge theory (what is taught and learned in the classroom) and practice (how it’s applied in a work and business setting).

I’d like to follow up on that piece with some advice to high school and college undergraduate students meant to further prepare them for work and business.

1) If you’re still in high school, don’t rule out a technical college for your education, at least to start with. There are plenty of great, high-paying jobs available out there that don’t require a four-year degree. Get an associate’s degree in a proven skillset or trade first, and then you can always pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree and higher later on down the road. A bachelor’s degree in a business or management field, teaching, or an area that compliments and enhances the core of the associate’s degree, can all potentially pair very well.



2) It’s never too early to begin networking. Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships in the community and in the world of work and business early on can provide you with a competitive edge when it comes time to enter the workforce, seek advancement, or start a business of your own. Not only will you have established connections that can serve as references or referral sources, but you will also be acquiring a wealth of practical knowledge and insights by learning from them.

3) Whether you’re in high school or college, get involved in clubs and activities. Participation in these co-curricular opportunities is a great way to supplement your in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Another benefit to such participation, coming back to the second point, is that you have an opportunity here to begin 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 networking opportunities.

4) Set some SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Specific, meaningful goal setting is so crucial to achieving the results you desire in any facet of life. And if they’re not written down, they don’t exist. Just saying to yourself, “Someday…” will never work, because, as one legendary band has taught us, someday never comes.



5) Don’t dismiss the jobs you’re doing now at your age as just “kid” jobs. What I mean by this is that, every job you hold is an opportunity to build new or strengthen existing skills and talents that can only enhance your future prospects. Don’t think because you’re working a fast food job, or cashiering in a grocery store, or stocking shelves right now that the experience will never mean anything ever again in a few years once you have your degree in hand and your first “real job”. Take your work seriously. Learn. You’re building skills in areas like customer service, problem solving, teamwork, communication, and technology, among others. And don’t forget about the networking value.

6) Keep up with news and trends in business and technology. Your next opportunity is waiting. Keep up with the business section of your local newspaper, seek out articles and content online, and maybe even get a magazine subscription or two.

7) Financial literacy. Learn all you can, and start now – credit cards, life insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement savings options, socking money away in an emergency fund, investments, loans, etc., etc. START NOW.

Follow this advice, and you’ll soon find that you’re becoming as badass as the tune “Green Onions”, the Booker T. & the MGs smash hit performed here by their friends, The Box Tops.



Here are some resources to help you get started:

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 site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and 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.”

Credit Karma
www.creditkarma.com

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of personal finance subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. In the recent past, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.

Partnerships between school districts and chambers of commerce

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in October 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value.

Partnership between Muskego’s chamber of commerce and school district one of the city’s best kept secrets

By Aaron S. Robertson

October 30, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a Muskego home repair and remodeling contractor. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A little shy of two weeks ago, on October 19, I had the immense privilege of participating in a luncheon at Muskego High School. The purpose of the event was to bring students and area business and community leaders together to discuss and reflect on the many career and educational paths that are available out there.

During this mentoring lunch, a joint effort between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee and Muskego High School, we broke up into two groups by gender, each in a separate classroom. From there, we broke up further into smaller tables, with one or two mentors joining a group of students for conversation and a pizza lunch. I was joined at my table by Rob Schopf, owner of the Indian Motorcycle of Metro Milwaukee dealership on Racine Avenue. Rob and I shared our stories of education, training, and work over the years with several young men that appeared genuinely interested in what we had to say. Likewise, we were certainly genuinely interested in what they had to say, and it was a great give and take of questions, talking, listening, and connecting.

After lunch and these small group discussions, the larger room joined together for elevator pitches, with each student and mentor standing up briefly and introducing themselves to the room. Mentors shared what they do, or did, for work, and offered meaningful career advice to the students. Students shared what they hope to study or do for work someday. After this, we broke up again into smaller groups for further conversation. This time, however, we changed the groups up in an attempt to match students and mentors around similar interests and work experiences based on what they shared in their elevator pitches.


The experience was as much of a learning opportunity for us mentors as it was for the students. We all became teachers and students of one another. For me, it was particularly rewarding to hear the stories of the other mentors. We had a diverse collection of talent assembled and backgrounds represented. Some of the mentors are college graduates, while others didn’t pursue formal education beyond high school. Some are still working, while others are retired. Some worked or are working for others, while others have pursued business ownership. Areas of expertise represented included sales and marketing, customer service, banking, engineering, trades, tech, police work, elected public service, office management, and entrepreneurship.

The partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets. It’s critical that high school (and college) students are given these opportunities to bridge theory and practice and begin making connections to the world of work early on. This has become a particular area of interest for me over the last decade or so, since graduating college myself, and is one of the chief reasons why I recently started offering tutoring in Muskego. With work, technology, and education and training needs in a constant state of flux, communities that have these kinds of partnerships in place are going to be able to successfully navigate both the challenges and rewarding opportunities of workforce development, and hence, local economic development. While perusing the Waukesha Freeman on Thursday, October 26, I came across an article in the Greater Milwaukee Jobs section that grabbed my attention entitled, “Workforce Plans Put New Emphasis on Paid Internships, Apprenticeships,” written by Dan Zehr. One of the story’s interviewees was Andres Alcantar, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. Mr. Alcantar made the same case when he observed, “Occupations are being transformed, and it’s important we give students insight into what this means for them in terms of opportunities.”

In addition to this mentoring lunch, other events and activities that take place throughout the year in this powerful partnership include, among other items, mock job interviews and resume advice, interviewing skits, and career bus tours around town. And then of course, there’s the Chamber’s annual scholarship program.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee, visit http://www.muskego.org/pages/EducationMentoring, or reach out to the Chamber office at 414-422-1155, where staff are always happy to connect with you and answer your questions.

Tutor in Muskego and Hales Corners

Aaron S. Robertson, publisher of the Mr. Robertson's Corner blog for high school students, offers personalized and effective tutoring and consulting services to high school and college undergraduate students in the Muskego - Hales Corners - Greenfield - Franklin - Greendale - New Berlin area.

A complimentary initial consultation is provided. Meetings can take place during the day (over summer, winter, and spring breaks), in the evenings, or on the weekends; at your home, the local public library, or a local coffee shop.

Aaron's qualifications include:
  • A substitute teacher and a full-time high school special education / instructional aide
  • Currently a Ph.D. student in Cardinal Stritch University's leadership program, with his dissertation in the realm of organizational culture
  • Master of Science in Management degree from Cardinal Stritch University, 2013
  • Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with minors in sociology and philosophy, a certificate in integrated leadership, and a non-credit certificate for a course in entrepreneurship from Cardinal Stritch University, 2007
  • Former board member of both the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, and the Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce
  • President of Muskego's Library Board
  • Other current and past leadership roles in the Muskego community, including with the Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary clubs
  • Former facilitator of a mastermind networking group whose members worked together on common business challenges and business education
  • 20+ years combined experience in areas like marketing, sales support, customer service, strategic planning, professional writing and communications, distribution, training, operations management, general bookkeeping, and entrepreneurship
General subjects available, in no particular order:
  • ACT and SAT test prep
  • Research Skills
  • Study Skills
  • Writing and Essays
  • Career Readiness & Workforce Development (mock job interviews, resume help, soft skills, career assessments, field trips, networking opportunities, help identifying majors and education tracks)
  • Business and Management
  • Marketing
  • Online marketing and social media for business
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Personal Finance, Investing, and Economics
  • Organizational Culture
  • U.S. History
  • American Government
  • Political parties and movements in the U.S. (present and historical)
  • Political Theory
  • Economic Theory
  • Sociological Theory
  • Philosophy
  • Test Prep
  • Advice on scholarship application essays
For further information, and to inquire about rates, please do not hesitate to reach out to Aaron by e-mail at therobertsonholdingsco@yahoo.com, or by phone at 414-418-2278.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Finding college scholarships

Best practices for finding and filling out scholarship applications

For more valuable information, ideas, and resources concerning college scholarships, browse our category, Scholarships.

As your high school career winds down, you may need to start thinking about ways to finance your post-secondary education. While student loans are a viable option in many cases, it's also worth seeking out and applying for scholarships to help ease the financial burden of continuing your education. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find suitable scholarships in an endless sea of options, nor is it easy to define a winning strategy for filling them out. Below are some ideas that can help you overcome the challenges of finding and filling out scholarship applications.

Don't wait until the last minute. First things first, when starting your search for suitable scholarships to help fund your post-secondary education, don't wait until the last minute. The earlier you start, the less stressful the process will be. Once you do start your search, don't stop until you've found several scholarships that you qualify for. While you will likely eliminate many scholarships straight away because you don't meet the required criteria, with continued searching, you should have little trouble finding a variety of scholarships that you do qualify for. Once you've found several suitable scholarships, decide which ones you feel have the most potential, so you can begin narrowing down your options.

Don't just focus on the higher paying scholarships. As you're narrowing down your options, you may be tempted to focus your efforts solely on higher paying scholarships. This is a common mistake among scholarship applicants. Though obtaining a larger scholarship would undoubtedly be helpful, don't ignore the scholarships offering smaller rewards. Most likely, they have less competition, which increases the odds that you'll be selected as the winning applicant. Applying for scholarships with a range of monetary values is often a good way to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a scholarship.

Regional, local, and school scholarships. In the same way that many lower value scholarships have less competition, so do many regional and local scholarships. While there's nothing wrong with applying for scholarships offered at the national level, you often have a better chance of securing some much-needed funds from regional and local scholarships because they generally have fewer applicants. Also, if you already attend or know which school you will be attending in the coming years, then definitely investigate the scholarships offered by the school, as well, because scholarships offered at the school level often have even fewer applicants than the regional and local ones.

Unique scholarships. While on the hunt for suitable scholarships, it is recommended that you also take note of any unique scholarships you qualify for. Depending on your personal characteristics and interests, you may qualify for such scholarships as the ones reserved for persons of tall stature (http://www.tallclubfoundation.org/scholarship-program.html), or bowling enthusiasts (https://www.bowl.com/scholarships), to name just two. While it can be harder to find unique scholarships matching your personal characteristics and interests, if you can manage to find one, it will likely have a limited pool of applicants, increasing your chances of success.

Following all instructions. When it comes time to start filling out your scholarship applications, always complete the applications in full and follow all provided instructions. Also, be sure to properly address your envelopes and affix enough postage to get your scholarship applications to their review committees by their stated due dates. The last thing you need to do is spend time completing a scholarship application, only for it to be misplaced in the mail or rejected on a technicality.

The essay. When filling out scholarship applications requiring essay submissions, take the time to craft a well-written piece deserving of the scholarship. After all, in many cases, the content of your essay will be more important to the scholarship committee than your academic record. As most scholarship applications with an essay portion provide a very specific word count to adhere to, stick to the specified word count so your application isn't rejected for failing to follow the essay guidelines. You should also have someone proofread your essay - and the rest of your scholarship application while they are at it - to ensure any errors are spotted and corrected before sending in your finished product.

Securing letters of recommendation. While certain scholarships don't require applicants to submit a letter of recommendation, many of the higher paying ones do. If a scholarship you are applying for asks for a recommendation letter, see if a teacher, coach, mentor, or employer will write one for you, as letters written by parents or other relatives may be considered biased by those judging the applications. If you are unable to acquire a suitable letter of recommendation, then only apply for scholarships that don't require one.

It's no easy feat to find and apply for educational scholarships. Despite the challenges of doing so, however, it's certainly worth the effort if it can help finance your continued education. While student loans are a viable option to cover the high costs of post-secondary education, scholarships - if you can get them - are often the superior choice because they won't later need to be repaid.




Resume tips for landing job interviews

How your resume can make or break your chances of landing a job interview

Job hunting can potentially be very discouraging. Many times, you'll send out resume after resume, and never hear back from the many prospective employers you've reached out to. So, what can you do to rise above the competition and finally land some job interviews? Make sure you prepare an excellent resume. Your resume will likely be the first point of contact between you and prospective employers, so if it isn't doing you justice, then it probably won't land you an interview.

To increase your chances of being granted a job interview, keep the following three things in mind when creating your resume:

1. Aesthetics and Originality

An aesthetically pleasing, yet original looking resume will stand out from the rest. This is especially important when applying for highly sought-after positions that may attract hundreds or even thousands of applicants. By ensuring your resume is both aesthetically pleasing and unique enough to set it apart from the others, you can reduce the likelihood of your resume getting lost in the shuffle.

2. Readability

If your resume can't be easily read, then it's probably going to be cast aside. Don't hide your strengths and previous work experience in one large block of text, as this can make it hard to quickly scan the document, which is how many employers decide whether a resume is worth a second look. Also, ensure your font size is large enough to be easily read, or prospective employers might simply discard your resume, regardless of how well-written it happens to be.

3. Spelling and Grammar

A resume that passes the initial scan of aesthetics and readability also needs to impress prospective employers when they go in for a closer look. This is when having correct spelling and grammar is vitally important. Even the most qualified applicant can lose a chance at an interview if the resume is riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Be sure your resume is error-free before sending it to any prospective employers.

The quality of your resume can be the deciding factor between never hearing back from prospective employers and landing an interview for the job of your dreams. When you are crafting your resume, be sure to consider all areas which may help you to stay ahead of the competition, so you're first in line when employers start granting applicant interviews. While spelling and grammar are obviously important considerations when writing a resume, don't discount other important areas like aesthetics, originality, and readability. By taking these areas into account when writing your resume, you can increase your chances of landing a job interview.

For more in-depth tips, ideas, and strategies, see my previous post, "Creating a resume and applying for work."

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Attempted student newspaper shenanigans

Going through some of my archives and writing projects today, and I found this humorous yet also inspirational piece that I tried submitting to the student newspaper at the high school I work for sometime back in December. It wasn't published, and I thought I'd share it here for a few laughs. Enjoy! 

Mr. Robertson now officially works here

No longer must wear embarrassing photo of himself on his chest every day; considering growing goatee at request of freshman boys

By Staff

Mr. Robertson, who started working at the high school back in October in a guest teacher capacity, has now been officially employed here as of earlier this month, the student newspaper has learned. Details of his employment contract were not disclosed by the school district, but when the paper’s reporters recently swarmed the kindly, pony-tailed businessman-turned-educator in the cafeteria to press him for more details as he was ordering his usual black coffee, he seemed to give some insight into his employment terms. “Let’s just put it this way. I’m thankful I genuinely love education and working with students, because I’ll be working a long, long time,” he said with a smile.

The paper’s investigative team also asked him about the photo of himself that he had to wear on his shirt each day while working here as a visiting educator.

Mr. Robertson’s driver’s license photo that appeared on his visitor badge each day. It appears Mr. Robertson got a splash of coffee on the badge on this particular day in December.
“Well, the photo comes right from your driver’s license when you check in at the office each day,” Mr. Robertson started to explain. He went on to add, “At first, I didn’t mind. But after a while, it felt like I was being punished or something. So I had one lousy hair day, and it just happened to be on the day I had to go down to the DMV to get my license renewed. So what? Don’t we all let our hair go occasionally? And so, for a while there, it felt like I was constantly being reminded about that one day.”

Mr. Robertson noted that, for some time, he took a little flak from a group of freshman boys about his now-famous wild hair day. “But then they started to turn their attention to the goatee I had at the time, and now they’re really encouraging me to grow it back,” said the currently clean-shaven, eccentric Ph.D. student. “They already think I’m cool, but they’re telling me how much cooler I’d be if I grew it back, so I’m giving it some serious thought.”

Asked if he had any advice for students, Mr. Robertson said, “Eat your vegetables, study hard, get your sleep, listen to your teachers and to administrators, and believe in yourself,” before adding, “And remember, all challenges and obstacles are only temporary. All of us adults have been through everything you’re thinking and experiencing, so believe me when I say, we know. We were your age at one time, too. We made it through, and so will you.”

For more school and life advice, even some homework help, check out Mr. Robertson’s new blog, “Mr. Robertson’s Corner,” at mrrobertsonscorner.blogspot.com.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Robertson. We’re happy to have you.