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Monday, January 20, 2020

Paying homage to the instrumental

In this latest installment of my occasional "Exploring the world of music" series, I present a small collection of instrumental tunes, spanning in time from the first blues recordings in the 1920s, on up to 1992's "Summer Song" by hard rocker Joe Satriani.

In no particular order, here's the playlist I've assembled:

Joe Satriani - "Summer Song"
Santo & Johnny - "Sleep Walk"
Elmore James - "Pickin' the Blues"
Booker T. & the M.G.'s - "Green Onions" (live)
Bill Haley and the Comets - "Rudy's Rock"
The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica"
The Champs - "Tequila"
Miles Davis - "Freddie Freeloader"
Dave 'Baby' Cortez - "The Happy Organ"
Dave 'Baby' Cortez - "Rinky Dink"
Sylvester Weaver - "Guitar Rag"
Sylvester Weaver - "Guitar Blues"
The Surfaris - "Wipe Out"

A few interesting notes: According to this Wikipedia article, Sylvester Weaver is credited as the first to record a blues guitar instrumental (both "Guitar Rag" and "Guitar Blues" were recorded in the same session in 1923, though the YouTube video here for "Guitar Rag" mentions that this particular version was recorded in 1927). According to the same Wikipedia article, these two songs are also, "...the first recorded country blues, and the first known recordings of a slide guitar."

Many people mistakenly credit 1950s rock 'n' roll star Ritchie Valens (who tragically died in the 1959 plane crash that also claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, a.k.a. "The Big Bopper," in what has become known as "the day the music died") for the song "Sleep Walk" because it appears in the 1987 Valens biopic La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens. It was really recorded by Santo & Johnny.

"Rudy's Rock" is named for Bill Haley's longtime sax player, Rudy Pompilli, who sadly passed away in 1976 at the age of 51 after a battle with lung cancer. According to this Wikipedia article on Pompilli, he did not smoke himself, and it's thought that he contracted it through passive smoking. Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to interview Bill Turner, who played guitar in Haley's band in the 1970s. If you're interested in more music history and fun facts, including the 1970s revival of 1950s rock 'n' roll, then you'll definitely want to check this interview out.

Enjoy!


























Sunday, January 19, 2020

Free math worksheets

A little while back, I noticed a Web site address listed on the bottom of these math worksheets we utilize to work with our special education students on their math skills. It caught my curiosity a little bit because I like the overall format, quality, and offerings of these worksheets. Well, I finally had the opportunity in recent days to explore that Web site - it's Math-Aids.com.

I have to say that I'm impressed. Math-Aids.com offers dynamically created math worksheets for free. What this means is that there's virtually no end to the site's supply of worksheets. They're randomly generated for you as you order them. They're delivered in PDF format with the answer keys.

From its Web site: 
Math-Aids.Com provides free math worksheets for teachers, parents, students, and home schoolers. The math worksheets are randomly and dynamically generated by our math worksheet generators. This allows you to make an unlimited number of printable math worksheets to your specifications instantly.
This site is free for the users because of the revenue generated by the ads running on the site. The use of ad blockers is against our terms of use. If you don't want to view ads then please join our member's area which is ad free.
The website contains over 94 different math topics with over 1223 unique worksheets. These math worksheets are a great resource for Kindergarten through 12th grade. They may be customized to fit your needs and may be printed immediately or saved for later use. These math worksheets are randomly created by our math worksheet generators, so you have an endless supply of quality math worksheets at your disposal. These high quality math worksheets are delivered in a PDF format and includes the answer keys. Our math worksheets are free to download, easy to use, and very flexible. A detailed description is provided in each math worksheets section.
I encourage you to check the site out if you're looking for extra math practice or simply enjoy the subject and the challenge. There are quite a few different math offerings available (like factors, algebra, calculus, decimals, money, ratios, and logic, to name a very small sampling). Like I said, I'm genuinely impressed. What a neat Web site and cool concept.

Enjoy! Happy learning!  

Important health stories in the news this weekend

ESPN reporter Edward Aschoff died this past Christmas Eve, December 24, 2019. It was his 34th birthday. He didn’t know he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

If you do see or feel anything unusual going on with your body, never be afraid to speak up and have it checked out. RIP to this young man, and sincere condolences to his loved ones. Check out the comments at the end of the story - many personal experiences and meaningful advice discussed by readers:

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/espn-reporter-who-died-at-34-didnt-know-he-had-non-hodgkin-lymphoma-fiancee-reveals-how-common-is-it-to-not-know-223642592.html


"The Great Millennial Blood Pressure Problem: Why it’s climbing faster in young people"

https://www.menshealth.com/health/a30300153/millennial-high-blood-pressure


"Brain’s Dumped DNA May Lead to Stress, Depression: Research suggests genetic material from the mitochondria can trigger an immune response throughout the body"

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/brain-s-dumped-dna-may-lead-to-stress-depression

Aaron S. Robertson teaching philosophy

Aaron S. Robertson

January 2020

For me, it’s important that the teaching profession serves as an accurate and trustworthy map guiding the student between theory and practice and back; a bridge between what is taught in the classroom and what it’s really like out there in “the real world.” One always needs the other, and vice-versa.

Having spent my working career up to this point in various capacities in business and industry, I love working with high school and college undergraduate students on resumes, the interviewing process, developing job skills, career research and advice, and advice on scholarship applications.

I firmly believe it’s important to take a holistic approach and have a big-picture, interdisciplinary mindset when it comes to working with the students entrusted to our care. While my own areas of specialization are in the realm of business, I also understand that students struggling in their math, writing/grammar/communication/ELA, and even social studies courses are going to struggle in business courses, as well. The world of work and business is highly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from economics, psychology, sociology, philosophy & ethics, math, law & government, and the language arts. That said, it’s critical to work collaboratively with colleagues in other disciplines, with parents, and with administration and support staff to seek meaningful solutions and resources that are ultimately going to benefit the whole student and prepare him or her for a successful and fulfilling life and career.

Where it concerns delivering content and lessons, incorporating a plethora of engaging tools, strategies, and media into lesson plans is critical for positive learning outcomes. Where appropriate, film, visuals, the Internet, small group work and discussion, larger class discussion, simulations and games, guest speakers, field trips, community partnerships, and personal reflection should be made use of.

Participation in co-curricular clubs and activities should be strongly encouraged at every opportunity. 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 & critical thinking, and teamwork, among others. Beyond that, they can provide an opportunity for developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as they learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and valuable networking connections.

It’s important for both school districts and colleges / universities to partner with organizations and systems like the local chamber of commerce, the local technical college system, and with individual businesses directly to provide students with meaningful opportunities to bridge the theory of the classroom with the practical application in the world of work and business. It really does take a village to raise a child, and these community relationships are critical for success.

Every role within a school district or college / university is equally important. The successes and shortcomings of each role holder will have ripple effects throughout the entire institution, as students are sent along to the next grade level; the next school; the next group of teachers, administrators, support staff, and set of circumstances; or out into the workforce. That’s why it’s imperative that we all seek to build meaningful relationships with our students, our community’s families, and with one another as staff, and that we all do the best we can to collectively prepare the students entrusted to our care for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in life and career.

To close, nothing is more thrilling and fulfilling for me than to engage students on a level where the knowledge takes root. When that proverbial light bulb moment goes off, and you can see the student(s) pondering - that's what does it for me. It’s my sincere hope to be able to have a meaningful impact on the lives of tomorrow’s leaders. If students learned something from me that somehow better prepared them for life and career, then I fulfilled my own life's work.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Mentoring relationships

Need to know tips for becoming a great mentor to young professionals

So, you're taking the plunge and becoming a mentor to a young professional. That's wonderful! After all, mentoring programs help guide members of the next generation toward achieving success in their chosen fields. By providing your counsel and support, you'll not only be helping to shape the career of your less-experienced colleague, but you'll also be fostering a beneficial professional relationship that can last far beyond the actual mentoring itself.

Knowing all this, many people wonder how they can better mentor their younger colleagues. It's simple. A great mentor sets a good example, listens to their protégé, offers well-rounded advice, acts as a colleague, and provides independence-building opportunities. Read on to learn more about how each of these five suggestions can help you become a great mentor to a young professional.

1. Set a good example.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when mentoring a young professional is the significance of setting a good example. Your protégé will likely look to you as they seek to understand workplace protocols, etiquette, and expectations, so be sure to set a good example from the start, so they can settle into their position and see exactly what is required of them to adequately fulfill their duties.

2. Listen to your protégé.

The most effective mentors understand that mentoring is a two-way street. Though your knowledge and experiences will be vital to helping your protégé become a more productive member of the team, don't forget that your protégé likely has valuable insights for you, as well. Strive for two-way communication and learn from your protégé. By doing so, you can form a mutually-beneficial professional relationship that extends beyond the mentoring.

3. Offer well-rounded advice.

Some mentors become so focused on one aspect of the job that they fail to extend their mentoring beyond that one area. Don't fall into this trap. Great mentors are those who offer well-rounded mentoring advice in both a professional and personal capacity. By providing guidance and support that is well-rounded and robust, you'll be giving your protégé a much better chance at achieving success in both their professional and personal lives.

4. Act as a colleague, not a superior.

Successful mentoring programs require communication. To help keep those lines of communication open, mentors should always act as a colleague, not a superior. Mentors who choose to act as superiors tend to be more intimidating to young professionals, which can effectively shut down the lines of communication. A loss of communication will prevent you from successfully sharing your expertise and counsel, thus significantly hampering your mentoring efforts.

5. Provide independence-building opportunities.

While it's admirable that you want to share your knowledge and advice with others, being a truly great mentor requires that you also allow for your young protégé to fly solo at times. As your less-experienced colleague becomes more comfortable in their new position, guide them toward taking on additional responsibilities while providing them with enough decision-making opportunities to bolster their independence and confidence to improve their problem-solving skills. Remember, successful mentoring relationships are ones that advance to the point where your protégé no longer needs your constant support.

Many factors should be considered when mentoring young professionals. After all, your mentoring could be what makes or breaks a person's career. Thankfully, there are many ways to become a better mentor to your less-experienced colleague. By setting a good example, listening to your protégé, offering well-rounded advice, acting as a colleague, and providing independence-building opportunities, anyone can become a great mentor to a young professional.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

High school exam week

For those of you high school students that have semester final exams this week, I wish you the best. Put forth your best effort and be confident in, and proud of, your work.

To help you prepare for your exams and get the most out of them, here are a couple previous posts you may want to check out:

How to properly prepare for tests and exams

Flashcards a helpful study aid

Good luck!

ACT test strategies

Once again, we're entering ACT test prep season. With it comes a slew of ACT practice tests, ACT tutoring, and helpful resource guides and strategies. Here are several previous posts I wrote that may help you as you prepare for the test:

Preparing for the ACT test

The importance of learning outside the classroom

Flashcards a helpful study aid

Writing prompts for fun and practice

How to properly prepare for tests and exams

Building a general foundation first

Free math worksheets

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Repurposing blog posts for a newsletter

Do you run a newsletter but can't seem to find enough useful information to keep it interesting for your readers? Or maybe it's time for you to release your next newsletter, but you're simply too busy to write the content for it? No matter which situation has you unable to keep up with your newsletter's content demands, you should definitely consider repurposing your old blog posts into relevant content for your newsletter.

Your blog's archives are filled with content that your newsletter subscribers find interesting and informative. If it wasn't interesting and informative, then odds are your visitors never would have subscribed to your newsletter in the first place, right? Not only that, but your blog is probably full of old posts that your newsletter subscribers would still find quite interesting. Finding and repurposing some of these older posts can save a lot of time and effort when putting together future newsletters.

Now, you may be asking yourself whether you should distribute a newsletter containing "old" content. Think about it this way – the older the post, the less likely it will be that many of your newsletter subscribers have actually read it. As for the subscribers who have, in fact, read the particular blog post that you will be repurposing, most will have probably long since forgotten the subject matter and would likely appreciate a second look at the topic.

Whenever you do choose to repurpose an old blog post, be sure to take some time and tweak any areas in the text that may have become outdated. If the post references an event that was current during the post's original release, then you may want to try to find a similar, but more recent, reference to swap it out with. By tweaking the old blog post, it will once again be relevant for today's audience, making it appear fresh and new instead of outdated.

If you find yourself struggling to put together a newsletter, either due to a lack of inspiration or available time, then you should definitely consider repurposing old blog posts. After a period of time, most blog posts end up forgotten by your long-time readers and unread by those who are new to your site. Why not give these posts a second chance at life by using them in your site's future newsletters?

WordPress countdown widget

The WordPress countdown widget: A simple and customizable countdown plugin for your WordPress site

Countdown widgets make for an excellent addition to many sites. Because of this, many developers have created and released several different countdown plugins. With so many available plugins, how do you know which one is right for you? Well, you could download and install several random plugins before finding the one that you like, or you could save some time and give the WordPress countdown widget a try first.

The WordPress countdown widget is a simple widget that lets you add unlimited countdowns to your WordPress site. Unlike some countdown widgets that function incorrectly when more than one instance is used on a page, the WordPress countdown widget functions properly no matter how many times you wish to use it. Plus, having been developed by Shailan.com, a popular developer of WordPress themes, plugins, and widgets, you can rest assured that it’s a safe and reliable widget to add to your site.

With over 10,000 downloads and an average rating of 4/5 stars, the WordPress countdown widget requires that you use WordPress 4.7 version or higher. It has been tested up to version 5.2.5. When installing any new plugins on your current WordPress site, always be sure to back up your files just in case something should go wrong during installation.

As for the installation itself, it’s simple. After downloading the WordPress Countdown Widget, you’ll need to install it from the WP Admin > Plugins page. Upon completion, simply activate the plugin and drag and drop it onto the sidebar at your desired location. This can be done from the Appearance > Widgets page.

Next, you’ll need to customize your widget, so that your new countdown clock looks and works the way you want it to. You’ll be asked to include a title and event title, plus the date and time to which you are counting down to. You are also given the option of formatting the date and time, and you'll be asked to provide the appropriate time zone. Display properties like text color, background color, and width are also fully customizable. If you wish, you are given the option of removing the “powered by” link at the bottom of the widget.

Overall, the WordPress countdown widget is an excellent tool. Its only downfall is that, like most other plugins, it doesn’t work on all versions of WordPress. If you do, however, happen to have a compatible version and are in need of a basic countdown clock, then its ease of installation and customizable features makes it a simple, but certainly worthy, addition to your WordPress site.

Please note: This article is in reference to the WordPress countdown widget, which can be found at: https://www.wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-countdown-widget.

How to test your Web site's links

Never discount the importance of testing your Web site's links

Links are an essential part of any Web site. After all, they form the basis of all online navigation. That's why, regardless of whether you are directing your visitors toward another page of your site, or sending them to a different site altogether, your links need to work. Otherwise, your visitors may become frustrated with your site and never return. To prevent such frustration, all new links should be immediately tested as you add them to your Web site in order to ensure correct functionality. Time allowing, you should also occasionally test any previously added links to offsite pages, because such pages can be changed or removed at any time, often without warning.

So, how can you check that your Web site's links are indeed functioning correctly? Well, the most basic way of testing a link is simply clicking on it and seeing what happens. If the link redirects you to the correct page or resource, then great – no further action is necessary! If the link isn't directing you to the correct page or resource, however, then you'll need to take a closer look at the link itself and correct any errors that may be preventing it from working as expected. Also, if a linked page or resource is no longer available, then you'll need to remove its corresponding link from your site or find a suitable replacement link to use instead.

Now, this basic method for checking link function obviously works well on small sites, but since it requires you to manually check each link, it can prove to be very time consuming on larger sites - especially sites containing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of links. So, how do you go about testing the links on larger or link-heavy sites? One method many webmasters choose is tasking special link-checking software to do the work for them. Online resources are also available to help automate the process, with the W3C Link Checker being a popular choice. If you wish to give the W3C Link Checker a try, please visit: https://validator.w3.org/checklink.

Another way to seek out information about your Web site's potentially broken links is to visit your Web site's error log. If you have access to the log files, then you should be able to see a list of the latest errors encountered on your Web site. Typically, error logs include information about any pages or resources that were unreachable to visitors, plus information about the page or resource that generated each error. By using your Web site's error log as a guide, you'll have a better idea about which links may need to be fixed or removed.

Unfortunately, there's a serious problem that occurs both when using automated link testers and when checking a Web site's error log – neither method pays any attention to the actual content of the linked pages or resources. Links receive a passing grade so long as the page or resource that is being linked to simply exists. This can be a major problem if you often link to offsite pages or resources that you have no control over because any changes to such content may go unnoticed by you while your original link remains active to your visitors. To ensure that the linked destination still contains the same content it did when you first linked to it, be sure to occasionally check your links manually, especially if you are linking to pages or resources beyond your control.

Because links are such a crucial part of any Web site, it is critically important to test them regularly to ensure they are functioning correctly. Though automated link testers and error logs are informative and can help speed up the testing process when used, don't forget that manual testing is also important – especially if you are linking to pages or resources that could change without your knowledge. By checking your error logs and regularly testing your Web site's links, both manually and via an automated link checker, you will have the best chance of locating your Web site's problematic links, allowing you to correct any problems that could prevent your visitors from easily navigating your site.