Friday, January 31, 2020

Welcoming a new neighbor to the building

New neighbors aren't exactly a rarity - especially in apartment buildings. So, why not reach out to any newcomers to the building to help them feel more welcomed in their new home? By welcoming your building's newest tenants, you can make future encounters more pleasant and possibly build lasting friendships and networking connections.

Looking for ways to welcome a new neighbor to the building? Try these ideas:

Smile, say hello, and introduce yourself.

Arguably the easiest way to welcome a new neighbor to the building is to simply smile and say hello whenever you cross paths. A simple introduction is often the first step toward a deeper conversation.

Bake cookies or a casserole.

A nice way to break the ice is offering any newcomers homemade cookies or a casserole. Moving can be very tiring, so making food is likely far down on your new neighbor's list of things to do.

Help with the move.

If you're able, offer your assistance on moving day. Your new neighbor may have many items to bring into their new home and limited time to get the job done. As they say, many hands make light work.

Hold a meet and greet.

Once your new neighbor is settled, invite them to a casual meet and greet. A meet and greet can be an easy way to help newcomers become more acquainted with the building's other inhabitants.

Do keep in mind that not everyone will be looking to forge new friendships within the building. If your new neighbor seems less than receptive to your friendly advances, then respect their preference to be left alone and back off.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Wisconsin civics exam in high school

If you're a high school student in Wisconsin, you'll be taking a civics exam in order to complete the Wisconsin Civics Graduation Requirement.

According to this page on the Web site of the state's Department of Public Instruction (DPI), "Any students graduating from a Wisconsin high school (starting with the class of 2017) 'takes a civics test comprised of 100 questions that are identical to the 100 questions that may be asked of an individual during the process of applying for U.S. citizenship by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the pupil correctly answers at least 65 of those questions'". The full state statute can be found here.

According to the same page on the DPI's Web site, "There are no state funds to administer this test. DPI is not involved in the procurement, grading, or gathering of test scores for this test. Districts are responsible to give the test, score it, and keep records of student scores/passing. It is up to the school/district what format to use, and when in the school year to administer the test."

Following are some helpful resources, strategies, and ideas to help you prepare for this test. If you live in another state that requires you to take a civics test, have no fear - simply take the content of this blog post and tailor it to your own state's standards.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - Civics Questions & Answers for the Naturalization Test

USCIS - Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test

Flashcards on

Why you need to understand the basics of government and politics

How to properly prepare for tests and exams

Flashcards a helpful study aid

DPI - Frequently Asked Questions about Act 55/Civics Test Graduation Requirement (includes FAQs for special education students and IEP teams)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A trip to the Wisconsin Lions Eye Bank

Several months ago, I took advantage of a wonderful opportunity to tour the Wisconsin Lions Eye Bank located in Madison, Wisconsin. I'm a member of the Muskego Lions Club, and our club's current co-presidents arranged for a bus trip there.

You may have heard of Lions clubs. They are community service clubs made up of volunteers from all walks of life who do amazing work in the communities they serve. Perhaps your hometown has one. Depending on the size of your town, you may have more than one. Maybe you have relatives or family friends that are members of a Lions club.

Anyways, one of the main things Lions as a whole worldwide is known for is its incredible charitable work having to do with eyesight. Many local clubs, like our club here in Muskego, conduct free vision screenings in schools to help identify challenges students have or may eventually face so that they can get the corrective help that they need (like further testing, prescription eyeglasses, and so on). Many local clubs also participate in a program that collects used eyeglasses. The glasses are shipped off to facilities where they are cleaned, repaired, and processed, and from there sent to countries around the world, where they are given to people who otherwise can't afford to buy eyeglasses. We're proud to participate in this program, as well.

But it's the network of eye banks that the Lions run that is perhaps the most fascinating and awe-inspiring component of its overall efforts to the cause of sight. The Wisconsin eye bank is just one of many such banks operated and funded by Lions.

In short, the Lions eye bank works with a number of hospitals, funeral homes, and other community partners and resources to collect eye tissue from those who have sadly passed on and expressed the desire to be donors. Because eye tissue must be quickly harvested from the deceased and then quickly transplanted into a recipient, an extensive network of volunteers is always on call, ready to go at a moment's notice, to transport donated tissue to where it needs to go. Many of the clubs in the state, like the Muskego Lions Club, take turns every month or every several weeks to wait on standby. You never know when a call is going to come in, and volunteers must be willing and ready to travel in the middle of the night, if necessary.

Touring the Wisconsin Lions Eye Bank, for me, was an incredible experience. It served as an uplifting reminder of just how many good people there are in the world, and it's a testament to the power of volunteer work; of really making a difference in the lives of others. When people from all walks of life come together with their minds and talents, anything is truly possible. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Learning native customs before traveling

How to learn native customs and etiquette expectations before arriving in unfamiliar destinations

It's important to learn native customs and etiquette expectations before visiting unfamiliar destinations. After all, the cultural norms that govern an area's customs and etiquette expectations can be very different from one location to the next. While certain things may be considered perfectly acceptable in one area, the same things could be highly insulting or even illegal in another. To help ensure you don't commit a cultural blunder that could land you in hot water, use these six methods for learning about the native customs and etiquette expectations of your chosen destination.

1. Look online.

There's a great deal of information online about the native customs and etiquette expectations for many regions around the globe. By performing a simple Google search and visiting travel sites and forums, you can learn more about the social expectations of your chosen destination.

2. Download an international etiquette app.

If you want to have a handy guide to international etiquette right at your fingertips, then download an international etiquette app. International etiquette apps are great for travelers because they are filled with tips and tricks for preventing cultural slip ups.

3. Read a travel guide.

Most travel guides contain a brief section about native customs. Many also provide a handy list of etiquette expectations that should be followed once you arrive. If you'll already be buying a travel guide about your chosen destination anyway, then pick one up with customs and etiquette information and give it a quick read before you arrive.

4. Speak with a travel agent.

If you've booked your excursion though a travel agent, ask them about your chosen destination's native customs and etiquette rules. They may be able to give you a brief rundown on the subject and possibly even provide pamphlets or other documentation to better assist you.

5. Consult a local.

The most accurate source of information when it comes to a country's native customs and etiquette expectations is often the locals themselves. If you know someone who currently lives in or has recently moved away from your chosen destination, ask them about the area's native customs and etiquette expectations.

6. Seek advice from a tour guide.

If you'll be getting a tour of the area once you arrive, remember that your tour guide likely has valuable insights to share with you about the native customs and etiquette expectations for any areas you'll be visiting. Don't be afraid to ask them for advice if you are unsure about what to do in certain situations.

Though trying to learn about an area's customs and etiquette expectations is certainly worth the effort, please note that in many cases, social customs and etiquette expectations differ by gender, age, and an event's level of formality. Always keep this in mind while using the preceding methods for learning about your destination's cultural expectations; otherwise, the advice you receive may not apply to your individual situation.

Friday, January 24, 2020

FOMO is causing you to miss out on life

A few nights ago, I attended a program at my local public library on the subject of technology addiction among teens and young adults. The presenter was a local mental health counselor, and she did a wonderful job of offering facts, sound advice, and helpful resources concerning this timely, and, in my opinion, scary, topic. The picture is not pretty. But I'm hoping that, by you reading this post, you can help make that picture a little bit better in your own unique way.

According to the facilitator, kids as young as 5th grade are texting their friends at 3am, and she's counseling a number of young adults in their early 20s who want to learn social skills - skills that have been significantly stunted by technology addiction. In fact, as research has demonstrated and as she noted in her talk, being addicted to technology can certainly be as damaging as being addicted to a substance.

During the program, among other things I learned, I learned a social media acronym that's apparently used frequently by teens and young adults - FOMO. It stands for, "Fear of missing out." According to this list of teen slang, emojis, and hashtags on, a valuable resource shared by the counselor, "FOMO is when a student (or adult) experiences anxiety that an exciting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often prompted by posts seen on social media."

I have a strong opinion on all of this: I think FOMO is destroying a precious gift that's been given to the world by slowly eating away at all the potential that this gift can offer the world. That gift - is you.

What you need to understand and accept is that you're never going to make every party, concert, gathering, or event. You're never going to be invited to every party, concert, gathering, or event. And you're never going to hear about, or see photos and videos of, every party, concert, gathering, or event that takes place. You can't control who attends, or gets invited to, or hears about, these functions. And you can't control how, where, and with whom others spend their time.

But I'll tell you what, and hear me out on this, because this is the whole point of this post - you can control your time. Every precious minute and hour that you've been granted in this life is yours, and yours alone. So instead of spending your time worrying about missing out on what others may be doing, decide to fill that time on things that bring you joy and meaning and good company. While you can't control how, where, and with whom others are spending their time, you can control every moment of your time. You can plan your own celebrations and parties. You can come up with your own invite lists and surround yourself with the people you care about most. You can decide for yourself which activities, which events, which hobbies and interests, and which people are worth your time. You can create opportunities for happiness and fulfillment out of thin air. You can simply will them into existence.

It's your life. It's your time to shine, and we each only get a limited amount of time. Some are fortunate to be granted more time than others, but eventually, the timer stops for all of us.

So how will you choose to spend your limited amount of time? Where will you spend it? And with whom? What - and who - brings you joy and meaning, and lights your soul on fire? Only you can decide.

If you found this post to be of some value, you may also appreciate a post I wrote a year earlier, "The double-edged sword of technology." This post discusses concerns that some students believe technology can replace their need to have to think. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What is a career coach?

Land the job of your dreams by working with a career coach

In this post, we'll learn a little bit about what a career coach does and how a career coach can help you find jobs and identify career pathways that are meaningful and fulfilling for you. If you're still in high school, your guidance counselor can be an excellent resource for you. If you're in college, look into the help offered by your school's career services office. Working with a career coach is merely another potential option available to you as you explore the world of work and lay out a vision and a plan to get there. 

Many soon-to-be graduates don't have the slightest idea about which career they'd like to pursue after graduation. Of those who do have career ideas, many don't know how to move beyond their current situation so they can begin working at the job of their dreams. If you are unsure about what you'd like to do for a living or need some guidance as you transition into the next phase of your life, then consider speaking with a qualified career coach.

Speaking with a career coach is beneficial for many reasons. For starters, a career coach can help you explore your interests and make suggestions about which occupations may be worth considering. Once you've decided on the profession you'd like to pursue, the career coach can then determine the most efficient path for making your dream job your actual career.

A career coach can also work with you to improve your resume and cover letter, plus give you tips for strengthening your online networking profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Jobster. A career coach may even help you to become more confident during interviews and teach you proven methods for negotiating a higher starting salary.

That said, many people who consider working with a career coach worry about the cost of such guidance. While prices do vary from coach to coach, fees are generally determined by the individual coach's level of experience and the number of sessions you are planning to attend. If you currently have a tight budget, shop around to find the most affordable option. Depending on your location and personal circumstances, partially-subsidized or no-fee options could be available.

While finding the perfect career may not be easy, it's certainly worth the effort. That's why, if you find yourself in need of a little career guidance, you should ask a professional career coach to point you in the right direction. After all, their guidance could mean the difference between you starting off in a job you despise or you being offered a coveted position by your preferred employer.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How to accomplish goals

Achieve your dreams by focusing on smaller tasks

Though it's no secret that large goals can be overwhelming, people still love dreaming big about the things they'd like to achieve. Unfortunately, as your dreams grow, your chances of achieving them usually shrink. So, should you just forget about your loftier dreams if they seem unattainable from your current perspective? No, of course not! Instead of giving up right away, read on for ideas that can help you achieve even your grandest dreams.

Now, before you get started, it's worth mentioning that the first and arguably most important part of achieving your dream is setting a goal. Really think about it. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Once you have a detailed goal in mind, carefully consider similar goals you've set for yourself in the past but failed to achieve. What went wrong in each attempt? Are there any changes you can make that may help you achieve this goal? Also, think about any former goals you successfully achieved. What factors lead to that success?

After you've answered these questions, it will be time to actively work toward achieving your goal. If in the past you haven't split your goals into a series of small, definable tasks for you to work through, then why not try doing so this time around? You have nothing to lose, and setting smaller tasks could be the simple change needed to successfully achieve your goal.

If you'd like to try splitting your goal into a series of simple tasks, consider crafting each task to be achievable in three to seven days. If you feel overwhelmed by tasks that span multiple days, however, then split your goal into however many tasks makes you feel most comfortable. If you are only comfortable with short tasks requiring no more than fifteen minutes of your time, then that's exactly where you should start.

Now, it's common for people to breeze through their initial tasks. After all, when goals are new, a person's interest levels and motivation are often high. Unfortunately, motivation tends to dwindle when life gets busy, which can cause you to push your dreams aside. To have the best chance of successfully achieving your dreams, it's important to work on your goal-achieving activities whenever possible - especially when you are busy. Though it's easy to waste time thinking up new excuses for why you're too busy to work through your list of tasks, your energy would be better spent figuring out new and innovative ways to fit the tasks into your already-busy schedule.

Thankfully, there are many ways to fit goal-achieving tasks into even the busiest schedules. If your goal is fitness-related, squeeze in a short workout during your lunch hour or power up the treadmill during your favorite television show. If your goal is to write a novel, keep a notebook handy and jot down ideas while riding the bus or sipping on your morning coffee. If your goal is simply to clean your house, then pick a room to tackle for fifteen minutes each night before bed. It doesn't really matter what your goal is, as long as you regularly devote some time and effort toward achieving it.

A final factor that can help you complete your tasks and ultimately achieve your dreams is momentum. To get the ball rolling, give yourself a few easy tasks to complete. If after completing these tasks you are still feeling rather unmotivated, then continue working on equally-easy tasks, otherwise, aim for something a little more challenging. Just remember that simple tasks are often better motivators because harder tasks might put you off track if you fail to complete them in a timely fashion.

While working through your tasks, be aware that you may occasionally lose sight of your goal. That's fine. So long as you don't give up, you haven't failed. If you ever find yourself less than motivated, or think you might be giving up on your goal, though, then get back on track by outlining a new list of easy-to-accomplish tasks for you to complete. Once you've done so, you will be back on track toward achieving your dreams.

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.


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

I have to say that I'm impressed. 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:

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

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

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, ideas, and values. 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, along with other resources pulled from the Internet, that may help you as you prepare for the test, in no particular order:

Are the ACT and SAT still needed?

Preparing for the ACT test

The importance of learning outside the classroom

Learning at home during school COVID closures

Flashcards a helpful study aid

Writing prompts for fun and practice

How to properly prepare for tests and exams

Better study habits

Building a general foundation first

Free math worksheets

Preparing for the science test on ACT

Preparing for the ACT test - Six strategies and methods to get you ready for the big day!

How to get more out of reading  

Reading comprehension skills (a longer essay by Aaron S. Robertson from June 2020)

"ACT Tips and Tricks to Reach Your Target Score" (from

Letter of the day method for guessing on tests (from

"ACT Test Taking Strategies" (from

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, 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:

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:

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.