Are You Wealthy?

Published September 03, 2015

I love learning new things! I can’t claim that they’re all useful, but, that’s okay, because for me, interesting or entertaining ranks right up there with useful. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy being online --- also the reason that my day can get away from me if I’m not careful! I tend to be easily distracted, especially when something comes across the screen about someone I know. And, by “I know” I usually mean some famous person that has spent enough time on my TV or movie screen or in the headlines that they feel familiar.

This just happened with Garth Brooks. I like country music well enough but I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan. But Garth Brooks is kind of hard to define as just a country music singer. He’s always been one of those larger-than-life entertainers who defies a conventional category. Everybody knows who he is and probably likes at least some of his music.

So, where does the surprise come in? We all know he’s mega-successful, having sold more than 150 million records, worldwide. And that he’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But, did you know he played baseball? Turns out he played in college and so he tried out and participated in spring training for the San Diego Padres in 1998 and 1999, the New York Mets in 2000 and the Kansas City Royals in 2004. He wasn’t really good enough to make it into the regular season but they loved him and, if you go to a Royals’ game these days, you’ll get to sing along to "Friends in Low Places".

I didn’t know any of that. I also didn’t know that he started the Teammates for Kids Foundation in 1999, which enlists professional athletes to make donations, determined by their game performance, to support charities for kids.  To date, Teammates for Kids has distributed over $80 million in cash, gifts-in-kind and scholarships to children across North America and around the world.

I guess if I’d known all of that, I wouldn’t have been so surprised about what is really the reason for this post. I stumbled across a quote that stopped me in my tracks. A lot of people say a lot of things --- many trying to top someone else or even drown out what they perceive as their competition. It’s not often that you come across something so simple, yet so profound, that you know it belongs on some list of “universal truths”.

You aren't wealthy until you have something money can't buy.”

That’s a pretty awesome quote, right? But, I expected it to come from, oh, I don’t know, maybe Mother Teresa? Or Maya Angelou? You know, someone you normally hear saying that sort of thing. I did not expect to discover it was said by the same guy who famously said, “I still use the guitar pretty much just to hide my gut.”

That was my shortsightedness. I may not have known about Garth Brooks’ charity or that he played baseball, not just because he loved it, but largely to promote Teammates for Kids. But I did know that he gave up doing something that he dearly loved, performing, for a big chunk of time, for the sole reason that he wanted to spend time with his family. That sounds exactly like someone who truly understands about the things that “money can’t buy”.

Here’s where it would be easy to work in talking about the things that are really valuable in life and how “time” ranks way up on that list. But you know that and you know what a powerful tool the Time Timer is in helping you manage your time so that you literally end up with more of it in which to do the things that really matter.

Instead, I think I’m going to go dust off my Garth Brooks Greatest Hits and see if there’s something else I’ve missed. Here’s wishing you a genuinely “wealthy” day and that you make every moment count!

Tags: garth brooks, timer, time management, time management tool, time timer

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Tips for Teachers As the New School Year Begins

Published August 28, 2015

Feeling a little stressed? Whether it’s your first year on the job or you’re a veteran educator with decades of experience, the first few weeks back can be a challenge. Dealing with the excitement and anxieties of unfamiliar faces in the classroom, as well as the unreasonable demands optimistic expectations of their parents, requires a lot of extra energy and patience. Despite your best efforts, there are going to be days when it all takes a bit more than you have to give.

So, what do you do? How do you cope?

It’s absolutely true, as our Zen friends teach, that meditation helps. If this is something you normally do, then adding a few extra minutes at the end of August and into September is an excellent idea. If meditation is not your thing, then trying to make it work for you in the midst of the back-to-school chaos is probably not the best idea. Not that you shouldn’t add this wonderful technique to your life --- just wait until things calm down a bit.

I recently ran across a great article in Education World listing suggestions for teachers for this time of year --- obviously, tongue-in-cheek, but guaranteed to bring a smile. The title is “20 Teacher-Tested Tips for a Stress-Free Year” and these tips include such gems as:

  • Start the year off right. Encourage your most difficult students to sign up for your new "distance-learning" program. Distribute postage stamps to students without a home computer.
  • Contact parents and inform them that, in order to eliminate instructional differences due to teacher quality, their children will be following a curriculum in which success will be determined strictly by the effectiveness of their parenting.
  • Enroll in a wine-of-the-week club.
  • Inform your principal that you have developed a rare allergy to extra-curricular activities.
  • Keep your desk drawer well stocked with chocolate and Tums.
  • Grade on a two-point curve -- A and B.
  • Start a petition for a Starbucks kiosk in the teachers' lounge.
  • Administer a quiz every Friday afternoon. Announce that incorrect answers will affect students' grades, but that absent students will not be penalized or required to make up the quiz.
  • Take early retirement.

You can read the entire list here. And if that’s not enough to ratchet down your stress at least a little, then take a look at this video they posted of a wonderful twist on what is undoubtedly a routine, probably boring but mandatory meeting that all teachers face just before the students arrive for a new year. It’s a little slow to start but hang in there, it’s well-worth waiting for.

 

Seriously, though, everybody talks about how hard it can be on students and parents when school starts up again, but teachers not only have to deal with their own stressors, they’re also usually the recipients of the fallout from everyone else’s. Having techniques to relax and let some of that go pretty much falls under the header of “survival techniques” instead of merely “tips”.

As my good friend who owns a fitness studio is constantly preaching, one of the best things you can do for yourself is also the simplest. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, simply pause for a moment and breathe. Make this a conscious action and be sure that you are breathing deeply through your nose. According to the folks at WebMD:

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.”

You may honestly think you don’t have the time to meditate, take a long hot bath, get a massage or any of the things people do to de-stress, but I’m betting you always have time to breathe. Right?

To be honest, with a little planning, you can work some of those others in, too. Just grab your Time Timer (if you don’t have one at home as well as in your classroom, this would be the time to fix that!) and schedule periods for what you believe you have to accomplish and then do the same for what you need for taking care of yourself. By this point, we’ve all learned that without the latter, everything else suffers.

It’s a brand new school year and you’re a teacher because you believe in possibilities and potential. Make every moment of this one count!

Tags: back-to-school, teacher stress, meditation timer, school timer, relaxation timer

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Dare We Speak Its Name?

Published August 20, 2015

Quick! What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say “back to school”?

Was it the name of the much-dreaded monster that invades homes across the country sometime around mid or late August and takes up residence until the following June? The one that uses its evil powers to turn your sweet children into stubborn, uncooperative little insurrectionists? And you into a version of yourself that you don’t even recognize?

Yes, you guessed it. Homework!

Are you ready for the nightly conflict that inevitably breaks out when you try to get your kids to learn vocabulary words, write reports and calculate how long train A will take to get to Philadelphia if it’s loaded with avocados and leaves Tucson at noon heading west?

All week, social media has been flooded with postings about “our last day at the beach” or “first day of school outfits”, followed by actual photos of kids as they head off for the beginning of the school year. How long do you think it will take before those smiling faces are replaced by posts about the demands of homework?

And, it’s true. Homework seems to have increased exponentially over the past 20 years or so. It has become a serious issue for parents. Fortunately, there are suggestions out there to make it easier, or, at least more manageable.  

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard all about the nearly miraculous difference Time Timers can make when used to help with homework and other projects. But, you don’t have to take our word for it. Ann Dolin, former teacher, founder of Educational Connection, Inc, which provides more than 200 tutors to student’s in the Washington D.C. area, board member of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) and the International Dyslexia Association and author of the award-winning book, Homework Made Simple — Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, was recently featured in an article in the April edition of Seattle’s Child. My favorite part was:

Race the clock. Set the Time Timer for a short amount of time – say, 10 or 13 minutes – and challenge your child to work as hard as they can until the timer goes off, Dolin suggests. A timer helps kids get over the hump of procrastination. "Anyone can tolerate anything for 10 minutes," Dolin says. But once the 10 minutes elapse, don't be surprised if your kids (now in the homework zone) keep writing or adding.

The title of the article is “10 ideas for fight-free homework” and it offers a lot of useful tips. You can read the entire piece here.

Hopefully, you will pick up a trick or two to help restore peace to your family evenings. Some of these suggestions may work better than others, depending upon your situation. But, we are absolutely confident about one thing. Adding a Time Timer and encouraging your children to become partners in managing their time will result in the homework monster finally meeting its match!

Tags: homework, homework timer, school timer, project timer, time timer for homework

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