Jessica L. Moody

Questioning the Norm

Classroom Management Strategies (Part 2)

As you might imagine, teaching students in an alternative school, juvenile court school, or inner city school can be challenging.  I have more than 8 years of experience working in these classrooms and have learned quite a bit about how to get students to work for me and not against me.  As much as students in a regular classroom can take over the emotions and can cause chaos, student’s who have almost no buy-in to school and spend most of their time with no adult supervision outside of school have an ability that other students don’t.  Teachers must use different strategies to connect and manage these classrooms.  

One thing we must realize about many of these students is that they have been kicked out of class so often that sometimes they begin to prefer it to staying in class.  They have lost hope for teachers to give them another chance.  Also, if they get kicked out then nothing is expected from them and nothing has to change. They are more comfortable getting into trouble than they are of pushing through and finishing something that is difficult. My suggestions for changing this cycle aren’t always going to result in an inspirational movie ending, but having strategies to get through one lesson or day at a time can be helpful.    

Classroom management strategy #1:


  • Get the leader on your side


Teenagers all want love, acceptance, and the feeling of belonging.  One of my students who was one of the hardest of gang members (is now on the most wanted list in San Diego and is certainly off in Mexico somewhere) had the best personality when he was in a good mood.  He loved to write and was a skilled writer compared to the rest of the class.  When he was present and participating the whole class followed his lead.  When he decided to rebel and take over the class, the rest would follow.  So I learned that to get the whole classes attention and focus, all my energy would be to figure out how to get Gerardo in a good mood.  So I spent time to figure out what he liked to work on, what he was good at, and learned to communicate with him effectively.  Did I ignore the rest of the students? No.  Did I do it in a way that was obvious to him or the rest of the class? No, he had no idea that I was the one doing the manipulating.  All I realized was that if HE listened, the whole class would, so I focused on learning how to get him to listen. Generally, if you find out the leader, in a class of gang members, the rest will follow whatever they do, so narrow your focus to the leader.

There were times where I pulled Gerardo out of class to negotiate with him.  I would say, “Hey Gerardo, you know and I know that the other students follow your lead.  We really need to get through this lesson and it would help me out if you would be the leader that you are and just push through so we can be done.  Would you help me out?”  

This conversation has a strategy.  

  1. I gave him a compliment: I told him that he is the leader and all the other students follow him.  
  2. I told him what needs to be done.
  3. And finally I asked him for help.  

9 out of 10 times, Gerardo struts back into class, sits down, tells the other students to “shut up” and we get through it without any more hiccups.    

Classroom management strategy #2:


  • Whisper to the student that is causing problems and give them a way out.


ANYTIME you need to address a specific student, this is a strategy to try. (Remember that different strategies work on different kids.  If I know a student is loud and brash I will use a different strategy than with a quiet student.)  You will find variations that work but this is mine:

  1. If a student is causing problems blatantly, walk by without looking at them and tap on their desk or a variation of this.  The idea is to get them to know that you are onto them.  Try to be inconspicuous.  
  2. If you must say something just keep it simple, “Gerardo, can I talk to you for a second?”  You can either whisper it to them, gesture to them, or say it lightly by the door. Open the door and walk through and wait outside for them with the door propped open with your shoe. (remember: many of these students love confrontation and they are probably better at it than you. Don’t do it even though you want to.)
  3. If they come out immediately, they will most likely say something to puff up their pride as they walk out, just ignore them and don’t address what they said at all.  

If they say seated and don’t come outside, peek in and say, “Hey, Gerardo, please, I need to talk to you for a minute.” or gesture again.

If they refuse to move, you have wasted precious class time and it is time to speed up the process.  Walk over to their desk and get closer to them and say, “I need you to come outside or we will have to come up with another solution.”   They might say, Mrs. Moody, I am doing my work at any point during this process.  Say, Okay, but if it happens again, we will need to talk.  

Classroom management strategy #3:


  • Learn with them.  


Give students opportunities to teach you something.  Be interested in their lifestyle, their culture or history that they care about.  When I first began to work in the Juvenile court schools, the students would always talk about Scarface and the movie American Me.  I hated to admit that I had never seen either of them, but I did.  I let them tell me about the movies and then I took the time over one weekend and watched them.  It helped me to learn about their worldview and their goals.  

I went even further, printed out some articles about Scarface and created an expository writing unit plan.  (Note that I did not bring the movie in or even encourage those who hadn’t seen it to watch it.  I even got approval from my principal to bring this topic into the classroom.)  We discussed the themes of the movie, I taught them skills on how to read an article and pull out interesting quotes, and then we wrote a 3 paragraph essay on the article.  

Using students’ interest to create lessons is the number 1 thing to do to create a class that is engaged and easy to manage.  After that unit, I was able to get them to buy in better to the following, more English-content driven lessons since I proved to them that I cared about their interests.   



So I sent Sean Croxton a message and…

I went to screenshot it because I was so excited about it… I was going to post it and respond but then… I DELETED IT!! Ugh!!  Punch to the gut!!

Well, he responded, and said he’s going to read my blog.   Yey, yey, yey!!

Well, today’s Quote of the Day is by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

“Anything that You Can Place into Your Imagination Can Harden into a Reality.”

Successful people follow specific principals.  They “know in [their] heart what [they] are here for, what [they] came to do.”

I have come to the point this year of really defining what it is I’m here for and what I came to do.  You can read about it here.  This is an ongoing and changing process.  But overall, I am here to support people in achieving their dreams, I’m here to teach and streamline curriculum and teaching processes, and I am here to show other people God’s love through Christ.  

If you haven’t created a Mission statement for your life, I suggest that you do that.  Dan Miller has a process that you can go through here.  If you don’t know who you are and what you are doing here, you won’t go anywhere that you want to go.  

As a high school English teacher, I have heard many students claim that they are going to be millionaires.  When I ask them how, most of the time they have no clue.  They may rap, sing, or do some other creative venture, but they generally are lacking follow-through and purpose.  Now I don’t necessarily blame them.  There are quite a few teenagers that will have a wake-up call when they graduate and realized how expensive it is just to survive. But it is way worse when I hear grown men and women either being completely defeated by the world and complacent OR still imagining success without taking any steps to achieve it.

In Dr. Dryer’s clip, he describes Maslow’s Self-Actualization.  He says that “there are certain people who come into this world that come from a self-actualized perspective”, they don’t let others define them, and they are are seldom understood.

Since I’ve gone through this process of realizing my skills and trying to define what I am here for, it has created a disconnect between me and many of the people around me.  They look at me amazed and tell me things like, “Wow, you are so motivated!”  I even people tell me that I’m smart, which if you knew me in grade school, most people thought I was the ditsy blonde, and I have worked very hard to dispel this assumption.   I will no longer hold on to what other people think of me.  I will create who I want them to see.  I will be who I was created to be.

Are you who you want to be or what others expect from you?  

Sometimes when we go through hardships, and overcome them, it puts us in a situation where we must redefine ourselves.

In the Marine Corps we call this Mind over matter: “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter!!”  When I went through the hardest time in my life.  I had lost almost everything in my life.  I had no money. I was borderline homeless and had to start over from scratch.  This was my turning point.  I had no other choice but to pull up my bootstraps and move forward. This was the time I depended on God to lead my steps and tell me where to go.  3 years later I feel like I’m back at the beginning except for one thing: I know my worth. I know my skills. I know what I’m here for.  The question becomes: “What now?”

Well, I’m writing more.  I’m creating more.  I’m determined to succeed and I’m taking steps daily to achieve those dreams.  I WILL DO IT!! I will!!  I am placing it into my imagination and will see it become reality!!  

How about you?

Narrowing My Focus

As I have mentioned many times, I have gone through this process over the past year of realizing that I am capable of doing and achieving so much more than I am right now.  I feel like I am Indiana Jones right before he takes the first step across the Leap of Faith. I don’t know what is going to be there when I take that step, but I trust that it is what I must do.


I have all the abilities (mostly because I have convinced myself of it, and I have proven it to myself), but I just need to take that first step and do what I haven’t done in the past: follow through.

So now I have realized the value that I can bring to the world. Now I realize that I have so many more skills than I even know what to do with and that could fit into one job category.  Here I go to list them:

I am a helper, a teacher, a coach, an encourager, a writer, and an editor. 

My passion is writing curriculum. I love breaking down large pieces of complicated information into easy to follow steps that anyone can follow: from the people who think they can’t to the people who already think they know how.  I love creating activities and lessons that teach these concepts in a fun and creative way.  I can create the whole picture and the small activities. 

I also love teaching it.  I realize after each time that I get in front of any class, “Hey, I’m really good at this!”  I know how to manage a class, be clear with my expectations and move the point along.  I don’t like to always admit it, but I have become a decent public speaker.  Public speaking is my most challenging piece, not because I am bad at it, but my mind and insecurities have a hard time admitting that I have become pretty good.

I can coach and support people to get better at anything academic in nature: reading, speaking, or writing.  I can quickly see their qualities, what skills they are lacking, and steps that I and they can take to make them better.  I am positive and can present feedback in a palatable way. 

I can learn and teach myself anything as I have done in the past few months.  I had no idea how to do much graphic design, business, or website anything.  Now for most of these things I used tutorials and helpful websites, like venngage and canva, but if you don’t know much about this type of technology it can be a daunting task.  I have also taken quite a few online classes in the past year, so I am comfortable with navigating blackboard, canvas, and schoology as Learning Management Systems.  I have realized quickly that this online teaching platform is growing so quickly that there is going to be a huge disparity between teachers who can and teachers who can’t.  I also have experience doing video teachings through youtube and screencast-o-matic.   Basically, I have everything I need to be an effective online teacher. 

As far as my education goes, I am a Literature and Writing Major, I have a vast knowledge of American History, and I’m currently in a Master’s program to teach English as a second language to adults.  But my experience as an educator has given me the ability to teach basic math, science, or any other subject that I have time to do research on.  My experience in curriculum development has given me the skills to be able to break down new information so that I can teach it.  And currently, in my Master’s program, I am slowly but surely learning how to write for an educated audience.

Finally, my faith is a huge part of my life.  Anything that I do, I want it to be fulfilling the purpose that God has for my life.  I am not only an overconfident, leaning toward egotistical, Veteran Marine, I am also a child of God, and I know that He has a calling on my life.  

I started this wondering how I was going to narrow down my platform, but I think I did it.  You are probably seeing the same thing as I am.  I am a teacher, coach, writer, and curriculum developer.  My platform is teaching skills in becoming a better reading, writing, and speaking.

Now the question is, what do I do with this?



Strategies for Classroom Management-For the Most Challenging Classrooms (Part 1)


I have worked in alternative high school settings in Southern California for 8 years.  I have seen it all.  I know what works and what does not work.  Control does not work; psychology does.  You Tube Video  Click here for a video Version of this post.

Part One will discuss What Not To Do
Part Two will discuss What To Do  


I was a Teacher’s Assistant in one of the most challenging alternative schools in San Diego County while I was going to college.  During that time, I was able to learn an immense about classroom management as I saw substitute teacher after substitute teacher fall flat on their face, cry, and leave defeated after a classroom of rebellious students, mostly gang members, ate them alive. 

I saw the manipulation tactics in full force.  The students switching names, seats, convincing the teacher of made up rules, and overall just taking over the classroom (the kind of classes the Substitute had taught in the inner cities, I’m sure). I have seen students cause teachers to cry and then the students play the victim and blame the sub.  In my experience, I have had a student throw a desk across the room in frustration.  I have kicked students out daily. I have been called every name in the book in front of the whole class and have had a few of them get so close to my face that I could feel their breath.   

I have also lost control over my own behaviors that the class was unable to resume. I have tried my hardest to regain some normalcy or control but failed daily.  I have tried everything for certain classes and left defeated.  I had this one kid, one that I hope no one ever has to experience, who had a diagnosed behavioral defiance disorder.  This kid was completely unable to agree or say yes or do anything that anyone told him to do.  That’s the kid I will never forget.  That’s the kid that I dedicate this post to, haha!  

So what mistakes did I make?

I tried to control, micromanage, persuade, bribe, anything you can imagine to get these students to behave and “Just do your work!”  But experienced teachers know that micromanaging students who are expert manipulators only leads to giving away control over the classroom.  So without further adieu, let’s address the strategies that don’t work.

  1. Don’t take it personally.    

It’s not about you.  It is not about hurting your feelings or making you feel bad.  You are a pawn in the game of “Let’s make the teacher cry so we can brag about it for years.” It is a game to them. You become nothing but a means for entertainment and wasting class time, so they don’t have to work.  

Don’t be overly emotional about anything.  This does not mean to be stoic and unemotional.  It means that once students realize that you are reacting to them, they will know that you don’t have control over your own emotions and they can and will start playing games.  These are generally innocent “I am not doing anything wrong” type of games but they will continue until they get kicked out or you cry, whichever comes first.  (Losing the emotional battle will most likely happen at some point, and it is recoverable but not ideal.) 

2. Don’t call out students from across the room or debate with them



Oh, I’ve played this game a lot.  It looks like:

Me: Gerardo, get to work.
Gerardo: Huh? I am working.
Me: No you’re talking.
Gerardo: No I’m not. *lifts up paper. See, I’m working. You’re interrupting me.

This is a very simple example, It could be so much worse than this.  The bottom line is that students of this caliber will debate about anything and they are most likely way better at it than you, they have more endurance to keep it going longer than you have patience for, and if you lose your patience then they win.

I call this The Rule of 2 Back and Forths. If you make 2 statements and they try to keep it going, stop it by giving them the “Because I said so” statement, the “Do we need to talk about this outside?” statement, or a variation of a “This conversation is over” statement and ignore the rest.    

3. Don’t have a power struggle



You will never win if you think that teaching is about winning the outward battle.  If teachers learn psychology with these students, we will either become the winners while making the class think they are winning or we will make ourselves crazy trying.  

Let them think they are winning as often as you can.  If letting a student get the last word every time gets them to be quiet so you can move on, then let them.  They will think they have won but you have been able to continue and finish what you are doing.  If you hate stopping in the middle of class to have a talk with a student, do it anyways.  Take the time that you need in order to improve the flow of the class in the future.    

The bottom line is whatever you pour into them, the expectations, the relational connection, or the time, you will get back only a fraction in return.  So make the amount that you pour into them over and beyond, so that you will return a bigger amount.  

This may sound like a drag, and the Don’ts are always a drag… stay tuned for the What TO DOs tomorrow so that the whole thing doesn’t sound all negative and life-sucking.  

Let’s review:

  1. Don’t take it personally.
  2. Don’t call out students from across the room or debate with them
  3. Don’t have a power struggle

Do you have any other DO NOTs to add?

Stay tuned for the TO DOs…

Accomplishing My Dreams

I was honestly not planning on doing any sort of Year in Review, but here it goes. 

Last school year, my 5th year teaching, I began to question my profession of choice, and I realized that maybe I am not that person who would be a high school English teacher forever.  On the surface, I wanted to be.  I wanted to be content with having the same job and profession forever, but as I began to do more and learn more about myself, about teaching, and more importantly about how the skills that I began to develop could not be contained or satisfied in a high school English class, I became discontent and honestly, worse as a teacher.  I became angry that this would be my life forever and took it out on the kids.

I love teaching, don’t get me wrong.  It is a core part of my being.  I’ve always known that I would be a teacher, but even in my college teaching education program I never could fit myself into the box of a literature-loving, grammar-focused teacher.  I could honestly count the times that I taught grammar or vocab on one hand, and I only taught it then because I felt like that is what real English teachers are supposed to do.  I was that teacher who would die before I gave students questions from a book or a pre-made handout.  I always decided that if I did not have fun planning or creating a lesson, then I would not want to teach it.  So as soon as I learned how, I created everything from scratch.

Looking back now, I am realizing one part of my personality is that if I don’t do something well, I won’t do it at all.  

So at the beginning of the year, I began a journey of trying to figure out what is next.  I searched for the perfect Master’s program and found out that the TESOL (Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages) MA program at Alliant International University was going to perfectly fit my schedule and fit my needs for the few months of the Post 9-11 GI Bill that I had left to pay for it and my housing allowance.  This supplement would give me financial flexibility to take time to figure out what to do next.

The next few things that happened were disheartening
and very, very confusing.

I am that person that leaves no stone unturned, so even though I had already decided that I was no longer going to be teaching high school, I could not stop myself from applying for job after job and taking interview after interview.  See, maybe it is my Marine overconfidence that leads into a little bit of arrogance, but I know how to interview, and I know how to get jobs.  So getting rejected after doing well on the interviews over and over was cutting away at my ego.  I did not like this…  AT ALL!!

So what’s the deal?  Was this God’s way of confirming to me that I’m done teaching high school? Maybe I am not on the right track at all even with my Master’s Program. Maybe I got everything wrong, and I’m on the completely wrong path.  Now how do I get back and how do I even know that I’m going the wrong direction. I was sooo confused.       

I realized that I just needed to stop striving (honestly, I haven’t gotten that one down yet), and attempt to be content in the season of staying home with my 3-year-old and finishing my Master’s program.

Well, since I can never be content doing one thing, (which is another thing I have learned about myself), I began to teach myself things.  I started blogs, 5 to be exact, and still write in 3 regularly.  I have moved from my pile of unread books on my bookshelf (they are still there) to audiobooks through Audible; I got through 3 in 4 months.  I listen to the Quote of the Day Show by Sean Croxton every day. I listen or read everything I can get my hands on from Jeff Goins, Lisa Nichols, and Dan Miller. 

I am doing Jeff Goins Challenge and everything that he has to offer because I am done with the mundane. I am going to succeed and continue to move forward regardless of my life circumstances.  I will make it happen!!

I have moved from being resentful that I don’t have anyone speaking regularly into my life to having experts speaking to me and encouraging me every day.  I am achieving my dreams one day at a time.  This process did not start today on New Year’s Day.  It started last February.  Each day I can wake up with a fresh look at my dreams and begin to take steps to accomplish them.

I need a house with a yard and a driveway for my girls to ride their bikes in.
And it is only me who can get them that.

How to Ask Questions That Elicit a Response From Your Audience

like Tony Robbins does

Tony Robbins is not paid for being a motivational speaker only because he was born to speak, he has natural talent, or he is saying something new.  He may have a natural talent for speaking but without practicing the techniques used to appeal his audience, he would not be successful.  He could have all the natural talent in the world but without good preparation before he speaks, his events would fall flat.  Most of the time, he tells his audience things they already know, but overall, his delivery and the way that he makes the audience feel is what makes him so popular.  He makes them feel like they are having a conversation.  This is not just a natural talent that he has, but a skill that he has learned: how to effectively interact with his audience.  This skill has helped him refine his craft of speaking through building a connection to his audience.  

Many speakers might marvel at the way he can ask a question and get a useful and audible response from his audience.  Today while listening one of his clips on The Quote of the Day Show, Tony talked about what it means to be wealthy, and I was very impressed with how much his audience verbally responded to his questions.  Eliciting audience response is not easy nor does it happen randomly.  It is a skill that Tony has learned, and we can, too.  

Has there been any time when you have asked a question to an audience that you desired a response from and the person or audience assumed that it was a rhetorical question and did not respond?  Why do you think that might have happened?

Four things to think about when planning ways to interact with an audience:


  1. What is the purpose of your desired interaction?
  • Are you trying to check whether the audience is engaged, check for understanding or are you ready to move on to a new subject?




Tony makes statements like, “All those who want wealth, say ‘I’.” Then they respond.  This is a strategy that he uses to ensure that the audience is still with him and they feel like have moved from being spoken to to being a part of the conversation.  It could also be a way to keep the speaker on track, motivated, and moving forward.

Or You could be looking around, seeing glassy eyes and feeling like you are losing their attention.  This is the perfect opportunity to say something like, “Who’s with me?”  Note: You can use this to pump them up if you repeat it until you have a loud response. 


  • Are you trying to get them to make a personal connection so that it gives them the feeling of a deeper connection to you or the topic?


When an audience is given time to think about how the topic applies to their own lives, it makes them feel like they have had an interaction with you.  It makes them feel like you have listened to their part of the story.  Do not be afraid of the pregnant pause that Lisa Nichols talks about.  It is an effective tool to use to connect to your audience.

You could do this by asking a rhetorical question.  It could sound like, “Who has ever felt like this before?” Or “Think about a time when you have felt this way.”  If at all possible, let them have 5 minutes to tell their story out loud to their neighbor in a group context.  If audience members are allowed to tell their story, they will buy into yours much more effectively.   


  • Only ask a question that you already know the answer to.


As a speaker, you never want to be too surprised at what the audience says or thinks.  The speaker should be at least one step ahead of the audience.  Make sure you ask a question that you already have an idea of what the audience might say or think.  If you are not sure what the answer might be, then take some time to ask a few trusted people to tell you what they would say or think.  If you ask at least 5 people, the audience member’s answers will most likely not be far from it.    

Even if you have asked them to think of a story where they have experienced a similar event, already have a hypothetical story in mind of what they could say.  You want to know what is possible for them to think to make sure that the question is relevant to your topic.  

I have been in classes where the professor has asked the students to discuss a question, but our responses were lead us in a different direction from what he expected us to say.  We did not answer the question the way he wanted.  This is not the fault of the students.  The teacher must word or clarify the question to get students to answer the way they want in order to achieve the desired thinking they expect.

The teacher/speaker is the one responsible for creating a question that leads into the point being made.  If the question is not clear or misinterpreted, the audience will be confused and lose confidence in the speaker.  


  • Train your audience to respond


Just because you ask a good question, doesn’t mean that the audience will know that you are expecting them to audibly respond.  We must train our audience to respond the way that we want them to.  

Use non-verbal cues: pausing, gestures, and repetition.

Tony pauses after he asks questions that he wants a response to.  As speakers, we sometimes fear silence.  We think, “If there is silence, then I will bore them, or they will have time to think about what I’m doing wrong.” This negative thinking is not true.  Pausing within a speech actually does the opposite effect.  When there is surprising silence within a speech it gives the audience time to think about what you have said, which should be exactly what you want them to do.  It also can surprise them and make them refocus their attention on you, as stated above.

If you are uncomfortable with silence, then you could just say what you want and know that they will say and gesture them to say it with your hands.  Imagine with me, you asked, like Tony Robbins did, Do people normally spend more money than they make?  An untrained audience might be silent for a second, but a trained speaker might gesture that you want them to repeat you, “Yes!”  After doing this with them once or twice, they should get the idea and respond more quickly. Finally, repeating the same activity throughout your speech will help them to get the flow of what you are expecting.

  1. Be Self-Reflective

Each time we speak or teach, we must take time to reflect on the interaction we had and how we can do it more effectively next time.  The following are a list of questions that we can ask ourselves.

  1. Did I use audience interaction for the benefit of the audience’s understanding and keeping them engaged?  Did it work? What are some things I can change next time.
  2. Were the questions worded in a way that they knew what to answer? Was there any confusion on their part or on mine?  Was anyone surprised about anything? What can I do to fix it?
  3. Did the audience pick up our cues?  How can we streamline audience interaction to get a more desired effect next time?
  4. Was this question necessary?  How can I make a question that is more impactful or interesting?  Can I expand on the interaction to provide a more meaningful interaction?



3 Rules to Follow While Writing & Editing a Paper

editing post

Please click and watch the Youtube video of this post here!!

There are no good writers, only good editors!!

  1. Write with your voice

One piece of advice that I hear many, many English teachers tell students that I completely disagree with is, “Don’t write like you talk!”  WHAT?!?! What are you talking about?  How can you not write like you talk?  If you can’t write how you talk, how in the world can you write anything?

On the other hand, the compliment that you should hear as a writer is, “It sounds like you are talking to me.”  When you do that, it is this amazing device that we English teachers call “Your voice!”  So why would they tell you not to write like you talk but at the same time tell you to find your voice in writing?  It doesn’t make any sense.

I know their fear.  They don’t want you to add cuss words or informal language, but I have heard gang members use that informal language, very inappropriate for school I might add, while talking about the rhetorical appeals.  You know what?  I am not going to correct a student’s verbal grammar if they can have a discussion applying the appeals to an academic text that we have read.  If you are thinking deeply about a subject then write it the way you’d like and edit later.

In the Montessori schools, they do not begin to grade on grammar or spelling in stories, journals, or essays until much later in students’ education.  They believe that thinking about the structure and spelling actually hinders the writing process and the student’s creativity; I agree.  This is because we normally don’t think in the way that we are expected to write. Since we don’t know how to write in an academic voice, which seems scary and can stop us from writing anything, then write it like you would say it and then apply the following tips.

  1. Delete your first paragraph

As an English teacher, I have come to the conclusion that the first question to ask yourself when editing is “Do I need this first paragraph?”  So many people get their writing topic and without thinking about how it will look, through an outline or brainstorm, just begin.  There have been so many times when I have read essays and have made the recommendation to just delete the whole 1st paragraph.  This is one of the first questions I ask myself about my own papers, “Is this first paragraph necessary?”

This is why:  most of the time that first paragraph begins the flow of thought.  We think we need to justify why we are writing instead of just getting to the point of what we are writing about.  The beginning paragraph many times can be the jumbled up thoughts that get you to the point of where you want to go with the paper.  Once all those jumbled up thoughts are out of your head and you begin to explain and prove what you are saying, then that is the stuff to keep; this is the necessary information.

But remember, don’t NOT write that jumbled up first paragraph.  Write it and get it out of your head, just don’t be afraid to highlight the whole thing and press delete once the paper is done, as challenging that might be.  That first paragraph is necessary to get your flow going.  Do it, write it, but delete it.

  1. Read EACH sentence.

This one is dedicated to my newspaper publisher brother.  When I was in my English 100 class of college while I was stationed at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base, he lived with his family right outside of base in Kailua.  I figured that I had to take advantage of his editing skills so I asked him to edit my paper.  He, like the awesome brother he is, said, “No I won’t edit it, but I’ll show you how to edit.”  Ahhh, *punch to the gut* thanks, bro!

So he spent about 20 minutes showing me how to edit.  He said,

  1. Read the first sentence. Delete any unnecessary words, reorder the sentence if you can, add detail where you need it.
  2. Read the second sentence, and repeat step 1. Then read sentence 1 and 2 together to make sure they flow and make sense together.  Do you need to add a transition statement? Do the sentences make sense together? What can you add or take a way to make it more concise?
  3. Repeat this process through the whole paper by reading only 2 sentences at a time.
  4. Finally, read the whole paper again and make more changes when necessary.

This is one of those time-consuming but very effective ways to edit.  We all must agree that the first draft is not supposed to be perfect.  It is not supposed to be worthy of turning it in without editing. That’s why it is called the first draft.  Good writers = good editors.

So go against all your English teachers and

  2. (don’t be afraid to) DELETE YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH

Apply these tips and be amazed at what you can do!!

Making a Change

If you do this 10 minutes every day, you will change!!

I have changed my life this year.  It is simple and only takes about 10 minutes per day (or more if I have a longer drive or workout).  It has become my extrinsic motivator.  It has filled me with confidence and has inspired me to write more.  It has made me move out of my comfort zone into a world that is scary and unknown.  This change looks like the 10 minutes per day it takes to listen to The Quote of the Day podcast from Sean Croxton.  Everyday I listen to this podcast, and I have become hungry for more so have added audio books on Audible like The Five Second Rule, 48 Days to the Work You Love, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management or How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

This one change of listening to The Quote of the Day Show has spurred a change in my thinking and actions.  I have stopped thinking that success was just for those people.  I have stopped thinking that I can’t change.  I have stopped thinking that since I am a type B, laid back personality that I can’t be an entrepreneur.

I have however, realized that an entrepreneur does not have to be the go-getter, boss, who is in charge of or inspires hundreds of people immediately.  I have realized that it is a conscious effort to change one thing at a time and utilize my time wisely to complete tasks efficiently.  I have gained a new desire to not waste any more time.  I don’t want to waste my life.  I don’t want to waste one more second passing time waiting for the weekend, desiring the next season, or doing anything but living in the moment.

I have been that person that has said, “I’m just never going to be skinny. I’m just not made that way.” Or “I am too laid back to run my own business.”  When people who are on that side of the success wagon in any of these areas are trying to YELL saying, “You think this was easy?!?  You think I was just made this way? You didn’t see all the struggles I have gone through to get here.  You are discounting the struggles and years of failures by acting like it was easy. It wasn’t!!”

So have a big New Years goal if you want.  Maybe this will be your year.  OR you can decide to make one change TODAY!!  Don’t wait for Monday.  If you want to get into shape, then go outside and take a walk today.

Don’t go buy a membership; reward yourself with a membership AFTER you have walked or ran every day for a month.  If you want to begin your own at-home business, don’t put ANY money into it.  Begin to build a portfolio, make the plan, ask for advice, get a free website going.  Don’t spend money on it until you have done everything you can do before you spend the money.  Make the money you put out your reward for being consistent.

As you begin to listening to people who have done it before through The Quote of the Day Show, take it and run.  Be a good steward of what you have been given now and expect it to grow in fruit.  If your goal is big, break it down to achievable steps.  Make your goals not amount made or lost but your consistency and effort.  If you want to work out, no matter what, just do 1 thing a day towards that goal, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, anything.  If you want to build your education, then listen to an audio book on the topic only on your commute to work.  If you want to build a website, do one thing per day towards it.

This is habit making that creates a lasting change.  If you have big dreams, start small but remember that it is the consistency is what will lead you closer to success!!  Let’s do this together!!


Teach Hard or Go Home

One of the qualities of the best teachers that I have ever had is when they aren’t afraid to  make a fool of themselves or fail in front of their students.  They go hard. They buy into their silliness, and they don’t care if the students sigh and roll their eyes or join in.  I think of it as the one piece of being a teacher (you know, since we are so many things policeman, councilor, psychic, doctor, and many, many other things).  One of the hats we wear is performer.

I went to a small venue for a rap concert one time.  The crowd was small, but the venue was nice.  When the performer came on stage, he danced and jumped around that entire stage, he was fully committed to going 100 and giving the best performance of his life even though the venue was only about a quarter full.  He did not let the crowd set the mood; he set it.  And song by song, the audience began to loosen up and dance.  It amazed me that one person could change the mood of so many people and influence them to do something they wouldn’t normally do.

That’s the way we can be as teachers.  The students can come in with any variation of moods (especially if you are teaching teens or preteens), but we can be the guiding force of emotions in the classroom.  If you are going to teach something, think of a way to really get their attention.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Draw something and make fun of your drawing ability.  Sing for your students.  Bring in a song that their parents listen to that has relevance to your lesson and sing along.  I have a lesson in which I use the song For What it’s Worth (Hey children what’s that sound), and I remind the students that they will never hear that song again without thinking of me, that I will be immortalized in their minds forever through that song… then I laugh an evil cackle. They roll their eyes but laugh.

When Failure Happens

On a more serious note, failure will happen.  We will say or do things that will be embarrassing or say something completely wrong.  I cannot count the amount of times I have fallen on my face in front of the students.  I guess that’s the price I pay for wearing my emotions on my sleeve and having little filter (I blame four years in the Marine Corps for that!!). But you know what?  Being honest about failure is huge.  Be honest with them and they will generally respect you for it.  (note: you don’t have to be honest EVVVERY time.  I make so many mistakes that it would lose its power after a while.  Pick and choose what’s important.)

Sell Your Performance

As for doing a new speaking engagement or new lesson, you might feel embarrassed or insecure.  Don’t let that fleeting emotion stop you.  When I’m feeling insecure or bashful, I play a kind of game with myself.  I remind myself to “fake it till ya make it.”  I am actually pretty introverted, no one ever believes me because I never shut up half the time.  But I’ll go the whole week without talking to almost anyone and then all my words build up in class, and they all come flooding out, and I can’t stop them; I have honestly tried.  (I also blame the fact that I love this MA TESOL program, and I love discussing education as a whole.)  But I honestly have to hype myself up before doing a speaking engagement out of my element (my element is teenagers).  What is not my element is  standing in front of a classroom of adults trying to tell them how or what to teach.  So when I do have to speak in front of adults, it is a performance.  I do the whole, back stage building up and controlling my emotions, I practice, and then I go out there, turn my analytical brain off and act like I know what in the world I am doing and am saying.  I pretend like I’m an expert in the field.  I use my hands, walk around, make eye contact, and try to make what I’m saying sound like the most important thing anyone has ever heard. We become salesmen in this mode.   Salesmen have to convince themselves that their product is the best before they can convince anyone else.  Believe that your lesson or speech is going to change lives.  Believe that you know exactly what you are talking about… Because if you believe it, they will.  On the rare chance that they see through your facade, they will most likely see that everyone else loves it and won’t say anything to rock the boat (well not always, but you can count on that most of the time).

So go be silly, goofy, and confident. Fake it if you must, and Teach Hard or Go Home!!

Blog at

Up ↑