Dallas, TX During the Holiday Season

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Like any city, Dallas has a wide array of events occurring during the holiday season. We love celebrating Christmas in Dallas and you’ll see this fact is true. Although it’s extremely unlikely there will be snow, you can still make the most of the holidays in the city. You have the chance to attend great events and see beautiful decorations. Dallas goes all out for the holidays and makes it a memorable time each year. If you’re in Dallas over the holidays, here are some events you should make it a point to try to check out!

Dallas Arboretum

Always a great place to visit, the Dallas Arboretum goes all out for Christmas. The Arboretum features the 12 Days of Christmas, an exhibit of twelve gazebos that are decorated for the holidays with gorgeous decorations that create elaborate scenes. You can also visit the DeGolyer House to see their display of over 800 nutcrackers. Besides these two main events, the Arboretum is decorated with half a million lights, features musical performances, a Christmas market, and reindeer.

Christmas in the Square

Now through the end of December, you can visit Frisco’s Square for endless Christmas activities. There’s an ice rink, food, sleigh rides, and plenty of live entertainment. The square even has man-made snow on Friday and Saturday nights! You’ll also see the incredible Christmas lights choreographed to music.

Grapevine, TX

Though this isn’t exactly in Dallas because Grapevine is a Dallas suburb, it certainly needs to be included on this list. Grapevine is known as “the Christmas Capital of Texas” and for good reason. The entire downtown transforms a month ahead of Christmas, featuring decorations and events all month long. Anything holiday related you could possibly think of, you’ll find in Grapevine.

Dallas by Chocolate tours

If you want to see the Christmas lights in neighborhoods around Dallas, these tours are the way to do it. Each tour takes a few hours, featuring private transportation to see the best lights in the city, all while offering participants chocolate and hot cocoa samples. You even get your own tour guide who takes you from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Lone Star Park

The park is being being transformed into a gorgeous winter wonderland this year. You’ll be able to attend a huge carnival, see Santa, watch acrobatic performances, and try incredible food. This wonderland is part of the lantern festival annually held in Houston, so make sure to visit the over-sized Chinese lantern displays.

Prairie Lights

Another Dallas suburb, Grand Prairie, offers beautiful Christmas lights that are worth visiting. There are over four million lights you can drive through and see. You can even stop in a small Christmas village with Santa, get hot chocolate, and walk through a forest filled with Christmas lights. Finally, as you finish your drive, you’ll pass through the world’s largest animated light tunnel.

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How to Keep Your Students Focused During the Holidays

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The holidays can be a wonderful chance to indulge in festivities, cultural experiences and more, but it can be difficult to keep your students focused on learning with all this excitement and their anticipation of the holidays. Many times, students of all ages and grade-levels are starting to tune-out and look towards the coming holidays and having some time off of school. These feelings are totally natural; you’re probably looking forward to the holidays too.

It’s important to remember that your students are children and budding young-adults, not robots. By recognizing this fact, and accepting that you cannot change it, it becomes much easier to instead tailor your teaching and lessons to this development. Now, let’s talk about some ways you can use the holiday spirit to keep your students engaged, focused, and progressing in their educations!

Maintain classroom structure

Don’t throw your rules and established expectations out the window. You can’t expect your students to not be distracted during the holidays, but students thrive on stability. Everyone, yourself included, performs better when previously established norms are followed.

Continue to assign your regular weekly or bi-weekly assignments, have homework due at the normal dates, etc. Don’t abandon classroom structure you’ve established, use it! Keeping with the same routine can help students stay focused because they know what’s expected of them.

Tailor your lessons to the season

The easiest way to keep your students focused and working hard is to tailor your lessons to the holiday at hand. Don’t ignore the fact that Christmas is right around the corner, embrace it!

Regardless of your subject-matter, you can find a way to tie it into the season’s festivities into at least some lessons. Your students will appreciate the much-needed break from “hard content”, and the creativity these assignments usually employ. Try to incorporate some fun activities that are relevant to the holidays that the students will enjoy while also learning something new.

Keep your pace, don’t overwork

It’s important to continue teaching at your normal pace. Don’t suddenly pile on two-weeks worth of work and expect your students to actually do it over their winter break — it’s called a break for a reason. They’ll only be miserable before and after break and you’ll have to deal with this attitude.

Keep this idea in mind during the rest of the school year. Make sure you get through key chapters and lessons with enough time to spare so you’re not cramming before the holiday!

A final word on holidays

Remember that holidays are a special time in every culture. Embrace this, and use it as a break from the factory-like routine of schooling. Enhance your lesson plans, ask your students what their plans are and share yours, and remember – you deserve a break, too. Use this time to recharge and revitalize, the year isn’t over yet!

Iconic Texas Foods

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Some say that everything is bigger in Texas while others go the extra mile and say that everything is simply better in Texas. Everyone might not agree with those first two statements, but something people from all over can agree upon is that Texas has fantastic food. The following are some of the most iconic foods to come out of the state and are certainly worth trying if you ever get a chance to visit.

The Texan BBQ

There is no doubt that BBQ can be done all over the world, but Texas is known for their touch. For some reason, a person can tell the difference between barbecues and some are just plain better than others. Maybe Texas’s secret has to do with the slow-smoking process the meat goes through, or maybe it has to do with the marinade. Whatever it may be, something makes the BBQ in Texas one of a kind.

The Chili

Many know Texas for the chili. The deliciousness and the simplicity of the dish cannot be duplicated anywhere else. One of the key differences between this chili and others is that not one bean will be found, which is quite unusual because many people think of beans as a staple in chili.

Chicken Fried Steak

Everything tastes better fried, and that is something that Texans took to heart since the state is also known for chicken fried steak. The gravy is just the cherry on top, and it definitely makes the meal complete. This dish is one you do not want to miss.

The Queso

There is no doubt that the Latin culture has fused into the Texas culture in a few ways. One of the most beloved ways is how it has transformed food in the state. Queso is just melted cheese and some chili peppers added to the top of some Mexican food along with chips. Though that might sound simple, it takes real skill to make quality queso.

Pop over All

This may not sound great to health enthusiasts, but a good Texan will likely choose a Dr. Pepper before they reach for any other beverage. In fact, most Texans will likely push a bottle of water away if its standing in the way of a Dr. Pepper, which can be found throughout the state.

Pies in Texas

Every state has a sweet that they are known for, and Texas is no different. This state is known for pecan pies. It would be hard to find a good Texan home without pecan pies at least a few times each year. This is especially true during the holidays though pecan pies go well with any season.

These are just some of the foods that Texas is known for though there are others like the infamous Texas fair foods where almost all foods are deep fried, including Twinkies. At the end of the day, these types of foods may be duplicated elsewhere, but they can only be truly made in Texas.

How to Help Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, it led to widespread destruction and quite a few deaths. It was a disaster on a scale that Texas hasn’t ever seenbefore. Flooding occurred in the city and in many miles of the surrounding area, leading to numerous people evacuating and having to be rescued by emergency professionals. Though Dallas wasn’t buffeted like Houston, the entire state feels the repercussions of the hurricane and wants to find some way to help out, much like the rest of the country. Here are some ways to help those affected by Harvey and continue the process of healing for Texans.

Volunteer your time

Immediately after a hurricane, there’s often a need for trained professionals who have skills that can benefit local groups trying to help the community. Any help is good help, but make sure you find somewhere that actually needs volunteers and you fit the necessary qualifications before heading to Houston to help. Volunteers are vitally important, but immediately following a disaster, the people that are needed the most are those with experience to handle emergency and disaster situations.

Like many of us saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding efforts take years. If you aren’t qualified or do not have the opportunity to provide assistance shortly after Harvey, there will be plenty more opportunities to volunteer your time and help out the community. Groups will be working on rebuilding the city for a long amount of time, so plan ahead and find a time to offer help to make sure those devastated by the hurricane are not forgotten.

Donate to a great charity

If you decide to donate money, you want to make sure it’s to a reputable charity. Utilize Charity Navigator to research the legitimacy of a charity before sending them money; you want your donation to actually be used to help Harvey victims. If you choose to donate to an individual, make sure you do your research first to determine whether or not it’s a legitimate person in need. After a natural disaster, monetary donations usually do the most good because unskilled volunteers can make the situation more difficult to manage and too many unnecessary items leads to waste.

Donate goods

I know I just mentioned that donating goods after a natural disaster can lead to waste, but there are some items that are actually needed. Before simply sending items you think are needed, do your research and find a charity that’s specifically asking for different items. Then, buy those items. The goods most commonly needed are food, clean water, pet supplies, and medical supplies.

Raise awareness

If you’re unable to donate your time or money, simply raising awareness can be hugely beneficial to those in need. Share articles with up-to-date information and suggestions for where to donate. The more people that are aware of the channels to make donations through and how to help out, the better.

6 Ways to Teach Students Professional Skills

We often see articles about developing professionalism in teachers and how important it is to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Cultivating professionalism in teachers is incredibly important, but so is teaching students the value of professionalism. Many students likely do not understand what professionalism is and haven’t ever thought of cultivating it. Professionalism is learned once students begin looking for jobs after finishing school, which can lead to significant amounts of stress and a sense of unpreparedness for the students. Here are some ways teachers can teach their students professional skills and prepare them for life after school.

Do a resume workshop together

Depending how old your students are, it might be the perfect time in their lives to work on a resume with them. Most students are not taught how to craft an attractive resume and resort to learning this skill on their own from conducting online research. Simply taking one or two days over the course of the year to work on a resume with them can leave them with something tangible they’ll benefit from later on in life. Remind them to regularly update it and note any new formatting guidelines.

Have students conduct mock interviews

Your students might not be excited about this prospect, but if you think it could benefit them, hold some mock interviews. Consider starting a professional development club and offer after school meetings for interested students to work on their interviewing skills. Create lists of questions for students to ask each other or even be the interviewer yourself. Give students feedback on their answers and how they can do even better.

Share your professional development

A huge part of being a teacher is participating in professional development, so share your journey and experiences. Tell students about opportunities you’ve had and even a time you messed up or some aspect of professionalism that you didn’t know for a long time. Students want to hear about your learning experiences and will likely connect more with you afterwards.

Work on time management techniques

A huge hurdle for many people is their time management skills. Few people have completely mastered time management, so consider taking time to offer tips to your students on how they can improve theirs. Advise them to use a planner or calendar, especially if your school gives them out at the beginning of the year. There are also plenty of smartphone apps or Google extensions for time management and productivity that students can take a look at.

Be a professional role model

One of the best steps you can take to teach your students professionalism is by practicing it yourself. Always remain professional and lead by example. Avoid losing your temper or becoming too close to students. Be professional toward coworkers and everyone else you work with so your students see what professionalism looks like.

Highlight important professional traits

If you feel like your students would be interested, consider purchasing books on etiquette or professionalism for the classroom. It’s likely that the school library has some as well. Teaching students from a young age how to properly conduct themselves in a professional setting and appear mature and confident can benefit them in all areas of their lives.

A Brief History of Dallas, Texas

This blog was originally posted on robertpetersdallastexas.com. Visit Robert’s website for more information.

Dallas, Texas is a place filled with rich history and has cultivated many great people and moments throughout its existence and continues to be a solid breeding ground for excellence. However, many people outside of its residents do not know much about its humble beginnings so let’s take a look at a brief history of the city nicknamed “The Big D.”

Currently located on the Trinity River right in the center of Dallas County in North Central Texas, it was founded by John Neely Bryan in 1839 in what was originally known as the Three Forks area. Bryan, at the time, was actually on a mission to establish a trading post for Indians and settlers. He quickly recognized the advantages of locating this area as it was the easiest river crossing location and also was placed on what would soon be established as the Preston Trail. Dallas County formed in 1846 and Dallas was assigned as a temporary county seat. It became a permanent county seat through a vote in 1850 over Hord’s Ridge and Cedar Springs. Then in 1856, it was granted its official town charter by the Texas legislature and Dr. Samuel Pryor became its first mayor.

Dallas, during its early stages, was a major service center for the rural areas around with its many amenities such a dry goods store, groceries, a drug store, insurance agency, boot and shoe shop, brickyards and saddle shops. It also had its weekly newspaper known as the Dallas Herald. Businessmen in Dallas were aware that the key to economic expansion came through transportation in and out of the region. So when attempts to navigate the Trinity River, they then focused on securing rail service and was able to attract the Houston and Texas Central in 1872 and the Texas and Pacific in 1873. These acquisitions made Dallas one of the first rail crossroads in Texas. With cotton being the region’s premier cash crop, Dallas found itself in an ideal locational position as Elm Street became the market for cotton.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Dallas had a population of 42,638 saw itself as the leading book, drug, jewelry, and wholesale liquor market in the Southwest. It was also the world’s leading inland cotton market while remaining number one in the world in the manufacture of saddlery and cotton-gin machinery. By 1950 the population grew to 434,462, and during that period, it became the nation’s third-largest technology center due to the growth of companies like Ling-Tempco-Vaught (LTV) and Texas Instruments. During the 1960s’ however, Dallas experienced its most tragic event in the assassination of then-President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, as he was riding through Dealey Plaza. This was only a mere yards from where John Neely Bryan first settled in the city in 1841. Debates swirled as to how they should commemorate the event for about twenty-five years until the Sixth Floor museum opened in the former Texas School Book Depository. Then in 1993, Dealey Plaza was recognized as a National Historic Landmark District and became Dallas’ second after Fair Park.

Currently, Dallas serves a population of over one million and is a hub of transportation for the western US with its two commercial airports, Dallas Love Field and the Dallas Ft-Worth International airport which is the second largest airport in the country.

5 Ways to Involve Your Students in Philanthropy

Philanthropy is very important to creating a better world, so it’s vital that we teach children the importance of helping others. While most schools push this mindset by teaching children not to bully one another and by periodically hosting fundraisers, there usually isn’t a lot of discussion about philanthropy, its importance, and how young people can get involved in meaningful ways. Young people spend so much of their time in the classroom, that it’s a great place to start teaching them to develop a philanthropic mindset. Here are some great ways you can help students pursue philanthropy.

Start a classroom project

While your school may participate in some kind of fundraiser or philanthropic event each year, it can be beneficial to do something within your classroom as well. Even if you’re just raising money to donate to a specific cause, you’re helping students get involved with philanthropy. However, it’s important to teach them that philanthropy isn’t just about donating money. Consider choosing a cause that lets you make something, such as cards for people in the hospital or an activity that raises money. If you can take your students somewhere to volunteer, definitely do it! It could be something like cleaning up a park or visiting the elderly, just make sure you meet any standards set by your school district for trips.

Teach a lesson on philanthropy

If you can’t actually do something with philanthropy, just teaching students about it can make an impact. Teach them the difference between philanthropy and charity, talk about the history of philanthropy and its prevalence in society today, discuss the ways philanthropy can significantly impact someone’s life; any of these topics can lead to rich discussions and learning experiences for students.

Plan a career day…with well-known philanthropists

Typically, career days involve local adults coming in to speak with students or students dressing up as the career they’d like to have. Consider adding a philanthropic twist to this traditional event by having students research well-known philanthropists and then give presentations on these individuals. You could also have local philanthropists visit your classroom and talk about how they’re involved with philanthropy and why they do it.

Get parents involved

Ultimately, the people who can influence your students the most to participate in philanthropy are their parents. Send home handouts with a list of ways children can get involved with philanthropy and also highlight the benefits, for students and those who are helped through philanthropies. If parents understand the importance of philanthropy, they’re more likely to continue encouraging students to pursue philanthropic endeavours.

Offer outside resources

Like sending a handout home to parents, giving students the resources they need to participate in philanthropy is incredibly helpful. Provide them with a list of suggestions on how they can participate in general philanthropy, like picking up trash or helping out other people in their daily lives. Also consider handing out information on local philanthropies, such as their locations and contact information along with a little blurb about what the organization does. Give students information about community volunteer days as well.

8 Famous People from Dallas, Texas

Besides being home to incredible sites and food, Dallas is also home to many famous people. Various well-known actors, singers, athletes, and philanthropists have come from Dallas, which makes us proud to call it our home. It’s also likely that you may see some of these people while walking around the city. While you may want to ask them for an autograph or picture, just don’t bother them too much!

Jensen Ackles

Jensen Ackles is best known for his role in the television series, Supernatural. This series has been running for around twelve years and shows no signs of slowing down. Ackles has been on the show since its beginnings. He loves Texas and still lives in the state.

Usher

Usher is a musician from Dallas, Texas who has led an illustrious career from a young age. He’s received various rewards for his music and often appears on the Billboard Top 100 charts. Besides being a musician, Usher has also acted and participates in various other ventures.

George W. Bush

The 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush also served as the governor of Texas for five years before being elected president. Bush comes from a family that has lived in Texas for many years and remains here today. You can even visit his presidential library in Dallas.

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez is a singer and actress from Dallas. She became famous after her role in Wizards of Waverly Place on Disney Channel. Since then, she’s acted in various television shows and movies and even has her own production company. She also has a singing career and has released multiple albums.

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was a famous baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Many consider Banks one of the best baseball players ever. He also played baseball during the time when teams were still segregated. He was voted baseball’s MVP two years and was a National League All-Star for 11 seasons. Unfortunately, Banks passed away in 2015 after his incredible career.

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates is the wife of Bill Gates and has made her mark as an incredible philanthropist. Gates was valedictorian when she graduated high school and went on to earn degrees from Duke University in economics and computer science. She began working at Microsoft and witnessed the company’s success. Now, Gates works as a prominent philanthropist with her organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works toward providing healthcare and education around the world.

Robin Wright

Robin Wright is currently best known for her role as Claire Underwood in House of Cards. However, she’s also starred in: The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, and Wonder Woman, along with many other movies. Wright is involved with various philanthropic pursuits focusing mainly on human rights.

LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge is a professional basketball player who initially played basketball at the University of Texas and now plays for the San Antonio Spurs. He has been selected as an NBA-All Star five times.

How to Get Involved with a New Community

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Moving to a new community is a major step in anyone’s life, especially if you don’t know anyone there outside of your immediate family (or anyone else at all). No matter why you’re moving, whether for a job, for pleasure, or some other reason, it’ll be a huge adjustment. While it may seem difficult to branch out and get to know people in the community, it’s important to do so if you want to be happy in your new home. The best way to get to know other people and learn more about your community is by getting involved with events that take place there.

Volunteer somewhere

Every community is bound to have a group of philanthropies you can get involved with. Find a cause you care about and join the local group. You do not have to donate hours and hours each week; attending a couple of events and helping out or volunteering once a month gives you the opportunity to meet people and make a genuine difference in the community.

Start a new hobby

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, such as cooking, writing, or a certain kind of craft, start pursuing that interest now. You’ll be able to find other people in your community who are also interested in that hobby and you can start a club that meets regularly to work on their skills. Maybe there’s already an existing club in your area that you can join. Check the local library or community centers to find advertisements for these meetings. It’s a great opportunity to do something you’re interested in while also getting to know your neighbors.

Attend local events

By attending local events, you’re showing your support for the community and you’ll also get a better feel about the culture of your new community. Local events provide you with something to do and they’re often free or low-cost. You can meet people at these events and easily start a conversation! Whether it’s a fundraiser for a local charity, an event at the school, or a community-wide block party, attending local events is a fantastic way to get involved with your neighborhood.

Explore the neighborhood

If no events are currently happening, just take time to explore your new community. Take a walk one day and head to a local park or street where a lot of businesses are located. Take time to read flyers and check up on local news. The more familiar you are with where buildings and landmarks are situated in your town, the more at home you’ll feel.

Patronize local businesses

If you’re looking for somewhere to get food or need to buy groceries, consider patronizing local businesses. It provides a great opportunity to get to know the local business owners and also gives you a feel for what the neighborhood is like. You’ll see people who live around you and can also help the local businesses continue operating, which always makes for a healthier and happier community.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming an Educator

Becoming an educator is a major decision because it places a lot of responsibility on you. You aren’t just a teacher; you’re an educator, though the considerations for the two positions are similar. Check out my previous blog to learn more about the differences between being an educator and being a teacher. When you choose to become an educator, you’re committing to helping students work toward their dreams and accomplish goals with your help and support.

Are you willing to commit all of your time?

Ask any educator and they will tell you: working in this industry is a full-time job and will keep you occupied outside of regular work hours. Some people go into teaching and education for the early afternoons and summers off or the incredible benefits. While these are all great perks, you need to realize that being an educator is a huge time commitment. You need to work with dozens, likely hundreds, of students who all have their unique issues. Planning out lesson plans and how to interact and manage different students takes significant time. If you’re seriously committed to becoming an educator, you also need to take time to continue learning and taking classes.

Can you deal with difficult people?

As an educator, you’ll spend a significant amount of time around students and their families. Sometimes, you’ll have difficult students (or parents) who just don’t understand your position or your mission. You might have to work with negative teachers or administrators. It’s important that you know how to work with these difficult and negative people to accomplish common goals.

Do you have a positive and patient attitude?

Being an educator can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you’ll be tired, have a million things to accomplish before the end of the day, or will feel discouraged about what you’re doing. It’s important that you have a positive outlook and a decent amount of patience to keep the big picture in focus and work through whatever obstacles are in your way.

Can you manage your time well?

Since you’ll be busy as an educator and constantly have various tasks to complete, it’s vital that you’re organized and have incredible time management skills. Luckily, you can teach yourself time management skills and conquer this specific block in your path toward success as an educator.

And, most importantly:

Do you want to help children succeed?

At the end of the day, the real goal of being an educator is to help children succeed. Leading children on a path toward success is the purpose of all educational institutions and it should also be the end goal of the people who work at these places. If you have a passion for education and truly want to help mold the leaders of tomorrow, you’ll be able to overcome any other issue you encounter throughout your career as an educator. Keep your mission in the forefront of your mind and you’ll be able to make it through the more challenging aspects of being an educator.