6 Ways to Get More Involved in Your Local Community

robert-peters-educator-community-dallas

No matter where you live, there’s some kind of community life in your neighborhood. Whether you live in an urban or rural setting, getting community members involved in groups and connecting with one another benefits everyone living in the area. If you’re involved in your community, you’ll know what’s going on and be aware of any issues or events. You get to know other people living around you and can make lifelong friendships. Living in a city like Dallas means there are lots of organizations to join and participate in community life, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s how you can get involved with your local community and start to make a difference.

Check out local websites

One of the simplest ways to find out how to get involved in your local community is by checking local websites. Most towns have their own websites that features a calendar and announces events or meetings. You can also try browsing Facebook for local groups and join those that seem interesting. Do not feel shy about messaging the admin of the group to see how you can help out.

Talk to your neighbors

It’s likely that at least one of the people living near you is involved in the community in some way. Go ahead and ask your friends and acquaintances if they know about any events or organizations in the community that need help or new members. If you find an organization, invite your friends to get involved with you.

Watch poster boards

When you’re paying a visit to your local bank or another business, pay attention to flyers and notices posted. Volunteer opportunities are often advertised throughout the neighborhood along with open positions in groups. Regular community events are also a great way to meet people who are involved in the neighborhood; the more people you get to know, the better you can get involved in the community.

Join a religious organization

Some of the most active community organizations are houses of worship. If you follow any kind of organized religion that’s represented in your area, go ahead and begin attending events. Offer to help out with dinners or philanthropic events. Most religious organizations are happy for the help and focus more on serving the community during these events than knowing what your personal beliefs are.

Find volunteer opportunities

You can simply look up philanthropic organizations in your area and volunteer your time there. Most cities and towns have donations centers, thrift stores, homeless shelters, or animal shelters. No matter where you live, it should be relatively easy to find a way to give back to the community.

Start your own group

If you really can’t find something in your community, or at least something that fits you, go ahead and start your own group. Get some neighbors and friends together and start focusing on finding a solution to a local issue or undertake a service project. You can certainly take the initiative yourself and make a difference.

Advertisements

5 Skills to Teach Your Students that They Won’t Learn in School

robert-peters-educator-teaching-life-skills

Teaching in and off itself is a challenging profession. For some students, you’re the first adult that’s really cared about their life or been interested in their future plans. In the United States, education is required up to a certain age, so you’ll work with students from all walks of life. Some want to be in the classroom and others hate it. However, one day your students are going to face the world outside of school and be completely responsible for themselves (if they aren’t already). Having a well-rounded education is important and you need to focus on the subject you’re teaching them, but it’s also vital that students learn necessary life skills as early as possible. Here are some simple skills you can teach your students and incorporate into your classroom, no matter what subject you’re usually teaching.

Professionalism

This skill is one I’ve addressed previously, highlighting ways you can instill a sense of professionalism in your students. No matter where they go in their future careers, being able to carry themselves in a professional manner is invaluable. Teach your students to successfully interview for a job and they’ll already be ahead of many others.

Resume writing

While this topic is related to professionalism, it’s also worth mentioning on its own. Even in high school, many students are applying and working jobs in order to gain some income. If they apply for college or a job right out of high school, having a resume, or at least a record of jobs and volunteer work, is incredibly beneficial. Teach them how to format it correctly and what kind of language to use to create a solid resume.

Personal finance

This topic could be a class all on its own, but teaching students basic personal finance skills is important. Teach them about a credit card, how to open their own bank account, about interest and loans. Most students come out of high school with zero knowledge about personal finance, which can severely impact them as they move through life. Knowledge of how to manage personal finances helps students avoid making bad financial decisions and getting into overwhelming debt.

Self-care

Students are often stressed out and rarely know how to manage these emotions. Teach your students about self-care options, such as how to calm themselves down, who to talk to if they’re experiencing a crisis, and other useful resources. Letting them know about local clinics they can visit or methods to use during times of stress can help immensely.

Healthy lifestyle

For students, health concerns may not be common. However, it’s important for them to be mindful of their health as early as possible. Let them know the importance of getting enough rest, eating nutritious and balanced meals, and getting regular exercise. They’ll be grateful for this advice as they get older.

Dallas, TX During the Holiday Season

robert-peters-holidays-dallas

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.

How to Keep Your Students Focused During the Holidays

Startup Stock Photos

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!

Why Cell Phones Should Be Allowed in Schools

cell-phones-school-robert-peters

Should cell phones be allowed in schools? This question has existed for almost as long as cell phones have been around. Many schools outright ban the technology and tell students not to use their phones at all during the school day. While many districts have relaxed this stance, there is still the question of whether or not students should be allowed to use cell phones during class. Many argue that there are great benefits to using phones and various apps can be used that enhance the learning experience. Others argue that the distraction of using phones outweighs any benefits and there are no ways to monitor what students are doing on their phones. Here are some of the many benefits to allowing students to use cell phones for educational reasons and I think these outweigh any potential issues.

Educational apps

The largest benefit of using phones in class is that students can download educational apps or look up information while working on a project. Students can also take pictures to send to other classmates or to reference later or even video chat with an absent student. There are many apps available for specific subjects that serve as study aids, such as making flashcards or learning a language. Even if you don’t want to use cell phones in your classroom, educate students about apps they can use on their own to facilitate deeper learning.

Students feel less rebellious

When students are told that under no circumstances are they allowed to use their phones, it often leads to rebellion and resentful feelings. While you should hold your position of authority and not give in to students’ whims, you can certainly allow them some time to use their phone which makes for more satisfied students.

Useful for emergencies

Whether or not you let students use their cell phones in class, it’s incredibly helpful to have them at school. Students can easily contact their parents if an emergency arises or reach out for help. If there’s an emergency at home, parents can reach their children through a simple call or text. Let your students know that if there is a reason they must use their phone, it’s okay to let you know there’s an emergency.

Preparation for the real world

Students certainly change between their teenage years and when they enter the workforce, but they’ll still have cell phones. For many jobs, you’re able (and often encouraged) to use your phone whenever and can check it as often as you like. It’s important that students learn self control and do not always have to check their phones, but also know how to utilize it in ways that benefit their current task, whether in the classroom or the workplace.

How to avoid issues

Even though I believe cell phones should be utilized in the classroom, there are certainly risks, such as students becoming too distracted. Experiment by only allowing phones out during a certain portion of class and require that students use them for the task at hand. Make sure they know if they’re not using their phones to further class, you’ll stop allowing them to have their phones out at all. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to allow students to use cell phones in your class and how you plan to monitor the use of them.

Iconic Texas Foods

texas-foods-ryan-peters

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.

Understanding the Different Types of Learning in Your Classroom

This blog was originally posted on http://robertpeterseducator.com/.  Check out this site for more information.

As a teacher, you are bound to come across a variety of students in your classroom with different backgrounds, tastes, abilities, etc. Inevitably, you will also find that your students receive information differently. Being able to recognize these varying learning styles is so important because you don’t want to teach everyone the same way and you must be able to adapt the way you teach to accommodate everyone and give them the best chance at succeeding. Take a look at the different learning types in the classroom and best practices to work with them.

 
Visual Learning

Someone who is a visual learner best receives information when they can see it in front of them. They might ask for a demonstration to see how something is done before they feel comfortable to dive into it themselves. They learn best with the use of maps, charts, and diagrams to better understand what is presented before them. Here are some things to do when working with visual learners:

 

  • Using flowcharts, webs, and charts to organize information

 

  • Use highlighted or color-coded notes to relate material better

 

  • Write checklists for formulas and commonly misspelled words

 

Auditory Learning

These students learn best through listening whether it be from spoken word or various sounds and noises. Some of these students might be very musically talented, so they may sing, or play in the school band. While your lesson may not be based on music, there are still many ways to accommodate these learners so that they can also feel part of the lesson. Best practices when dealing with auditory learners include:

 

  • Strike up a conversation with the student about the particular lesson

 

  • While in class have the students recite the information by asking questions for students to answer out loud

 

  • Get creative and have them put the material to a tune or rhythm for them to go over with you later

 

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are going to want a more hands-on and physical experience with the material. Simply put, they learn best by doing. They enjoy actively going through the motions and feel the material within their body. Unlike visual learners who want to see something before they give it a shot, kinesthetic learners will want to dive right in and pick things up as they go along. Some best practices for working with kinesthetic learners are:

 

  • Having them write down notes on paper while they listen to the lesson

 

  • Maybe dramatize different concepts and have the students move objects around to act it out for themselves

 

  • Use some body movement while explaining something such as finger snapping, foot tapping, or even just mouthing ideas.

 

Honorable Mentions: Social and Solitary Learners

There are also some types of learners that are not as common as the three listed above but are still worth being aware of. Social Learners are the ones who work great in group settings. They are the students who are active in the school participating in clubs and sports and have no problem working with others. Solitary Learners are students who take to themselves more often than not. They typically come off as shy because they aren’t quick to raise their hand to ask/answer a question. They will usually try to figure things out on their own before deciding to come to you for help.

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.