19Apr/14

A Content Strategy Should Begin with Target Audience Personas

When you create buyer personas, this essentially means you’re digging into the buyer habits and patterns of everyone in your audience. Here’s how.

 

Melanie Sammons Kross‘s insight:

I quickly figured out as a content writer that, to be successful with content written for my clients, I had to begin with a plan. I am guilty of diving into content creation in the beginning of my career without a complete understanding of the target audience I was attempting to attract.

It is essential to have a content marketing plan for each client, and it makes life much easier, keeping me organized and on schedule. Plus, clients can see that you have a strategy that you adjust depending on what is working and what is not working (the same strategy I used when planning lessons as a teacher, by the way…).

To build an accurate persona(s) for each client, I research the industry thoroughly, of course, and I spend time getting to know my client and his or her goals. The client knows their target audience well, and can fill in most of the blanks regarding various personas to be targeted. I suggest starting with this.

There are a million resources on the web for creating personas as well. I really found Hubspot’s Marketing Persona Series to be exceptional. They provide easy-to-use templates that you merely fill in, and they walk you through the process.

Success with content begins with knowing the target audience well, discovering their needs, and addressing those needs with valuable content that provides solutions.

How do you make sure your company’s content matches the needs of your target audience? Your turn…

See more on smallbiztrends.com

09Apr/14

Endless Possibilities for Freelance Education Writers

A Leap of Faith

Teachers can write!

Teachers are great writers.

Taking a leave this past May from my teaching job to pursue Freelance Writing was a huge leap of faith for this teacher.  Even though I could barely survive on my teaching salary, it did pay the bills and provide me with health insurance. I had no idea that I would discover endless possibilities for Freelance Education Writers, but I knew I had to make a change.  I felt there was something more for me to accomplish in life, and I just can’t settle when I get that restless feeling inside.

So, I put on my big girl pants, and I did it. I left a secure job I could have kept until retirement and took a chance, heading down a new path, unaware exactly where it would lead me, but feeling confident in my faith.   Sometimes we have to take risks in life to see what awaits us, rather than settling and never knowing what could have been, right?

A Need for Good Writers

As I explored the Freelance Market, I was ecstatic to find that there were so many opportunities out there.  Every business that is successful and still around today has a website.  All of these websites need fresh, interesting content posted on a regular basis if they want to attract potential customers.

Most business owners don’t have the time, or the desire, to write grammatically correct, professional content for their sites.  I knew I could write for these companies, and I began studying web content strategies so I could become an expert. I knew I could do it, and today I am excelling and working very hard, but loving life.  Are finances tight?  Yes, but in three months I have grown as a writer, and I have landed a variety of  jobs, met many people, and published numerous projects.

Most Teachers Are Excellent Writers

Soon I began to realize that certain companies needed writers with teaching backgrounds.  This is the part I want my teacher friends to be aware of.  Most teachers, at least elementary level, teach writing to students.  I know I had over ten years of experience doing this, and guess what?  That instruction we studied and taught year after year made most of us into excellent writers, if we weren’t already.  We taught students about “grabbing the reader” with an exciting introductory sentence, using transition words, writing in a way that will make others want to read your writing, and using interesting words instead of boring ones.  And…we read countless read aloud stories written by brilliant children’s writers.  Teacher friends…We got this writing thing down!

Climbing Up the Ladder Quickly

I have built a diverse portfolio in only three months of advertising myself as a Freelance Education Writer specializing in education. My experience now includes the following:

  • writing educational product advertisements for websites
  • designing lesson plans and worksheets
  • researching the top teacher resources used today
  • writing nonfiction passages for children’s newspapers
  • recording and performing demos for Educational Apps.
  • Writing for Educational children’s magazines
  • advising clients in other countries on education in America

There are so many more opportunities out there as well that I have yet to discover.  How about selling lesson plans and printables on TeachersPayTeachers.com, or making an educational video on Udemy?  Also, clients will seek you when they need editing and proofreading…Freelance Education Writers are excellent proofreaders and editors!

So teachers, realize your value not only as amazing people who change little lives daily in the classroom, but also as phenomenal writers.  Begin searching and taking on some small, weekend jobs and watch how quickly you grow as a Freelance Writer.  You will be an asset to any business!

If you have done any educational writing jobs and have a teaching background, what were they?  I’d love to hear!

09Apr/14

How to Motivate Students Who Just Don’t Care

Bored, unmotivated students are tough.Motivation must come from the inside of a student. It can be a daunting task to motivate the students who are not interested in doing their best. You can try rewards, threats, or any other tactic but those are only effective for the short-term.

Instead, we have to plant a desire inside of our students somehow. When they are self-motivated to do the right thing, and to put their best efforts into all they do, they take responsibility for their own learning and academic careers. Just as parents have the job of raising their children to become independent, responsible adults, teachers and tutors have the job of teaching students to become independent learners who are responsible for their academic careers.

If you are teaching students academics only, and avoiding the motivation factor, you are fighting an uphill battle. You will not see academics improve unless attitude does. Half of that battle is won when you can light a fire inside of a child and get them excited about learning. This is extremely difficult, but it can be done with persistence. Here are some tips that just may help…

  • Teach students about consequences and allow them to experience the feeling of a good consequence.

Students who lack motivation are well accustomed to negative consequences. They are used to being labeled as lazy, worthless, unintelligent, or just plain “bad”. They’re so used to living with negative consequences that they almost seem to become numb to them. Often times, they will seek out negative attention because it is the only attention they get. You can change this very easily, though it will take persistence…Habits take time to form, and they take time to change.

First, watch closely for the student to do something good…Anything! When you do catch them do something right, make a big deal of it. Have a personal conference with the child and tell her you’re proud of what you saw. Watch the amazement on her face from the shock of receiving a compliment! Reward the behavior by letting the student run an errand for you, or give her a small classroom job to do. After this, at some point during the day, talk with the student again and point out the consequences. Make sure they understand how much better it feels to do the right thing. It works! I’ve seen the most unmotivated kids that exist turn their lives around.

  • Give students Career Inventories.

    I use this strategy in my tutoring practice, and have done a career inventory with a student as young as nine. Older student in middle or high school really benefit from these. Most unmotivated students are not thinking about their future at all. Giving them an inventory about what they may be good at forces them to look ahead. If you help them make the connection that what they do today matters tomorrow, they might wake up a bit. Plus, it gives you a chance to build confidence because they get to hear positive qualities about themselves.

  • Use the “Two Column Connection” Activity.

    Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. Title the first column, “What It Takes”, and the second column, “My Future”. Begin by asking students to picture themselves when they are their parent’s ages. Discuss things their parents have that they enjoy, and help them realize parents work hard for these things. Ask them what they want when they are older, and make a list in the right hand column. In the left column, next to each item, brainstorm and write what it will take to be able to have things listed in the right column. I have a student I tutor who wants to be an MLB player. He quickly realized by thinking about existing MLB players that there is no room for laziness. This helps them see the connection between what they do now and how they need to change to reach their goals.

  • Allow students to tell (and to eventually write) about important things in their lives.

    Give students a writing assignment where they will tell about something unfair that has happened to them in their life. This is powerful. Make sure they understand what unfair means! Conference with students during the brainstorming phase, and just listen. Acknowledge how it must have felt, and remind them how wonderful it is that they overcame something difficult. Life is not fair, and they need to know that everybody has things that are unfair happen to them. Allow them to writer their story and share it when they are finished. Sometimes kids just need to unload. Just taking five minutes to converse with unmotivated students can make a world of difference. They see that you care about them, and they begin to care a little more about themselves.

More than anything else, showing students you truly care about them, and forming a trusting relationship goes a very long way. Watch academic achievement increase dramatically when students begin to care about themselves. That is the reason I teach, and teachers do change lives. What are some strategies you have used as a parent or a teacher that have successfully motivated your children or students?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09Apr/14

Where Have Our High Expectations Gone?

Remember When Expectations Were High?

As children, we were expected to work hard to reach our full potential. As a teacher, I am beginning to see an alarming trend with children these days who are doing  just the opposite. They seem to expect more, but are unwilling to put in the effort to earn it. Why should they? We are handing everything to them and allowing them to become lazy. Our expectations for them are sinking lower and lower.

  • Do you remember a time long ago when you got in trouble for misbehaving at school, and your greatest fear was facing your parents when you got home? Today it seems as though a healthy fear of discipline is missing in our youth.
  • Do you remember when parents believed the teacher’s version of what you did wrong instead of your own story?Today parents often times blame the teacher for their child’s misbehavior.
  • Do you remember when you performed poorly on an assignment and it was returned with red markings on it? That meant you needed to put more effort into your work. Today, teachers are discouraged from using red ink because it carries a negative connotation with it.  Shouldn’t it?
  • Do you remember when your athletic team only got a trophy when they won first place, not just for playing on a team? Now it doesn’t matter how well your team does, you get a trophy!
  • Do you remember when you could play games in P.E. class that resulted in a winning team and a losing team? Teachers now are told that every student needs to win.
  • Do you remember when you got a ribbon on Field Day for winning first, second or third? Now everyone gets a ribbon for participating, and students at my school do centers for Field Day, not competitive games.

If you are over thirty, and think back really hard, you might remember those were the expectations you were expected to strive for. Sadly, that is not the case anymore. These days most of us are more concerned with children having high self-esteem, and feeling proud of themselves, regardless of their performance. I was terrified to face my father when I misbehaved at school. It was a healthy fear, and guess what? I learned to behave!

The Entitled Generation

By not allowing children to lose sometimes, we are not giving them an incentive to work harder. Everyone is a winner all the time. When every team receiving a trophy because they chose to play a sport, we are killing competition, and lowering our standards for our children. As a result, we have lazy children. If they don’t feel like working hard, they’re not going to and lots of times that’s acceptable to parents. We have a generation of entitled little people who will run this country someday. They expect things to be handed over on a silver platter. If they do not want to work hard, mom or dad will do it for them. I fear for them when they step out into the real world that is more competitive than it has ever been. What will they do when mom and dad are not there to “do it for them”? It will be a rude awakening for them.

Stop “Enabling”, Start “Expecting”.

Our job as adults, whether we are teachers or parents, or both, is to raise our children to be productive, responsible adults who are able to live independently. We are failing miserably, and we had better wake up! I am not condoning “paddling” in schools like we had way back when, but I know I had some good spankings, and I know that’s what I needed to change my behavior. I am in no way scarred for life from these. On the contrary, I am a responsible, well-adjusted adult who is a productive citizen and enjoys helping children. It is not right to “pass” students to the next grade when they are not ready, it is not right to prevent them from ever feeling badly, or guilty, for their wrongdoings, and it is not right to lower expectations so all children can succeed, rather than raising them and expecting our children to step up.

There’s a Reason, But Not an Excuse

Today both parents are having to work longer and harder to pay the bills, and many marriages have ended in divorce. The family unit is breaking apart, and society is a reflection of this. Parents feel guilty for having to work so much, or for being divorced, so they want their children to be happy at any cost. What we have got to realize is that no matter how difficult the life of our child may be, we have got to keep the bar set high for them. They’ve had a rough childhood? That’s tough, but throwing expectations out the window so they will feel happy all the time is harming them, not helping them.

There is one thing I learned as a teacher that consistently held true for thirteen years…If you have high expectations for your students, they will live up to them…No matter what. My students achieved at very high levels…Sometimes I had a class that was higher level, but I always had students within the class that were struggling. I set their expectations as high as the other students, and they reached them every year.

Look at society and you will easily see that many young people are lost, insecure, and feel inadequate…Many of us think we are helping children by making them feel happy, even when they need to feel a little down.  They must learn to cope during difficult times too. Please help your child by expecting the most of them, or we have got some difficult times ahead for all of us.

09Apr/14
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5 Activities to Enforce Positive Classroom Behavior

Teaching a class full of children to exhibit positive classroom behavior can be challenging.   Most of us trusted our instincts the first few years, managed twenty five students the best way we knew how…and when we knew better, we did better. There is a delicate balance between commanding respect from students, while loving and nurturing them as well.

It takes years of experience before most teachers find the right combination that works best for them.

As a new school year begins, I think about all the new teachers who are about to enter their year of “survival” as a first-year teacher. Sadly, we know that half of new U.S. teachers are likely to quit teaching within the first five years because of poor working conditions and low salaries (National Education Association). It is a very difficult job, and for those who never really figure out how to manage so many children, it’s even harder. Why did I leave teaching after thirteen years? I couldn’t pay my bills. By the end of those thirteen years, however, I was a classroom management genius. How? The key is positive reinforcement, and yes, it really works.

Here are 5 essential activities to engage your students in the first few weeks of school. They work, and work very well to achieve the positive, constructive learning environment that every teacher dreams of…

#1)Don’t Make Rules… Make a Classroom Contract instead!

picture-classroom-contract

Classroom Contract

Just the word “Rules” carries a connotation that is not so enjoyable. Who really wants to sit around and think of rules to follow? Not many people. Make a contract together, after reading aloud a great story involving conflict resolution. Discuss the story, and guide students into thinking of positive behaviors they will display in the classroom. Remind them that they may have different behaviors they use at home, but in the classroom, this is how everyone behaves. Have students sign their names on the contract, and display in a prominent place in the room. Review the contract every day for the first month!

#2)Catch them Being Good.

When students start becoming more comfortable in the classroom, negative behaviors may appear in some. Of course you cannot ignore any behavior that is harmful to another student, or another student’s property. Other than that, however, don’t give too much attention to negative actions. Students who behave this way are in a pattern. They have misbehaved for so long, or have such a poor home environment, that they have learned this is the only way to get attention. When students like this do even the smallest thing that is helpful, positive, shows effort, or can possible be seen in a positive light, make a big deal of it! Show them that is the way to get your attention. Go so far as to allow them to be a helper. Watch the shock they display when treated with respect for behaving well. They will strive for this the entire year, with a few setbacks, of course. Habits are hard to break.

#3)A Marble Jar is a Must!

Every year I included an individualized award system (such as punch cards, tickets, treats on Friday if “green” behavior” was displayed all week, etc.), but I also made sure to include a classroom reward system. I had a marble jar and students knew that if they received a compliment from another teacher, had an amazing day, or worked together well, marbles were added to the jar. When the jar was filled, they got to choose a popcorn party, pizza party, movie or game day, or whatever else they petitioned for! This builds classroom community and teaches them to work as a team and encourage each other.

#4)Morning Meetings are a MUST!

It is imperative that you spend at least the first month gathering together in a morning meeting. This is where students get a chance to play “getting to know you games”, discuss feelings, review the Classroom Contract, and learn about even the smallest procedures of the day. Yes, you will lose some instructional time, but in the long run you will win. You will spend less time with behavior management, and students will be fully engaged in learning for the remainder of the year. It is well worth it!

#5)Teach Students How to Listen!

For some reason we assume that kids know how to listen when they become our students. I am guilty of this, and unless I had run across an amazing lesson on listening one year, I would have never figured this out! There are great lessons out there that begin with a whole group anchor chart discussion on “How to Be a Good Listener”, followed by students practicing in small groups with each other. Listening involves body language…When I was teaching, I expected students to not only listen with their ears, but to have their bodies facing me, and their eyes looking at me. If you teach this at the beginning of the year, you will hardly ever have to wait for students to listen before you begin teaching. Time saver for sure!

There are so many excellent ideas out there for using positive reinforcement and building classroom community. Don’t worry about falling behind with your lessons. You will get to them all in time. If you utilize these activities, you will have a classroom full of students who are happy and self-motivated to behave correctly. Motivation comes from within. Students have to want to behave, and the toughest kids can make a full turnaround. Best of all? You will enjoy teaching and look forward to each day and the difference you are making in your students’ lives.