Scholar(ship)ly Advice Is A Trilogy Now

As the deadline for our scholarship draws near, I decided to reach out to winners from previous years to check in with them and see what advice they had to offer for this year’s applicants. For more information on our scholarship and how to apply, head here.

Kayla Klurman (Our 2021 Top Winner)

Check out our 2021 post on Kayla and her Design a Better Future project, Kayla’s Care Bags. Not only did she win the $10,000 scholarship, but she was awarded an additional $5,000 to continue her project.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to this year’s applicants, what would it be?

A: If I could give one piece of advice it would be to always stay true to yourself. Be genuine. It is so much easier to talk about yourself and the things you love when you are passionate about them and they hold a special place in your heart. This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

Q: What has been the best thing to come from your scholarship project?

A: I have been able to continue my project in North Carolina while also being active in Miami.

Q: A quick update on you! What are you up to? Are you still actively involved in your project?

A: Yes! I make care bags in Miami and in North Carolina. I come home for the summer very soon so I am excited to have the opportunity to do some further work this summer!

Always stay true to yourself… This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

Are you beginning to notice a pattern? The most common consensus between our past winners can be boiled down to one word: passion. If you start a project that you really believe in, it is very apparent in your scholarship submission. Not only that, you are much more likely to follow through with the project if you have a genuine interest in it. For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

It’s Time to Kick Some Class! (of 2022)

Graduations across the globe are underway and thousands of students are about to enter a new chapter of their lives. Facing uncertainty can certainly be unnerving, and there are many new stressors that accompany the change. For high school students, they are figuring out which college to attend, what major they want to pursue, or if they even want to get a degree. College students are now faced with finding a lifelong career and hoping it is relevant to their degree and doesn’t turn into a dementor who sucks all the happiness from their life.

Fortunately there are plenty who have experienced graduation and lived to tell about it. Even more fortunate, I am blessed to know some pretty wise people who were willing to impart some of their wisdom with you. So for those graduating high school, college, trade school, or those who chose a different direction, these words are for you.

“Once you graduate, you quickly learn that there are two kinds of people: your friends and those who were friendly just because you had a class together that one time. And that’s okay. Treasure both friendships and learn from them.”

-Kassidy Baird (Yours Truly)

“Always expect more of yourself and take others with you on your way to the top.”

“Don’t be afraid to do something just because it seems interesting! There’s a lot of pressure to build a resume or look good for college applications or whatever, but taking time just for the things you think are cool or fun is so important in being well rounded and not getting stressed!”

“It’s okay to not have it all figured out right now, or even five years from now! Find what brings you joy, be yourself, and trust in your own personal journey.”

“Don’t rush into anything and just live in the moment. Be where you are and accept all of yourself and life will work itself out.”

“Find what you love and follow that passion. But don’t be afraid to try new things on the way. You may be surprised at what else lights your fire.”

-Twin 1

“Find something you love! So often we get caught up in ambition and what’s next, when in reality life goes so fast! Take some time for yourself to get to know what you like and what things excite you. There are so many more opportunities for your future than you could ever realize! The best part is that most people love talking about what they do and would be more than willing for you to come see their day-to-day. Explore, travel, and ask lots of questions. When what you do excites you, you will love life and make the world around you a better place.”

-Twin 2

(It isn’t super relevant that they are twins but I think it’s fun to see the similarities in their responses when they didn’t know what the other had said).

“Start applying now. And know you have more experience than you think.”

“It’s not about what you know. It’s about WHO you know. Network and be KIND.”

“Enjoy the day. Let your family take the pictures and celebrate the crap out of you. You deserve it.”

“Don’t get sucked into the rat race. After high school, for the first time, there’s all this flexibility and independence and it gets really easy to judge our own paths by the milestones we see other people hitting or not hitting (whether/when people are married, when people get degrees, if someone got a degree, other people who get right into working/careers). But life is flexible for a reason! You don’t have to have it all figured out, so don’t get caught up in measuring yourself against a measuring stick that doesn’t exist.

I hope you guys enjoyed these words of wisdom! I have plenty more nuggets of advice that I will share in a future post. What advice do you have for the graduating class of 2022? Share your advice in the comments! Who knows, you could even end up being quoted in my next post.

Color Me Concluded: My Final Musings on the True Colors Personality Test

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

If you’ve gotten to the end of my True Colors Personality exploration, you might be asking yourself “Now what? How can I apply this knowledge to better myself as a teacher/parent/student/friend?” Ultimately, that is up to you. I know a lot of people think personality tests can be gimmicky, and when it comes to the “What Kind of Cheese Are You on the Weekends?” sort of test, I can agree. But I do think there are some personality tests that can propel you toward valuable introspection. McKenzie did a great job of covering a few of these with her deep dives of the Myers-Briggs, Enneagram , and the Child Whisperer personality tests.

As noted on Better Help, “The true colors personality test provides a method of understanding ourselves and others. The test uses the colors orange, gold, blue and green to represent four different personality types. The four colors combine in different ways to make up different personality spectrums. For most people, one of the four types is more dominant than the others. Learning about our personalities offers insights into our different behaviors, motivations and more.

“By using colors instead of labels, the true colors personality test aims to improve global understanding. The intuitive classification makes it easier for us to identify and remember the four personality types.”

These tests aren’t meant to serve as definitive labels for yourself and others; they are merely guideposts that can help you make sense of human nature. It can be easy to see your results in black and white when they should be used to recognize all the shades of gray within your personality and the personality of those around you. I could tell myself, “As someone with a blue personality, I shouldn’t be friends with gold personalities because we are too different.” And sure, there are some personalities that might clash a little more with others, but the whole point of these tests is to prove that anyone can get along with everyone if you take the time to understand them.

Another benefit of knowing different personality tests is that you can use your results to identify opportunities for growth. As a blue, maybe you need a lesson on resolving conflict instead of avoiding it. If you are a gold, you might consider trying to live in the moment rather than planning for the future. For those with a green personality, practice identifying your emotions and giving yourself permission to feel them. Perhaps an orange needs to train themselves to think before acting. 

Think of personality test a healthy reminder that we all have strengths, weaknesses, quirks (endearing or otherwise), and something unique to bring to the table. Personality tests can be a wonderful reference point in learning how to get along with others, regardless of what their results indicate. Don’t let someone’s True Color dictate to you how you think that person will act, allow them to show you. 

As a teacher, you should distribute at least one personality test within the first week of school. If your students are too young to answer questions themselves, send the test to their parents and have them answer it. Not only is it a fun activity for your class, but it allows you to better plan lessons and activities. It opens up lines of communication and sparks meaningful conversations.

Do you know your True Color? How has this knowledge helped you as a teacher?

Teaching GREEN: Using the True Colors Personality Test in the Classroom

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with the phrase “curiosity killed the cat”, but how many are you familiar with the entire phrase? “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” This expressions aptly describes the inquisitive souls that have a green personality. They have an insatiable curiosity and they are willing to die any (metaphorical) deaths in their quest for enlightenment. To your green students, work is play. They love a good challenge and using their intellect to solve problems. They are logical and analytical while still managing to be creative and abstract. Kids with a green personality are independent thinkers and come across as being far older than their years. They are calm, cool, and collected–until emotions get involved. Much like a plant, those who lean green thirst for knowledge and absolutely thrive in the right environment.

But what is the right environment?

For starters, these students are your introverts. Not only do they struggle with social interactions, they can feel stifled by group work because it doesn’t give them a chance to explore concepts in depth. Whenever possible, meet with them one-on-one or in small groups and you’ll get a much better idea about where they are at with the material. Give them time to internalize new information and to recharge after social interactions. They are usually overflowing with knowledge but they don’t always know how to open up. On the contrary, they might open up easily but they don’t always have the awareness to know when to stop.

The other students might see them as cold, critical, and callous but it’s really just that they prefer to do their own thing in their own way. They are inclined to get directly to the point and they don’t feel the need to stop along the way for social calls. Greens probably won’t completely come out of their shell while in class, but there are ways you can get them to poke their heads out and look around.

Your secret weapon? Those bubbly, blue students in your classroom.

Your blue students are the perfect pairing for your green students. Blues are social, but not overwhelmingly so (like an orange), and they can think in abstract terms just as well as a green can. Blues care about genuine connections and they know how to befriend someone in a way that the other person needs. They might overwhelm a green by the ease in which they talk about their emotions, but it also helps greens be aware of their own emotions. Consider the unlikely friendship of Sherlock and Watson. Sherlock is absolutely brilliant, often comes across as arrogant, and he only focuses on the case in front of him. Watson is also brilliant, but a lot more approachable and has a healthier work-life balance. And yet as different as they are, the friendship works. Next time you switch up your seating chart, try sitting your green students near your blue students. It will probably be a little uncomfy for the green at first, but there never was any comfort in the growth zone or growth in the comfort zone.

Your green students need to respect you as a teacher before they will be willing to learn from you. Allow your class to ask questions or contribute ideas anonymously, or use email as a way to communicate with them. This helps build trust with them and shows that you are willing to foster a relationship that is unique to their learning style. They want others to notice their competence and intellect so complimenting them on specific knowledge that they share is a great way to get them to open up even further.

For those of you teaching high school, continue to cultivate the natural curiosity that your green students have. Allow them to share their insights whenever possible. Help them identify what they are passionate about and point them in the direction of potential careers within those interests. For those teaching greens of any age, try not to get frustrated when they point out any flaws in your teaching or when they bombard you with increasingly in-depth questions. Spend time discussing their personal goals and touch base with them often. Taking even a little interest in them as an individual makes all the difference to anyone with a green personality.

Students with a green personality bring so much to your class! Do you have any tips on using their curiosity to drive their learning?

Friend or Foe? Fidget Toys in the Classroom

Fidget Toys: the very thought can make teachers (and parents) groan and roll their eyes. From stress balls to fidget spinners, there always seems to be some new gadget taking over your classroom. Should they be banned? Should they be embraced? The debate has been ongoing ever since stress balls first gained popularity in the 1980s. The practice of using sensory tools, however, has been around for much longer. Baoding balls originated during the Ming dynasty and were used to reduce stress, improve brain function, and aid in dexterity development. Before weighted blankets, there were Turkish yorgans which date back to the 16th century. The average winter yorgan weighed anywhere from nine to thirteen pounds. Komboloi, or “worry beads”, were used in Ancient Greece to promote relaxation.

While these sensory tools might have been around for centuries, the science behind them has only recently been looked into. Dr. Anna Jean Ayres first identified Sensory Integration in the 1960’s when she noticed there were children who struggled with functional tasks who didn’t fit into the specific categories of disability that were used at the time. She developed the term “Sensory Integrative Dysfunction” to describe the problems faced by children whose brains struggle to receive, process, or respond to sensory input. Sensory input instructs us on how to respond to our environment and there are consequences from being over or under-stimulated, especially for children who are still learning how to process these cues. When confronted with bright lights, messy or cluttered spaces, and loud noises, children can become agitated and retreat to quieter spaces; whether that is physically finding relief in a less stimulating area or by shutting off their sensory receptors and essentially shutting down. When stimulation is restricted, as is common in a traditional classroom, children will find their own ways to meet their sensory needs. Teachers know exactly what this looks like: tapping, bouncing up and down, kicking, touching everything and everyone, chewing on pencils, making noises, or getting out of their seat to go on some made-up “but I really needed to throw this away” mission.

This is exactly where fidget toys come in handy. (Ha! I didn’t even realize that was a pun until revising this post). And I’m not talking about fidget spinners in all their noisy, distracting glory.

It might be counter-intuitive to think that doing two things at once can enhance a student’s ability to focus on their lessons but evidence is slowly backing it up. One study demonstrated how increased movement boosted the cognitive performance of children with ADHD. Another found that students who used stress balls had improved focus, attitude, social interactions, and even writing abilities. The trick with fidget toys is finding those that don’t require so much brain power that they pull focus from the main task. How many of you have your own fidget methods that you revert to without realizing? Do you chew on pencils or repeatedly click your pen? Perhaps you doodle or bounce your leg. We all have different ideas of what an optimal “focus zone” looks like and it’s important to help students discover their own learning styles and preferences. It’s important for adults too–I decided to invest in my own fidget toys a few months ago and I always keep one at my desk. 

Looking out over your sea of pupils, it can be a little overwhelming to try and figure out their individual needs but as I always say, “When in doubt, ask it out!” As you go into a new school year, reach out to the parents and ask what has helped their child calm down in the past. Do they have a history of thumb-sucking? They would probably respond well to chewelry or rubber pencil toppers. Having a quiet space in your classroom or noise-canceling headphones would be good options for children who need time alone in their room to defuse. Some students need physical contact in order to stay grounded so pressure vests or weighted lap pads would benefit them the most. 

Another great way to learn your students’ individual learning styles is to involve them! Have them complete a task while adjusting the volume of background noise and have a discussion about which one was easiest for them to work with. Give them fidget toys to use while reading to them or showing them a video and then ask them if they were able to focus better or if it was a distraction. This also helps your students develop self-regulation skills. Giving your students access to different sensory tools allows them to stop seeing them as toys and start to recognize when they really need them.

If this sounds like wishful thinking, there are lots of people who would agree with you. Fortunately there are also lots of tips and tricks out there to help you integrate fidget toys into your classroom. Here are some of the most common ones that I encountered in my research:

  1. BOUNDARIES. Work with your students to come up with rules for the fidget toys that they are willing to follow. Post the rules somewhere in your classroom as a visual reminder.
  2. Have a variety of tools available to the class. This can prevent jealousy among students and allows you to use discretion in deciding what toys are actually beneficial. 
  3. Find toys that don’t produce noise or require sight to use. The kids should be able to use their hands or feet to fidget while using their eyes and ears to learn.
  4. Be patient! Once your students get used to the sensory tools in the classroom, the novelty will wear off and they’ll be less of a distraction.
  5. Remind your students that “fair” isn’t the same thing as “equal”. Different people have different needs and it’s important to support those needs.

Ultimately the choice to integrate sensory tools into your classroom is up to you! The fad fidget toys will come and go, but there are plenty of tried and true options that can really work wonders when properly used.

Are fidget toys a menace to society or a misunderstood ally? What challenges or successes have you seen come from them?

Teaching ORANGE: Using the True Colors Personality Test in the Classroom

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

Orange you glad it’s time for another True Colors Personality post? Much like that pun, people with an orange personality are all about taking risks and having fun. They are energetic, spontaneous, and courageous. Your orange students are the ones who struggle the most with the restrictions of the classroom but they still manage to lift others with their infectious optimism. Everything is an adventure in the mind of an orange. 

Students with an orange personality need hands-on learning in order to succeed. They want to be physically involved in the learning process and see visible results. Incorporate the tangible and tactile in your lessons whenever possible. Their mental process might not make sense to an outside observer but they are incredibly clever and somehow manage to get to the right answer. They thrive on attention and internalize praise the deepest when their skills are recognized and the praise is manifested with actions.

Much like ESFPs, these students are your performers and entertainers. They lean into artistic studies and would rather start their own business than work for someone else. Having to sit at a desk all day and meet deadlines is their idea of a nightmare. Give your orange students time away from their desk as well as opportunities to be in front of their peers. Use their unconventional processes as a learning opportunity for others in the class. And who knows? Maybe their methods will help another student struggling with the material. Their peers might find them obnoxious, selfish, and impulsive but oranges are so friendly and charming that it’s hard to dislike them for long. Keep an eye out for your orange students though; their exaggerated reactions make them a target for other students to pick on. They like to give off the appearance of being unaffected, but they still internalize the teasing remarks.

The fastest way to lose an orange’s focus is to keep them confined to their desk, which can’t always be helped in a classroom setting. They have an insatiable curiosity and are very welcoming of other ideas. They crave collaboration and they want to be exploring concepts and bouncing ideas around with others. Consider keeping some fidget tools on hand for them to use when they have to stay at their desks. These students love competitions and taking risks. They walk a fine line between always having multiple things going on and becoming stressed by too much responsibility. Teach them about work/life balance and remind them that sometimes they need to work hard before they can play hard.

There is never a dull moment with an orange personality, which isn’t always a good thing. On a bad day, they might act out, break rules, run away, or make bad impulse decisions. In these moments, it is vital to maintain structure to show them that things will go on as normal once they calm down. While their reactions are likely to be dramatic, don’t draw attention to them after they compose themselves as this can cause embarrassment and lead them to pull away.

Your orange students might exasperate you more than the rest, but at the end of the day you can’t help but appreciate what they bring to the classroom. Allow them to have fun and be creative. For those who teach junior and high school students, it’s more important than ever to cultivate that creativity. Encourage them to participate in the arts. Even if the skills aren’t there, they need to be able to express themselves. Educate them about trade schools, as those are often very hands-on careers that don’t require a lot of desk work. 

What have you found to be the most beneficial when teaching orange students? What advice do you have for teachers struggling to contain an orange personality?

Teaching BLUE: Using the True Colors Personality Test in the Classroom

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

The color blue has often been used to represent sadness but that is not the case with a blue personality. Those with a blue personality often take on the roles of peacemaker and caretaker. These are the students who are enthusiastic, compassionate, and idealistic. Consequently, they are also the students who are easily stressed out by conflict and negative criticism. They want their peers to look up to them, but not for their academic achievements–blues want to be recognized for their authenticity and ability to make friends.

Don’t be surprised if these students also score as ENFJ and ESFJ personality types. They are eager to learn and help others and they are constantly asking how their actions can benefit others. They dream big dreams and are comfortable going with the flow but they still like to plan for things–mostly because they are always thinking of how they can use their time to benefit others.

They prefer to let their emotions guide them. As someone with a blue personality, I find it difficult to dedicate myself to any material that I’m not passionate about and the second something makes me feel anxious or uncomfortable, I tend to abandon it completely. (I was also once exiled to the back of the classroom with nothing but a chair and a clipboard because I was too chatty. My teacher quickly realized that wouldn’t stop me from talking, it just meant I had to talk louder so people could hear me). Instead of trying to restrict these students even further, allow them to have free time and explore the subject in a way they can get excited about.

Blue personalities thrive on validation and it resonates most when praise is manifested in a physical way; a touch on the shoulder, high fives, and gold stars are good places to start. If you are vocalizing your appreciation it is best to be honest and sincere as well as enthusiastic. Because they rely so much on their emotions, they don’t handle criticism well and can become very withdrawn in situations where they’ve been chastised. If you do need to correct them, you can’t be too quick to also remind them that you still care about them.

Like McKenzie mentioned in her posts about Sensing and Intuitive students, it’s important to utilize both methods of learning. Blues are often already able to switch between the two pretty seamlessly and can use them simultaneously. They love hands-on activities and they absorb information more effectively when they can experience it. They learn by “connecting the dots” and using what they already know to bridge the gap from familiar concepts to new material. Blues are very intuitive and use that skill to make connections and apply what they are learning to their personal lives.

Your blue students might come across as overly-emotional, passive, and a bit of a pushover. If you want to help them grow, teach them the importance of boundaries and how to express their opinions. They have a tendency to avoid conflict and will try and stay away from competitive activities–start them out with small-scale classroom competitions where they won’t have to stress about the whole class watching. Keep an eye on the other students to make sure they aren’t taking advantage of a blue’s generosity and keep an eye on the blues to make sure they take a break from taking care of those around them and take care of themselves.

It is critical to foster their desire to help others. Let them help and influence others as often as possible. For those teaching high school students, present them with extra-curricular opportunities to volunteer. Provide them information on tutoring programs and service projects. Like gold personalities, blue students also do well in leadership roles because it allows them to make decisions that will help others.

What experiences have you had teaching students with a blue personality? How do you help them balance their social side with the structure of the classroom?