Tag Archives: student success

How to stop procrastination: Ten (10) tips for getting your work done

How to avoid procrastination: building self-awareness & specific steps to avoid procrastination.

You really can do something about procrastination.

If you think you “work best under pressure,” or if you think that “getting it done in the last minute” are good strategies, we beg you to think again.  By definition, procrastination is any delay that causes harm. Last-minute work almost always could have been better with planning and earlier start.

These strategies will help: Continue reading

What do teachers really want?


Maybe, but flattery will work better. Seriously.

The highest and most effective form of teacher flattery is asking a teacher for help. The next highest is actually doing your work. You meet teacher expectations, you get an A. Easy enough.

Well, let’s start from there, anyway.  So what do teachers really want? And how can the student figure that out? Continue reading

Math success: believe you can achieve with Okera Hawkins

Math success: believe you can achieve with Okera Hawkins

Student Success Podcast No. 9, Nov. 29, 2013

Today’s Guest: Okera Hawkins

Co-founder of The A+ Club, Okera Hawkins, discusses what it takes to succeed in high school math. If there’ any single thing, Okera tells us, it is “confidence.” Getting there is a process — but it is a process that every student can engage and master. But they have to want to. Okera leads us through the pieces of success in math, including organization, asking questions, and math literacy.  Please enjoy this excellent and important interview. Continue reading

Parenting for Student Success with Dr. Kimberly Bradley

parenting_MH900442199Parenting for Student Success with Dr. Kimberly Bradley

Show Notes
Student Success Podcast No. 6, Oct 30, 2013

Today’s Guest: Dr. Kimberly Bradley

Dr. Bradley discusses strategies for successful parenting of successful students. Dr. Bradley shares her personal experiences as a parent of three students, as an involved parent in her children’s schools, and her professional advice as an educator.

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or find us on iTunes


Guest Biography:

Dr. Kimberly Bradley proves the old adage that the busier you are the more you get done. With a doctorate in Christian Education, a consulting firm focusing on technical training for industry and government, a pastor husband and three kids, Dr. Bradley served as President of the Parents’ Association of Archbishop Carroll High School.

Dr. Kimberly Bradley
Dr. Kimberly Bradley

It all started with one question: “How can I help?” Looking around, she concluded that Archbishop Carroll was much more than “just a school on a hill” — colleges and universities needed to learn more about students graduating from ACHS, and the students, in turn, needed to find out more about the world of higher education. So in 2007, Dr. Bradley was a founding member of a group that established a college fair at Carroll, inviting representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and opening it to all local schools. Two hundred seniors attended. Three years later, the college fair has expanded to include a diversity of national universities, including Harvard, MIT, Dickinson, West VA University, Hood, Mount St. Mary’s and North Carolina A&T. Over 500 students from grades 9-12 attend from throughout the Metro area. Dr. Bradley is not surprised. She says, “Basically, we need to give our kids opportunity and we need to get our students to think about their future now.”

Dr. Bradley believes fervently in what Archbishop Carroll offers students. First is the academic experience. “Dr. Stofa and the educators here believe that the kids they teach can learn and they must be held to a high standard,” she explains. “The academic community at Carroll believes our children can do it, so they do.” Dr. Bradley also believes in the nurturing aspects of the school. “They love our kids, they support our families. They will assist in any way they can. Carroll has created an environment where all kinds of kids can thrive and grow.”

Dr. Bradley and her husband have three students in the Carroll family. Their son Daniel graduated in 2010. Second son Jeremiah graduated in 2011, and daughter Abigail is a member of the Class of 2014.

Topics Discussed

  • Congratulations to Abigail for making “Principles list,” the highest honor roll status
    • why?
    • Stays on top of h/w deliberate attention to her studies
  • At recent College Fair: students walking around hearing from colleges that demand a certain gpa
    • the limits of the gpa
    • parents always say it, but this is real!
    • Connecting long term goals to short term choices
    • long term rewards parents assisting:
    • taking kids to college fairs
    • Bromley insists that what parents say to kids matters Kids to listen
  • Have to prove what you know
    • can’t just get by being smart
    • have to do homework
    • Parents need support
    • Community raises children
  • Helecopter parents flying in to save life
  • Kim doesn’t do the over attentive mom:
    • the hard lesson child independence
    • don’t’ want 45 year old stay at homes! empower and equip our children to deal with their sistuations
    • Holding one’s own child accountable face your issues even a teacher that doesn’t likey mom won’t always be able to fly in to save you
    • trust but verify
  • Holding back letting children learn coping skills on their own
    • Imagining your child in 10-20 years: are you reinforcing that vision?
    • keeping that standard we hold for young children as they grow older
  • Relationships with schools and teachers
    • parents seeing themselves as consumers in relationship with schools
    • parents are picky when selecting daycare for young children why not the same concern for K-12 schools?
    • holding schools accountable as consumers partnership in child’s education demand rubrics
  • Holding your child accountable
  • See Dr. Carson’s book on his mother’s accountability for him growing up
  • We have a tendency to protect little kids more than older kids
  • “Preparing a child to learn”
    • parent job to prepare a child to learn
    • not to be confused with the child’s job to do the learning
  • Teacher responsibility
    • clarify expectations
    • students need to ask questions
    • good teachers want students to succeed
  • Parent communication
    • must be positive productive of what children need to be doing, and not excusing
    • parent involvement in communication but leave child to fulfill expectations
  • Teachers should not be on trial
    • has seen teachers crying after parent conference: not okay
    • making good on what teachers have to deliver
  • Students owning failure: if it is failing to meet expectations
    • some teachers can’t communicate expectations, but students and parents still need to figure that out
    • schools need to hold teachers accountable
    • failure not always the teacher’s or the kid’s fault: can be both, or one or the other
    • parents can advocate on both sides Parents can clarify expectations

Additional Resources and Links


Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013)
Background snoring: by Stella
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck & Stella

Happy Halloween from Puck and Stella!






Here for Puck & Stella slideshow

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Goal Setting by Nick Goodall

Scoring Soccer Goal

We humans are goal-oriented creatures

– we work best when we have a target, something to aim for. Despite that, the majority of people don’t have clearly defined goals, and the majority of people aren’t achieving what they want, either. Goals are what can set you apart – in your studies and in your life – so taking the time to set, stick to and celebrate them is beyond profitable.

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

Taking the time to map and work out the following three phases is something which can excel you on your journey. A*’s become that much easier, as does school, simply by being clear about what you want and then taking the time to get there.


The first step is to create them. Easy to do, easy not to do. I wrote a comprehensive Guide to Goal Setting, but here I’ll outline a few key principles:

  • Your goals. It’s important to aim for what you want to achieve, not what someone else wants. Your goals should inspire and motivate you to take action in order to make them a reality.
  • Specific goals. The clearer you are, the clearer the target, and that makes for straightforward achievement. Try to include numbers, such as a certain mark on your next test.
  • Time-bound goals. The all important question: when? To quote C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words – the more time you have, the longer it’ll take to achieve your goal. Push yourself!

Just creating goals will make you part of an elite few, so congratulations if you’ve come that far. However, this is just the beginning, and coming up is the most important phase:


This is the critical part – progress. Without it you’re but a sitting duck, looking at your target without moving towards it.

Saying it’s the most important doesn’t mean it’s the most boring and effort-intensive, because if you’ve set some inspiring goals – this will be a walk in the park. In fact, being productive – progressing – is a fundamental key to lifelong fulfillment. If you don’t produce, you won’t be happy, so taking the time to produce what you want is well worth your while. There will be ups and downs, but the long-term satisfaction is better than any quick-fix you may find.

Do this for long enough and you can move onto phase 3:

Achieve (and Celebrate)

This, contrary to belief, is not the most rewarding part. The most enjoyment is to be found in phase 2 – progressing, but here you can relax (for a short while) and celebrate your achievement!

It’s important to not linger too long, for you’ll get bored pretty quickly, but it’s a good idea to celebrate the things you’ve done. People often sell themselves short of what they’ve accomplished, but whatever goal you’ve achieved – it’s a great accomplishment.


Thought it was over? Well, almost – just repeat the first 3 phases. Once you’ve celebrated, you can go back to the drawing board and dream up some new goals to inspire you yet again!

If goal setting is something you’ll stick to (for life, preferably), I can guarantee the astronomical rewards. Whatever your goal – straight A*’s, make a million or run an ultra marathon – remember that’s it’s possible, for truly anything is within the limits of your imagination and the laws of nature.

Be Ambitious!

Nick Goodall is a student of life, self-development addict and author of The Student Manual, a fluff-free guide to help students awaken their potential and take on the world.


The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

A little background & who we are

Bromley and students
Bromley and students

A little background & who we are

Show Notes

Student Success Podcast No. 2, Oct 3, 2013

Today’s Guest: Michael Bromley, founder of School4Schools.com & The A+ Club

Bromley discusses the background and origins of our and philosophy and student support service.

student-success-podcast_cover_450Subscribe to Student Success Podcast RSS or find us on iTunes

Guest Biography:

Before leaving the classroom in order to work directly with students, parents, and teachers, Michael Bromley taught Social Studies at Archbishop Carroll High School in NE Washington, DC for eight incredibly inspiring and happy years. Prior to that, Bromley built a successful export and distribution company based in Miami, FL, Asuncion, Paraguay, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is the author of two books, Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine and William Howard Taft: The First Motoring Presidency, 1909-1913, and many magazine articles on automotive and political history. Bromley loves history, cars, kids, and learning.

Topics Discussed

  • Bromley background
  • Discovering the student perspective
  • Students as clients
    • whole new perspective
    • now providing customer service is the priority
  • Syllabus as Contract
  • The Original A+ Club
    • starting in a World History classroom
    • student articulation is the key!

Additional Resources and Links

See Bromley’s guest entries on Rick Hess’ “Straight Talk” blog on edweek.com Aug2013 for ideas on approaching students as clients and focused PD for student benefit.


Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013)
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck & Stella

Puck& Stella Selfie
Puck& Stella Selfie

Here for Puck & Stella slideshow

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Procrastinators unite!

Nah, we’ll get around to it later.

“Hi, my name is Michael, and I’m a procrastinator…”

In our inaugural podcast, Gabriela Bromley, a neuroscience major at Simmons College, introduced to our listeners the relationship between procrastination and anxiety. I’m amazed by the insight – so simple, so obvious, but one that I had never considered before.

I asked a guidance counselor friend of mine about it. This professional’s ability to relate to and understand kids is extraordinary. “Wow,” she told me, “I’ll have to include that in my next student questionnaire.” Me, too.

Rational Choice Theory

When teaching, I always talked to kids about procrastination. I viewed it as an entirely rational choice and its opposite, getting things done right away, as, well, a bit freaky. Think about all the moral tales and quotes on it, starting with Thomas Jefferson’s, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” or Aesop’s “The Grasshopper and the Ants” fable. If procrastination weren’t so normal, society wouldn’t lecture us about it so much.

Thankfully, Mark Twain comes in on our side: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Yep, there’s always another tomorrow, or so we hope. Yet even Twain gets serious and gives actual advice on how to beat the impulse to delay:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

It’s tough advice, no matter who it comes from, because just grasping the nature of some tasks sure can be “overwhelming.” And if we could just do that first step, wouldn’t we be doing the rest already? How are we going to start that first thing if the entire thing is scary, or if we are unsure and intimidated by it? Even more readily than putting off what we know we must do, we put off what we don’t understand how to do. Thank you, Gaby, for pointing this out!

Teachers: how many of your procrastinators just don’t know what to do? How many late papers or projects are late because the student was unsure and insecure about it, and not because they’re lazy or disengaged? Have you prepared your students for it? Have you identified their needs and concerns? It’s not so simple as “get it in on time,” anymore, is it?


It begs the question, however, that if we are anxious and unsure, how come we finally get to it at the hard deadline?

“If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done”- Anonymous

The reason that procrastinators posses infinite ability to focus and work long hours just before a deadline is because the task wasn’t clear to them until then. It was the deadline that forced the concentration and the courage that went missing before. We procrastinators need to build early that anxious deadline feeling, that scent of battle that finally pushes us to get it done at the last minute — only at the first minute, instead.

But this is, as they say,

Easier said than done.

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

That and the Golden Rule, easier said than done. So what can we do about it? A couple thoughts, first, following Gabriela’s ideas about procrastination and anxiety, and the other following our core strategy of articulation at the A+ Club:

1. “Am I putting it off because I’m afraid of it?

From now on I will use Gaby’s dictum as the first question. Am I afraid? Or is it because I don’t know what to do? It’s so much easier to say “I can’t” than to get help. Again, a rational choice. But, we want to resolve this procrastination thing, not excuse it. So, instead:

2. Articulate: say it, track it, and get it done.

At the A+ Club , our view on overcoming procrastination and delay is to think about it, say it, and remind.  The more you speak it the closer you are to getting it done. We call it “Articulation.” Say it, track it, and get it done.

Student procrastination is not about laziness. Not even procrastinators put off the things they enjoy. When students are inspired and engaged, they eagerly jump on the assignment and meet all the deadlines. Sure, procrastination is a matter of priorities — get off the phone, turn off the Xbox, and so on, but we prioritize what we best understand and believe in.

Maybe it’s time for us all to put off taking an honest look at procrastination.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Jobs galore! (… if you got edumacation)

help-wanted_MH900254495bJoblessness related to education?  And work ethic. And skills. And…

A single temp agency reports 20,000 unfilled jobs. One would think that temp jobs up would mean full time openings are down. Not so here: these jobs go unfilled not because everyone is happily employed but because they require 20,000 qualifications that job seekers don’t have. And we’re talking part time jobs.

The sad fact about unemployment today is its disproportionate impact on the unskilled and uneducated, but even for qualified job seekers many opportunities are temporary or part time.

Yep, part time work is the new job market. A look at the raw unemployment numbers to see that temp jobs are driving employment. The reasons for this trend are debatable, and we won’t go there. Still, that in 2010, one quarter of all new jobs created by the private sector were temporary ought to scare us all.

There are today 3.69 million jobs open to be filled, according to the Labor Department, which leaves us with about 3 workers for every job opening. Now, if you’re ignorant like me and you wonder why with 3 people available for every job there are still almost 4 million jobs left open, let’s think this through together:

Firstly, not all of those who are unemployed want a job. The vast majority of those on unemployment insurance find jobs the final month of payments or just after the benefits expire. That’s logical, especially if available jobs don’t pay much more than insurance. Next, individual skills and experience, of course, set the conditions for jobs for which one qualifies. And that’s the problem.

Most unfilled jobs tend to require skills, education, and lifestyle choices that are found only at a premium and by a few. In 2012, CNN reported that there were 200,000 job openings for long-haul truckers. That’s not an easy job, and given drug tests, driving records, and other requirements, one that’s not available to all comers. With my driving record, this is not a career choice for me. What about you? Do you make your daily choices as if a top security clearance depended upon it? You should.

I used to take students to visit the White House Garage, an Army unit that is charged with moving the White House whenever and wherever the President goes. (A few years ago, I did some historical work for them.) The Garage is staffed by NCOs led by a Sargeant Major and a hotshot CO — big league stuff. Whenever the NCOs speak to the students, they always stress the difficulty of appointment to this elite unit. They will not take you if you have a scar, blemish or otherwise unsightly shadow across your record — and that includes your social media history. Sorry, you shouldn’t have said that on Facebook. And the little marijuana bust, ain’t gonna pass. You can get a job from the President with all that, but you cannot get a job protecting the President with it.

And so the same for those other some 4 million unfilled jobs: the applicants don’t meet the job criteria, and vice versa.

A Wall Street Journal interview on Sept 20 with Bob Funk: Where the Jobs Are—and How to Get One highlights the dilemma. Funk owns the staffing firm, Express Employment Services, that has those 20,000 jobs to fill. As in right now. But he can’t fill them. And his jobs pay between $13 – $40 per hour.  Why?

Let’s start with that one quarter of applicants fail a drug test.

Think about it: one out of four people looking for a job with this company can’t pass a drug test. Let’s take it further: those one of every four applicants were the brave ones, as the rest of the drug-taking unemployed didn’t apply. God bless those that tried.

Next, Funk says, applicants don’t have the skills. “If you’ve got a college degree in psych, poly-sci or sociology, sorry, I can’t help you find a job.” Degrees or training in engineering, IT, robotics, accounting, welding will get you a job, he says, and it could be one of the 20,000 openings his company is looking to fill with qualified applicants. They’re not out there. Or they’re taking unemployment or disability.

Now we get to Funk’s larger complaint, that today’s society doesn’t value success in the workplace:

“In my 40-some years in this business, the biggest change I’ve witnessed is the erosion of the American work ethic. It just isn’t there today like it used to be,” Mr. Funk says. Asked to define “work ethic,” he replies that it’s fairly simple but vital on-the-job behavior, such as showing up on time, being conscientious and productive in every task, showing a willingness to get your hands dirty and at times working extra hours. These attributes are essential, he says, because if low-level employees show a willingness to work hard, “most employers will gladly train them with the skills to fill higher-paying jobs.”

In addition to the “erosion of the American work ethic,” Funk points to fundamental problems in our educational system. He suggests that we reward good teachers instead of paying them all the same (been reading my stuff, Mr. Funk?), and that schools should offer vocational alternatives to students who are not academically focused.

I’d add to that last thought that, yes, vocational education should be available for high school and recent high school graduates, absolutely, but any single student can engage the standard high school curriculum so long as that student finds purpose in it. And that’s the rub.

A thousand reforms can’t change that our society is producing high school students ill-prepared for college and college students ill-prepared for the workplace. What can change is individual student choice.

One student at a time can choosing to make his or her academic life more meaningful means one more qualified job applicant — one at a time. Students, let the academic dysfunctions and social pressure to choose wrongly be someone else’s problem. Own your outcomes, students, but you have to choose it.

We help kids do this every day. One student at a time.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

The Learning Process

Or, where do grades come from?

Where do grades come from? Click here to view my Learning Process flow chart. Grades and learning are not necessarily related… Ideally they are, but what, really, do grades measure?

Have you ever considered what, exactly, do grades measure?

They measure something, but can they really measure everything? And of what they do measure, is it fair, is it meaningful, and does it represent what we really want students to achieve?

At the A+ Club we work with students to appreciate what grades are really about. The first thing to understand is that grades do not measure, do not indicate intelligence. Nor do grades necessarily measure learning. Whatever schools have done to lead any students or parents to believe this need to just disappear. Of course students have different intelligence. But they also have different skills Good at math, bad at drawing. Good at football, bad at reading. Good at singing, good at science, too. Whatever, these are all different types of intelligences, as intelligence is purely contextual. I do wish I was a math wizard like my astrophysicist brother. Ain’t gonna happen, so I do what I can with what I’ve got. That doesn’t mean I can’t get a good grade in Physics. So how would I go about getting a good grade in Physics if I’m bad at math?

I love this c.1910 French vision of the future of education. Would that it were so easy!
I love this c.1910 French vision of the future of education. Would that it were so easy!

First some vocabulary:

  • Assessment: a measurement of something, such as a grade on an exam.
  • Grades: assessments of student performance based upon certain criteria, hopefully not arbitrary
  • Learning Expectation: what a teacher expects students to learn
  • Relevancy: the idea that something is important or meaningful
  • Prior Knowledge (PK): what you already know
  • New Knowledge (NK): new things you learn
  • Internalization: the process of turning NK into PK

Grades as measurements

If we consider that grades measure something but not everything, then we must first consider what it is that grades measure. If a teacher gives a grade for “participation,” what does that mean? Is it an impression? A concrete measurement. Or is it a measurement of a process, such as a requirement to show the steps taken to answer a math equation as opposed to just answering the equation. When teachers outline assessment expectations in advance, we call this a “rubric.” Ideally, every little grade has a clear rubric or clear understanding by students about its expectations.

Just about every student has a story about getting a zero on something because they forgot to put their name on an assignment. It was done. It was even done well, and the student learned. But the student got a zero. So, what’s the grade about? Well, putting your name on the page is part of the grade. (Some teachers throw out un-named assignments; I always keep them, as it killed me that a kid did the work but I can’t reward it because I don’t know who it is!).

The next lesson here is to follow instructions!!! Students who are impatient with process often skip the instructions and then miss out on important steps that lead to low scores. You may have had one of those teachers who puts a “trick question” into an exam just to see if the student read everything, such as “skip the next two questions for extra credit.” I get the idea and have tried it myself. Ultimately, though it is not fair, but the sentiment is true: “read me,” screams the test!

Grades reflect so much more than just learning. A few things that go into most school assessments that are so basic we don’t often think about them. But if we do, we are more cognizant of what it takes to get a good grade:

  • timeliness
  • completion
  • name
  • instructions

If you really consider it, there is far less “learning” in a grade than there is “process” and just meeting teacher expectations.

Student Success

At The A+ Club, we employ these ideas very simply:

  • are you aware of what is expected of you?
  • what learning is expected?
  • are you being graded on timeliness and completion?
  • what process is expected?

That last, process, is behind most low grades. Many kids believe they could just ace the test and get a good grade without having done any homework. Often enough they are correct in this. But hardly always, and it is always the case that students are graded on process as much as learning. The trick is for students to make it meaningful enough to bother to do it, or, better, to want to do it. The best teachers make everything meaningful to students, but that’s a rarity. Instead, kids have to take up relevancy upon themselves.

Our job at The A+ Club is to provide kids with the tools and strategies to make their work meaningful, if only to get a higher grade.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.