Organizing Your Thoughts

In study and test taking, students often push back at the idea of taking notes or using graphic organizers because the process seems too complicated or time consuming. The truth is, organizing your thoughts can be easier than many think and actually save time in the long run.

Note taking and the use of a graphic organizer is nothing more than finding a quick and simple way to get your ideas down on paper. Like many other study skills, many of us just weren’t taught how to do this in an efficient way. Or we were taught a process that was way more complicated than it needed to be. Truth is, if you have ever made a pro/con, grocery or to-do list, you have taken notes or used a graphic organizer. You just didn’t know it!

Finding a way that works best for YOU is the key. We discussed one easy method for note taking in a recent eBoard post. In addition, Essential Education‘s Live Coaching Sessions offer a number of tools and tips to help you make sense of it all!

We hope you’ll connect with us soon!

Be a Planner

In a previous post, Are You a Crammer? We looked at the way in which packing for a big trip is similar to studying for your HSE exam. Some are “crammers” who for whatever reason (or a number of factors) wait until the last minute to get ready to go. Others are planners… the precious few who map out a solid plan for readiness and success. In other words, they pack their mental bags with the skills and tools needed to succeed.

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Run with Your Eye on Your Why

In continuing our discussion on the common factors between marathon runners and those pursuing their HSE credential, I’d like to share a story. But first, let me give a little background info.

My experience in managing runners came during the time I spent working for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Their Team-in Training program was set-up to provide marathon hopefuls with training resources, event selection, registration, and motivational tools. In exchange, runners would commit to raising a certain amount of money above and beyond their travel fees to help fund research and patient care for the society. It’s a wonderful program and a win-win all around!

One of the motivational tools provided was patient connection. Each runner was paired with a patient currently undergoing treatment. In essence, they were given a living, breathing reason to run! This was by far one of the greatest joys of my job and one that created a lasting impression on ALL involved. While there are countless memories I could share the following is one I will never forget.


John was a first time marathon runner. As a newbie, he struggled with preparation but was a hard worker! He followed his assigned work-outs to the letter, showed up at every group run, and pushed through a number of set-backs during his 18-week training.

He had chosen one of the Disney runs offered that year. It was billed to be a “magical experience” running through each of the parks within the Disney World complex in sunny Florida. It was a great venue, but like all sites, had a few draw backs.

The miles spent in the parks were filled with color and spectators…music and cheers. From princesses and pirates to bands and fireworks, runners were treated to an exciting boost of energy and entertainment. But what race promoters hadn’t highlighted (and with good reason) were the back road sections of the route that connected each park.

To avoid road traffic, the runners were re-routed to long, barren access roads in multi-mile stretches at various points in the race. One of these mind-numbingly boring straight-aways came at mile 16, already one of the toughest points of the 26.2 mile path.

John recalled entering this stretch at mile 16 completely spent. He was hitting a wall. He began to doubt his ability to keep going. There was nothing to distract him. No music. No crowds. Just the pounding of shoes on pavement and ragged breathing, in and out. He felt his pace and his will slowly fall apart. But in the briefest of moments something flashed in his mind that changed everything. The lone sound of that strained breathing in and out in, jolted his mind to Michaela.

Michaela was his patient partner, in whose honor he was running. Just a week before the race, this sweet 10 year old girl had been placed on a ventilator, struggling through her most recent round of treatment. John visited her in the hospital before he left for Florida and noted the overwhelming sounds of the medical equipment keeping Michaela alive. A constant gush in and out, the rhythm of machines and compressed air…like feet on the pavement and the inhale and exhale of breath.

In that moment, Michaela became his fuel. The sound of her battle to survive became his strength. He remembered his WHY and it gave him the courage he needed to dig deep and finish what he started. With aches, pains, and tear-stained cheeks, John (and Michaela) crossed the finish line.


The road toward preparing for and passing your HSE exam may feel like marathon training. Some days you are off and running. Study schedules and commitments are going as planned and you’re making progress on practice tests and quizzes. Others are a struggle. Doubt, frustration, and the long road ahead sweep in to steal your motivation and progress. The truth is set-backs and excuses will always be there. But so will your why!

When you hit the hardest stretch of the journey. Remember why you started. Find your fuel and keep going. Run with your eye on your why!


Let Essential Education cheer you on. Your success is our goal!

Marathon Training

In a former chapter of life, I managed marathon runners. I’d set them up with a trainer and motivational resources. I’d even coordinate their travel. When the big day came, I’d accompany “my runners” to the starting line, check on them throughout, and pick them up at the finish.

As my life took shape and I fell in love with all things education and teaching, I can now look back on those days and find amazingly similar comparisons between my runners and my students.

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Break Away from the Negative

Have you ever heard of the concept of mirroring? It’s the idea that as people, we naturally become the sum of the 4-5 people with whom we spend the most time.

A University of California, San Diego study noted: “Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but clueless copycatting comes at a cost. Mimicry can act as a kind of “social glue” in human relationships. It fosters trust. Two people who like each other will often unconsciously mirror each other’s mannerisms in subtle ways.”

In other words, we can take on the attitudes, opinions, and even body language of those in our social group without even knowing it! Inherently, this is not a bad thing. But dream-chasers and life-changers need to be especially careful with who and what they surround themselves.

If you are trying to embrace the positive in a tough situation, sacrifice for a dream, or take on a new challenge, the nay-sayers in your world can steal your momentum. No need to cut them out. But be sure you are actively drowning out the negative with positive.

Seek out your cheerleaders, biggest supporters, and top fans! Mimic the spirit and drive of those you admire and channel the energy of those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you!


Need a place to connect with other adult learners like you! Check out this recent post on Essential Education‘s commitment to connection.

The Roots of Success

Years ago when I taught Kindergarten and First Grade, one of my favorite projects was bean sprout observation. The kids always had fun…selecting their seed, stacking their little cups and filling them with soil and sprinkles of water. The’d push their chosen seed down into the dirt and stare at the now covered bean seed waiting for magic to happen. This is where the hardest part of the process came into play. The waiting!

The students would bum-rush the classroom door after every lunch, recess, or new day with great anticipation, expecting minute by minutes, hours by hour, day by day “success” in the form of sprouts, stems, and leaves. When the reality didn’t meant their expectation, their faces dropped, their smiles drifted, and they grew impatient.

Continue reading “The Roots of Success”