How to be a Highly Effective Marquette Student: Insights from Sean Covey

9780684856094_p0_v1_s260x420By Aubrey Murtha – When I was in middle school, my parents gave us Murtha kids a book by Sean Covey for Christmas entitled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. 

I am a big fan of self-help literature because, hey, if someone knows how to live more fully than I do, I’ll take any advice that I can get. The other day, I was doing homework at my desk in Schroeder Hall, and I was reminded of the infinite wisdom in this book when I spotted it on my shelf. I was inspired to write a post about it because I remembered how helpful these tips where for me during my early teenage years.

All of the steps come directly from Covey’s book, and I’ve incorporated some of my own insights into the explanations. MU students, think about making it a summer goal to adopt some of these pointers.  Teachers, you might share them with your middle and high schoolers.

Be Proactive

You’re the pilot of your own life, the conductor of your own orchestra, the director of your own Broadway show. Don’t sit back, whine, and wallow in self-pity. If something is not happening for you, go out and make it happen. Sure, some social barriers may stand in your way, but give yourself a fighting chance by pursuing your interests and aspirations. Take responsibility for your successes and failures and remember that you are not, nor should you be, a victim.

Begin with the end in mind

Be goal oriented. There’s no need to map out your life—there’s value in spontaneity!—but as Covey would argue, “all things are created twice—first mentally, second physically.” It takes at least a loose plan of action to achieve something meaningful.

Put first things first

                This is often very tricky for Marquette students. It’s tough to admit to yourself that you’re overcommitted or that you party a bit too much or perhaps that it was not the wisest decision to watch that eighth episode of Friends last night. Prioritizing is oh-so-important because it increases your productivity and decreases your stress. By keeping your eye on the prize, you’ll avoid unnecessary distractions and stay both focused and organized. As Covey says, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Think Win-Win

This habit suggests that we seek win-win solutions to our problems: that is, that we avoid selfish (I win, you lose) or martyr (I lose, you win) resolutions to pressing issues. It is important to approach conflict resolution with an “everyone-can-win attitude” since life so often involves cooperative collaboration.

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Listen, process, absorb. Then speak your mind respectfully. This is my favorite of the habits because we SO often struggle to understand. I think so many of our daily conflicts could be remedied if we closed our mouths and opened our ears every now and then (Covey reminds us that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason). No one has all the answers, so sit down, shut up, and listen intently to your neighbor. Then share your opinions because your views are valuable, too!


Work with others to produce a strategy together that is far better than it could have been had you devised it alone. Covey talks about synergism as creating a third alternative or utilizing a combination of individual strengths to develop a plan that is not yours or mine, but ours. Teamwork makes the dream work, am I right? Marquette students, think of how many brilliant and talented peers you have. Unite and do something beautiful.

Sharpen the Saw

Phew. After all of that self-improvement, you probably need a break. Take some time to do what you love and renew yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You earned it. According to Covey, this is the habit that enables us to live out the other six fully and completely. So, take full advantage of the opportunity to play some pick up ball, take a hot bath, or go on a romantic date with bae. Refuel and reenergize.

Go forth, now, and be effective human beings.

Did you like this post?  Check out Covey’s awesome site at  or give his book a read.  Some information taken from:

#IWishMyTeacherKnew: Getting New Insight Into Counseling

resizeBy Sabrina (Bong) Bartels — Having spent (almost) two years counseling the same group of students, I would like to think that I have pretty sound knowledge on many of them.

I know that some of my students come to school hungry because they don’t have enough food. I know that some are scared to go home, and some don’t even have a home to go to at the end of the day. However, after reading the inspiring story of Colorado teacher Kyle Schwartz, I am not so confident in my knowledge.

If you haven’t heard this story, it is amazing. Kyle Schwartz teaches at an elementary school in Denver. One day, she asked her students to finish this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew …” She told them that they could put their names on their responses, or they could leave them anonymous. The responses she got were astonishing. To name a few:

“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have friends to play with me.”

“I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot.”

“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was 3 years old and I haven’t seen him in six years.”

“I wish my teacher knew my parents.”

“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.”

She took to Twitter, starting the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, and began posting some of her students’ answers. Soon, teachers around the country began posing the same question to their students, and receiving responses. While some responses are funny (for example, “I wish my teacher knew how to do a back flip”), many confess more serious things.

Whenever I look on Twitter and see educators posting what students wish their teachers knew, I am inspired. I think it’s great that teachers, counselors, and administrators are working to get to know their students at a deeper level. Too often, I see students hiding the negative aspects of their life from peers and adults, for fear of judgment. Sometimes it leads to so much anxiety and stress that it begins to manifest in other ways: outbursts in class, mood swings, physical confrontations, and defiance.

I think as educators, it is so important that we build strong relationships with our kids and make them comfortable enough to talk to us. It will not only make us more informed, but also make us better teachers. Once we know more about a child’s background, we will be able to match our teaching styles to fit with that student’s knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times my relationship with a student changed once they told me something about their background. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head, and I suddenly knew why I was seeing some of the behaviors I had been seeing all year. It doesn’t explain everything or everyone, but more often than not, it does offer a glimpse into the past that has really helped me out.

After seeing this story, I began to wonder: how well do I actually know my students, the students that I have counseled for the past two years of their lives? I thought I had a really good knowledge of them, but maybe not! One of my classes offered to be my “guinea pigs.” Here are a few of their responses:

“I wish Mrs. Bartels knew that the high heels don’t make her taller than us.”

“I wish my counselor knew that she is like my school mom and that I probably tell her more than I tell my real mom.”

“I wish my counselor knew that I never told anyone else about what we talked about yesterday.”

“I wish my counselor knew I don’t try to be a bad kid, I don’t know why I am, and I wish more people would see that”

“I wish Mrs. Bartels knew that there is a lot of pressure to do stuff with boys, and that I’m scared I’m going to do the same thing.”

For more on Kyle Schwartz’s story, you can read the USA Today article here or check out her account on Twitter: @kylemschwartz

Tuesday Trivia: April 21, 2015

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow…


Who wrote Silent Spring, a book that documented the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment and on birds?


Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

On Student Loans, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, and Free Teacher Education

Student-Loans-5By Nick McDaniels — If this post comes off as self-interested, that’s because it is.

I, like many American teachers in their twenties and thirties, have student loans to repay.  I, like the same American teachers, hope they are repaid before I must begin paying for my daughter to go to school.

Teachers, in the past and today, including I, have found some relief from student loans through repayment and forgiveness programs specifically designed to reduce the burden of loans on teachers teaching in low-income schools.   However, these programs have become harder and harder to take advantage of as more and more teachers are receiving loans which make them ineligible for forgiveness or repayment programs, or are faced with the prospect of teaching and paying on loans for 120 consecutive monthly payments before a forgiveness opportunity kicks in.

The economics of this for me means I likely gain just as much benefit from paying these loans off as quickly as possible rather than waiting for potential repayment incentives which might even match the interest I’ll pay over the amount of time waiting for the incentives to kick in.

If this is the case for me, as it must be for some others, then our incentive program is not that much of an incentive at all and should be overhauled.  If we are considering an overhaul, we must consider a few things, and we’ll pretend that it is not an option to make college education free to all Americans:

1) Is teaching a career that we want to incentivise with student loan forgiveness programs?

I think when comparing the balance of social importance of teachers with the relative low pay, making teacher training costs less of a long term encumbrance on teachers is likely a good thing.

2) If we want to incentivise teaching as a career choice, then how can we do so through student loan programs?

I think the answer here is simplicity.  If a program is devised that allows 18 year old future teachers to enroll in a program that will guarantee them if they teach in a certain type of school until they are 28 years old or 32 years old and the entirety of their student loan balance will be repaid, no matter how much they have paid, no matter how much they owe, no matter what type of loans they have, then we have created an incentive where the choice is much clearer for the soon to be teachers.  In other words, the closer we can get to a “you agree to teach, you go to school for free” program, the more impact it will have as an incentive.

3) If we want a simplified method of years-of-service/location-of-service oriented teacher loan repayment, how would that system dovetail with the current system we know?

The answer is likely to create a separate class of student loans designed specifically for future teachers.  These loans would then have to be easily transitioned into other types of loans in the event that the person receiving the loans became no longer eligible under term of repayment.   Having a separate, profession-specific track of student loans would give policy makers the freedom to determine the value of having good teachers relative to the value of having those same teachers encumbered with student loans.  This could open the possibility of having more profession-specific tracks of student loans to incentivise the building of certain professions.

In the arena of trying to convince young, bright people to become teachers, creating financial incentives is part of the process and a serious look at the seemingly ineffective teacher incentives provided by the current student loan scheme is necessary.

What does “brain science” actually tell us about learning?

Human head with wheelBy Laura Sumner Coon — You can barely escape the lingo these days in education.

It usually begins, “Brain science tells us ….” followed by some prescription for education linked with what scientists are discovering about how we think and learn. The phenomenon is frankly …  mind-boggling.

How do we know what is credible and has value in our roles as educators or future teachers?

A team of three people – two cognitive psychologists and a storyteller – have collaborated to write a book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, that attempts to set us straight. They reviewed, and in some cases conducted, empirical scientific research undertaken in the last 40 years that can boldly claim how we learn. The work, co-authored by Henry Roediger III, Mark McDaniel and Peter Brown, was published in 2014 by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. And although reading just one more book in this season of finals may make your head spin, I guarantee you it would be well worth your while – grade-changing, even.

Learning, they argue, is vastly misunderstood, and we approach it all wrong. Learning, they say, is all about “acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.”

With that in mind, they are pretty emphatic about a few things. Learning requires memory. This may be a challenge for those who think rereading notes and books under the flicker of the midnight oil and studying blocks of subject material to cram for an exam is learning. That kind of “learning” is misguided and very temporary.

Rather, these scientific folks say that forcing yourself to retrieve material presented to you by memory and making certain you have made some cognitive connection of this new material with previously learned information is real learning that stays with you, like the ABC’s or the i-before-e grammar rule.

If you want to uncover some sound cognitive tips for learning as a student or for teaching students, this book is a precious resource. While I’ll let you discover its full benefits, let me leave you with a few tips from the authors that may improve your performance on this semester’s finals.

  1. First, know that this kind of real learning is difficult and takes more time, but that you certainly have the ability to master this kind of learning.
  2. Practice recalling the things you have learned from memory first. Quiz yourself. Use flashcards. Make yourself write it out in an understandable paragraph. Then, check yourself for accuracy and repeat. But here’s the catch …
  3. Repeat this “memory retrieval” process after a little “forgetting” has set in. This forces us to nudge that new material into our long term memory. And…
  4. Don’t study just one subject or type of problem at a time. Try to clump related subjects together and interlace your study of them, making connections when you can. This kind of “interleaving” recall is much more difficult, but has much stronger staying power.
  5. “Elaborate” about what you’ve learned. Put it in your own words. Relate it to a story or something you already know in order to lace it up in your memory.
  6. To do that, you have to be “reflective.” Take some time to mull over your new learned information and ask yourself – what went well, what could go better, of what does this remind you?
  7. Have some tricks up your sleeve that prompt your memory. These are called “mnemonic devices,” ways that assist you in remembering theories, facts, or new information. You might even try making up stories in a setting that helps you remember a process or sequence of facts. “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” is a mnemonic device just about every new music student committed to memory in order to learn the lined notes in the treble clef, for instance.

While theories may abound about the best learning strategies, the authors of Make It Stick have boiled learning down into an understanding way that offers readers an abundance of simple, accessible tactics to teaching and learning.

Pick up a copy of the book or try some of these simple strategies. I think they are bound to make a difference. Happy learning!

The Adventure

58616872By Taylor Gall  — College is stressful.

Why, it was just a few weeks ago that I laid down in the back of my car after observing and listened to the Arthur theme song and shed a tear or two, thinking of nothing but the three papers and two tests I had to study for.

Now, Arthur can only do so much for me. I mean he’s an armadillo and I don’t know if he’s legally allowed to solicit advice to a struggling college student/student worker/board chair/sorority member/student blogger/secret nighttime crime fighter. He was, however, a childhood favorite and was what I wanted in my time of stress.

There comes a point in every college student’s career (or maybe this is a daily occurrence for some) when they are in over their heads. There is always another paper to finish up, another group project to begin, another phone call to make, another friend to call, and another email to respond to. There are mornings I wake up and stare at my ceiling and say:


There are plenty of days that I question myself as a student and as a young adult. It’s difficult to hear about my friends’ adventures abroad and my peers’ adventures in the “real world beyond college” and not wonder why I’m slaving away in a fluorescent-lit library so that I can write yet another seven page lesson plan that my students might not even like.

There is a big old world out there, and I feel like I am missing out on it. I know for a bonafide FACT that I am missing out on it. There are flamencos being danced and mountains being climbed. There are camels being ridden and adventures being had, but I remain here in my armchair in the College of Education lounge.

But here is the thing that I/we/you need to remember when you get a case of the “missing outs”:

By missing out on THAT, you are able to experience THIS…

-You are able to wake up every morning to a campus of 12,000 students just like you.

-You are able to walk around a campus where people know your name, where there are people who genuinely care for you.

-You are able to live in one of the weirdest and most fun little cities around.

-You are able to be a silly young adult and do things like go on ice cream runs at 3am and hang out with your friends every second of every day.

-You are learning about the world in classes taught by awesome professors.

-You are able to get a great education that will help you change the world one day.

-You have been told a million times and it is true: College is the most unique and exciting four years of your life, so live it up. Enjoy it while you can.

You may not be climbing a mountain (you may just be climbing the stairs in the AMU), but you’re in the adventure of a lifetime and you don’t even know it. Seize your adventure every day, breakfast of marinara sauce and all!

Thank Goodness for Spring Break!

imagesBy Shannon Bentley — I’m an alumna of Milwaukee Public schools. And I recall that nothing was better than waiting for Spring Break to appear around the corner.

I became anxious, and anticipated the likely things that I would do during break with my family or friends. My favorite thing in the world to do was go to Wisconsin Dells and enjoy swimming in the resort as my mom relaxed by the pool either reading a book or taking a nap. Spring break was an exhilarating moment as a child and teenager, because I was able to take a break from my teachers and the schoolwork that exhausted my life.

Spring Break was only a week long, but when you are younger, you learn to make use of the time off that you’re offered. My emotions would go from low to high in a split second and all I wanted to do was have the best fun ever. Even though I went to college, the spring breaks still continued with adventurous fun with my best friends and working a part-time job to make some money on the side. No matter what – Spring break was the moment to live life to the fullest.

Now that I am older and a student teacher, I realized one thing – I was STILL excited for spring break to come! It had nothing to do with what I was going to do over break, because I noticed that I am over the essential partying or going out of town. Spring break is the best way to take a break from my students and begin new when we return. Staying in school begins to frustrate students and they too become anxious to take a break. School requires a lot from their students like state mandated testing, regular classwork, and extracurricular activities. Students aren’t able to be themselves until the day before Good Friday approaches. Therefore, everyone experiences that anxiety from students and hopes that their breaks will bring new and fresh attitudes.

Nonetheless, I still want to continue to enjoy myself. Teaching is hard work that deserves a 24/5 commitment for a great number of students. I am a dedicated teacher, however, teachers have to have fun too right? We are human and need to make use of the break as well, so that we can continue to be strong for the students whom we serve to teach.

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