Students need more than a great teacher to become a confident writer
By Nzandi Murry, Expressions, India
If you have taught an aspiring writer that had a passion for writing, but didn’t have the knack yet, you might already know that your knowledge (though necessary) is not all you need to help the student. In my experience of teaching teenagers and young adults, I have learned that my curriculum, the facts I know, and my past teaching experience, are not enough to train a young writer. Why is that so? Because every student needs more than a great teacher to become a confident writer.
Here is what my students have taught me:
Always ask questions
You’ll be surprised by their intelligence when you question them. Typically, I teach one student for an hour. After 40-minutes of grammar, quick tips on writing, and a simple paragraph writing, I always spend the last 20 minutes in open interaction. Once I asked my 15-year-old student what topic he would pick if he were given a chance to talk to a room full of young people.
He replied, “Dream Big!”
I was so impressed I shot back, “And what would you talk about if the room was filled with middle-aged folks?”
In less than 30-seconds, with a grin, he said, “How to look young?”
I was flabbergasted, seeing his creativity. That afternoon, I didn’t have to decide on the topic of his homework because I chose one from his answer. His confidence was boosted, and I felt accomplished as a teacher.
Before offering encouraging words it is important to understand your student. While my teenage students see appreciation as an encouragement, the young adults feel encouraged when I assign a more difficult task. This doesn’t mean you will always be encouraging without giving them constructive criticism, but it is important to keep in mind that when encouragement outweighs the correction, students will be able to handle criticisms without losing their confidence to write.
Believe in them
There is nothing more motivating than knowing that someone believes in you. If you are the teacher you are a role model for your student. What you say can either break them down or build them up. Apart from telling them that I believe in them, I also write uplifting letters when I get an opportunity. This happens usually on their birthdays. In my note, I always make a point to let them know that it’s a joy to teach them. Knowing they are being celebrated gives them the appetite to learn from you.
End it on a sweet note
You won’t tutor a student forever. When it’s time for to say goodbye, say or write something nice to them. I love to write, so I wrote to every student in my last class. One of my young adult students, who had to discontinue because he was relocating, was so moved by my farewell letter that he said, “No one has written such a note to me before. I feel capable.” I assured him that he is gifted as I left their house. Sticking his head out through the ajar front door, he waved goodbye as his mom opened the elevator for me.
Looking back, I feel fulfilled by the two years of private tutoring I did because of the knowledge exchange during classes. It was beyond enriching and given a chance, I would do it again.
I can’t promise that tutoring aspiring writers won’t be challenging, but I can say that it will be rewarding if you are open to learning from them as you teach.
By: Ken Gosnell
Business appreciation is a paradox. Appreciation is the one employee development tool that costs the business nothing. It is also the one benefit that all employees need and desire. According to Gallup, “Only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.”
Leaders have enormous power to encourage and inspire their teams through their words and actions. If leaders learn this leadership secret, they can improve company morale, employee performance, and communication and teamwork.
Here’s how leaders can start their new role as “chief encouragement officer.”
1. Public Recognition
One of the best disciplines a CEO can develop is to praise people in public.
One way CEOs can do this is through tribal storytelling. Native American leaders would pass down key values from generation to generation by sharing and repeating certain stories throughout the tribe. CEOs would be wise to follow this tradition, giving examples of team members who acted on values and principles that the organization embodies.
2. Written Notes
Written notes have power. Writing a personal letter is a valuable way to give praise, as it serves as a touch point for thoughtfulness. Personal notes touch deep within a person, and a wise CEO uses this tool to appreciate their team.
Doug Conant, the retired CEO of Campbell Soup, used this tool effectively to turn his company around. He explained his process in an interview in the August 2012 Sloan Management Review. He stated, “I would pick about 10 to 20 things every day and I would hand write a note to the person saying, ‘Thanks for the help. I understand we’re ahead of schedule. Nice job.’ Over the course of my career I sent out about 30,000 personal notes, and we only had 20,000 employees.”
Imagine the impact it would have on an employee to walk in and find a personal note from the CEO on their desk or at their workstation. If CEOs wrote just one note a day, they would have written over 250 notes a year to their most important people: their team members.
3. Personal Time
People like spending time with their leaders. When a leader takes a little extra time to spend with their team, it’s noticed and appreciated. Practice the habit of taking team members on special outings as a way of communicating appreciation. A leader should always have someone next to them. These moments provide an opportunity to personally mentor an employee by passing along key leadership principles.
4. Meaningful Gifts
A gift from a leader is not quickly forgotten. These awards can come in the form of books, gift cards or office tokens. Find ways to personalize your appreciation. For example, I give away 100 Grand candy bars to my team with a note saying “You are worth 100 Grand to me.” The team loves it.
Vera Fesianava is the Associate Art Director of Noiv Kovcheg (Noah’s Ark) magazine in Ukraine, a Christian publication for children. Their mission is to discover the principles of building a happy family life for parents and children through the knowledge of God and his Word. To view the magazine look them up on Issuu. Join us for a Q&A with Vera to learn some tips on how the magazine is working “with” instead of “for” kids:
Q: It sounds like you are doing a great job communicating with your audience and involving them in audience research. I’m curious how you involve children in your team from different cities and countries. What is your strategy for getting feedback from them?
A: It is a long story on how we have built communication with our audience.
In 2010, Noiv Kovcheg celebrated its twentieth anniversary. At the same time, we came to the conclusion that it should be radically changed. Victor Kuzmenko, the founder of the magazine, returned as editor-in-chief that same year. We were looking for a new strategy, and we came to the idea: It’s not our magazine; it’s their magazine. Let’s let the children create it.
The editor’s article in issue 4 of 2010 said:
In the very first issue of the magazine, published in 1990, we expressed the hope that our cooperation with readers will become a joint service to God… During the years of ministry, we have noticed that often adults do a lot of good for children and much less often together with them. However, if we, the adults, ignore this important factor “together with” in the upbringing of children, kids grow up with distorted ideas about themselves, about God, and about life in general.
When our communication with children is filled with joint activity, they see that they are treated with respect, that they are appreciated, and that–as a result–they develop right next to adults, growing purposeful and open.
Sometimes it seems to us, that we (adults) know what children are interested in, what is important to them, what and how we should talk to them, but often it turns out the opposite. Not without reason, Christ told adults that until they change their hearts and become like children, they will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the next issues of the Noiv Kovcheg magazine, we want to listen more to children and see how they live. We are sure that they all aspire to God and dream of the eternal. And we can strive with them and dream about the same on the pages of Noiv Kovcheg.
Thanks to everyone who shared with us children’s creativity. We continue to wait for children’s photos, letters, text messages, poems, stories, humor and funny stories from life, and other children’s treasures.
Blessings, Team NK
Since that time, we try to involve children in the creation the magazine in many ways:
- We use a real child on the cover who tells his/her story in the “Hello from the Cover” column. We use our connections and invite our partners who have children to give their kids this opportunity. We have had several times where the classmate or neighbor of the child on Noiv Kovcheg cover also wanted to get on the cover. For the last 8 years, about 60 children were on the cover, and told their story in the Noiv Kovcheg magazine. We have real children’s stories from many countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, France, Germany, U.S., Israel, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Ghana, Sweden, Canada, and more.
- The magazine has a Children’s Editorial Team. Together with adults, members of the Children’s Editorial Team (ages 6-12) take part in the creation of Noiv Kovcheg, discuss the materials, sometimes offer better alternatives, and share the magazine with other children. At present, our Children’s Editorial Team includes two girls from Japan and Moldova and three boys from the U.S., Belarus, and Ukraine. Each of these children is an active reader and writer and has, for several years, sent us their stories, drawings, and photos. Our editor, Maria Levtsenyuk, keeps in touch with them (and their parents) via e-mail, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp.
- In each issue we give materials for various activities–crafts, games, experiments, etc.–on the pages. For each activity, we engage kids who represent it on the page–kids from various Sunday schools in the city, Christian children’s club “Maibutne Ukrainy” (“Future of the Ukraine,” which works with non-believer’skids and teens), and children (from non-believer’s families) with whom we have become friends through camps and festivals. We also have the column “Young Talents” where girls and boys talk about their hobbies (saxophone, acrobatics, painting, hockey, pet care, etc.). We are very happy if children send in their stories and drawings for publication.
- We have additional ministries related to the magazine. From time-to-time we arrange an event “Friends Exist” for kids in Rivne (and other Ukrainian cities and villages), which includes competitions, drawings on asphalt, handicrafts, sports, games, and other outdoor activities. Children get acquainted with the magazine and make friends with each other. Every year we hold a one-week Christian camp nearby the office. We also share the Noiv Kovcheg magazine with churches and missions for their children’s Christian camps, festivals, and clubs. We participate in events that are conducted by the town council (here in Rivne and other regions) including exhibitions, holidays, meetings with writers, charity events in hospitals and orphanages, etc.
The most joyful thing for us is to see how the children learn about Jesus through the magazine, start reading the Bible, grow up, and become Christians. It’s not every child, not much, but it’s worth it.
Q: You mentioned that you have children give direct input to the magazine. I assume these are Christian children from families of believers. Have you ever done a focus group where you gather some children from the audience you want to reach (in this case children from non-believing families), sit them down with the magazine, and have them tell you what they think the magazine is communicating, what they understand and don’t understand, and what they like and don’t like about it? It might be worth a try and it could be very illuminating.
A: Yes, kids in our children’s team are mostly from Christian families, or from mixed families where only one parent is a Christian. But, approximately every two years the composition of the children’s team changes, someone grows up, and new children join. Until this year, the team included local children. Now our strategy has changed. We invited children from different cities and countries onto the team, among them there are one or two children from a non-believing family. They share the magazine in their community with other children, collect feedback, and send us photos and drawings.
At least 5 children from the first composition of the Children’s Editorial Team grew up and became Christians and were baptized.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
What is the next topic you are going to write about after your current project is completed? Not worried about that yet? Thinking about tomorrow’stopic can make you a better communicator today.
Communication is a process rather than a one-time interaction. So as a communications professional, you should always be thinking about the next next thing. Whether you are communicating via blogs, social media, websites, videos, magazines, newspapers or books, consider where your communications topics are headed. Today’s topic is the burning fire you need to address and get out the door. But the intentional progression of topics from today to tomorrow to the next day (month, year) builds a brand, and a body of work.
Recently, as I was working on a quarterly newsletter for a client, I penciled in the topics for their next two newsletters. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the details of the future topics, since I was focused on the newsletter that needed to get to print. I might not even be responsible for future newsletters; however, the overall communications plan is important for my client. The ability to think ahead to the next topic in a sequence means that the quarterly newsletter topics will build on each other throughout the year. Recipients of the newsletters will have a more complete understanding of the overall organization, rather than receiving random bites of information spread across time.
By: Klaris Chua
It’s becoming hard to ignore the fact that websites present small businesses with enormous benefits.
As people become more connected to the digital world, the brick and mortar store isn’t the only option anymore. Creating a website is more effective and trackable in terms of opportunities and results.
In a 2017 survey, 92% of small businesses said that they will have a website ready by 2018.
Luckily, creating a website has never been easier. Even if you don’t have coding or design skills, there are many services, tools, and guides available at your disposal. There’s really no excuse not to have one.
Unfortunately, it can still be intimidating. Many small business owners don’t have tech backgrounds, and there are a lot of mistakes to make.
This article will dive into key components that small business owners sometimes overlook when creating their websites and focus on the four areas you need to get right.
Selling goods without having a proper ecommerce component is like cooking a cheesecake on a stovetop: it might get the job done, but it wouldn’t be nearly as delicious as something baked in an oven.
Take, for instance, this website for adhesive products…
The site looks pretty easy on the eyes. It even has the trendy parallax scrolling effect and an HTML5 video background to boot. But when you go further down the site to view their catalog, you’ll see that the only option you’d get is to either download the pricing in a spreadsheet format or view photos and descriptions of specific offerings.
Instead, why not showcase all your products and product numbers, but add “call us for pricing” CTA’s on the title or description of an item?
There are also websites where there will be no CTA buttons at all on product pages.
You’d still buy these items anyway if you like them or need them enough. But you would probably think twice about it, and the conversion rate would be seriously low. Manual ordering can be too tasking and inconvenient for some consumers in these modern times.
If you own a business and you’re trying to sell your items online, you’d want to give the customer the full experience; you’d want to give them options even if they don’t intend to purchase right away.
If you don’t know how to navigate the product page component of your site yet, you can easily turn to the tried-and-tested ecommerce services and take note of the best practices mentioned in Wishpond’s “How to Get More Sales from your Ecommerce Product Page.”
Maybe you offer just two or three items; or maybe you’re selling a service instead of tangible products.
In these cases, putting up a shopping cart may not be appropriate. In this case, it’s important for your customers to be able to reach you instantly.
Make your business number prominent on your website, or create a contact form that’s suitable for your target audience.
Some small business owners would even go as far as adding a click-to-call button that will prompt customers for their numbers, connect them to a phone service, and make the phone service ring their number.
Here are a couple examples:
When you click on the buttons, you’ll be able to call the company’s number but won’t be charged for the call because it will be shouldered by the called party. Think of it as if you’re placing a toll-free call, but instead of a desk phone, you’re using your browser.
Often, the creation of your website’s About Page is an after-thought – thrown together from the website’s theme with few changes.
On the internet, establishing trust is the name of the game.
To truly make a good and lasting impression among potential customers, you need to make sure that you can convey your values and passions through this page right away.
Charm your way into your audience’s hearts by highlighting how you started, or by defining what problems do you want solved. Answer questions like, “What makes my brand stand out?” or “What’s in it for them?” Give your customers the confidence that you are a real person, and that you continuously strive to provide them with only the best products or services.
About pages can trigger emotions that can inspire website visitors to support your small business. Don’t succumb to the practice of filling it with jargon commonly seen on some sites – like the one you see above – that although sounds smart, sounds somewhat impersonal.
Moz has noticed how Google is dedicating a lot of its efforts towards “evangelizing and forcing a change of mindset from desktop to mobile.” If you’re a business owner, you should expect that visitors will be using different devices to visit your site.
Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure that your website is designed to be accessible on any screen size. Don’t be part of the alarming statistic that says only 30% of small business websites are mobile-friendly.
Remember when you were little and playing a game with the neighbor kids, then they change the rules and say “oh yeah, I forgot to tell about…” or if you’re learning a new game with some friends and they say “I’ll start with the basic rules so we can get the game going, and I’ll fill you in as we go on the details.”
I get frustrated in a situation when I can’t contribute my best because the parameters aren’t clear, and when it comes to our creative meetings, our team has found some really effective ways to maximize our productivity and effectiveness in a short amount of time – the reason: we’ve all agree to play by the rules.
These rules are not meant to limit participation (like saying you can’t touch the soccer ball with your hands) but are rather to give us a clear playing field so we can get to (in my opinion) the fun part of brainstorming and creating an execution strategy.
This list is not the 9 ways to have a perfect meeting, or 9 ways your team has to do it. Each team is different, has different players and is playing a different game (if I may continue that analogy). Take these ideas and figure out what they look like for your team, how they get applied and what your team needs to add to be most effective.
You may be asking “Adam, what does this have to do with marketing?” My answer would be that effective meetings will help you achieve results. Not sure what I mean? Try these on with your team…
I’d love to hear how you’ve implemented these or what you’ve added.
1. Invite only the relevant players
If you’re playing football, and it’s the offensive line on the field, don’t invite the defense to the party. If your conversation requires one person, have a one-on-one meeting. If your conversation requires everyone on your team except one person, honor that persons time and let them know why you’re not bringing them in if necessary, but don’t bring them in to sit in an irrelevant meeting. If you have a set meeting where everyone on your team comes together, then only discuss issues relevant to everyone, and save the others for later.
2. Have an Agenda
Be clear about what you want to discuss and who needs to be in the discussion about those topics. Be clear about the order. Decide that information before you call the meeting. Sometimes you may want to share that agenda before the meeting, and sometimes it’s relevant to get everyone’s initial reactions at the same time. Whether you share it ahead or not, have an agenda.
3. Start on Time and End on Time
I find it odd that we used to talk about when the meeting would start, but not have a clear plan about when the meeting would end. Based on inviting the right people and having an agenda, take a guess at how long the meeting will be and set an end time… this way people can schedule their next appointment or goals and tasks for the day after that meeting.
When that time arrives, END ON TIME! If there is more discussion to be had, book a follow up meeting with some or all of the relevant people.
4. Everybody contributes
If you’ve hand-picked who will be in the meeting, they’re here for a reason. Everybody contributes. We have some people on our team who are louder and some quieter. Some who process out loud and some who sit and think. Some people who want their opinion to be considered, and others who are happy to find a way to support whatever decision is made. Regardless of those factors, everybody contributes. After discussion and when a decision has to be made, go around the table and ask everyone what they’re suggestion is.
If you have a team member who likes to process, ask them last, once they’ve heard everyone else’s input. “Whatever the team decides” is not contributing, because if that’s your answer, you didn’t need to be in the decision meeting.
You could help that person by asking “If the decision was yours, what would you choose?” or if they say “I pretty much agree with everyone” then ask “How do you see yourself participating in implementing.” or “What would it look like if we made a different decision?” Learn to hear what’s not being said and draw the input out of that person. They have a unique perspective that is valuable to the team.
What is brand personality?
What is your brand personality? Hint: It’s not your personality. It’s not your team’s vibe. It’s not the look and feel of your product. It might not even be what you had in mind when starting your company.
Start by describing your brand as if it were a person. Make a list of keywords that describe the personality and how your want your brand to be perceived by your target audience. How do you want to make your audience feel? Often a brand’s personality is similar to that of the target audience.
You can take a quiz to help determine your magazine’s brand personality. There are a lot of free quizzes. Here is one.
Before choosing a brand personality, do some research. You need to know who you are, what your product is, and who your target audience is. Then brainstorm options like what kind of voice relates best to them. Once you have the voice, a brand guide will help keep everyone on track and create a consistent brand personality throughout every aspect of your magazine.
The below graphic from this website describes the process of describing your brand personality, and can help you get started on this simple, fun and extremely powerful early branding exercise, which is best done together with your team.
Personality vs. Identity
As you think about brand personality, don’t get it confused with brand identity. Personality is the emotional and human, association to a brand. Identity is the image created and used by a company to relate to consumers. An identity can include all forms of communication and visuals such as logos, colors or fonts.
But the two work closely together. A brand’s identity should be part of its personality. A fun voice and personality mean nothing if the logo and images are all very formal. It is important to create both a voice and visuals that work together.
Once you determine your personality, it’s time to start designing around it. Create a set of visuals that show off that personality and style. The key visual elements are color, typography and imagery. Just as words create voice, so do the visuals. Certain colors can make you feel happy or sad, fonts can be seen as feminine or masculine, images can be dark and mysterious, or inviting and happy. Other elements can be seen as emotionless.
Here are a few common elements from this website and their associations:
Warm color: Happy, inviting, stimulating, active
Cool color: Calm, relaxed, serene
No color: Stark, bleak, simple
Complementary color: Harmonious, soothing, trustworthy
Contrasting color: Bold, active, impactful, chaotic, energetic
Saturated: Intense, bold
Serif typefaces: Formal, trusting, mature
Sans serif typefaces: Informal, agreeable, modern
Script typefaces: Typically feminine, elaborate, special
Uppercase type: Impactful, bold, pushy
Lowercase type: Informal, relaxed
Titlecase type: Trustworthy, solid, expected
Images with no borders: Informal, fun, surprising
Images with heavy borders: Strong, impactful
Images with fine borders: Expected, mature, honest
Square elements: Formal, expected, mature
Rounded elements: Informal, fun, casual, modern
Alignment: Common alignments are more formal (left and justified), while right and centered alignments are more casual and chaotic
Space: More space creates a sense of organization and harmony while tightly packed elements seem cluttered and chaotic
Now that you have your brand personality figured out, go further with these 20 questions to consider when creating a brand identity.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
I was struck by a line in the obituary for Simin Behbahani, an Iranian poet. “The danger, she knew, was in doing the censors’ work for them, by heeding the voice in her mind that had begun to warn her: ‘Don’t write this, they won’t allow it to be published.’” (The Economist, August 30, 2014, p. 78)
To be honest, I was unaware of Simin Behbahani prior to the news of her death. But I am thankful for her voice, and the voices of so many writers who have been compelled to share their thoughts from countries and cultures that attempt to squelch honest human voices. One of my favorite movies of the past few years is Wadjda (2012), written and directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female director in Saudi Arabia. Her work is both praised and condemned for addressing taboo topics. Wadjda is the story of a young girl coming of age in Saudi Arabia who pushes against the restrictions of being female; she wants the freedom to ride a bicycle, like the neighbor boy.
Those of us who write from cultures that value freedom of expression have no idea of the actual risks that creative voices encounter in being true to their calling in the midst of real restrictions. However, I wonder if everyone who engages in creative work is in danger of listening to the censor in her mind. Whether it is the novelist who wonders if his characters are too religious or too secular or too assertive or too much of any one quality that might offend some segment of society, or the artist who puts paint to canvas and reveals a juxtaposition of symbols that pushes the boundaries of acceptable society, each is in danger of self-censorship.
The dangers to creatives in some cultures are physical and potentially deadly, and I don’t want to trivialize the risks they take in sharing their voices. But even for those in freer societies, the danger of listening to the censor in the mind is benign sameness and safety. We are in danger of creating books, plays, movies and art that won’t get banned by any committee, but these works won’t make people wonder and think and question and grow.
By Nzandi Murry
English is my second language. That means I need to do extra work to keep my writing from getting stale. Over the years, I have tried many tips and tricks to become a better wordsmith. Here are some that have really worked for me:
Thinking with ink
Before I begin reading, I wear my thinking cap and keep a diary to jot down as many new words and phrases as I can. Then, when I am free in the evening, I revise my notes over a cup of green tea. For difficult ones, I make sentences in my mind or say it aloud, until they make it to my memory bank. This is especially helpful with phrases, verbs, and adjectives. For nouns, I google the images and register multiple pictures in my mind. This ‘thinking with ink’ approach works well for me.
This is the fun part. After I finish reading a book or any online articles, I ask myself some questions:
- Why did I enjoy or not enjoy it?
- What style did the writer use to catch the reader’s attention?
- Are there any tips I can incorporate into my writing?
Self-assessment improves knowledge retention.
Variety is refreshing
While I have a list of favorite genres, I also like to add new topics to my reading plan. This calls for discipline and focus as I tend to get distracted when I read new genres that I am not very interested in. But, the return for sticking to my plan and finishing is a long-term reward. For instance, many years ago I read the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley even though I am not a fan of fiction. I loved it so much that I ended up reading L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. I was going too fast and my friend had to tell me to slow down. I often surprise myself by enjoying genres that I thought would never make their home on my bookshelf. Variety is refreshing.
I write for a living, but even outside of work I write whenever I get an opportunity. Be it a product review, a devotional for church, Sunday School curriculum, or even helping high school students with a poem summary, I always seize the opportunity. I also journal a lot and write letters to my near and dear ones. Nothing can replace experiential learning in writing, I think.
Have more tips to add to the list? Please share in the comments below.
Note: MTI asked Nzandi Murry to tell us how she keeps her writing fresh. Nzandi is communications associate for Expressions magazine in Bangalore, India, where she is responsible for content creation and editing of the organization’s publications. She attended MTI’s recent online writing course.
Making the leap from taking photos with a point-and-shoot or your mobile phone to getting serious with a camera body, lenses, a tripod, and other gear is serious business.
For starters, photography gear can be expensive…really expensive.
And secondly, there’s simply a ton of gear out there to choose from.
That means it can be hard to narrow it all down to the basic essentials of what gear you need as a beginner photographer.
That’s where the video above comes in.
Have a look, and follow along as professional photographer Benjamin Jaworskyj offers his tips for the first five things you should buy.
For a quick reference summary of each item, click on the link below:
A Wide Aperture Prime Lens
Backup Battery and Memory Card
Image Editing Program