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The Journey from Classroom to Business

The Journey from Classroom to Business Easy School Success and Parents Teach Kids

Creating Parents Teach Kids and Easy School Success, two website dedicated to helping reform education, was a challenging and interesting task. A cheering squadron of friends supplied moral support, assistance, ideas, feedback, and the belief that I could master and succeed at this new venture. Their point, after all, was that major corporations started with one person doing something simple and well. Parents Teach Kids did not happen overnight or in a direct line of development. There were stages of development for the company and myself.

Floundering

In August 2010, teaching public school was no longer an option for me, but I needed to work because I had not become vested in any state’s retirement system for teachers. I had to define my skills, strengths and weaknesses before I could decide what I was going to do. I quickly concluded that teaching is what I knew best and what I am really very good at. After almost 40 years of helping difficult and challenging students learn to read and achieve in school, I knew whatever I was going to do would have to do with education. However, I am a highly mobile person, so I had to have something that I could take with me when the next move happened.

In October 2011, I intended that Easy School Success (http://www.easyschoolsuccess.com) would be a home based business of tutoring students. Imagine the horror of learning that school districts in the area were developing their own free, after-school tutoring programs to comply with federal and state regulations. Even if parents decided their children would be involved, a freelance teacher did not have a chance of making a living. Easy School Success crashed into a mental box for a later reincarnation.

Focus

I excel at understanding why students have difficulty learning; I’ve taught preschool through graduate school and learned patterns of difficulties. For example, I knew how a missing skill at 3rd grade affected performance in 10th grade. These patterns demonstrated to me what the critical skills were that students had to master if they were to be successful in school. Systematically, I taught my students those skills and they started making incredible progress. Usually special education students make one or two months academic progress each year only to lose the gains over the summer. My students typically made and maintained 1-4 years growth each year. I proved to them and others that when they broke that “ceiling” of 3rd grade reading by shifting to 4th grade and higher reading and math skills. The results? They did well academically and their behavior in school improved. Many became honor roll students after 1 or 2 years in my class.

Making the Intangible Tangible

The Journey from Classroom to Business The vision for Parents Teach Kids is a multi-generation approach to education reform. Given information and support, parents who do not have the time or money to dedicate to one child’s tutoring needs could improve their children’s potential for academic success at the same time as strengthening their own potential for employability. That success, in turn, could become the foundations for succeeding generations’ success.

In less than a month, my goal had morphed to parents who could replicate my success. By the end of November 2010, Parents Teach Kids (http://www.parentsteachkids.com) consumed all my attention. I saw three separate needs:

  1. Information for parent on how schools work and why schools fail;
  2. Assessment of specific children to determine the reason for academic difficulty; and
  3. Information to help parents solve their own children’s academic deficits.

Designing the Intentions

I knew that many people trust that schools will take care of their children and educate them. They are perplexed that the children have difficulties and don’t understand what causes those problems. I had learned that most school failures can be prevented, and I wanted others to know what they could do to prevent their children from having learning problems in school. My first goal was to inform parents about what happens in schools, what causes children to fail, and what they need to know to understand what teachers and administrators are talking about.

The second goal was to develop the assessment process based on determining the presence or absence of the critical skills children need for academic instruction. Instead of physically meeting with a child, I designed an on-line functional assessment of children for Skype that is followed by a telephone conference with parents about their child’s needs and what they could do to help.

My third goal was to develop a high interest, low vocabulary product with a controlled (limited) focus. People learn best from others, so the content could not be presented just by reading. A DVD would have to accompany written explanations. The Parents Teach Kids parent modules were the result.For module content, I had to decide what areas of concerns parent have or should be concerned about.The list kept growing the more I thought about what parents could actually do for their children and the results were:
Behavior Management
Choices, Decisions and Problem Solving
Cognitive Development
Language DevelopmentMath Readiness
Motor Skills Development
Reading Comprehension
Reading Readiness
Remedial Language Development
Remedial Math
Remedial ReadingRemedial Written Language
Written Language
Pricing the modules was tricky. Investment and recurring costs had to figured with a profit margin. I wanted people to value the product for the potential results yet still be willing to spend the money. I called upon friends to help me determine affordable v. unaffordable. Because families often have children with different needs, but they still have limited discretionary income to help them. The result was discounting packages of modules according to developmental needs, academic needs, and extra support needs. The more they buy, the greater the discount.

Frustrations and Learning Patience

Believe it or not, dial-up still exists in rural areas. I had to move so I could access DSL. I had to find services providers for filming and programming; luckily for me, they were the same person. Initially I tried working with an out-of-state provider, but that was a disaster. I found it critical to have the face-to-face meetings so solve problems.

My work began in October, but my programmer didn’t begin until January. During the intervening time, I wrote, revised, read a lot of books, went back and revised again, learned about search engine optimization, revised again, and generally waited until everything could come together. I used a crowd sourcing site for the Parents Teach Kids and Easy School Success logo designs and had friends make the final decision. I wasn’t fond of the “winners”, but the logos have grown on me. The selling point for me was a designer’s tagline that encapsulated my purpose: Hopes and wishes become real for everyone

Parents Teach Kids and Easy School Success experienced spurts of development. The process taught me I had no control over what happened in my pursuit of tangible results. About six months of delays caused by holidays, tax time, illnesses, permissions, individuals’ schedules, facilities, video editing and approval. Two people remain to be interviewed; those delays have been due to job schedules and illnesses.

Easy School Success became “my gift to America” website with a document, Seeds for Change, unveiling the multiplicity and complexity of relationships perpetuating the difficulties in education despite politicians’ efforts. Easy School Success offers a vision of how true education reform could improve employability for everyone in our society even with economic cutbacks and difficulties. Parents Teach Kids became the site for individuals to learn what happens in school and get help for their children as a step toward the goal of education reform.

Money

An on-line business is inexpensive to start up compared with the traditional brick and mortar businesses. Easy School Success and Parents Teach Kids website costs came from my pocket. As devastating and embarrassing as being unemployed can be, I eventually found it to be restorative. I looked for jobs and lived on unemployment benefits; while not a great standard of living, it covered the basics to relieve stress levels. I learned to change my perception of unemployment. Initially embarrassed that I couldn’t earn a paycheck, I shifted my perceptions. I realized I had paid the government for years and was being reimbursed in time for me to develop Easy School Success and Parents Teach Kids.

I did not qualify or was in the wrong stage of unemployment for grants and programs to help business start-ups. Researching funding sources would have taken too much time away from Parents Teach Kids development. I did not want to incur a business loan with interest to be paid back, so I lived frugally for over a year. My tax refund and checking account “slush fund” paid the web programming costs and a small retirement pension paid for the video and editing. I wrote all the copy content because it was all based on my life’s experiences; no one could have helped with that.

Alive at Last!

It seemed to have been a year of waiting! Yes, it could have been condensed into less time had I started earlier or later in the calendar year. I’m not sure the results would have been as satisfactory, because that down time allowed more thoughts to develop. Both websites became public and live at the beginning of June 2011.

Technology and the Technologically Impaired

In an organization of one, learning how to do everything yourself takes time and knowing who has the information you need. Luckily my programmer was patient and willing to share his viewpoints and wisdom. I have learned about blogging, both my own blog and searching for appropriate others’ blogs with the goal of search engine optimization in mind. The Parents Teach Kids blog is where I share the more personal articles and experiences. eZine websites are where I write more professionally, because people will want more expertise on such a site. There are both personal and company websites on Facebook, but it has not been a focus. Help a Reporter Out (HARO.com) has postings from authors and businesses searching for specific sources for their articles or needs.

The Gladiator and the Lion

There must be some funding sources, governmental or private, out there, but I never found them. Being single and living on unemployment with social security as a back-up plan, I didn’t have the worry that so many people have about needing a quick cash flow. Being elderly, at least in terms of the legal sense, I had to pay Medicare and supplementary insurance premiums.

As a teacher of difficult ones, I had had the benefit of having learned to solve all sorts of problems that most people didn’t know how to address. I used those same skills on myself and treated myself as I would have treated a student encountering a problem or obstacle.

Making the initial decisions of what to do and how to do it would have killed the business if I didn’t have the internal drive to overcome the presenting problem. When you start and run your own business, you need that internal focus and drive. No matter how you prepare, there is always something unanticipated that lands in your face and needs your attention.

No one could have told me that I would have been my most difficult obstacle to overcome. Decades of my personal development work was the critical foundation. Personal obstacles, already overcome in other aspects of my life, still applied to Parents Teach Kids and Easy School Success. I would recommend everyone starting a business to take an objective, truthful personal inventory before starting on a business adventure. The obstacles are listed below.

Fear of: the unknown, success, failure, doing something different, trusting yourself and/or others, or any other fears that will directly and indirectly sabotage your efforts. Sometimes those fears are valid (such as fear of failure); be sure the fear does not have a reason for existing that you must first address, such as investing everything you have into an idealistic business without solid plans for easily earning significant capital.

Traditional thinking limits what we can do to support and benefit everyone. Trying to do what others are already successfully doing (such as selling vitamins, clothing, etc.) or starting a brick and mortar business that requires heavy financial investment that will take a long time to recoup. Spending a great deal of money does not ensure success, so the money spent must be worthwhile to make you, the provider of goods and/or services, a unique provider or niche. A deflating consumerism economy needs replacements for jobs, preferably ones that everyone can use to benefit society as a whole. I found no competitors for either Easy School Success or Parents Teach Kids, so my niche is secure.

Rigidity and/or incompleteness in your vision of what you want to develop before embarking upon the startup process. There are always “adventures” that happen along the way and when working with others (especially “experts” hired to complete your vision). Compromises sometimes happen if you don’t want to become derailed. Knowing your goal allows adjustments to happen along the way; sometimes the results are better than you could have envisioned in the first place.

Ignorance of the methods of development, customer needs, and marketing available to you, especially on a limited budget will impede your success. Step beyond what is comfortable and do what you need to do, no matter how challenging it may seem or how long it takes to achieve mastery.

Communications skills are constantly used in development as well as operations. People need to be heard and understood for any project or portion of the business to develop. Misunderstandings happen, but they are costly in terms of time and/or money; when they are “normal” to you and your process, the venture may be doomed.

Losing focus translates into inconsistent effort. Many people sabotage themselves directly and indirectly. Taking time off is needed to maintain your stamina and frame of mind, but too much time essentially is a way to procrastinate what must be done. Ways to self-sabotage include: disorganization in thoughts and actions, inability or unwillingness to prioritize what needs to be done at any point or moment, adherence to an idea that someone has proven to be either ineffective or inappropriate so you spend your efforts fighting yourself, reliance on others to do something without any supervision and/or reason to do it for you.

Impatience and unrealistic goals for completion and income earning are probably the obstacles that recur most frequently during the process. You have an idea and want it to manifest, but timing that involves others and various task completions doesn’t always coincide with your decisions. There is a fine line between waiting for success to happen and waiting for recognition that failure is in store for you. Sometimes faith and trust are all you have to go on, but you can’t bet the farm on it.

Overreliance on you and/or critical others. Everyone has limits on time, money and energy and those must be honored. If you are marketing your knowledge, find a way to make it available 24/7 so you don’t have to be personally involved. This may mean writing a book, making video demonstrations or audio recordings, or online product sales.

Advice for new ventures

Our economy and society are transitioning from manufacturing to services, so businesses need to become service oriented. If there is any doubt, consider where our goods are now made (overseas) and what manual/skilled labor jobs have been lost.

If you have a product, how and where will it be made? Fuel is now a big concern in any business, so transportation and the manufacturing process could either consume your profit margin or make it too expensive for consumers. Can your product be tweaked so it can be marketed as a service? Is it a luxury or a necessity? Will pricing make what you think a necessity into a luxury for others?

If you have a service that depends entirely on you, your time and energy are finite. You must find ways to shift what you do into a product or a service that is provided in unique ways, such as on the internet.

Of course, whatever you are offering should benefit everyone with as little negative impact as possible and be affordable and worthwhile to customers.

What is Success?

At this writing, I can say that I am in the black. I can say that because there are no debts other than what Easy School Success and Parents Teach Kids owe me personally. That elusive goal, success, will happen, just not right away. I didn’t realize when I started the process that Parents Teach Kids and Easy School Success are seasonal; and I have to wait for my seasonal opportunities. Summer is not the right time for Parents Teach Kids, but the delay gave me opportunities to market so I was ready when people needed me.

The business model of success is people employed and cash flows into profits. That is one measure of success, but it is not the only one. The success of Parents Teach Kids will be measured indirectly over decades with fewer children failing in school because of what their parents taught them. Parents Teach Kids will be successful when more adolescents are prepared to enter the workforce and be responsible and independent adults who teach their children the needed skills for school success. Easy School Success will be successful when people create equal opportunity as a reality in both education and our society.

What would make my business more “successful” is getting the word out, for mainstream America to become curious and invested in their children’s future. After all, their children’s future will determine all of our futures, directly and indirectly, through services available to us. Is Parents Teach Kids for a bigger company to run? At this point, it is for me and a few others when the time comes. It would be fantastic if all children had the skills to excel at school, but that won’t be in my lifetime.

I foresee annual revenues of $250,000 or more within two years. Once some parents recognize the changes in their children, word of mouth will happen. Success breeds success, and everyone wants their children to be the best and brightest at school. At least, that is what I’m banking on!

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