Comparison- A Good or Bad Thing?

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Something that is done a lot in our society is comparison.

People compare themselves with others in many aspects of life. Some of the common areas of comparison are appearance, athletics, education, occupations, possessions, finances, etc. We can feel good or bad about ourselves depending to who or what we are being compared.

Former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Comparison is a thief of joy.”

Personally, I have mixed feelings about comparisons. My competitive side sometimes likes to see where I rank to others, but I also realize many comparisons are not fair.

For example, having worked in education for almost 40 years, I have witnessed schools being compared by test scores and designated good or bad based solely on these scores. Obviously, the student clientele at all schools is not the same. To say a school is better because their test scores are higher than another school, may have just a lot to do with who is at the school, rather than what or how the students are being taught.

Using an athletic illustration, imagine two athletes, one with a talent level of ten and the other with a talent level of five. The first athlete is performing at a six and the second athlete is performing at a four. Although a six is higher than a four, the first athlete is using only 60% of his/her ability and the second athlete is performing at 80% of ability—so who is the better athlete?

Thus, perhaps a better way to use comparison is in the area of self-analysis. Are you getting better in whatever areas you are striving to improve?

  1. A good first step is to identify a baseline, a starting point.
  2. The next step is to work to get better and you need to check periodically if you are showing growth.

I particularly like this quote from the famous UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden:

“Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Things to consider: Would you describe yourself as a success? How about reducing the amount of time you spend comparing yourself to others, but taking a good look at the person in the mirror?

“Luck of the Irish” To You!

Barbara
Barbara Wolf Shousha, UNHS Director

St. Patrick’s Day is an annual celebration on March 17. What began as a commemoration of the patron saint of Ireland has become a fun-filled celebration of all things Irish.

Not Irish? It does not matter!

At celebrations throughout the world, you will be informed that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! You will see green clothing, green hair and green shamrocks. The city of Chicago even dyes the river green. You will hear St. Patrick’s Day expressions such as “Erin Go Bragh,” “Kiss the Blarney Stone” and my personal favorite “Luck of the Irish to You!”

“Luck of the Irish!” I love this expression because for years I misunderstood it. I believed it meant something like extreme good fortune. But an Irish-American friend explained that it really encompasses the sense of luck that you make yourself through your own positive outlook and determination. I liked that meaning so much better!

While I enjoy the idea of luck—wishes on a falling star, crossing my fingers—I believe in being positive and being prepared. Whether facing an exam, hoping for an opportunity or approaching a challenge in your life, it’s fun to make a wish, but you are more likely to find the luck you need when you put forth effort and have a positive attitude.

So when I wish you the “Luck of the Irish,” I really wish you the happiness and good fortune that comes from knowing that you have prepared yourself for the good things you want to come your way.

Educators: Essential Questions

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

It has been estimated that teachers ask between 300 and 400 questions per day and that as many as 120 might be posed in a single hour! I remember my cooperating teacher asking me to audio-tape—remember those?—five minutes of one of my lessons. When I then listened to it, I counted 20 questions in a minute—it was awful and painful to listen to myself. I violated all types of rules such as “wait time” and a lack of variety of bloom’s taxonomy level questions. It was an important lesson.

Asking good questions is a craft that many of us have to practice. Wiggins and Wilbur (2013) wrote that essential questions rarely arise in a first draft and that writing and rewriting helps craft them. “Essential questions” stir inquiries, discussion and reflections to help students find meaning in their learning and achieve deeper thought and higher quality work. Criteria for making essential questions includes:

  • Stimulate ongoing thinking and inquiry.
  • Arguable, with multiple plausible answers.
  • Raise further questions.
  • Spark discussion and debate.
  • Demand evidence and reasoning because varying answers exist.
  • Point to big ideas and pressing issues.
  • Fruitfully recur throughout the unit or year.
  • Answers proposed are tentative and may change in light of new experiences and deepening understanding.

As we teach students in the online format, we consider the value of creating and presenting some questions within our feedback to inspire deeper thinking.

I also encourage you to keep practicing your question-making,
whether it is in the classroom, online or with your friends and family.

References
Wiggins, G., & Wilbur, D. How to Make Your Questions Essential. ASCD Educational Leadership. September 2015. 73:1.

A Cheer For Cheerful Leaders

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Advisor

Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar—all for UNHS, stand up and holler!

This was a cheer my pep club pals and I exuberantly shouted before every sporting event in high school. We were excited and loud for the upcoming competition, and the cheerleaders led us in motivating the sporting teams.

Today, I treasure the cheerful leadership for the UNHS team. As years have seasoned me, I have come to truly value what I call a “cheerful” leader. These leaders have great qualities.

  • They have a spirit of kindness, providing joyful moments straight from the heart. It may catch you by surprise!
  • They find goodness in all aspects of living using the heart, head and hands to share cheerfulness.
  • They spread joy individually and within groups.
  • They have purpose, love learning and live every day to the fullest.
  • They network through kindness, helpfulness, happiness and positive vibes.
  • They allow fellow learners, workers, family and friends the freedom to perform to the best of their abilities and value individual strengths.

The University of Nebraska High School is lucky to have a cheerful leader in Barbara Shousha. Barbara encourages everyone to perform their best and values the challenge that each week brings. She overflows with all the characteristics of cheerful leadership.

What does being a cheerful leader mean to you?
What can you do this week to become a cheerful leader?

The Gift of A Book

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, allow me to suggest the most wonderful gift for your loved one—the gift of a book.

Throughout my journey in education and life, some of the best things I’ve given or received are books. I recently gave my wife a book about the kings and queens of England and Scotland. She holds strongly to her Scottish ancestry with a last name of “Stuart.”

I’m fortunate to have received several books over the years from dear friends, family and fellow teachers and administrators. The books and topics ranged from famous American leaders and their writings, to teacher help books that focus on teaching strategies, discipline, professional development and the latest trends in education.

There is a certain excitement in sharing with others what you have discovered.

One of the most powerful and influential books I have ever read is “Bullying Prevention & Intervention” by Susan Swearer, Dorothy Espelage, and Scott Napolitano, 2009. This book helped me better understand current research, and I was able to work with teaching staff, parents and students to apply strategies to deal with student bullying and the victims of this hurtful behavior.

A good book can become a very personal experience, whereby you get to dig deep down within its presented thoughts, weigh your own experiences against those presented thoughts and arrive at a whole new level of meaning about specific concepts. This can lead you to a new and different point. It is truly magic without the smoke and mirrors.

So—hurry! There is still time to find a book for someone special in your life. Sharing the journey of a great book is a wonderful feeling!

Please share your book suggestions in the comments!

Finding Students’ Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

As a long-time educator, I am constantly aware of the importance and the responsibility I have in making sure the doors of opportunity are wide open for students, regardless of their educational situations or circumstances. But to get their attention, we have to pique their curiosity and engage their spirit.

Students arrive in our classrooms with so much individuality, wide-ranging different backgrounds and experiences, but somehow great teachers present their course content in what seems like magical ways to pique interest, stretch imaginations and challenge students to learn more.

This is actually exactly what the fine folks at NASA have been doing for many years through the Mars rovers.

On January 4, 2004, the rover Spirit landed on Mars and worked diligently for us for more than six years to cover 4.8 miles of the Mars surface before getting its wheels trapped in the planet’s sand. Even then, it adjusted itself to act as a stationary science platform to help us know more about the planet. NASA stated that Spirit completed its planned 90-sol (day) mission and actually functioned effectively over twenty times longer than expected!

The next rover to land on Mars was Spirit’s twin, Opportunity. Landing three weeks later on January 25, 2004, Opportunity ran around the planet, covering more than 25 miles, close to a marathon. It is still operational and mobile, celebrating its twelfth birthday today—a pre-teenager!

Opportunity
Mars Rover Opportunity at Rock Abrasion Target ‘Potts.’ Source: NASA Mars Exploration, Retrieved January 25, 2016.

Curiosity went to Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, and continues to operate today. It withstands slightly extreme weather environments that we are not used to, built to work in between -197 degrees Fahrenheit through 104 degrees—and it has no coat, gloves or hat!

Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity are more than land rovers on Mars—they are definitions of the characteristics that we want to plant in students every day. We want students to:

  • Grow their spirit and enthusiasm and be life-long learners.
  • Engage with zeal in the moment of discovery as they unwrap.
  • Adjust to situations with positivity and a good attitude.
  • Work hard and delight in their success.

Teachers and parents play a critical role in building the learning spirit that lives within each of us, and when observed we must recognize its priceless value.