Learn From the Past…Prepare for the Future…But Be Engaged Today!

Ray
Raymond Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

An anonymous quote I found states it well: “If you worry about what might be, wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.”

As a longtime educator and coach, I have greatly benefited from past experiences and have also planned for future situations. But I have determined for me, as much as possible, it is best to live in the now.

What is the correct balance of the past, future, and present in your life journey?

In this post, I want to focus briefly on each of these three timelines and illustrate how the past and future can be beneficial and/or detrimental to you. However, I want to encourage you to focus on the present.

Remembering our past can be useful, but fixating on it too much can be damaging. It’s essential to learn from our past experiences or the experiences of others, but sometimes we can dwell on previous mistakes or regrets and that can hinder our progress. Learn from the past, but move on to the present.

Preparing for the future is also very important. Advance preparation and planning can help alleviate potential adverse situations and gives you an opportunity to utilize your past experiences to better prepare. However, daydreaming and always thinking about the future can take away from what you are doing right now. Personally, I sometimes struggle in my mind with the “what is next” mentality instead of enjoying or maximizing the current moment.

So how do you stay engaged in the present? I would like to share three practices that help me:

  1. Set a goal and focus on manageable time frames. For example, if you work a six to eight-hour day, break it down into smaller units like an hour,half an hour, or even fifteen minute intervals or shorter.
  2. Be flexible and react in a positive way to interruptions.
  3. Take mental and physical breaks as needed.

Make the most of your GIFT of today!

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Clint Eastwood’s popular character in many of his movies was Dirty Harry (Detective Harry Callahan). A tough law enforcer, Harry was well known for the catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day”. This phrase usually came out at a pivotal time in the film where Dirty Harry was ready to dispatch a bad guy if they drew their weapon or did not back down.

In direct contrast to this well-known quote, we do have the opportunity each day to encourage people in a positive way with kindness.

Have you recently benefited from someone else’s acts of kindness?

I know I have. Whether it is someone who allows me to merge in traffic, flashes an accepting smile or shares an encouraging word, I daily reap the rewards from others’ kind gestures.

The size of the act really does not matter. It is important to remember that something you may consider as a very small deed might mean a lot to someone who needed that boost—even if it is just a warm smile.

What are the qualifications for being kind?

Good news! Kindness has no requirements at all, including age. You do not have to have a degree in kindness or have unlimited resources to be kind. It is simply being friendly, generous, considerate and putting that concern for others into action.

It can also improve your health! Did you know that engaging in acts of kindness benefits not only the person who receives, but also the giver? Researchers have found that helping others actually reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety. The by-product of improving the day of another can also make yours better!

As you start this New Year, please consider one of your resolutions to show more kindness in 2017. You may find how simple it can be. You can find some examples to spark the kindness in yourself and others here.

Hopefully, it will also have a ripple effect on others to follow your example!

So go ahead, make someone’s day!

Hello, Is Anyone Listening?

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

I read a brief article from the publication The Master Teacher (Volume 48, No. 24), a series of professional development brochures that administrators and teachers can sign up to receive throughout the school year. This particular brochure talked about the importance of teaching listening skills. The article titled, Teaching Students a Neglected Life and Literacy Skill, had me reflecting on my own listening skills. Yes, we often teach the importance of reading, writing and speaking, but the listening skills are often taken for granted—and we can do something about that.

There are a number of strategies that we can use with students on a daily basis to improve our listening skills and make our teaching more effective for them.

  • Stop and make time to listen. You may have heard the expression, “be fully present”. This is particularly important in listening to others. It’s necessary to block out all the distractions and the noise around you. People can tell when you are fully present.
  • Make eye contact. You don’t need to stare at the person every minute, however strong eye contact shows you are paying attention and care about what the other person is talking about.
  • Practice empathy. Taking another’s position or point of view is difficult for us sometimes. By simply putting yourself in their shoes for a while, you can get a feel for what they are expressing and more importantly, why they feel this way. This is missing in lots of the political debates going on right now.
  • Ask questions. By asking questions, the listener is gathering more detail to better understand what the other party is saying. Ask questions that are inquisitive, insightful and intelligent—ones that truly help you understand the other person.

Listening has become an even more critical skill in our daily life these days as we are forced to make hundreds of decisions and many times, with little data or little time. Think about your daily conversations with the people around you—do you really use these strategies?

If you focus on being a better listener, good things happen—good luck!

Other resources: Leadership For Teenagers by Carol Carter and Maureen Breeze, 2011, p.125.”

Peace at Last – A Career Odyssey

Barbara
Barbara Wolf Shousha, UNHS Director

“When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace.” —Hyrum Smith, co-founder Franklin Covey

My first research report was for my middle school science class. I cannot remember the actual topic but I remember visiting the main public library (life before the internet for you young ones!) where I was awed by the reference librarians and the abundant amount of material. I felt thrilled to read, make notes and cross-reference!

As an adult, I studied educational theory and wrote a thesis on educational philosophy. I spent hours alone in school archives and I LOVED it!  I remember when the ideas started to come together so fast I could barely record them. I would read through documents for hours, my only human interaction being brief exchanges with the archivist, “I’d like box two, folder six of this collection please.” I was incredibly happy and filled with energy.

In my career, I worked as an instructional designer for corporations and felt that same thrill taking apart complex information and re-structuring it for learners. It didn’t matter what the content was, I was on a mission to make it clear and useful.

As much as I loved some of the challenges of my professional life, my career just felt “off” sometimes. My academic interests were abstract and idea driven and my corporate career felt too bottom-line and pragmatic. Finally, when my last corporate job ended, I resolved to find an environment that would be a good fit for me—that was when I joined the University. At last, my academic interests, my work life and my existential nerdiness are in congruence and it feels terrific!

This week I was in a meeting listening to faculty and instructional designers discuss changes to a Biology grading rubric. As they talked, everyone in the room grew more and more excited, “Yes! That will definitely help the learner!” and “This will give the student confidence to take on the more difficult concepts!” I watched them in real-time applying Bloom’s Taxonomy in the service of others and I smiled. These are my people and I am free to let my nerd light shine.

So I implore you to take note of your everyday activities—whether in work or academics—and fit these with your highest priorities and passions in life. You will be amazed at the amount of energy and peace you will experience when your daily work is aligned with what you value most.    

The Power of One

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Cancer does not play fair.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Ball. This event is a big fundraiser for cancer research in Nebraska. Many accounts were told of families who have lost loved ones, or have friends or family members who are currently battling some type cancer.

My wife, Marcia, was one of the people who shared her story.  She was diagnosed with stage IV mantle cell lymphoma four years ago and after many rounds of chemo and a stem cell transplant (her total treatment took about one year) she is now a survivor. One of the points she noted in her remarks was from a card she received which had this saying that became very important to her:

“Cancer is a villain and it does not play fair, but it can’t take your spirit and it can’t silence prayer.”

Immediately after the Cattlemen’s Ball, she received many words of appreciation and encouragement for her willingness to be vulnerable with her cancer journey.

What makes this empowering event possible are the hundreds of volunteers. Because of their hard work, vital money for cancer research isn’t the only thing being raised—those who are affected by cancer can have a carefree night to lift their spirits and faith that one day they or their loved ones will be cancer free.

Volunteering comes in many forms. From picking up trash on the side of the road to serving dinners at a local homeless shelter, volunteering is any act that provides a service for another. More importantly, this service is done for the benefit of someone else and even the smallest things can make another smile. Seeing a clean road might make a commuter smile on their way to work, while a full stomach might empower someone who may be down on their luck.

With that in mind, my challenge to you is to volunteer for something that is important to you!

American author, Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do”.

The power of one can make a difference. Make a difference for someone today!

Making the Connection

Hugh
High McDermott, UNHS Principal

I’ve worked in academics for many years, and I’ve always been fascinated with how teachers and students make the “connection” with each other.

From my observations successful classroom connections had the following commonalities:

  • The student was more focused and ready to learn when he/she came to learn.
  • Teachers kept the courses academically challenging.
  • The classroom environment was free from major disruptions

Both teachers and students had to make this happen—but how?

A publication from The National Middle School Association published an article called, “Classroom Connections—Linking National Middle School Association to Middle Level Classrooms Around the World” provides a few tips as to what classroom and online teachers can do to make these connections.

  • Take action. A welcoming room supports risk-taking, safety and academic success. Online teachers must use their “voice” through their response/feedback comments to establish this trust and safe environment for their students. Tone and attitude can be sensed by the words we use and how we use them.
  • Greet students into your classroom by meeting them at the door. A great opportunity to talk with students one-on-one to acknowledge some previous good work you witnessed from them or to remind them of your expectations in the class if need be. For online teachers, using a welcome assignment to let students introduce themselves and responding.
  • Keep in mind that you are always a role model. Whether you are there physically or mentally, students can and will model positive behavior when they experience it from you. They also know when you are being insincere. The choice of words that online teachers use is critical in creating and keeping a positive relationship with students. Look for ways to complement students, yet get your point across for encouraging improvement on course work.
  • Being a good disciplinarian does not mean that students are scared of you. It has to do with your understanding of students. Teachers with positive connections have a very good understanding of the developmental, social, emotional and intellectual changes students are going through. Online teachers must be consistent in their grading, which gives students a sense of fairness in their work.
  • Sometimes you have to revert to being one of “them.” Keep informed about the latest fads, fashions and slang that students use and ask students about their interests and hobbies earn respect from them. Online teachers are masters at picking up on the vibes and clues that students display for them in their submitted written work. Use these clues to extend the conversation with students.

Making connections online is different, but it’s possible and necessary.

With that connection, both teachers and students accomplish the common goal of learning, and all are richer for the experience.

 

Classroom Connections-Linking National Middle School Association to Middle Level Classrooms Around the World. (2000). The National Middle School Association, 2(4).

Resilience

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

As a former English teacher, there are some words I just love—like “resilience.” I love its meaning and what it stands for, and it’s very easy for me to conjure a mental picture of resilience.

One of the definitions Webster provides for resilience is, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

As a principal I have witnessed many students demonstrate resilience. Students who struggled to pass their courses, their resilience showed strongly. These students knew they were struggling in their classes—some had been struggling academically for years!

Sometimes as a teacher, counselor or principal, we would learn and discover more about these students outside of school. It was then we better understood the word resilience! Many times these students came from very difficult personal situations—a broken family, abuse situations or low income. Even though they were dealing with these problems, many did not have an attendance problem. They liked being at school, and once we figured out together how they could be successful, there was nothing stopping them from overcoming anything.

I think resilience springs eternal and internal within each of us. Everyone exudes some resilience, but how one nurtures it makes us all different. Many students who struggle on a daily basis with life around them have resilience but at times it must seem almost like it is extinguished. Others guard and protect what resilience they have because they feel it is all they have. No matter the situation, your resilience will pay off if you work hard enough.

As educators, we carry a responsibility of inspiring hope within all our students. Students have their hopes and dreams, whatever they are, and it is our job to encourage them, support them and motivate them into believing anything is possible.

What examples of resilience have you witnessed or what have you overcome?