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?

Leadership Lessons from Sandhill Cranes

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Every year, I have the most amazing journeys between mid-February and early April.  I travel I-80 weekly and witness the wild migrating cranes, flocking to Nebraska. An estimated 90% of the world’s Sandhill cranes visit the Midwest along the Nebraska Platte River. They arrive during the heart of the winter months and huddle like a team to stay warm.

In mid-February, the skies are seasoned with gliding cranes, necks outstretched as they visualize the next habitual destination. Every year I watch them glide with alignment, flying in a V or J formation, using extended legs and wings for a gentle landing in the fields. Cranes rest, beef up, and gain energy while visiting Nebraska.

In the fields, cranes communicate with a chorus of many purposeful cries; moans, hissing, snoring and goose-like honks. They leap, run, and dance as they probe for food in the fields and river beds: rodents, snakes, snails, frogs, fish, insects, berries and plants. Twenty-nine days along the Platte adds about a pound of fat to help with the remaining migrations and initiate nesting.

In early April, the cranes leap up like small jets taking off in a cornfield runway. They continue their journey to find warmer weather. The crane leaders and the followers team together whether they are in the fields or skies.

While they are beautiful, I think they also demonstrate important lessons for leaders.

  • Flock as leaders and followers.
  • Be instinctive and visionary for basic and futuristic needs
  • Communicate with purpose
  • Be habitually goal oriented
  • Choose resiliency and know how to survive the toughest of time
  • Foster an environment for future generations flourish

There is always something we can learn from observing nature and its interesting inhabitants.

Take the time to slow down and discover what is out in the world beyond your screen—you may be surprised by the things you can learn.

“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?