What’s Your Hangtag?

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Along with academic advising of students and parents at the UNHS, I enjoy shopping and comparing products and services in stores and online. Of course, it is exciting when I have found the best price, but I also make sure to look at the merchandise or service carefully. The hangtag always grabs my attention, because it usually conveys the price, the designer or manufacturer of the product and much more important information needed to make your buying decision.

So how do you convey to someone why they should “buy” into what you are saying? I personally think we each have an invisible hangtag that explains our professional branding image to each person we meet. I personally want my hangtag to tell others that I am a hard worker and that I care about my students. Everyone’s hangtags are different—we all have unique styles and brand images that separate us from others.

Even though we cannot all wear a physical hangtag, we can all take steps to make sure we are communicating to others our positive and professional brand image, one that stands out from the others.

How to live your hangtag:

  • Actively think about how you want others to see you.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Separate your professional life and personal opinions.
  • Learn from your coworkers or colleagues.
  • Surround yourself with those who can help you grow.
  • Talk positively.
  • Ask for constructive feedback and make changes accordingly.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have great online etiquette.

What would your hangtag say?

Facing Adversity

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

This statement is first credited to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in 1888, but in the not too distant past (2011) was used repeatedly in a song by Kelly Clarkson called Stronger. I don’t believe this quote is true in all circumstances, but in many cases there are some obvious benefits of going through trials and tribulations.

Although not many people would choose struggles over prosperity, going through difficult times can help develop important character qualities. To illustrate the importance of facing adversity, I would like to share a brief synopsis of a couple famous Americans and their ability in overcoming obstacles:

One of the most beloved United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, lost eight different elections, had two failed business ventures and had a nervous breakdown before he became our sixteenth President in 1860.

Talk show star, Oprah Winfrey, was born to single teenage mother in Mississippi; was physically abused; became pregnant at 14 and lost her baby; and was shuttled back and forth to various family members.  Today, Oprah has her own cable network and became the first African-American billionaire.

Abraham Lincoln and Oprah Winfrey are just two examples of people who have faced adversity and were able to use their setbacks as fuel for success.

How did they do it and how can you get through tough situations?

Below are three principles that should help:

  1. Work hard! Nothing can take the place of putting forth great effort. You would be surprised what you can overcome with just giving your best.
  2. Get help! It is not a sign of weakness to ask for assistance. If a situation is overwhelming or you need someone else’s perspective, be sure to enlist their help.
  3. Don’t give up! This may be the most difficult, because in our high tech world we are used to instant results. This is not always the way of life. Many great things take time. Remember this wise saying by William Edward Hickson: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

One of my students at the University of Nebraska High School recently shared an important perspective on facing adversity: “I believe the struggles you have do not determine the kind of person you are or will be, but rather are an influence on your outlook on the world—which is why our struggles make us wiser.”

Who doesn’t want to become wiser?

Technology – Should We Be Worried?

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

I am fascinated by the technology and its prevalence among our youth. I am envious as I watch many students and some adults type away so easily on their hand held devices, their thumbs are moving over these screens like expert typists! I, on the other hand, struggle with texting on my iPhone. Ten minutes after I have finally completed my six to ten words, I am proud to hit send.

When I am in public, I look around and can see that the majority of the people around me are usually on their cell phones. There are times I’ve wondered, should we be worried about this mesmerizing kind of obsession on these devices? Is this fixation really good for all of us? Isn’t this a wasted opportunity for human to human interaction? Should we be worried?

Will we raise a generation of students who have never really seen the sky because they don’t look up from their screens as they stumble along on the streets and sidewalks? Even as students walk in packs, they are all focusing on their own devices and in many instances, are actually texting and communicating to the person right next to them, instead of using the verbal language. Thus, I am sometimes concerned that students aren’t practicing much in the way of verbal and conversational skills that often come with more richness and quality of exchanges. Should we be worried?

I continue to try to deal with and learn the newer technology, feeling that I’m just getting further behind with all the new advances. I’ve noticed that my students are like sponges with this stuff, as they pick up the newest apps and latest devices with ease. I do love to see their quick ability to adapt to all these changes that push and tug at me constantly. So, should we be worried?

I am not going to worry. I have faith that when each student needs to discover the sky and the world around them, they’ll look up.

I have confidence that they will continue to learn, perhaps learn more than one thinks, and be able to communicate with these devices so that others understand them. We are more connected today with others all over the world because of these devices, but I hope we’ll also learn and understand that there is relevance and importance in speaking directly to others, conversing and expressing yourself verbally. And for those of us that came into this world slightly later than the devices, we’ll continue to be able to observe, listen, talk, and discuss how these devices are helping, hindering and stretching our own growth and learning.

And to parents with kids and even to teachers alike, this request: please, please reflect on when and where you and your children are using these devices so that you don’t lose opportunities to connect in the most human of ways with your kids/students—through daily conversation with them! 

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!

4 Tips for a Successful School Year

Hugh
Hugh McDermott, UNHS Principal

For many high school students, August seems to be the favored month for the start of back-to-school. For students involved in sports, many have actually been training and working out even before the traditional pre-season of the school year officially began, and August means the start of when they can demonstrate their hard work. For others, the start of school means the reduction or the stopping of work for summer jobs as they begin to focus on their studies.

As a high school principal, my previous talks to students at the start of the school year focused on these four rules—applicable to all whether you’re an athlete, have a part-time job or anyone else.

  1. Show up. Attendance is critical to your success—you have to be there to get the instruction offered by your teachers. For online students, you have to open up your coursework and you have to submit assignments frequently so that there is evidence of your involvement and participation on a frequent basis. Ask questions of your online teachers [unhsteach@nebraska.edu]—this lets them know you’re engaged in the process.
  2. Do your work. Not only is it critical that you do the assignments and work assigned to you by your teachers, but you should do quality work. Remember, everything you turn in has your name on it. Your name should mean something—it is who you are and stands for the integrity of your good character. Be proud of each and every assignment you submit because it represents (or should), your very best efforts.
  3. Practice civility. Students who really care about their education demonstrate great amounts of civility toward others—even folks they don’t know. Your words and actions matter, whether it is how you speak and act towards members of your community, others are forming an impression of how you manage yourself as a human being. Keep your words and actions positive and reflective of your dedication to yourself. Your words matter to your teachers as they grade your work and your projects. Use them wisely and carefully. Online teachers can quickly pick up the “tone” of your comments in your writing. Make it a point to practice your civility online!
  4. School comes first. If you continue to work during the school year, which is perfectly fine (and more power to you!), just remember that your schoolwork should be your priority.

If you follow these simple rules, you are more likely to enjoy the learning experience this year.

I hope that what you will take away from this is experience is a life-long love of learning that will guide you along a very productive life. Have a great start to your year!