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.

Get Back to the Fundamentals!

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Fundamentals are the basic skills, techniques, etc. that serve as the foundation of any system. Being fundamentally sound is an essential if you want to be successful at something.

Throughout my years of coaching football, the team that was the most successful was usually the team that did the best in the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Most football coaches plan to spend a significant part of their practice time developing or enhancing these essential skills with their players. If you are not fundamentally sound at blocking and tackling in football, you are going to struggle.

How are you in the basic fundamentals of being a good student?

Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are three standard fundamentals that can help lead you to academic success:

  1. A regular study schedule or routine
  2. A study environment that has minimal distractions
  3. Completing all required homework and assigned readings

Just as there are many additional skills in football besides blocking and tackling (i.e. passing the ball, catching the ball, rushing the passer, causing turnovers, etc.) there are also many other important skills in your development as a student: writing, reading and test taking to name a few.

After you set the foundation with the basic fundamentals, you can start working on these additional skills.

What academic fundamentals do you need to work on to help you be the best student you can be?

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!

“Have You Met Any Actual Teenaged People?!”

Barbara
Barbara Wolf Shousha, UNHS Director

I did not ask this question. But I wanted to.

I had to bite my tongue as I listened to a group of adults discuss the teens at a nearby coffee shop table. The students under discussion were wearing earbuds and likely could not hear the remarks…

  • “They only care about their music and their phones.”
  • “They don’t take anything seriously.”
  • “They’re young; they don’t have to be serious. This is their time to be free of responsibilities.”

My kinder nature triumphed over snark, so I did not wade in to the strangers’ discussion. But I felt irritated because the conversation represented what I dislike about the two extremes in how our culture regards teenagers

  1. Either people judge teens as shallow and unserious or
  2. They pander to youth as too young to handle any actual responsibilities

To listen to some of the comments, you would think these adults were anthropologists examining some strange culture: “Observe, the teen….in it’s natural habitat…”

Here’s a tip: Teenagers are people. You can actually meet them and interact with them and learn about them as individuals.

As an educator, I have studied developmental theory and stages of development. I’ve read literature about adolescent brain development. But nothing substitutes for real experience.

We are fortunate to work with young people as they develop their academic and personal skills. We see students balance academics and sports and arts and volunteerism and family obligations and work.

Young, yes.
Unserious? Sometimes.
But they are not free from responsibilities.

We challenge students because we want the best from them and for them. We hold them accountable because we believe that they should want the best from themselves. We understand that they do not always want to learn verb forms and periodic elements. (We ARE nerds, but we are realistic nerds.) And yet, we see them step up and meet their responsibilities and do the work of becoming educated people.

We’re proud of them.

If you’d like to meet some of the actual teenaged people with whom we have worked, feel free to check out some of our student profiles.