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.

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.

What Is Your Game Plan?

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

 

Sports have long been an integral part of my life both as an athlete and coach, and I feel the lessons learned in athletics are similar to academics. For example, in athletic competition one of most important components to victory is having a game plan.

Most coaches develop game plans based on several factors including but not limited to:

  • The ability of his or her players
  • Opportunities for success against an opponent

You may have heard the “coach speak” phrases:

  • “Stick with the game plan” if the team is doing well or just needs to perform better
  • “Adjust the game plan” if changes are needed in order to win
E04-Sideline
Mr. Henning coached football for 30 years at a local high school in Nebraska.

Having a game plan for your academic success is important as well, and right now is a great time of year to reassess the plan you are working on.

Perhaps you can just “stick with your plan” because you are earning the grades you desire. However, some of you may need to “adjust your game plan” because you are not experiencing the results you want or need to reach your goals.

Here are my three suggestions for adjusting your academic game plan:

  1. Believe you can do it—self-confidence is key

  2. Work hard—nothing can take the place of effort

  3. Get help if you need it—be sure to use the resources available to you!

So now I have to ask—how is your academic “game plan” working for you?  Do you need to “stick with it” or make some “adjustments”? What adjustments do you think you need to make? Please comment below.

Help! Resolution Encouragement Needed

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

I know many of you may have started new years resolutions with the ringing in of 2016, but my resolution actually started at the beginning of the school year—July 1, 2015.

After two years of procrastinating I finally acknowledged that it wasn’t my desk chair shrinking. And, after seeing my better half shed 40 pounds (he cut out soda and became friends with our dusty elliptical), I was determined to break out of my habit of grazing and start lacing up my running shoes again.

Breaking old habits is tough, but when it can result in positive changes for your life, it is most definitely a meaningful goal. For me, I knew it was time to transform and not just for myself.

My resolution is for:

  • My wonderful family, friends and neighbors
  • Playtime with grandkids
  • Energy for my co-workers and the many students I work to inspire throughout the year
  • Our youngest son’s wedding (in September 2016!)

I’m proud to say that my chair now fits comfortably again, and I have bought a second pair of sneakers to keep at work.

But I’m still working toward my goal and could use a bit of encouragement! Please share your inspiration and suggestions as I look to continue on my resolution.

For your resolutions or any of your goals in general, I encourage you to also set up a support system to help you be successful. And don’t ever be afraid to ask for help along the way!