Friday, September 29, 2017

Hammer and a Nail: Cinco Strong!

The students come back on Monday. We went back last Wednesday, and had our official "Where do we go from here" meeting on Thursday. As many as 1/6 of our students may have been affected seriously by Harvey, two of our elementaries and one of our feeder junior highs were wrecked by the Barker reservoir flooding. The counselor talked to us about what to expect and how to proceed with our students, and even a nice bit about the difference between sympathy and empathy (a distinction I never really thought about until now).

Well, the sun rose again and we are rebuilding. I spent hours updating my calendar for my class. I am an AP semester class teacher so losing two weeks is like losing a month. Actually it turned out to be good because I have been looking to streamline and fine tune my course a bit and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. "Do I really need to do this particular lesson? A: Nope Goodbye! :-)

Friday our district did a great thing. Instead of just staying at the school and doing almost nothing, we were given the chance to get out and help with the cleanup and render service to anyone in need. One of our history teachers stepped up and organized crews of people to visit homes of our staff members or parents that were in need of clean up, clean out or even tear out at this point.

People donated tools and boots, cleaning supplies and bleach, buckets and shovels, and not everyone worked on the cleanup. Those who could not do the physical stuff made sure to pack and deliver coolers of snacks and water and they brought lunches to the haggard crews. Others offered babysitting services so parents could be free to clean. Based on such things as "who has a big pickup truck (not hard to find here in Texas ;-) ) and what tools did you bring, we were organized into crews.

And one of the nice things is that the crews were divided and mixed among our departments. In a mega school like ours, you can become "compartmentalized" You end up only seeing or associating with your department and hardly see anyone else, except to say hi in the main workroom or crack a joke in the hall in passing about "How soon is it till Christmas break?" Yesterday I set off with one of my good friends from social studies, one of our support teachers, a couple of science teachers (one of whom brought her fiancĂ© and her Mother) and a few of our engineering teachers from career education. Nothing makes new friends like working together.


Our morning job was for one of our staff members, and it was depressing driving through the neighborhood, seeing people's formerly prized possessions, furniture, family heirlooms, not to mention the flooring, sheet rock and carpets just piled up at the curb in blobs of mixed media as high as one story. We helped move our coworker’s stuff out to the "ten foot line" where FEMA will pick it up, and then we finished cleaning up the tear out on her home. We swept and cleaned and sprayed bleach at every place we could where there had been water and mold could be growing.

At one point on moving detail, I had a snow shovel in my hand to move water-logged books that had once been a library! I hated doing this as I love books, it broke my heart to see all those tomes of fiction and nonfiction, ruined beyond all repair. Made me think about what I have been holding on to and why as well.

During the tear out, a pickup truck of teachers from Seven Lakes, another Katy ISD school, drove up with water and snacks for us. Later another crew from our school drove up with a cooler with packed lunches, sandwiches, fresh fruit, power bars and chips and of course more water.

Around 1PM we headed over to our second job. The streets were jammed with cars, it was getting hot and the view was more of the depressing same as every house had a mountain of refuse piled in front. But you know what, we also saw people working together, a bunch of guys had set up a barbecue grill in the parking lot of one of our closed schools and were cooking up delicious meats for everyone. Folks were all working together, neighbors and families, people giving and borrowing whatever supplies, tools, water and food they could. Nothing could define community like what I saw yesterday as we inched our way to our second job.

At the second location, we joined Christie, the history teacher who organized this whole thing, and her crew. There was still a lot of tear out to be done, and much as I hated the idea of it, there was a small part of me that relished this work. I knew we were rebuilding, but still there was that inner, helpless human rage at this situation and how this natural disaster proved that nature is so much mightier than any human endeavor. I was able to take out my feelings of helplessness on sheet rock and flooring. I was Job crying out to the whirlwind as my id  bubbled to the surface to let off steam as I swung my hammer again and again, sweating, covering myself in white chalky dust. Years ago my Dad, among other tools he gave me, handed me a mini-sledge hammer that I have never used.....until yesterday. It's a heavy for such a little hammer, and I felt like Thor swinging Mjolnir yesterday. It was very therapeutic.

We eventually finished and we learned a little about the person whose house we were cleaning out it turns out she was a single mother, an immigrant, who had one son, and he was at our affected junior high. With tears in her eyes, she thanked us repeatedly and also told us that she was not aware we were teachers until almost the end of the day. Somehow my body hurt a little less at that point. I saw tears welling in the eyes of my colleagues in our crews, friends, acquaintances, and some who I may almost never see or talk to again, although I would like that not to be the case. For some reason I think we will see more of that "out of department" socializing and communication. I may even suggest some to my principal.

So now going to begin going through all the "stuff" in my life and starting to sort out what's really important. Ask why I am saving this or keeping that? Going to streamline the stuff, see what can be used by charity or a community library or senior center. We're only here for a short time and all we have in the end is each other. I will always cherish yesterday's memories of working side by side with friends and strangers...sitting on a patio slab having lunch out of bag with these people....the heartfelt thanks of the Mother whose house we worked on.....the people in the neighborhood all coming together.....Yeah that's what's important.

Funny I couldn't help but think of an Indigo Girls song yesterday, and it kept running through my head, over and over again: From "Hammer and a Nail"

Clearing webs from the hovel
a blistered hand on the handle of a shovel
I've been digging too deep, I always do.
I see my face on the surface
I look a lot like narcissus
A dark abyss of an emptiness
Standing on the edge of a drowning blue.
I look behind my ears for the green
Even my sweat smells clean
Glare off the white hurts my eyes
I gotta get out of bed and get a hammer and a nail.
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head.

Bob Diethrich,  Economics Teacher

Friday, August 18, 2017

We proudly wear maroon. We proudly wear white. we proudly wear ...gold?

Hi Cougar Families and Friends!

Welcome back to the start of another fantastic year!  I am super excited to let you know that our weekly blog Celebrating Cinco is back for the upcoming year.  Look for posts from students, teachers/staff, parents, and maybe even your principal every now and then.  

Our first post of the year comes from an admired veteran teacher and coach here at Cinco.  Coach Hayes has inspired many young lives, but as you will read in his post, he is inspired by the young people who walk through these doors each day.  I know you will enjoy his post.  Again, welcome back for another year of purpose, passion, and pride! #CPOE

I am starting my 33rd year of teaching and coaching.  This career spans time spent in Miami, Arlington, Conroe, Fukuoka, Japan, Morton Ranch Junior High and the last 15 years at Cinco Ranch High.  Teaching and coaching is all I have ever wanted to do.  Every day I get to engage in discussions and arguments, exchange ideas, wonder, challenge and be challenged, encourage dreaming, and provide opportunities to think.  It is truly a blessing to be a teacher and coach. 

What I have learned over the past 32 years, is to approach my job completely different than I did my first year way back in 1985.  When asked, “What do you teach?’  English was always the response.  Fortunately, I have learned the correct answer.  (This is hard for me to say as I constantly tell my students that English is the best subject as there are no wrong answers.)  Nevertheless, for the question, “What do you teach?” there is only one answer.  “I teach young people.” The who is so much more important than the what.  English as a subject, is strictly what puts us in a room together. 

I was recently reminded of this when a student of mine told me about the Japanese art form called kintsugi.  Basically, it is the process of repairing smashed pottery by using beautiful seams of gold.   It takes something broken and makes it more beautiful.  This reminded me of the 100 young people that will walk through my door this week.   All are in need of some gold to patch things up. Some a lot, some a little.  Teaching the rhyme scheme of a poem or where to correctly place a comma is certainly beneficial, but restoring broken pieces can be life changing.  Our colors at Cinco Ranch High School are maroon and white and I proudly wear them.  Yet this year I hope that I can add some gold to that on a daily basis.       

Bruce Hayes, Teacher/Coach    

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Daring Greatly Finds Fulfillment – a Cinco Dad’s perspective


I’ve enjoyed reading the blogs as they come out, and was inspired since the first installment by Principal Cross.  The talk of Daring Greatly: understanding one’s vulnerability, putting yourself out there to be seen in order to find fulfillment; intrigued me, and had me looking at my own parenting style with my daughters.

My oldest daughter graduated from Cinco last year.  I remember her freshman year was hard on the entire family.  She had sustained a back injury over the summer leading up to freshman tryouts and ended up not making the volleyball team.  After some coaxing from Mom and I, she reluctantly tried out for the dance team and didn’t make it.  In the spring she tried the local swim team, but didn’t enjoy that either.  Then over the summer she told us she wanted to join FFA; we didn’t know the organization was offered at Cinco.  I remember dropping her off at the barns for Ag Olympics.  She didn’t know anyone there.  The look of being lost was all over her face.  As I dropped her off, I said “Well, have fun with this, and make some friends.”  When I returned a few hours later I saw a completely different look on her face.  She found her home.  Over the next few years, she competed in District, Area, State, and National competitions for Entomology, Public Speaking, Radio Broadcasting, Parliamentary Procedure.  She attended leadership conferences in Washington DC and within the state of Texas.  For two seasons, she led the students with a service project that donated over 200 toys to needy children for the Christmas season, and she served as an officer, most notably the President.  I remember the night before her officer interview, I asked her if she wanted to be the president of her chapter.  She said “yes, of course!”.  I said “well then, you need to respectfully ask for consideration.”.  She and her Mom thought I was crazy.  But she went ahead and asked, and a week later it was announced, she was their president.  In addition to the competitions and service projects, she raised animals; lambs, steers and one heifer, which we still own today.  She made life-long friendships in FFA, and I enjoyed it as her core group of friends joined the program after they saw how much fun she was having; they succeeded in the program as well.  She’s in college, now, studying her passion, Agricultural Science.  She moved in with some roommates she didn’t know, but after her life lessons at Cinco, this was not even an issue. 

Her high school experience inspired the rest of our family.  Her younger sister attended a mission trip over the summer with a group of students, none of which she knew beforehand.  Now, she has a completely new set of friends and is attending a weekly bible study group with them. 


Mr. Cross wrote about putting yourself out there to be seen in order to find fulfillment.  I got to witness this, firsthand, with my daughters the last few years. That freshman year was hard on the entire family and it took her to dare greatly, to find her passion and determination today.  So go out and Dare Greatly . . . The life lessons you gain, will follow you for years to come.  Thank you CRHS!

Kurt Atkinson

Monday, September 19, 2016

Getting the word out: Cinco Style

I worked on the set of Global Vine its premiere season when the "teleprompter" had to be held up by an assistant, when we didn't have professional looking microphones to use, and when we didn't have a studio to shoot interviews much less shows in. As a freshman volunteer with absolutely no knowledge in video production, I was usually one of the ignorant assistants that helped test lighting or audio. I spent the 2.5s of my junior year in Room 2506 writing scripts for the daily shows, and finally, as a senior, I help out with photography, script writing, and video editing. 

While things look much more professional now than they did back in my freshman year, the message Mr. Marrie always tries to hammer remains the same. Our goal was to inform the school about anything and everything we could in a professional manner. Yes, we could make blooper reels once or twice a semester, but we wanted to cover everything from the variety of clubs in our school, the sports teams, and the wonderful staff at Cinco Ranch that make our school amazing. I take more interest in what is happening around the school not only because I am forced to know what the schedule is for the school, but editing the videos for certain groups and researching teams and past sports stats for scripts, my passion and interest for my school has definitely grown. I definitely take pride in everything any part of the school accomplishes. 

I witnessed the shift in Global Vine, the after school shoots transitioning to things we could get down in about 20 minutes during 2.5. We went from a daily show to a weekly show in three short years, with some hype videos thrown in sporadically. We do function a little bit more like a news media room than in the beginning, but we're still a high school classroom. 

Global Vine exemplifies what it means to Celebrate Cinco. All of Cinco. We acknowledge our achievements, and we try to instill the student body with purpose, passion, and pride every year. 


Joanne Chavali


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

…And it feels like Coming Home!!!


Home.  A word we use to refer to the place where we feel safe, respected, appreciated, and loved.  A place we miss when we are gone and feel so happy when we return! I can’t tell you how elated I am to be “Coming Home”!  There are no words that can truly express the happiness I have.  I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering if it has all been a dream.  Relief rushes over me when I realize I’m not dreaming.  I AM HOME!

I have been a part of Cinco Ranch High School since it first opened its doors 18 years ago.  I was the head coach of our volleyball team, and that maroon and white Cinco pride runs deep in my veins. Everything I owned had maroon somewhere on it.  A Cinco Ranch Cougar adorned almost every shirt I wore, and I had maroon high heeled shoes to complete the outfit.  My world revolved around Cinco and the people that are a part of it.

The people… You can look far and wide, but you won’t find a greater group of people.  They are a “Once in a lifetime” kind of people.  They are the kind of people that come into your life and help you to see the sun where you once saw only gray clouds.  They are the people that believe in you so much that you start to believe in you too.  They are the people that love you for simply being you.  It is these “Once in a lifetime” kind of people that have welcomed me back with open arms. What a family!

I appreciated and enjoyed the opportunities I have had the last three years away from Cinco Ranch.  I learned a lot about myself and met and made lasting friendships.  Friendships that I will forever cherish for as long as I live.

However, I am so grateful for this new opportunity… this new part of my life to come back to the place where it all began for me when I first moved to Katy, Texas. Thank you to everyone at Cinco Ranch High School for giving me the pleasure of being your 12th grade principal.  I look forward to working with you, the students, and the parents.  I won’t let you down!  I’m ready to get this show started!!

Like Nina Simone once said, “Yeah, it’s a new dawn! It’s a new day! It’s a new life for me!  Oooooooooooh, and I’m feeling good!” 

There’s no place like home!  I love you, Cinco Ranch!!


Tammy Laurence        

Monday, August 29, 2016

Student voice coming through loud and clear at Cinco

Hi, my name is Taylor Kramer, and I had the opportunity to talk to the new teachers of Cinco Ranch and all of the returning teachers this past week. 

I would like to say it was eye opening how willing the teachers were to listen to all the class officers. They asked questions about how to make their classroom more enjoyable and how to connect more with the students.  It amazed me how many teachers actually used some of the things we talked about.  Almost all of my teachers asked us what kind of learning style we had and if we like to use Canvas or not . Also, all of my teachers talked about the extra curricular activities going on that week. I was so happy to see some of the things we discussed at those meetings actually being used in the classroom. 

It shows that the student body's voice gets heard and that the teachers truly do care about students and the school itself.  If the rest of the school year goes as great as the first week of school did, it will truly be an awesome year to be a cougar. 

Taylor Kramer 11th Grade

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Routine too perfect to mention

A warm hello Cougar families,

The start of a school year is such an exciting time for so many of us.  Beginnings tend to bring smiles, lots of energy, and sometimes a little anxiety.  If you are returning for another year at Cinco, welcome back!  If you are new to us this year, welcome to your new school.  It is a place I am so proud of...a place where we work alongside our parents daily to help young people to be the best versions of themselves while we work to do the same.

I was recently listening to a Lady Antebellum song called Heart of the World.  In it they sing of "routine too perfect too mention." I love that line.  It reminds me that this time of year is when we find ourselves talking about getting back into a routine after the summer break.  Often routine can seem like such a mundane word, but as I listened to the song, I felt such joy in that simple phrase   I think it's because the routine of coming to a place everyday where I get to work with young people and teachers/staff who care so deeply for those young people is a routine too perfect to mention.  A routine that touches my life deeply.

Each family's daily routine throughout the school year may look somewhat similar yet possesses significant differences I would guess.  Even routines can make us unique.  I hope whatever your routine is for the start of another school year, you are able to take time to appreciate and enjoy the moments that make up those routines.  Those moments make up a lifetime, and parents, we know how quickly those moments can pass.

Our routine at Cinco will continue to be to teach, challenge, nurture, and care for our students.  It's a routine that has made this school, while not perfect, such a special place. I hope your routine this year finds your child sharing stories of learning new things, making new friends, strengthening current friendships, competing, performing, growing, serving, caring, and loving.  Those are routines that makes life worth living.

Speaking of routines, our Celebrating Cinco blog is back for its second year.  Be on the lookout for weekly posts from students, staff, and parents. Occasionally the principal might even share a thought or two.  I wish your family a joyful start for this school year.  Go Cougs!

James Cross, Principal #CPOE

Purpose...It drives us.
Passion...It fuels us.
Pride...It defines us.