Friday, December 4, 2015

December Has Arrived

December Has Arrived


As the calendar page flips to the final month of 2015, I am reminded of the many thoughts December brings each year. Holiday shopping, greeting cards, travel plans or decorating for the season top most personal to-do lists. Here at school, the students begin a buzz in early December that continues to amplify as the holiday break nears. The hallways are louder and rowdier. Focus in class is harder to maintain and the chatter is filled with adolescent excitement for the season. It is that time of year where anticipation hovers and everyone counts down the days until the holiday break.

At the beginning of the school year, Mr. Cross challenged our Cougar family to “Dare Greatly” this year. With that mission in mind, I tried focusing on ways to encourage my student publication staffs to elevate their game too. First, I should explain that I have advised the County Line student news magazine and Panorama yearbook staffs the past ten years, and taught English I and English II my first five years at Cinco. Tack on four years of teaching before arriving in Katy ISD in 2001 and the math adds up to nearly two decades in the classroom.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to work with amazingly talented student writers, designers and photographers. Our CRHS journalism room, fondly referred to as “1221” is adorned with yearbook and magazine covers from prior years along with UIL medals, plagues and banners that hang proudly symbolizing the effort and accomplishment of past students who realized they had a voice and a good story to tell. I’m proud of the work they accomplish and the skill sets they develop here, but I’m most thankful for the opportunity to observe my students (who come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and social circles) develop a working bond based in a collaborative learning experience which requires them to drop their emotional guard and be real and dependent upon one another. That is not always a common behavior in high school.

As yearbook finishes their second deadline this week and with the arrival of County Line’s second print issue, I took time to examine our student storytelling to see if we are making progress in elevating “our game.” One of my challenges is determining how to actually measure that, so I went back to our archives and looked at some student stories from prior years. What I found were articles about the sudden, unexpected passing of CRHS biology teacher Mel Aimar, and the tragic deaths of students Chris Saiz and Terra Kuballa from automobile accidents. Then, I realized that all three of those deaths happened in December. The timing isn’t really significant until you think about the paradox of sentiment normally associated with this holiday month. The same month normally filled with joy, hope and excitement instead delivered a floodgate of emotional sorrow for our Cougar family in December, 2007, December, 2011 and December, 2014.

Looking back at what our student journalists wrote, they remembered their deceased teacher and peers with storytelling like this:

“Going into his class for the first time and feeling nervous about how hard or how strict he would be, I planned on staying quiet and just doing my work.” That proved to be difficult as Mr. Aimar’s humor drew out my own. He would engage in witty conversation with us…He was more than a teacher, he was a friend…He would help us plan pranks on other teachers (like the classic Ms. Shank rivalry)…If you stopped to visit him, he would drop what he was doing and focus on you, just talking friend to friend.”   -Scena Nayak ‘09

“As his parents unleashed three white doves, and his friends freed personal messages on balloons, the memory of Chris Saiz radiated through the gathering at his funeral. As the balloons soared, Saiz’s soul ascended to meet with what those three doves represent: the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit.”   - Shaun Lal ‘12

“There was a bitterness in the December air and the cold months after, but also a sense of hope and perseverance – a feeling that Terra Kuballa inspired in many. Even though she is no longer physically present, her hopeful and beaming spirit remains.”   - Maria Salome Cadavid ‘16


This trip back in time helped me remember that our work in the journalism room should never be focused on the end product. “Daring Greatly” is about experiencing the journey – about absorbing and connecting with every human moment one experiences - even the moments filled with tragedy. Each of the student journalists above knew the person they wrote about. Each had a personal relationship with the deceased and chose to express their sense of loss in words that told a story that helped others understand the character and person of a life too soon lost.

“Daring Greatly” happens when teachers make that connection with students and it happens when students see that modeling, shed their vulnerability and peel open a new understanding about themselves and the world around them. It happens when students reach out and create a friendship that is genuine and authentic and it happens when that reaching out to someone extends beyond a social circle that one is comfortable in. Reading those stories again helped me realize how meaningful our responsibility is in providing students a tangible voice to share with their peer audience and to encourage them to share the common human bond of compassion.

As our current students at Cinco and Seven Lakes remember the friends they lost a year ago this weekend, my encouragement to them is that they will not lose track of the empathy they felt for each other during last year’s time of sorrow. The great gift that Mel Aimar, Chris Saiz, and Terra Kuballa left all of us is a legacy of human caring.

“Daring Greatly” isn’t about what we produce with our work and efforts, it’s about genuinely connecting, openly communicating, honestly listening, and reflecting in the glory contained in each day of life, so sponge in each day this month as you “journey” toward Christmas.

-          Ed Larsen
Student Publications Adviser

CRHS

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude: Thanksgiving in Action

Hi Cougars, I am so excited to be writing to you again.  I hope you have enjoyed the stories from our students and staff throughout the fall.  I am so happy to share since the beginning of school we have had over 15,000 people read our Celebrating Cinco blog. I am overwhelmed by the response and the feedback.  It has been a special treat to read the stories of struggle and success. The authors of these blogs have shown vulnerability and "dared greatly" for sure..  After all, it can be scary to publicly share your thoughts with the world...or even with our Cinco community. I am grateful for everyone who has written and everyone who has taken time to read these blog posts. I am also so grateful for this school and this community. Speaking of being grateful, this time of year seems like a good time to share some thoughts on gratitude. So here it goes. 

Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance.  Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us.  Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy. The root of joy is gratefulness." 

"We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.
We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."

"Gratefulness has two sides. Expressing gratitude is partly a conscious action, like opening
a door or telling a story. It is also a result of deep attitudes: the way we look at our lives and the way we turn the events of our lives into meaningful stories. Parents teach their children to say “thank you,” the action part, in the hope that their children will grow into the attitude part. For
adults, I believe, the path toward gratitude includes an exploration of both."

These thoughts (from people wiser than me) on gratitude and joy remind me that gratitude is practiced, and when gratitude is practiced, joy follows.  How do we go about practicing gratitude you may ask?  I wish I had a simple, magic answer.  I do not.  I can tell you it requires thought and action, and it requires a regular occurrence of both.  Anyone I've ever known who practices gratitude and expresses joy does so regardless of the circumstances of the moment. I have always been encouraged and uplifted by these people and strive to be like them.  

My hope is that reading this will remind you of things you probably already know but lose sight of in your day to day life.  I know I do.  So, as you head off into your thanksgiving break, take a moment, or two, or three to not only recognize the good things in your life, but take time to verbalize them...take time to put those words of gratitude into action.  I'm sure you will find joy not far behind waiting there like a dear, trusted friend.  I wish our Cougar students, staff, and families a very happy thanksgiving, no, scratch that, I wish you a very joyful thanksgiving and hope you enjoy this time with your friends and family.  Until next time, take care.

James Cross, Principal


Friday, November 13, 2015

Daring Greatly: Forming Your Legacy


What do you want your legacy to be?

I simply want my legacy to be that I loved others well. Maybe you want your legacy to be that you were good at something or that you always made people laugh. It's different for anyone, but everyone wants something positive to come to people's mind when someone says his or her name. But in order for our "dream legacy" to become reality, we have to live it every minute of every day- and that's where it becomes difficult.

For the past two years, I have served as a drum major for the Cougar Band. You learn a lot by standing up on the podium and leading 300 dedicated members, but the biggest lesson I've learned is how strong of an influence every single person has- whether they're a leader, follower, or bystander. However, it's easy to lose sight of that and go around with the mindset that nobody will care about what we do. Nothing about that is true. If you're a leader, people recognize that and watch to see what kind of movement you may be starting. If you're a follower, who or what you choose to follow speaks volumes. Following is even its own form of leadership because you're making it more socially acceptable for other followers to join in on what you're doing. Someone is always watching to see what you're doing, and you may not even know who they are. Every tweet you post, word you say, and action you take says at least one thing about you and somehow contributes to what your legacy is.

I want to challenge you to think about a statement that has changed how I live: the average person influences at least 10,000 people in their lifetime. Now this may sound silly, but notice how this is just talking about the average person- someone who just lives life doing nothing too special. If there's one thing I know, it's that students at Cinco Ranch High School are going to go out and do above average things, and some have even gotten a head start. We have future doctors, lawyers, educators, engineers, cancer curers, and many more walking through the halls every day. So if the average person influences 10,000 people, imagine how much that multiplies when someone goes off to do great things. Imagine how much that multiplies when someone even does the small things, like smiling at a stranger or telling someone that you hope they'll have a good day.

You will never know the full extent of your influence. Daring greatly is accepting that and never putting that influence to waste.

What will you do with your influence? What will your legacy truly be?

Daniela Ichter, Senior

Friday, November 6, 2015

Daring Greatly Through Your "Uh-Oh" Moments

He stands in the doorway to my office with a huge grin on his face which seems to last for an eternity.  I can only think, “Uh-oh, what now??”  And then he says the words I’ve been dreading for two months, “I want you to write our next blog.” My heart races, my palms get sweaty…can I crawl under my desk?

Who is this man?  Well, he’s Mr. Cross, my boss. And why am I so nervous to write something as innocent as a blog post about Daring Greatly?  After all, I’m reasonably intelligent.  I have a college degree; in fact, I have two!  I write emails and memos every day and most of them make sense.  I am, however, someone who needs affirmation from others for my accomplishments and, because of this, I rarely put my vulnerability out there for all to see.  I have never been able to look from within for that atta-girl confirmation. 

So what does it mean to a mom, a secretary, a runner, to dare greatly?  Are we only defined by the roles we play in our lives instead of the lives we live? Are we meant to be satisfied with getting by instead of getting out there and inspiring those in our lives?  These are some really heavy questions to ponder in between the “what should I wear to work today” and “why can’t I ever find a parking spot at HEB” reality of a day in the life.  As I began this new school year with these questions, I searched for the “right” answers.  And I found them in Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

This summer, my daughter got married and my son began his first job.  For 26 years, I have measured my worth by getting my children through the peaks or valleys in their lives.  They are beginning their own journeys now, no longer needing my direction.  And there’s an emptiness inside me.  How do I forge a new relationship with these adults I used to feed and diaper? By daring greatly.  Brene wrote a Parenting Manifesto to use whenever she feels vulnerable or fearful. Her final thoughts have become my salvation in this time of uncertainty: “As you begin your wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.  I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you.  Truly, deeply, seeing you.”

Two ladies who I’ve worked with in the front office for over 10 years left for other opportunities this year.  Instead of everyone knowing their roles in the flow of the well-oiled machine we’d become, we would welcome two new staff members from different campuses.  I would need to step forward as the leader to set the tone for our changing team.  I don’t see myself as a leader; I’m more of a team player.  How do I adapt my approach to ensure we will continue to provide the excellent customer service for which Cinco Ranch is known?  By daring greatly.  Brene refers to this situation as “Minding the Gap”, looking at the space between where we are and where we want to be.  When I stepped back from the familiarity of what used to be, I began to reevaluate some of our procedures and make changes to improve the work we do.  Along the way, I grew as a leader and became a better secretary.

For 9 years, I have tried and failed to run a marathon.  I’ve done a few half-marathons but can’t seem to take that next step.  But I have great excuses: I missed too many long runs; I blew out my IT Band; I just can’t seem to find the right outfit to match my running shoes; blah-blah-blah.  Are these excuses masking the real reason I stop at 13.1 miles…that I’m afraid of failing, of telling everyone I’m going to do this great thing, of asking them to come watch, only to see me carted off by the medics at Mile 17?  How do I reach my goal?  By daring greatly. Brene examines how shame contributes to our inability to be vulnerable.  She says that in order to be vulnerable, we need to develop a resilience to shame.  She refers to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech ‘Citizenship in a Republic”, often referred to as “The Man in the Arena”.  She asks us to identify who is in the arena with us and challenges us to walk into the arena not when we are perfect and bulletproof, but when we realize that to do so will afford us with great opportunities to use our gifts to make unique contributions.  Do I have a gift for running fast? No, but what I do have is a passion for running that can be used to inspire others and ultimately myself to reach the finish line.


What have I learned from the time spent writing this blog and facing my vulnerability? I enjoy the time I spend with my adult children as we explore seeing each other as we really are.  The front office is still that well-oiled machine, version 2.0. The marathon…well, if you see me trudging the streets of Cinco Ranch, be kind and don’t run over my prone body.  We all have our “uh-oh” moments in life that make us afraid to go on. Define them, but don’t let them define who you are. 

Anita Kuhlmann, Secretary to Mr. Cross  

Friday, October 30, 2015

For Anyone with a Heartbeat

I graduated from Cinco Ranch High School in 2012, and it was there that I learned of the impact teachers can have on students’ days, years, and lives. It doesn’t stop at teachers, though. It’s administration, counselors, registrars, secretaries, custodial staff, security, and every single faculty and staff member in between. Whether they realize it or not, they have the power to make or break a day. Luckily, the adults I had the privilege of knowing did a lot more making than breaking. They were supportive and encouraging and more often than not, they saw potential in me when I didn’t.

I am currently a senior at Texas A&M University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in English/Language Arts and Social Studies for middle grades, which in turn means that I am part of a pre-service teaching program that requires me to spend one day out of the week in the classroom working alongside a mentor teacher. 

This semester I was placed in a 3rd grade classroom, and this week my mentor teacher asked her students to raise their hands if they thought they were smart. Only a handful did, which is a tragedy to me. It's a tragedy that at the tender age of 8, kids already have their self-image tainted by what the world defines as smart and successful.

Can't pass STAAR? You're unintelligent. Can't do long subtraction in your head? Math isn't your subject, so you should go ahead and scratch that dream you have of being an astronaut one day.

When I was a junior in high school, I dropped AP English and I clearly remember someone telling me that because I dropped it, I should not major in English when I got to college. What this person didn’t know is that I loved English, and I wasn’t bad at it. I dropped it because I was clinically depressed. My motivation, drive, and morale were shot, so I stopped doing the things I loved and the things that challenged me. I was capable of being in AP English, but I momentarily lost all motivation to work hard so I dropped it, and there was really nothing more to it than that. But that one, harmless comment left me reeling with uncertainty about my ability well into my days of mental health. It was a comment made in passing, it was minute, and it was not earth shattering or cruel or even worth remembering. But it came from someone I had a lot of respect for, and so I allowed it to carry weight, and I allowed it to become my truth. If I still remember a trivial comment made 5 years ago, imagine the influence of less forgiving ones. There is power in our words regardless of our hearts and regardless of our intentions, and that is something I feel is often forgotten.

You see, we give kids these labels and they stick, and you know what happens when we tell someone that they can't do something? They stop trying. Even when they have what it takes (which, they do. They all do). Some of us have to try harder than others, and most of us won't succeed right away. But at the end of the day failure is just an ugly word for growth, so at what point did we decide that failure wasn't an option anymore?

AND at what point are we going to stop allowing kids to feel like they aren't enough, and start showing them exactly how capable they are? Because my goodness, we are all so capable of learning everything we want to learn and being the people that we want to be. We were not created to remain static in anything, we were created to learn and grow and DO.

I know that the waters are murky when it comes to understanding why students struggle in school and why people struggle in life, and I know that sometimes it is flat out easier to tell ourselves that so-and-so will just. never. get it. But everyone needs an advocate. Everyone needs someone rooting for them, someone telling them that they can do it when the world seems to be saying they can’t. You need it, I need it. We all do. People need other people – but what if you were the only person that someone else had? How would you change the things you say and the way you interact with others if you knew that your words had the power to give someone else a fighting chance?

I don’t just mean this for teachers or those who work in schools...I mean it for anyone with a heartbeat. We seem to have a nasty habit of seeing others through a worldly lens instead of seeing them for everything they are and everything they could be. What would happen if we used our words and our relationships to empower and advocate for each other? We are more than our grades, we are more than society's standard of success, and chances are, we are more than other people's opinions of us. I say it's about dang time we start reminding each other of that and it's about dang time we start bringing up little ones with that in mind.

Becca Calfee
CRHS Class of 2012
Texas A&M Class of 2016
Undergraduate Peer Mentor in the Texas A&M College of Education, where she supports fellow undergraduates by offering feedback on the writing process, modeling good writing habits and providing a supportive and encouraging voice to students' writing concerns.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Inspired to Dare Greatly

Inspired to Dare Greatly

My CRHS journey began in 1999. While working as a secretary in the corporate world, I watched CRHS being built – approximately two miles from my home. My sons would go on to attend CRHS, so I thought it would be really cool to work there and be part of establishing this awesome new school for the Cinco Ranch community! I was so excited to be part of the original staff, moving in to this sparkling new building, watching hundreds upon hundreds of boxes, furniture, desks, and computers roll through the doors – an experience I will never forget! Those early years were different – fewer students and fewer staff, but the family feel was always present from the very beginning. During my first three years at CRHS, as an assistant principal’s secretary, I was so inspired by the positive energy of everyone I came in contact with each day that I returned to college part time, pursuing my undergraduate degree in history to become a teacher. It took me several years, but it was well worth it – my first real experience of daring greatly – returning to college at age…well, let’s just say I was not young. With a husband and two sons aged 13 and 10, it was a challenge to manage my time, but I was constantly inspired and encouraged by both my family and my CRHS family.

My move to the counselor’s office as a secretary turned out to be the most important one of my life. It was there, in the counselor’s office, where I discovered my true passion – a genuine pull towards a vocation I had not yet experienced in my life – to be a high school counselor. To say the 2002-2003 year was a particularly difficult one is an understatement. With the tragic death of not one, but two senior girls occurring weeks apart in the fall of 2002, I witnessed counselors, teachers, administrators, staff and students come together as a family as I have never seen before. We experienced many emotions, as you can imagine: shock, sadness, and profound grief to name just a few. That experience made an enormous impact on me. I realized I wanted to help students deal with the tragedies in their lives as well as the joys. I would like to think that both Leah and Dana would be gratified to know that their tragic passing was, in some way, the catalyst for such overwhelming inspiration in another life, and I know mine was not the only life they positively affected.

As I completed my teaching degree during my third year as a CRHS registrar (by far my most challenging job to date), and secured my first teaching position at CRHS as a world geography teacher, I found myself daring greatly again, stepping into the arena of the classroom. There I found inspiration each day from my fellow teachers, administrators and especially my students. I had the privilege of working with the newcomers, high school students who are attending school in the U.S. for the first time. These students amazed me with their bravery to suit up and show up every day to a school of 3,000 + students where they knew no one, AND where few, if any, spoke their language. Talk about daring greatly?! I continue to be inspired in my current position, KOLA teacher, as I work with students, some of whom face overwhelming obstacles as they strive to graduate…and speaking of graduation, mine is this December – WOO HOO! My family will see me cross the stage to get my master’s degree in school counseling. I will feel the spirit and encouragement of my CRHS family as I cross the stage – so many have cheered me on and inspired me along the way.

I am truly blessed to have been a part of this amazing place for the past 16 years. I believe we are the best high school in America (but I am prejudiced and a Cougar to my core!!) because we care about each other and are always striving to be better. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown quotes Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, “It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly…” I really love that inspiring quote! Did we strive valiantly but fall short in those early days of CRHS? You bet we did! Did I err, come short again and again while in my undergrad and grad school programs? Absolutely! Did my newcomers fail at times? Yes they did, but they failed while daring greatly. They, and countless other CRHS Cougars, past and present, continue to inspire me to dare greatly each and every day.


Robin Rolon, KOLA Teacher

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Golden Rule of Daring Greatly

Livin' by the Golden Rule

I'd like to give thanks to Mr. Cross for letting me be a part of his biog. I am honored and will always do anything to help him out. I want you to know that this is out of my comfort zone because I can speak it and most of all I can live it, but to put words on paper is a challenge to me.

I came to Cinco Ranch in the 2003 -2004 school year. I had been working four jobs to provide for my family. I was tired and burned out. I prayed to be able to work only one job and to be able to make a difference. I had no idea that I was being given a job where I could touch the lives of thousands of kids and help to change the lives of some who needed it the most.

You might be thinking, what lesson can the janitor teach? My class is called Livin' by the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

We've all heard it, but are you living it?

Mr. Cross is asking us all to challenge ourselves and to put ourselves in situations where we are out of our comfort zones so we can grow and be our best.

My challenge to us all is to live by the Golden Rule every day.

ASSIGNMENT:
1. Smile.
2. Greet everyone in your path.
3. Give respect, to earn respect.
4. Show love to all.
5. Help one another.
6. Speak with kindness.
7. Look out for one another.
8. Reach out to those in need.
9. Be a friend.
10. Live and let live.

You can have all the success in the world, but if you don't live by the Golden Rule you haven't succeeded in life.

Class dismissed :-)
Mr. T

Friday, October 9, 2015

Daring Greatly- The Classroom of 2030

Daring Greatly – the Classroom of 2030

This summer a tweet came across my feed that set me back “We are now closer to 2030 than we are to 2000.” For this Gen X teacher that concept simultaneously inspired shock and reflection. I distinctly remember growing up to Prince’s words of wisdom “tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999” and celebrating the new millennium pondering the nature of the undiscovered country that would be the 21st century.
Here are a few details that may take you back to the year 2000. The Nokia 3310 was the best-selling phone of the year. Yahoo! was the leading search engine. Windows 2000 was released, and society did NOT come to a screeching halt over Y2K concerns. A fringe computer company sold iMacs in 13 flavors and iPods were a year away from being introduced. Napster allowed unparalleled access to a library of music and violation of copyright laws, and DVD was a new medium for videos. Young actors Russell Crow and Kate Hudson were on the big screen. Faith Hill taught us how to “Breathe” and Rob Thomas (with Santana) sang about “Smooth.” YouTube was five years away from conception, and a “social network” consisted of ZIP codes and seven-digit phone dialing.
Fast forward to today. The fourteen year old high school freshman has never known a world without iPods or Google. Facebook stormed the college scene when (s)he was going through Terrible Twos. By the time our freshman was taking his/her first TAKS test iPhones (and competitors), App Store, and iPads were on the scene. The days of “oh wow, you have a tablet” have transitioned to “Miss, can I charge my iPad?”
Today, Google searches access 40% of the world’s accumulated knowledge every day. In Katy ISD, 76% of our students (including the elementary kiddos) claim to carry some internet-capable device (according to BrightBytes survey 2015) and according to Google, more searches occur on mobile devices now than on desktop computers. That means as a teacher we are no longer the gatekeeper of knowledge. Information is cheap and readily obtained. Student participation in global conversations via social media are a reality. Our role as classroom leaders is no longer an algorithm of impart knowledge plus student homework plus periodic assessment equals education.
If we are to dare greatly, we need to migrate our classroom to 2015 and beyond. We need to impart skills and practices that will lead our students to success in the 21st century. Our students know that information is ubiquitous; our students need to understand how to process information, and how to use that information. A successful 21st century adult needs to be a good digital citizen, and should know to draw on a global network of colleagues. That may mean we fail – Wi-Fi may go down or a particular app may not work that day or bandwidth may be slow—but the tried and true methods by which we learned are not necessarily developing skills that are necessary for success in the 21st century.
 If students are not exposed to and immersed in a digitally charged environment, they are participating in an artificial, foreign bubble that separates them from the world in which they live, and in which they are expected to someday work, pay taxes, and lead. The greatest dare I can conceive is making our classrooms ready for 2030, but the effort to do so will enable our students to impact the world in which they live.


Jay Jackson is a Classroom Technology Designer for Katy ISD. He has ten years of classroom experience and is certified as a secondary math and science teacher. He can be reached at howardjackson@katyisd.org or @Mr_Jays_Class 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Daring Greatly is a Cougar Challenge

“Life is like topography," Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure (Calvin and Hobbs).” It will never slow down whenever things get tough, and it will never wait for you to catch up. To dare greatly is something that is not thought about often. It sometimes doesn’t even mean to do the bravest, nor riskiest thing in the world. Sometimes daring greatly can be just doing the right thing in today’s society. Unfortunately, in the average life of a high schooler, that isn’t easy. Seeing many fold to the pressure, keel at the anxiety, and suffer from the unknown of what their future’s hold, I feel sympathetic for the difficulties that each person is going through because it’s all a part of life and a little something called perseverance.

Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. After reading the speech, “The Man in the Arena”, I was immediately reminded of a saying that a special someone has always been telling me throughout my years at Cinco: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.”

Most kids walk into high school with optimism, some walk in with absolute terror, and others walk in with the pressure to do as well as their older siblings. However, I walked in on crutches. The week before the first day of school I had unfortunately torn my ACL at football practice, and little did I know, that would affect every aspect of my high school life. Throughout my entire high school football career, I have gone through two major knee surgeries and only have participated in about 20 total plays of competition. Yeah, it was tough, but the comradery and brotherhood I felt being a part of the team was well worth staying involved. In an effort to get my mind off the sport, I got involved in groups that I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved with beforehand. I tried new things like ultimate Frisbee, FBLA, running for a class office, and now, even training for a full marathon. It makes think how grateful I am to be able to attend a school with as many opportunities as there are at Cinco Ranch.

 High school is the time when people are pushed out of their comfort zones and are encouraged to dare greatly. If it was not for this aspect, I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today and my tale of perseverance would not be what it is. Some people ask me if I could go back in time and change what happened if I could, and to them, I answer, “It is the past that has turned me into the person I am today, I don’t know if I’d want to be any different.” Cinco Ranch holds a special place in my heart because it showed me that when things are tough it may only require a different perspective to solve the puzzle.

One of the greatest things I’ve been able to be a part of here at Cinco is something called Cougar Challenge. For those who do not know, Cougar Challenge is a day where students and teachers alike come together to participate in games, talks, and interact on a more personal level. Sometimes in high school, the most daring thing to do is to go up to a lone kid in the lunch room and introduce yourself. However, with Cougar Challenge, it’s designed to allow kids the comfort to step out of that shell and support each other because we are all one community. It’s something that makes Cinco Ranch High School unique from all other schools. It’s something that has allowed me an enjoyable environment to attend school because I know that if I ever need to get through a tough time or just have a friend to talk to I can find support  just around the corner. Cougar Challenge has showed me that life isn’t nearly as great when you go through it alone.


High school isn’t easy. Challenges and tests, not only in the classroom, but in life, are going to set you back and wear you down to pits of exhaustion. Every aspect of high school, whether it be social, education, or athletics, will make you take risks, put yourself where you have not been before, and above all else, dare greatly. However, as long as you just stay true to yourself, you’ll never feel like you’re chasing something you’re not. 

Another thing, don’t forget to have fun. These are the friends and memories you’ll have for a lifetime, and every day, you’re making new ones. I take the place I go to school for granted all too often. I wish I didn’t because Cinco Ranch High School challenged me and turned me into someone that I couldn’t have envisioned at a younger age. It showed me that perseverance doesn’t always have to mean overcoming a challenge, it could also mean just realizing a hard obstacle in life could actually be a hidden blessing.

Matt Ward, Senior

Friday, September 25, 2015

Finding joy beyond failure

With Joy…

I don’t know about you, but daring greatly has not always come easy for me. In fact I still struggle. When I think about both words, whether separate or apart, they are intimidating. They scare me because to dare means I have to take a risk, I don’t know the outcome, and the fear of failure takes over. To do it greatly, well either it has to be big or be successful. Then I started thinking about if I never put myself out there, how much I would miss out on. The fear of failure does win out a lot, but what if that fear wasn’t a fear at all, but a taste of trying, an attempt at being your true self and not hiding from others or sadly even yourself. After getting over the initial shock of these words and thinking about my world as an educator, a friend, a coworker, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and let’s face it a stranger to many, I started to grab on to them and began this transformation when I came to Cinco almost 9 years ago. It wasn’t something I woke up and decided to do but something heavy placed on my heart that provided opportunity to make different choices.

For many reasons that I won’t go into now, but maybe will touch on in a different blog posting or if someone asks me, I stopped operating from the negative side of life…the dramatic side if you will. I lost sight in the importance of modeling kindness, integrity, and only believed in the praise an amazing performance could bring (I was a dance teacher in my former life). I forgot that if I invested honestly into students and really people in general, they would be willing to take their own risks and possibly spread kindness to others. I could provide some strength that they themselves could not find, and we could possibly dare greatly together. The ability to walk through a tough situation with someone, problem solve together, encourage them, be their biggest fan, hold them in loving accountability or just listen ALWAYS comes back tenfold.   

I’ll be honest, I missed countless opportunities to laugh, to watch growth instead of just expect growth. For a long time, I missed the gift of growing good citizens and chose to capture the bad and look past the good. My priorities, my intentions, my philosophy had been lost somewhere along the way. During my time as a teacher, I worked to bring all walks of life together. I had to find a way to knit together not only dance teams that spent countless hours together, but my regular dance classes, my friends, and even my family. My angle? We are all human and in the grand scheme of things we all affect each other…good, bad or indifferent, we are all in it together.

Now as a counselor, this has become the forefront of any discussion or problem I walk through. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure I can teach anyone to dance, but really that’s not the focus. It’s awesome when the relationship is forged that the knowledge falls into place naturally because we are in the arena together. I’m just as invested as they are. The shift came when I started thinking about not wanting my students to be disappointed in me instead of me being disappointed in my students. I guess it really is about perspective. It became about creating a bond, a connection to someone to feel as though they can do anything that shakes them and be confident that if they fail, that we have each other’s backs.

Now, are there tough days? For sure! But I believe in order to connect and build relationships, a little bit of truth and joy goes a long way. Not the earth shattering type, but the “hey, I’m struggling today,” or “something has been heavy on my heart”, or “yesterday was a rough and I’m sad about it”. I even, while seemingly obvious, gave more praise instead of a correction or advice. Just letting those around me know a little bit helped me realize I needed to operate from the side of faith and joy in them. My choices in the little things began to change my focus that ultimately made my heart and mind soften and open.


See I have a choice each day. I have in my power to be part of a solution oriented awesome day or live in the not so awesome place of Grumpyville. Choosing awesome takes work and I would be lying if I said I didn’t fail…in fact I fail often; more often than I am proud of really. But the hope of a new day brings me joy. Making the choice of reaching out to someone can take a lifetime or an instant. The opportunity a smile creates can be endless. Daring greatly in intention, your openness in the small and insignificant things…that’s the risk. It’s easy to see and feel the scary in the mountains we have to climb, but it’s in the little things that you can greatly dare with joy!

Stacie Zimmerman, Lead Counselor

Friday, September 18, 2015

Daring Greatly has become contagious at Cinco Ranch

Hello cougars! I hope everyone is having a great fourth week of school, It's hard to believe we are already a month into school.

My name is Allie Schauer, and this is my final year at Cinco. The past four years have been a blast; between Chorale and Bravo, honor societies, and AP course loads, I’ve stayed busy. I practically live on the Cinco campus. While every year has had its ups and downs, I don’t think I would change a thing about my high school experience. Cinco Ranch has been a wonderful environment in which to spread my wings – it has more than prepared me for my future.

This blog, while promoting school spirit and unity, seems to be centered around the idea of taking risks sans fear or failure consuming you. My interpretation of this idea splits risks into two categories: everyday risks and opportunity risks. Everyday risks are the little things, like daring to answer a question in class even though you aren’t certain your answer is right or having to present a project in front of your class and knowing that you’re subject to instantaneous criticism. These tasks can be daunting, hence the risk. Opportunity risks happen when a special event is occurring and you’re given a chance to do something big and impactful by putting yourself on the line.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m in the Bravo Show Choir. For the past three years, I’ve sung in all group numbers and have had substantial solos, but those solos have always been accompanied by the rest of the ensemble. I’ve never performed a solo for a Bravo show while alone on stage. Until now. In “Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©,” this fall’s Bravo show which will be presented at 7:30pm on September 18th, and 19th, I’ll be performing a solo solo, and to be completely honest, I’m nervous about it. Singing alone on stage in front of a huge crowd…the fear of potentially messing up and embarrassing myself in front of my peers increases as show night draws nearer. But because I’m proud of Bravo and of the work I’ve put into improving my vocal skills over the past four years in the Cinco choir program, I’m ready to try my hand at something new. Fingers crossed, the show goes exactly as planned without any blunders, but even if it doesn’t, at least I tried. This is my current chance, my opportunity risk, and I’m going at it with everything I’ve got.

Everyday risks are just as important as opportunity risks, as every decision you make, every internal battle you win, helps you grow as an individual. My mantra, which is actually from the P90X workout regimen, is “do your best and forget the rest.” Without taking risks, you don’t know what you’re capable of. If you do your best in taking every opportunity you’re given, from speaking in class to singing in front of hundreds, you might find yourself growing in ways you never imagine.

I challenge you to branch out and try something you’ve never done, either because you feared the task or were afraid of failing it. If you’re up to it, let us know in the comments about your experience – in the process you might learn something about yourself.

Thanks so much for reading! I’d love if you’d join me as I take on my risk at the Bravo show in the PAC at 7:30 on September 18th and 19th! Have a great rest of your week, Cougars!

Allie Schauer, Senior

Friday, September 11, 2015

Daring Greatly: A Student's Perspective

I still remember a quote from my freshman year in English class when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, a distinct line where the author defines courage. Courage, she says, is “when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do” (Harper Lee). And to be honest, I couldn’t tell you much about the plot of that book anymore, but that quote has stuck with me ever since.

When I was approached to write about daring greatly and Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “The Man in the Arena”, I had never even heard of it. After reading the speech, however, I could sum it up into one word: courage.

I play quarterback on the varsity football team, and because I live in the great state of Texas, that means close to 10,000 people will come to watch the Cougars secure a win on any given night. But no matter how close the fans sit, there will always be some things that they never see. They watch a quarterback escape pressure and launch a bomb into the end zone for an exciting touchdown, but they don't see him running sprints every day, so he can outrun the monsters that who want to take his head, or lifting weights to transform his body from a thin shell to a blast of muscle capable of withstanding hits and driving back defenders. They don’t see the hours and hours he spent practicing the exact steps he took to escape the pressure, and the hours and hours he practiced putting the ball in that exact same place. So, sometimes, when a player is having a bad game, it’s easy to criticize him when you don’t know what he has been through just to get to that point. Players are not winners based on the score of the game, they are winners based on their efforts before the game, preparing and improving themselves on a daily basis in 100 degree weather while everyone else is chilling at Bahama Mama’s.

To the critics I ask, would you be willing to put in that work? The answer to that would of course be “no”, because otherwise they would respect the player’s efforts. They would understand that the mistakes a player makes are results of him giving his full effort, that because he has invested so much in the game, he is not afraid to dare for greatness, dare to make a deep throw and hold his head high if it is intercepted. Some people wonder what it takes to play football. Talent? Special training? Speed? Strength? For me football only requires one thing, courage. It is in our willingness to take a chance at success without fear of the outcome that lies our potential. I have personally had to overcome several obstacles when it comes to football. I’m not very tall, especially for a quarterback, and many people want to count me out just because of my size. Additionally, I tore a ligament in my foot that left me unable to walk for three months. But in those three months, I learned that whether you crawl, walk, run, or use a scooter to get around, if you keep moving forward, you will find success.

I am thankful that Cinco Ranch High School has provided me with opportunities to dare for greatness. Sure, there have been downsides and rough days, but that’s just a part of life. I would almost think there is something wrong with me if I didn't have an off day every once in a while. I was asked a week ago about how high school has impacted me. I was stuck, I had never really thought about it until then. I knew what I had done, but I had never taken a step back to see how it affected me. I’ve had a comprehensive high school experience, seeing the sides of fine arts, sports, academics, student leadership, and social life. I’ve had the chance to be in the drumline, meet new people, make a fool of myself dancing on stage, experience Friday Night Lights in real life, go to parties, work with teachers to understand difficult concepts, and venture out into new things that changed my perspective and developed my personality. I was never quite sure what to expect from high school and what it could offer me. Looking back on it, I’m glad I challenged myself, it made me mentally tough. I figured out who I am, and who my friends are; there are some really special people in this school, and frankly, after all the novelty of iPads and smart boards wears away, it’s the people that make a school special.

 I have a sense of belonging, Cinco Ranch is a part of who I am now. And I have a pride for my school that I never expected to have going into it all. The CPOE runs high in this one for sure. If there is one thing I wish I would do more of in high school, it is knowing when to have fun and take a break from my rigorous studies, which, for me, is every bit as daring as running for Vice President. In the end, I will not remember the questions on my Calculus worksheet, but I will remember the experiences I have with my friends and classmates. I asked some friends if there was anything they wished they had dared to do in their time at Cinco. There was a unanimous resentment for not being more involved during their freshman and sophomore years. They reminded me of the man in the arena. When you walk into high school, there’s so much noise, so many critics, you’re afraid to branch out and do anything. It’s a similar experience walking out onto a football field. Before the kickoff, you hear the band playing Tomahawk music and the fans cheering at the top of their lungs, and it’s not until you’re a couple of drives into the game that all of the distractions around you disappear. As underclassmen, we listen to the crowd too much. We fail to realize that the critics only have power if we give them attention. But the longer we stay in the arena, the longer we’ve been in school, the further we progress in life, we learn to zone out the noise and have the courage to dare to do great things for ourselves.

Felix Luongo, Senior
#CPOE

Friday, September 4, 2015

My Journey to the Ranch (or joining the best high school in America)

As we all head into another busy work week, I want to take a quick trip down memory lane and recap my recent journey - about how I arrived at the Best High School in America...Cinco Ranch High School.

When I moved to Houston from Michigan, fresh out of college, I was excited - ready to work - and eager to learn, which is exactly how I feel as I write this blog today.  In 2007, I became a teacher and a coach, immediately upon arrival and I loved it, but little did I know, things would not always stay that way.  Somehow - after almost ten years - I realized that I didn't always love where I was and all of the components that surrounded me.  I needed more of something.  Maybe something was missing.

I needed to be somewhere new, somewhere fresh, where staff members were willing to grow, and stay lifelong learners.  I needed to be somewhere different.  Life has its moments of peaks and pits, plus it can be somewhat of a roller coaster at times.  We all know this, we've all experienced it at some time or another.  Being here at Cinco is one of my best peaks, and I'm very excited to tell people how fortunate I have been to arrive here.

My experiences in the last few years - before coming to Cinco - helped me to grow as an educator, learn from others, and forced me to gather more tools for my future plan toward success.  My journey to get into Katy ISD has definitely been the change that I wanted, yet for the struggles that came before today, I still am, so very thankful.  It was worth every moment because now, I don't sweat the small stuff.

A few years ago I started to pay closer attention to how many people were saying great things about Katy ISD. I listened intently as my friends shared their experiences from Cinco Ranch High School and the amazing words that they used to compliment its staff, administration, teachers, students, and programs.  They loved it here.  I wasn't sure if I believed it could all really be true though, because of the hardships I faced, I couldn't even imagine what "The Ranch" would really be like on a daily basis.  I knew that arriving to "The Ranch" was going to be my goal, but I had to be patient during the process of getting there.  Finding a place to fit in at the Best High School in America would not be easy, so I had to get to work.

I set out to get my Master's Degree, started getting more involved to take on responsibilities with curriculum and instruction and joined district cohorts to learn how to be a successful Instructional Coach.  Now, a few years later, I am beyond excited to experience the outcomes of my hard work and the reality of coming to this campus every day.  Cinco Ranch is amazing.  There is no other way to say it.  It's true.  You can walk into the building for just five short minutes and feel the reality of that statement.  The ICs I work with are so much fun and I enjoy all the teams that I get to be a part of.

The staff here is remarkable.  Everyone is willing to go above and beyond.  The leadership team and administration have been beyond welcoming, very resourceful and incredibly caring. No one lied to me when they said that everyone has family here, because in reality, I know that these staff members care about each other, and I learned that in just the first week.  I know that the Social Studies Department rocks, and they prove this to me every single day.  In my eyes, the bar has been raised in many areas. My struggle was real, but it was all worth it.  The professionalism here is apparent, and the happiness that these changes have brought to me personally, and my life, can be seen in my smile every day when I get to drive to the Best High School in America...Cinco Ranch High School.

Every day that goes by, I realize how truly blessed I am, and how thankful I am for this incredible opportunity.  I am beyond excited for this school year! Go Cougars!

Erica Robinson, Social Studies Instructional Coach

Friday, August 28, 2015

Daring Greatly Together

Dear Cinco Family,

This time last year, if someone had told me that I should open myself to failure more often, I would tell them they had lost their minds.  But over the course of the last three or four months, born from a variety of experiences and opportunities, a trip to Iowa, and a book called Daring Greatly, my perspective has changed.  I come to you today as a very proud and excited principal taking an opportunity to begin a new journey. My hope is this blog will showcase the great things that happen at our school both in and out of the classroom each day.  I will be inviting teachers and students to share their stories. Stories that lift us up. Stories that cause us to pause and reflect.  Stories that challenge us.  I may even throw in a story or two myself.

This journey began with a trip to a relatively small town in Iowa called Bettendorf.  Unfortunately, this trip to Iowa did not involve a corn farm turning into a magical baseball field whispering, "If you build it, he will come."  It involved a small town and an inspiring high school.  At Bettendorf High School I saw great things happening for its students.  I saw them showing off their pride.  I saw that they had a voice in their education.  I saw they recognized their history and what it meant to be a Bulldog.  I also saw a town that celebrated success at every turn possible.  I was impressed that this school was making such an impact on its students and its community.  So impressed that I challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone and try new things...scary things...like writing a blog.

As fate would have it, on the plane ride back to Katy, I read the national bestselling book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, a professor of sociology at The University of Houston.  Without giving you an in-depth review, I would tell you this book is about understanding vulnerability, the deep need to feel connected as human beings, and the desire to live a "whole-hearted" life.  According to Dr. Brown, we have to put ourselves out there and let ourselves be seen in order to find fulfillment.  

Now I won't lie. After reading the book, I wanted to hide from the challenges I had just set for myself.  The thought of putting myself out there and potentially failing did not feel motivational, inspirational, or even mildly pleasant.  A loop of "what if?" ran through my mind.  What if something goes wrong?  What if people don't like what we're doing?  What if no one even reads this blog? But those kinds of what ifs can produce a very counter-productive conversation.  They can stifle creativity, growth, and certainly a willingness to "dare greatly."

The title of the book itself intrigued me.  Dr. Brown’s idea for the title came from Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena speech.  It is definitely one of my all-time favorites.  I even recall putting it up in my classroom the very first year I taught, many moons ago.  If you are not familiar with this powerful speech, google it when you have a moment.  It is certainly worth a read.  It has even made its way into mainstream advertising for an American luxury car-maker.  I would argue that the best line in the speech is the one that inspired Dr. Brown’s title.  Roosevelt said credit should be given to the man "who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

This blog is about the community of Cinco Ranch daring greatly together.  So many great things happen here.  Some of which you know. Some of which you never hear.  There are also challenges and struggles.  Again, some you know.  Some you don't.  My goal is to celebrate those great things and give voice to our struggles.  To bring connection.  Our department chairs very recently remarked, "the only failure is in not trying."  I want to remind our students, staff, and parents, and community of those memorable words: "if [we] fail, at least [we] fail while daring greatly."  So Cinco Ranch, let's jump into the arena together and make our school "The Best High School in America."