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.

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 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