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

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