The Sub-Story

I’m very fortunate to get to see a lot of professional theater due to my family’s love of the arts and various connections in the theater world. Sometimes I’m even lucky enough to get to see a show more than once.

Tonight I saw “Something Rotten” at the Fox after having seen it a year or so ago on Broadway.

It’s always interesting to revisit something, especially when its artist. There are always new elements or some elements that you may have just missed the first time. Getting a second chance to view something allows you to dive deeper and further explore all the sub-layers to a work. I realized tonight that there were a lot of jokes and references I hadn’t noticed the first time, which also made me appreciate how my own theater knowledge has grown over the past few years.

Furthermore, I found myself less judgy this time around. Typically when I see a show I always get asked about my opinion, and perhaps this makes me more judgy then the average viewer, but seeing a show again is like giving it a second chance. You know the major parts already so you can open up to all the undertones of the story and appreciate the subtleties.

Every now and then it’s great to revisit something random and take in a story in a whole new light.

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Not the Same

Since starting college, I haven’t really kept up with acro. My tops/middle all quit before the spring of my senior year, and the new girl I had for that semester wasn’t nearly as committed. However, there is now a team girl who has expressed interest in doing acro so I agreed to start working with her.

Today was our second day practicing, but really the first day was only for 30 minutes so it hardly counted. We are trying to do a routine in the showcase in a few weeks, thus we’ve had to move pretty quickly. Even though she hasn’t done acro before, as a gymnast I knew she’d pick it up fast, and in the past, I’ve become about a level 8 in acro so I decided we’d start somewhere between level 7 and 8.

I’ve loved getting back into acro, but what I didn’t expect is that my new partner is not the one struggling in this pair…

It’s easy to forget sometimes that when we get out of the practice of something that we can’t just jump right in at the same level we left off at.

I’ve taken a year off and while I’ve done some silks and dance, no two things are exactly the same, so thus today doing skills like sliding to split while holding a girl above my head was a bit harder than expected. I’m gonna be very sore tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll get back with it, at least long enough to put on a good show!

I feel like this year has been similar also with design thinking, I’ve been more in practice then I have with acro, but all year I haven’t been nearly at the same level as high school. It’s been really sad to think about, but slowly I’ve been bringing more DT into new environments so that’s been promising. More to come on that at a later time.

Why Learn

Well, I’ve officially had the first hiccup of my challenge from forgetting to blog last night. Probably for the best though so I didn’t procrastinate studying physics any more than I already had by this point last night.

Though now that my final test before finals is over, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “study.”

Sometimes we use this word synonymously with “learn” but the more I think about it, I believe there is a difference.

Most frequently, studying refers to preparing for an assessment of some kind, but this can be done in a number of ways, not all of which require actual learning. To most students, more often than not, studying just means committing facts and equations to short-term memory in order to do well on a test. I myself am guilty of this.

Learning takes time that we don’t always have before an assessment. In theory, you learn along the way so by the time an assessment comes around, you already have learned what you need to know. But what if you didn’t learn what was necessary? After all, not everyone learns at the same pace, so if we’re expected to have learned certain things before an assessment, then why are we expected to take assessments at the same times?

The fact that we teach “study skills” is kind of funny in this regard, because part of this notion is implying that you don’t fully know the material you are going to be assessed on so you have to strategically study to make sure you know enough to pass. It seems reasonable that we shouldn’t be expected to fully know everything, but that begs the question of what qualifies as “enough”? Who determines what “enough” is? Should “enough” be the same metric for everyone?

Logically the next thing to talk about would be the notion of grades, but I feel like I’ve made my opinion on grades fairly clear in the past and don’t want to dwell on their problematic structure. However, I do wonder, if before going into surgery we saw our doctors report card, how would we perceive him/her?

Anyway, back on the notion of “learning,” I’ve realized that I often consider myself to have truly learned something if I’m able to teach it to someone else. And to be honest, I feel like if I take all of my education thus far, I don’t know how many things would fall into this category. I’ve done well in school, but I’m not sure if I was always learning. And this includes classes I considered to enjoy based on the subject or teacher.

And I’ve noted that in the education world, we like to talk about “teaching kids how to learn,” but pondering this today I wonder if really we should be trying to teach kids why to learn. I think most kids have a general understanding, even at a young age, that learning takes time and practice. Most of the time when we don’t learn, it’s because we don’t want to. We haven’t been convinced why it should be worth learning something.

The reasons why we learn really don’t need to be obvious or even relevant out of context. For example, as a bit of a tangent story, I believe, and if you ask 75% of my graduating class they’d agree, I learned my 7th-grade vocab words. I was motivated in this case by competition.

We played a game in English class called “Vocab Basketball” where at the end of each week our class would split into teams and be asked vocab questions if we got it right then we got a point for our team and the chance to try making a basket to gain a second point. However, there was more to this game. Each week if you used, read, or heard a vocab word used in a sentence then you could write down the word, how it was used, and what it means and put it in your class bucket. At the end of the week, whichever student in each individual class had the most words got a homework pass, and at the end of the year, whichever class had the most words got a party. First semester only one kid in my class really tried, so he got all of the homework passes. I didn’t really care about the homework passes, but it seemed silly to me that he should get all of them for barely trying at all, so I started trying. Sure enough, we ended up in steep competition, but it was also benefiting our class, so then kids from other classes started trying more in order to attempt to keep up with our class total. We may have been motivated to want to learn due to competition, but we definitely learned. The reason I have no doubts about having learned those words and their meanings is because to this day we will occasionally still point out and use words we recall being on one of our 7th-grade vocab lists. I can’t say the same about vocab words from other years.

Anyway, I got lost in my train of thought on that tangent, but I do wonder still, for the amount I’ve studied this year, how much have I really learned? How much do we learn any year for that matter? How do we choose what we learn? What motivates us to learn? How can we spend more time exploring why we learn certain things and not just how we learn them?

Watching the Years

Today was one of those days where I felt really old…

It’s easy to forget how time flies sometimes, but then something happens to annoying remind you of its existence. I spent pretty much all day at the gym today, and while I was there a meeting happened with all of the teens that will be helping with camp and potentially classes this year.

I felt old partially just because I didn’t need to be at this meeting, but I was okay with that, but I felt especially old because we now have girls who I’ve known since they were 5 and 6 when they use to be on our team and now they are working at the gym!

One of the weirdest and best parts of coaching/teaching is getting to watch kids grow up.

It’s crazy to me when I can have full conversations with coaches kids I still think of as being 3 running around the gym half naked. Or when I realize I’m 10 years older than a handful of our team girls. Or when I see kids I remember having to use three mats to reach some of the equipment now tower over me and have deeper voices and look all grown up.

I don’t think I’ll ever get use to watching kids grow up, but it is kind of amazing in a weird sort of way. I suppose it’s part of the reason some people become teachers- because they enjoy playing a role in that process.

Scaling Down

Today was the first day I worked with most of our team girls on the group routine. Turns out I may have been a little too ambitious with this choreography…

I was excited because our younger team girls are fairly advanced this year, so when we decided to have everyone in one routine, I left the same choreography that was intended for our upper-level gymnasts. I thought it would be fine because of our girls being advanced and whatnot, but I definitely fell into the trap of maybe dreaming a bit too big on this routine. Thus I was quickly reminded of the importance of testing and iterating on the fly.

Coaching today reminded me that while it’s great to be ambitious, dream big, and strive for crazy goals, you also need to keep in mind feasibility and sometimes scale down goals to build up to big ideas.

Luckily, I think the routine will all work out, but today definitely got me second guessing some decisions.

Habits of Mind

It’s officially been a week since I re-started my 100-day blogging challenge!!! It’s amazing how it’s already starting to feel more natural again to take the time each night to just get something written out.

People really are creatures of habit and it’s always funny to me when I realize this. It makes sense from a gymnastics perspective. We always tell kids they have to train the way they want to compete because it’s more likely that your body will go into muscle memory mode. I suppose our brain works a similar way (I mean it is basically a complex muscle).

If we train our brains to think a certain way or to be mindful of a certain practice, then over time it is easier to stick with that mindset. (Though it’s also noteworthy that even if you make a habit of something, it still takes time to actually get good at it. It’s been amusing to me how much some of these posts from the past week remind me of my early days; ones where they’re really pulled out of nothing and not what I’d consider my most insightful writing… First comes the habit, then comes the skill.)

As the summer comes around, I like to try and make goals for myself. This summer one of my goals is to be more aware of the habits I create for myself and to try to create a productive work schedule even within this supposal “break.”

Working Hard

I’ve written a lot about gymnastics this weekend, but honestly, it’s been all I’ve done the past few days. I literally got up this morning at 6:15am to get to our state competition this morning and only got home at 8pm.

But it was totally worth it because all of our girls qualified for regionals!!!!! I’m so glad I got to be there today during everyone’s best competition of the season!

Gymnastics teaches a lot of life lessons, but one of my favorites is when our younger girls experience how hard work pays off.

When Time Flies

Some people hate dealing with kids, but I really do love it most of the time at least.

I love their excited energy. I love their imaginative spirit of believing anything is possible. I love seeing the smiling faces when they learn how to do something on their own.

I worked for a long time today teaching some girls a lot of new gymnastics skills, but even though it was a long time, I didn’t feel like it.

Time flies when you enjoy what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Something More

One of the reasons some may call me weird is because I love being busy. It turns out I’m actually more productive when I’m busy; I get so paranoid and anxious about making sure I get everything done, that I end up getting work done earlier than it’s needed.

Therefore, April is going to be a very exciting month. Today was the first week of me starting to work at the gym (Jump Start) four days a week and volunteering once a week as the acro choreographer for my high school’s production of Aladdin Jr. on top of my normal school work and activities.

As busy as my life is about to be, I’ve already been enjoying getting to work with the kids on their routines. I’ve realized this past year just how much I enjoy choreographing gymnastics routines because it’s the first year I’ve had to commit extra effort into being able to coach. Traveling back and forth from Midtown to Sandy Springs five times a week is not the most fun thing, actually, it’s kind of annoying, but getting the chance to work on these routines makes it okay.

I’ve also been more in demand then years past, with working on the Aladdin production just being one example, I also had an old team girl reach out asking me to choreograph her high school routine, and then had an interview with the Atlanta Ballet just a few weeks ago.

Before this year I never really thought about choreographing as a job, but it’s enlightening to realize little talents you have could maybe be something more.

Another 100 Days…

I feel like I’ve been in a sad rut of writer’s block all year. Since starting college I have written 12 blog posts.

Only 12- that’s less than I wrote in 2 weeks back when I first started this blog.

I haven’t been blocked off mentally. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ll be lying in bed or walking to class where I start thinking and realize, “man this would be a great blog post.” But then I never get around to actually typing it out. So I suppose you could say I have “writing block” oppose to “writer’s block.”

I know I should write, but…

I keep making excuses for myself like “oh it’s too late,” or “oh I have homework,” or “oh I’ve done so much work today and now I just want to watch TV and have a mental break.” Some of the time these reasons are valid, but in reality, I know that most of the time I finish my homework early, and I go to bed late anyway doing less worthy things, and I’ve probably watched more online than I ever did in high school.

Maybe it’s been a fear of not having anything good enough to post or a fear of getting too ranty seeing as this year I’ve had a lot of new rants upon entering a whole new world of education bugs in higher ed. I’m not sure exactly what’s kept me from blogging besides a bunch of lame excuses when it boils down to it.

I started this blog heading into my sophomore year of high school with no clue what I was going to write about, but with the understanding that I would write about whatever just for the sake of. Somewhere along the way, I started discovering my passion for transformative education and my blog became more focused. I’m grateful for this discovery, though I think I’ve been stuck with this idea now that it’s only when I’m doing/thinking about something very related to this passion that it’s worth me taking the time to blog.

Well now, this has become a problem in my opinion, and not only in regards to my blog.

I’ve officially decided to start writing the book that some know I’ve been talking about for three years now. It’s going to be about why the education system needs to be transformed as told through a student’s narrative-including some of the stories we don’t always like to talk about. At this point, I’ve made an outline and an intro, but I’ve been stuck when it comes to actually starting to write the book. All of the thoughts are there, but I can’t seem to take the time to get them down.

I want to change this streak of “writing block”, so this is my way of trying to get back into the groove of writing: taking my own advice.

Back when I started blogging I was told that my overall writing got better, and when I finished my 100 days in a row, I found that I actually enjoyed writing and needed to keep writing. People would ask how I did it and say that they feel like they never have anything “good enough” to write about. My advice was always “Just write about whatever, don’t worry about what other people think, just start writing.”

I didn’t start blogging because I felt I had anything profound to say that society needed to read. I started because I gave myself the challenge to better my observation and writing skills by blogging for a 100 days in a row and just seeing how it went.

I want to get back to that time when the writing just flowed naturally. And it seems kind of fitting that now as I’m about to start the summer before my sophomore year of college, that I go back to my roots and try to write just for the sake of writing again. Who knows, maybe a few gems will come out of it.

Here’s to another 100 days…