The Book Dilemma

For the past several weeks I had been meaning to go to Barnes and Noble. I haven’t read a book since around the time of spring break and summer is typically when I start reading more.

I was procrastinating, however, because a good book can sometimes be the easiest distractor in the world. You feel like you’re being good because you’re reading, but really there are 50 million other things you should be doing. Or in my case really just one major thing I should be doing: homework for my online history course…

For this course, I take a test about every other week and each test covers about four chapters which are each about 30 pages in my textbook, plus I have around six hours of lecture to watch per week as well. I’m typically a fairly slow reader, therefore, I know that any time I have for reading should really be spent reading my textbook, not a personal reading book.

Today though, we had coupons that were about to expire so I finally went on the search for a new book series to start. I ended up finding two books that start different series that sounded interesting “The Darkest Minds” and “Shadow and Bone.”

(Quick tangent: I find that people are sometimes surprised by the books I read. Due to my love for transformative education and innovation and just general nerdiness, people tend to assume I read all sorts of educational, thought-provoking, non-fiction books. This is false. There are times when I’m still very much just a teenage girl and in fact, most of the books I read are random stereotypical young adult dystopian series. While I do find myself intrigued by a lot of the back cover messages of those educational type books, I can’t get myself hooked on them easily so I often stick with articles or blog posts for that genre of reading.)

So now I’m in a weird limbo period where I have less than a week left of my history class and am now trying very hard to finish strong with reading my textbook when I know the books I really want to read are an arm’s length away.

I have such a love-hate relationship with the feeling of getting sucked into a good book…

One more week then I can explore these new worlds.

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Changes Are Coming

It used to be that every four years the USA gymnastics routines would change for compulsory levels. The last time routines changed was four years ago, however, an annoucement was made a few years back that for this set of routines we will be waiting eight years before changing routines.

The thing is, eight years is a long time to keep the same compulsory routines and policies for levels. Plus, like most things, once kids started actually performing the routines, the board realized things they’d like to change. So despite the fact that we have the current routines for four more years, some changes were put in place for certain levels.

Therefore, our level progressions (because there are some options so not every girl takes the same path to get to a certain point in their gymnatics career) have now been all turned around and wonky.

I feel bad for this first round of gymnasts having to be the first to experience these changes, the “guinea pig year” so to say. It’s always hard being the guinea pigs of new changes, but that’s how we learn is by shipping new ideas and seeing what happens. There never seems to be a perfect transition, but that’s life; it’s just a lot harder when you’re the coach versus the athlete because you have so much influence over how easy or hard that transition is for all the kids.

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.

Why I Blog

For a girl whose lowest grades always came from English class, I never thought I would confidently call myself a writer. Then I assigned myself the challenge to start a blog and post for 100 days in a row after getting an “innovation bingo” card that was meant to give students like me ideas for ways to stretch our creative minds over the summer. The activities wouldn’t be graded and we weren’t required to do any of them at all, but I love a good challenge.

At first I was at a loss for what to write about, but I learned quickly that it’s best to write about what I know and observe. My first few posts still make me laugh because they were very short, hardly a few paragraphs, and each of them were about somewhat cliche topics. However, as many teachers often say, “The more you practice the better you get,” and over time my writing actually got better.

Much to my surprise I slowly got more followers as my writing improved; thought leaders from around the world are constantly commenting on my posts. I still just write about my daily observations, but my observations have grown more insightful. Furthermore, blogging has allowed me to learn more about myself and has opened me up to new opportunities.

Knowing myself is the first step to being able to better understand the world. Truthfully, I believe that K-12 education does not focus enough on students learning about and discovering their sense of self. My sense of self has developed immensely due to blogging because sometimes when I write and then read over my writing, I’m able to discern trends and tendencies about how I act and respond to situations better than I can otherwise. I can then hypothesize about my future self in situations based on these observations. I’m still discovering more about myself everyday, and it makes me excited—I wish more students got the chance to experience this. As I move forward in life, I hope to learn more about ways to help other kids learn more about themselves because that’s how we grow.

One thing that I have learned, is that I deeply desire to be a part of the movement to transform education. Students of today’s schools need to be prepared for jobs that are yet to exist, and a school that is still following the traditional norms of an Industrial Age school is simply not going to prepare kids to solve the problems of tomorrow. One way I have contributed to this movement is by learning about the process of design thinking, human centered problem solving, which has allowed me to see problems in my everyday life as opportunities for change and innovation. Over time, my blog has become more and more related to education transformation and ways that I believe we can blur the lines between “school” and the “real world” in order to give students authentic learning experiences that will help them throughout their lives.

 Blogging has given me a place to share my story in a way that allows me to easily look back and find trends and connections between my observations. And, on top of everything, I’m constantly expanding my network and being asked to participate in new opportunities. Writing helps us think, reflecting helps us grow, and sharing helps make the world a better place—blogging is all three in one! I know I’m not the best writer in the world, and I know there’s much to improve on. But, since I’ve been blogging, I’ve developed a new confidence and appreciation for having the ability to share my own individual voice with the world.

The Future is Here

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For the past four years, and even longer than that really, the year 2017 has been talked about as this mystical year in the future. This great year that we’ve worked so hard to get to. The year I turn 18. The year I graduate high school. The year I go to college. The year so much changes.

It’s always seemed so far away; a distant future. The end of the line and the beginning of a new era.

Now it’s only hours away.

2017, the year of my future is so close I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I turn 18 in a mere two days and I graduate in a few months and I go to college in less than a year. So much is about to happen in my life, so much that has been talked about for all of the years of my existence.

Everything has always been “leading to 2017”- well now it’s here and not slowing down.

First semester has gone by so fast. Life has been crazy to say the least. Between home, school, work, and friends there has been a lot going on. (So much that I’ve not been able to blog nearly as much as I’ve wanted due to so many late nights…)

I’m told that second semester goes by even faster for seniors. After accounting for breaks, trips and events, and senior work days, there are hardly any school days left for seniors. Graduation is just around the corner and sometimes I feel incredibly ready, and other times I feel incredibly not.

But 2017 will come all the same. It is here. It is now. It is time. Image result for 2017

Time for 2016 to be over and time for things to start changing. The new year is here; class of 2017, good luck, because our future has arrived.

 

Breathtaking

Ever have those moments when you see something so breathtaking that you just can’t quite describe it in words? Those moments where you realize that even when you try to frame a million words you still don’t have the full picture.

I saw a brilliant play tonight called, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” that left me speechless.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain; he is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to identify the true culprit, which leads to an earth-shattering discovery and a journey that will change his life forever.

The show masterfully combined a compelling plot with a simple set that took advantage of the wonders of technology and people alike. The only actual set pieces beside 3 floor to ceiling tech paneled walls (I honestly can’t describe them much better than that), were about 10 blocks that were used to create different settings and could glow different colors when not in their neutral all white state. There were lots of scenes where there was minimal talking, but intricately choreographed stage fights and moments of confusion or “insanity” where people would appear to be walking on walls, flying, or even just imitating the chaos of a busy London street.

I don’t want to give much away about the plot itself, but the last line was something to the extent of, “So I can do anything, right?!” It’s such an intriguing question because as a optimist I might want to say, “Yes!”, but as a realist I might want to say, “Well, no there are somethings you just can’t do, but those are things no one can do.” But at the same time, I could also be a realist by saying, “It’s all just a matter of time.” Who knows what may someday be possible? Maybe there are things we can’t do now, but in years to come flying in a jet pack may be as normal as talking on a cell phone.  Who’s to say what can and can’t be done? Is it ever reasonable to say without first trying?

Theater Changing Lives

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The set of “Painted.”

The biggest change for me between the school year to summer is that I go from being in the theater 15 hours a week to practically none at all. It’s a hard transition, and now that there are only a few weeks until school starts, I can’t wait to start my last season as an MVPAllStar.

I love going to NYC, because I always get to see at least one show, often more, and lucky for me, I’m in NYC now!!! I already have plans to see several shows this week. Tomorrow I think I’m seeing “Something Rotten” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” Plus this trip to NYC is extra special because I’m getting to be the assistant stage manager for a show called “Painted” that my aunt co-wrote, directed, and is performing in off Broadway.

It’s a one act short play that speaks about gender roles and how people should be able to express themselves however they want to. Her play is a part of a big event she helped create where lots of young adults will be exhibiting art work they did on the topic. The project started when my aunt and her friend spoke at her old performing arts school after a the Westboro Baptist Church came and protested outside the school.  After speaking at the school, she and her friend ended up creating an after school program and it’s now evolved into this big show Friday night!

I was at rehearsal all day today and am super excited for Friday because the show is really saying something important. I was running lights and sound after working on finishing the set today, which will never feel the same as actually being on stage myself, but I’m happy to be a part of the show and back in the theater in any way I can. I love the theater; it changes lives each and every day.

Present Future

imgres.jpgOver the summer is always a weird time with trying to say what grade your in. Every year you’re like “well I just finished 8th grade, but I’m not really a freshman yet,” etc. However, once you graduate junior year, it’s like that next second you all of a sudden become a senior. Poof. Abracadabra. Magic. Just like that you’re told you’re older with all of these new responsibilities that you have to start figuring out.

Now that I’m apparently a senior, I get asked all of the time “where do you want to go to college,” which seems like a seems like a simple enough question; wrong. It’s a question full of confusion and hope and stress and excitement and at this point just hard to answer. Yet today alone I think it came up 3 times for me.

Sometimes what frustrates me is that it seems like everyone’s always looking too far in the future. Yes college is a big part of some people’s lives and a big decision and all, but what about this whole year I still have in front of me? What about the more immediate future? I’m just as confused and hopefully and stressed and excited about my present future as I am about my future future, but one is much more right in front of me. Yet once you become a senior it seems that people stop asking about your present future and trying to help you plan for exciting things we can do right now in our life.

I mean just within this past week alone I’ve had my first MVPS Strategic Planning meeting, Kat and I are talking to a school taking first steps towards 21st century education about our AP Lang course tomorrow, and then fuse16 is Wednesday-Friday this week! There are so many exciting things right in front of me before college! And there are so many possibilities of things I can accomplish just next year!

High school, middle school, even elementary school students have amazing capabilities and potential just at the age they are right now. I think talking about college bugs me so much sometimes because some people seem to make it seem like we have to wait to have the “time of our life” until we get to college. I want next year to be amazing and big and exciting and impactful and I don’t want to spend all year just talking about the future future; I want to spend more time focusing on the present future because that matters too.

Senior Theater Project

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“Hey guys, so I’ve now talked to all of you about this idea to do a senior theater project next year where the 6 of us put on a show, and everyone seems to be on board! Between the various conversations I’ve had with you guys, it seems that everyone, to some level at least, is interested in the idea of us writing our own script.

Considering this is obviously going to take some time to put on, I figured it might be a good idea for us to all meet to at least start talking about how we want to go about all of this. Any chance we’re all available Monday during enrichment and lunch to start throwing out some ideas and figuring out how we’re going to make this happen?

-πnya Smith “
It was almost exactly 3 months ago that I first sent this email to my fellow soon to be senior thespians. It was in this moment that the Senior Theater Project of 2016-17 was born.
I had been talking here and there with the other thespians for at least a week about this crazy idea I had for just the 6 seniors to put on our own production, but this email signified the true begining of a what promises to be a great ride.
We have met and discussed a few times since this first meeting, but today was the first time we felt ready to start bringing in more people such as our theater director and head of fine arts to start figuring out next steps to make this idea a reality.
So far we’ve established roles and started coming up with some knows and need to knows. We know so far that we want to create our own one act show which we will work on in 3 segments: 1. Summer-gathering inspiration through interviews 2. Script- script table read by the end of first semester 3. Show- end of 2nd semester have the stage performance ready.
And most importantly we know that we want our show to be something that makes a statement. Theater is meant to be entertaining, but it is also meant to be so much more. Good theater entertains, but great theater entertains while challenging everything you know, and taking what you might try to ignore and sticking it in center stage for all to see in it’s full light. We know that we want to craft a piece that impacts an audience of all ages, and we know that we have a perspective different from most writers because we are students. Now we need to know how we get this show on the road to the stage.
Step 1- find the story.
So far the general theme we want to explore is the sense of identity because it’s something that anyone can relate to, but it is especially relevant to high schoolers. With social media we now have the ability to develop so many different identities for ourselves, and the dissonance between self-identity and perception is something we want to examine; we have a hunch that there’s a story there just waiting to be told.
We got much of this inspiration from a video one of our teachers sent us after overhearing one of our early brainstorms were we discussed identity. But I got further convinced that there is something to this hunch when I saw this quote from writer and star of Broadway’s hit musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda:
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Theater is a place where all stories are shared, and after years of performing on stage, I feel ready to do more than just share stories others believe need to be told- I want to have a hand in finding the stories. I do not want us to just create a script that plays to the strengths of those of us in the cast and has our “usual characters” in it- I want to create a script that shows the characters that an audience needs to hear from. This is why, like any true design project, we have chosen to start with empathy- to start our story by listening to the stories of others. We don’t have an outline, or a sketch, or even a narrowed down concept yet for this show, but we know our next step is to come up with a set of questions that relate to “identity” which we will use to interview as many people as we can to help us find the story that needs to be told. Then we will move from there.
Theater is sharing stories, and the Senior Theater Project is going to be a story to look out for.