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.

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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.

Celebrating the Bard

IMG_5446.JPGHow did you spend the 400th birth/death day of the great bard William Shakespeare?

Well I, along with many other members of the mvps community, spent it supporting our upper school theater director Clark Taylor at his opening night for the show Equivocation. If you live anywhere near Atlanta, I highly recommend going out to see this show at the Shakespeare Tavern!

This show reminds you to stay true to yourself and speak up for your beliefs, because the “truth” is a sticky matter, but just because you can’t answer a simple “yes” or “no” doesn’t mean you should stay silent; staying silent means justice will never be served.

Anytime you say something publicly, you’re stating your opinion, which can be a dangerous thing to do. People will judge you based on your opinion there is no question about that. But there is the question, “How do you wish for the public to perceive you?” How do you say what needs to be said in a corrupt situation without condemning yourself to punishment by the powers in control? In the case of Shakespeare, this means you must master the technique of equivocating by employing rhetorical strategies like wit and dramatic irony in order to, “answer the question they’re really asking.” No question or answer is simple, and the surface question is often covering the underlying question which gets at the meaning as to why the question was asked.

The example Equivocation used to explain this concept was the following: imagine your country is taken over by another country, say Spain for example. You are an honest man and your king, who you support devotedly, is hiding in your house. When a Spanish solider knocks on your door asking if the king is in your house how do you answer? Do you say no because you are protecting your king? That would be lying which supposedly honorable men do not do. However, if you say yes then you betray your king. So how do you answer the question? Well, the trick is to think about what is really being asked. The true question the Spanish soldiers are asking is, “Can we kill your guest?” Which the honorable man, who does not want to support the continuation of murder, would answer, “no,” which also protects the king.

Well written words will always be a powerful weapon of persuasion, which is why a writers’ play must be carefully crafted to make sure an audience hears the story the company wants them to receive. Equivocation had great writing, great messages, great directing, and a fantastic group of actors to deliver the story; our theater banquet and then seeing this show was the perfect end to my theater season for the 2015-2016 school year!

Thought I’m not ready to say good bye to our seniors, I can’t wait for next year’s line up! (Eurydice, Much Ado About Nothing, a night of improv, and The Adams Family the Musical!)

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Learning in the Rain

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Six Flags in rain and Frozen on ice- it’s been a great day!

Today was Physics Day at Six Flags and all of the Calculus students at MVPS got the opportunity to spend the day there! Our teacher makes a deal with her Calc classes every year that if we stay on track and get all of the material we need to cover finished before the end of the year, then we get to go to Six Flags. Normally we would go on math day which is next Friday, however, that day is an important school wide event that we can’t miss so we went on Physics Day.

Part of this deal is also that we have to fill out the packet that Six Flags gives to honor the day which asks questions about various rides, and we use this as a quiz grade. Because it was Physics Day, the questions were primarily physics questions and the hardest math we did was multiply. The thing is, I’m not in a physics class currently so I have not learned many of the concepts discussed on the packet. Luckily we were working on these packets in groups, and I was working with some of my senior friends who are in AP Physics so they were able to teach me some quick physics things.

I learned about the difference between centripetal and centrifugal forces and how to calculate them. I learned about frequency calculations and hertz vs rpm. I learned more about kinetic and potential energy (I know it from a chemistry perspective but not physics really). Plus I learned many other little things. I find it funny because people would think “oh you’re going to Six Flags and are going to miss a whole day of learning in all of your classes,” but the truth is, while we are missing out on “school classes” so to say, we are not missing out on learning. In fact I enjoyed learning some physics today, and found it very helpful that I got to learn it from older students that are in that class. It also meant that they had to make sure they remembered things so they would check each other by asking more questions.

My learning was not hindered by taking a day trip to Six Flags with the Calculus students. I never would have learned as much about physics had I stayed, so in fact by taking “a day off” I was able to further my learning and curiosities about topics that are new to me. I learned in more than just physics too. We also talked about economics, and AP Literature, and calculus AB/BC, and even a little bit of Latin came up at one point.

Despite the rain and waiting in line for 40 minutes to buy lunch, I thought to day was a great school day at Six Flags.

 

 

(And I didn’t mention it further, but I also spent tonight at Frozen on Ice with one of my best friends which was a blast and I liked the way the opening sentence sounded!)

 

Generalizations

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We like to make generalizations. Generalizations based on race, gender, age, country, state, region, school, time period, etc. However, these generalizations aren’t always true for everyone.

On page 130 of The Great Gatsby Tom, in a moment of anger, says “I know I’m not very popular. I don’t give big parties. I suppose you’ve got to make your house into a pigsty in order to have any friends – in the modern world.” This quote stood out to me because it made me wonder, “What is the modern world?”

See the trouble is that the “modern world” looks very different for everyone so how can we possibly determine how to describe the “modern world”?

It reminds me of the Ted Talk “The Myth of Average” that talks about how we can’t design for an average person, because there is no average person. Everyone is different with a different situation.

The 1920s is often imagined as a time of glamor with lots of parties, but not everyone has the luxury of high society life. Part of the whole purpose of the book is to make you think differently about society back in the 20s. On the one hand there were great extravagant parties, but the people at the parties in The Great Gatsby often had hidden backstories full of greed and cynicism that allowed them to gain money to throw the parties.We even learn that Gatsby himself had a hidden motive as to why he threw his parties: in hopes that Daisy would show up to one and be impressed with him. 

All of the glam was like a guise to cover up the hidden motives of all of the individual attendants at the parties. The glam is like a generalization that we try to place on an entire time period, but when you talk to individual people at a party, you learn that every person has their own unique story.