The Treadmill of Life

Image result for treadmillToday was a pretty productive day for me. After taking my dogs to the dog park I basically worked on college short answer/supplementary essays all day. I answered 9 questions which only leaves me with one 150-250 word question left!!!

So with all of the writing I did today, I’m now not in much of a blogging mood, but I wanted to still put something up. So here is my college process metaphor:

The college process is like a treadmill; no matter how much you walk, you never really move anywhere. That’s pretty much how trying to fill out applications feels. I’ve worked through so much today, and yet nothing is done or finalized and some of it is not even the right length; therefore, there is still much work to be done even after a day of writing.

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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.

This is Our Story-The End

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I haven’t posted in a very long time, and it’s just been the two busiest weeks of the year for me: performing Shrek the Musical (which went amazingly well!!!!), iFest 2016 (the time where all of the high school showcases their year long project based learning and ID always has some of our work set up to talk about), having interviews for prefect positions (it’s like our student government for the entire school which is a step above our student council), having 4 of the biggest tests of the year, working on college essay drafts, having weird schedules for Prom yesterday, getting ready for performing The Lion King this coming week, trying to get experiments done in ID with middle schoolers, plus on top of everything this weekend 4 of us in ID are participating at “Creative Hack Weekend” with #re-imagine/atl where we worked for 6 hours today and 4 hours tomorrow on problem solving issues in Atlanta.

That was a horrible run on-sentence I know, but it was a loooong two weeks.  I was stressed, I am tired, and yet I still had a lot of fun; that’s the story of my life (“oh ya”#shrekpuns ).

I feel like stories have been kind of the theme of the last 2 weeks even more than normal.

Particularly I’ve been a tad disgruntled about thinking about my college essay because with the amount of stories I’ve told in this week alone about my life, it just feels so hard to only get to write one story for colleges to read. There is so much more to a person than one essay about them and it’s not like you can just summarize everything about you in that essay because then it’s a bad essay because it isn’t specific. However, that means we have the daunting task of narrowing our life story down to just one specific moment which now has to become “the moment” in you life, and yet we are only 17…

In person it typically feels easy for me to semi-subtly bring up various things that I’ve done and ideas I have about my future based on my experiences, but in writing it is much harder to choose what to say because you have so much time just to think and ponder and everything comes to mind. There are just so many stories out there to tell, and as many different ways to tell them; and this is only the end of the beginning because even just this school year isn’t over yet!

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Stress of Standardized Tests

I write the following as a voice for the general population of high school students currently going through the college process. Not all of the feelings expressed below I have personally experienced, but for every feeling expressed I know of at least one individual who has experienced that particular feeling.

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I hate standardized tests- no, I loath them. I believe I’ve made this clear in the past, but today I think I discovered my biggest issue with them. It isn’t that it takes up a whole Saturday morning of my time, or that I have to fill in multiple choice questions for hours, or that people can guess and make better scores, or that the questions are trying to trick you, or that the testing environment is dour, or that writing an essay in 20 minutes is a pain, or even just the fact that colleges weigh these arguably meaningless numbers so heavily in the admissions process. What bothers me so sticking much about standardized tests, more specifically the SAT and ACT, is that they make you feel depressed and alone.

Stories are always being told about teenagers having a hard time in high school do to various social aspects that make them feel bad about themselves: body image, bulling, struggling in school, family issues, friend drama, “who likes who,” etc. In fact, over 2.1 million teens have reported having a major depression incident in the past year, and depression is the number one cause of suicide- the third leading cause of death for Americans 15-24.

Depression is already a serious problem amongst adolescents and standardized tests only make matters worse.

The problem is that there is no good option for someone to talk to about the stressfulness of the process.

You want to talk to your friends, because you tell each other everything. However, if you talk to your friends you end up in a bad position no matter how you look at it because of this truth: one of you scored better than the other.

I’ve never met any two people that have gotten the exact same score in every area of the SAT or ACT every time they took it, meaning there must be some difference upon which you will compare yourselves. You don’t want to compare yourself to your friends, but it is human nature to think, “Why are we not the same?” We are naturally curious and sometimes the cat isn’t the only one who dies from curiosity.

If you talk to your friend that did better than you, then you feel bad about yourself because you wonder why you didn’t do as well. Then you fear that you won’t get into colleges you want to get in to because you didn’t score well enough. Then you will just get upset about the whole process and a little bit upset with your friend because while you are happy they did well, you are upset that they did better than you. (It’s the same as playing your friend in a soccer game and having mixed emotions when they score, because you’re happy to see them happy, but you’re still losing on the board. Even if you both had fun in your hearts, virtually no one cares about that when the question of, “Who won the game?,” is asked.)

On the other hand, if you talk to your friend that you did better than, then you still end up in a bad position. You then get put in the awkward situation where your friend is the one feeling upset about not doing great, and they think they didn’t do great because of comparing it to other people; you are one of those people… You want to tell your friend that it will be fine and give them advice, because that’s what friends do, but at the same time you still feel like you could do better yourself and then it makes you feel weird about complaining even though you technically scored higher. The problem is while you and your friends may understand that you should only compare your scores to yourself and how well you think you can do, to some level you still know that you are up against millions of kids in the country for a spot at certain schools and test scores still play a large part at deciding who gets in.

As many times as I tell myself, or others tell me, “You don’t need to worry so much about test scores because there are a myriad of other factors about you that play into why you are a good college candidate,” it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the scores still. I try so hard to think past them, but I know for a fact that many schools still just need a way to narrow down the lot, and even if I’m not applying to those schools I feel bad for my friends who are because it just seems so wrong. And yet again, some friends don’t care about it being wrong, they just see it as the way life is, and so if this topic is brought up it is yet another uncomfortable situation to talk to even the closet of friends about.

Bringing up test scores with friends simply never ends well. No one want to talk about it. Someone always feels weird because they scored higher and are trying to act humble. Many always feels bad because they don’t feel like they are doing as well as they should be. And everyone feels awkward. For these reasons, I don’t think any group of friends ever feels truly open when having a test scores conversations, and I say this having been on multiple sides of this conversation and hearing side rants from many others.

Now any adult I’m close with is probably reading this post right now thinking, “You can always talk to me!” But the other truth is that teens simply don’t want to talk to adults about this kind of thing for the simple and debatable reason that, “They won’t understand.” I hate to say it because it just feels so “teenagery”, but I know in my heart I believe it to some degree. Adults in our lives took these standardized tests many years ago, so the stress from these tests and the entirety of the college process is not as recent. Plus a lot has changed in those years. The question use to be “Are you going to college?” and now it is, “Where are you going for college?” Every generation kids get smarter and the average test score raises and thus the race to college gets even closer, making it more and more stressful. I don’t want to talk to adults because they all tell me the same thing, “Don’t stress about it.” Telling a person to not be stressed is like telling an alcoholic “Just stop drinking”; words alone can’t really help fix the problem at this point.

When you can’t talk to friends completely honestly, and you don’t want to talk to adults, it just makes everything more stressful and you feel as if there is no one to truly talk to. In fact I ended up ranting to a younger friend of mine today because I just needed someone to get this out to, but even that wasn’t satisfactory because they had no experience to relate to which made it very one sided. Now I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, but I definitely get frustrated when I think I can do better and even after lots of studying have a very small change in my score. And then more stressed and annoyed when trying to talk to others about my frustration.

With the amount of teens that drive themselves crazy over testing, I wish we would just change the system already. There is always something that can be done, no matter how small of a change. Clearly there is a problem, and while I think the new SAT is moving in a good direction, I don’t think this change will change any stress related to scores.

What I wonder is if there is a way to have the test score based on improvement somehow. What if we could measure how much a student has improved/how much they have learned from the time they were a freshman to a senior and that was the number sent to colleges? This way students were being compared based on how hard they personally worked in order to learn more.

To try and explain this further, take math on the SAT for an example. It is honestly is a lot of stuff I did in 8th grade, like geometry questions. However, some kids were learning that just last year. What if after 8th grade I just stopped caring in math? (Which isn’t true because I happen to love math and love learning about it, but this is hypothetical.) What if I knew I learned all I needed to know for the SAT, so after that I didn’t really try to learn much new and just memorized and regurgitated for tests at school? If that was me I wouldn’t be able to say I really grew much between being a freshman and a senior, but I could potentially score just as high as the kid who went from barely knowing how to do long division to then acing pre calculus- a much larger knowledge gap that had to be overcome. Yet, standardized testing does not currently account for how far you have come, only where you are at the end. I find this kind of unfair actually because everyone has different situations that they are put in, so by the nature of standardized testing, some people are given a better opportunity at doing well and you as a student have no control over that.

I don’t believe this is true today, but I hope for this to be possible someday: Students should have full control over their chance at getting into the college of their choice.

I don’t know how any of this would work, but I know something needs to change because standardized tests make too many students way too stressed which isn’t good for health.

I’m sick of this struggle and don’t know what to do, which is why I write, so maybe something good comes from it.

 

I’m Not a Professional

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Today was one of the rare occasion this year where I actually left school at the normal time because I was not needed in rehearsal or for anything else at school today.

So while I was waiting to get picked up I went and watched soccer for a little, and even though the girls team was only stretching while I was there, it made me miss soccer a lot. I haven’t played in forever! This is like the longest I’ve gone without playing since I was 3 I think and it’s just weird. I didn’t notice how much I missed it until I went outside on a nice day like this and was imagining, “aw it would feel so great to run around and play some…”

I know I’d get exhausted and sweaty and practice would be a butt with my throat in its current state of potentially sick and a bit of allergies, but I still would like to play again.

It’s annoying because I love soccer and want to play but in seems that anything you participate in during high school is expected to be like professional level commitment. I’m interested in a lot of different things, and I love just trying stuff out and having fun exploring curiosities; however, I do not have the time to participate in all of my curiosities at a professional level.

I hear schools around the world talk about “having room to fail” or “having the space to explore curiosities” or “having built out time in the day for relaxing time.” However sometimes I question how much these phrases are put into practice. My best friend put it great when she said,

“It feels like we have to involve ourselves in everything so deeply in high school and nothing is just for kicks anymore.”

We aren’t professionals, and not all of us want to be professionals. For those of us that don’t know, how do we start figuring it out if we don’t have times to just try out new things.

During our “free time” a lot of people have meetings or make up quizzes or tutorials to get to. We had to discuss in a cappella today about how we plan on continuing since we never have everyone there and it just reminded me of how busy we are, but those of us that truly care find the time. Even during our break/club time on Monday’s and Friday’s most of us just get ready for the next class and talk a little, which is fun, but I wonder what it would be like if we had to go outside- like in middle school.

Personally I feel like I never see the sun anymore because I’m in the school building from 7:30am-6pm just about everyday. Today was so pretty outside and I would have missed it. I don’t want to miss it but I struggle to get myself out there.

Among other things, I wish we had intramural sports teams. A place for people that want to try something new or just want to have some fun doing something they love without giving it a full time commitment. I don’t have the time for soccer every day for 3 hours after school, but I’d love if we had little scrimmages maybe on a Saturday or around 6 once a weeknight.

Not everything you do has to be all about winning. Why can’t some things just be for fun? I happen to know several girls quit the soccer team this year because they noticed from the start that it was more intense then they wanted. I respect deeply those players that want to get really good at honing their skills so they can win some games and maybe go to the playoffs, but I also know there are some girls who don’t make the team or who simply don’t want the same things from the sport and I wish there was space for us to still have fun doing something we love.

The natural thing I think to myself after rereading this post, as if it wasn’t me who wrote it, would be to say “Well that’s going to take extra people and organizing and equipment, but why don’t you try to start?” The thing is, I don’t have the time to do work on that endeavor, so for now I just get to be a little upset and through out my ideas on my blog. Story of my life.

The Past Influences the Future

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In one of my classes recently there was a bit of discussion because some kids didn’t want to take notes on a movie we were watching. Our teacher said they should if they hoped to do well on our upcoming test, so some of the students asked if it was for a grade. They were honest and said they wouldn’t take notes if it wasn’t for a grade because they know that if they do take notes they will end up never looking at them again and they would prefer to just watch the movie itself.

I’m not going to lie, at first I was a bit annoyed with why the argument was happening. I’ve always been that student to take immense notes all of the time, so at first it only seemed logical to take notes; you will almost always do better on assessments if you take notes in class.

Then I took a moment to think deeper about the situation.

Why do we take notes? To do well on assessments.

What is happening while I take notes? Well let’s see, my head is down in my notebook and I’m writing things down like, “Because technology advanced people were now able to send letters to their loved ones from the front lines.”

What am I missing out on while taking notes? While I write about what happened, I’m missing out on what that letter actually was about or looking at the video itself to see the emotions of the people and get a feel for the time period.

The whole time I was watching the movie all I could think about was, “Do we take notes for the right reasons?”

I mean sure I don’t take notes just to get a grade, but I also only take notes to get a good grade later on. Why is it that everything is focused on the grade? If not at first, then eventually it is.

 

I want more than a grade out of my classes.

 

Why is it that we learn history? I’d say it’s because history is the foundation to decision making; history is everywhere! We always are having to research the past in order to inform our future, so why is it that in history class we only test on the past rather than actually using the past to create our future?

What if history class was about more than just testing how well we can learn and regurgitate facts about the past? What if history class actually involved solving problems by focusing on how we have solved similar problems in the past in order to influence decisions today?

I don’t hate history. In fact, I think history is enormously important and can be extremely interesting when you focus on detailed stories. However, history classes often make me disgruntled because I just see so much untapped potential in the way we run history courses. And I don’t think this is something a single teacher can just change, I think it needs to be a wide set mind-shift change where we consider how we think about history class. Information is all online, but what use is it if we can’t interpret it to actually use in our lives?

Months in Advance

Tomorrow is going to be crazy. I have a college counseling meeting. My last drama rehearsal before preview night. 2 sessions of talking to 8th graders about ID. Plus we have to start pre-registration for what classes we think we want to take next year.

I often always get frustrated on pre-registration day. I barely know my plans for next week let alone 8 months from now. My friends and I keep talking about how we have no idea what we want to take next year, especially when we don’t even know how we will do in our classes for the rest of this year.

I always feel like I don’t even know enough about the differences between the classes to make decisions.

I know it shouldn’t stress me out as much as it does, but I can’t help it. It seems that registration day just always brings up millions of bugs that I have about education systems which puts me in a weird mood.

I mean I get how admin really needs to start scheduling now in order for everything to be figured out come next school year, but it just seems so soon. It makes me feel like we’re being pushed towards the end too quickly. We still have a whole year and a half ahead of us!

Individuality

images-1.jpgBeing a leader is hard. I’m the founder of Kemps Khaos Club at MVPS last year, though we were an un-offical club 2 years ago as well, and each year we’ve tried to improve our student-faculty card game tournament.

This year we set up the “Kemps Kouncil”  to help deal and organize all game times. However, trying to organize the Kouncil to make sure they organize the games is a whole other challenge. It’s been challenging mainly because usually I’m that kind of leader who, when something isn’t being done, I just do it myself to make sure it’s done. However, with Kemps, I’ve really been trying to let my team mates take that responsibility and just give them reminders to make sure it gets done. The hard part is when I get questions from teachers about when they are going to play their next game and all I can say is, “I don’t know, your dealer should be sending you an email soon…”

A lot of times when I’m on a team I end up in a leadership role. It’s just my personality and nature I guess, even in a letter I have from my preschool teachers it says, “When playing in a group setting, Anya prefers to be the leader but will allow other children to take over that role as well.”

In fact a lot of that letter is a surprisingly accurate description of how I still am today, which seems so weird considering I was 3 at the time this was written. I wonder how old we are when our fundamental personality traits start showing. How much do we really change over time? What traits start showing themselves earlier than others? What personality traits are more likely to change over time versus staying consistent through out a person’s life? What shapes our personality?

I feel like in high school one of the most common faced problems is someone feeling the need to be like someone else, rather than feeling comfortable with embracing who they are.  Everyone is an individual person with different personality traits. Some that are praised, and others which show our weaknesses, but they all make us, us. Our differences are what make us unique, special, noticed amongst the crowd.  At a wedding the bride is the one in a different dress. When trying to get someone’s attention you stand up to be spotted in the sitting crowd. In a sea of yellow flowers, it’s easy to spot the one that’s a radiant, ruby red.

For the amount of stress teenagers go through with trying to figure out “who am I?” I wonder what it would be like if schools placed more time and energy into helping students embrace their individuality. It’s a skill that will truly last a life time and be invaluable to success.

Individuality is important to me, and it’s something I see people struggle with all the time which makes me sad, frustrated, and oddly ignited. HMW help people feel comfortable being themselves? It’s a question that’s been asked by people for centuries, so why does it seem that not much has changed- I mean if the question is still being asked, clearly the problem hasn’t been solved. Why not? Are we asking the right question? Are we tackling the problem the right way? Are we communicating and working with the right people?

I feel the designer inside of me burning with questions and a sense of agency to take action in some way or form yet I simply don’t know where to start, so I’m starting with these questions. Hopefully something will come from them.

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Changing the Perception of Tests

A cold windy morning

Names listed on the wall

Chants of “get in a line” from a distant officer

So begins our day

 

Grey walls with faded white tile

Bleak rooms of silence

The burning pain of metal against skin

This is the reality for our next four hours

 

Familiar faces- lacking in number

Then a distinguished leader appears

“Your time starts now”

 

Welcome to the SAT.

 

The accuracy of this description make me worry and wonder as to why, in this particular moment, the education system starkly resembles the opening to a dystopian novel. Sure we’re taking a test, but what if a test of knowledge was seen more as a fun thing? To challenge your knowledge shouldn’t seem so grim.