Clubs for Credit

I did 17 theater productions in high school, so it’s no surprise that once getting to college I immediately found out how I could get involved in theater. It turns out that there are lots of different ways to get involved with DramaTech because the blackbox is pretty much completely student run, everything from acting, directing (sometimes), lights, sound, set, costumes, makeup, marketing, even choosing which shows to do for upcoming seasons is decided by groups of students.

I’ve been debating joining the group that reads the plays in order to pick upcoming seasons, and I remember thinking, “Wow that sounds like a lot of work, I don’t know if I can make that time commitment on top of other things.”

Then yesterday, I was walking across campus heading from math to English and I was just thinking about how we are required to take classes for English credit if we didn’t come in with AP credit. I started thinking about how my English class at a tech school is very untraditional; it’s all about sound and listening and hearing. Then I was thinking, “Well the play reading group may not be a class, but they probably do as much work as any English class.” Now I’m not in the club, so I don’t know exactly how it functions; however, I imagine that they read at least a dozen plays and have multiple meetings where they have discussions about the shows and their themes and messages, etc. And I’m sure they have to take a lot of notes so that when they go to meetings they remember the show, and for the future at the end of the year they can remember older plays they read.

So they read pieces of work, annotate and take notes while reading, then use these notes to have analytical discussions, and finally have a final task of putting together the next years season as a culmination of their hard work. This sounds like an English course to me… Can you imagine if it counted as one?

Honestly though there are all sorts of clubs in both college and high school that I feel like could count as credit hours and it’s too bad that they don’t.

I even if you could take it a step further and what if there was a high school course that was similar to this play reading club where not only did they receive credit, but what if they were then also given the option to take the AP Lit exam at the end of the year and potentially get AP credit?!? I mean really what’s so different between the club and an AP Lit course? They both do a lot of reading, analyzing, and discussing, but one probably does a lot more multiple choice tests… Meanwhile in the other assessment is pretty straight forward- if you didn’t read the book you can’t productively contribute to the conversation/debate about if it should be included in the next season.

I love the idea of being challenged and learning at a level that is naturally more vigorous, but I truly wish AP courses would disappear or that at the very least the notion behind them would change. There are so many creative and engaging ways to learn and I wish more teachers would start to explore what they can do even within the boundaries of “AP classes,” because I’ll admit, it stinks to have to re-take a class you feel competent in already from high school so APs are great for getting college credit. (I speak from experience being one of those people who bombed the short answer in AP Calc BC and now must re-take calc 2…)

I wonder with the future of education how we might take the concept of APs- more challenging courses for learners who want to push themselves and could potentially get exempt from into college courses- and yet still have classes, or maybe even specialized clubs for credit if they meet certain standards, that are unique and support using the idea of using what you learn for a greater purpose.

I suppose this is the constant struggle and really I may not even be coherent at this point because I started this post one day and then picked up when today even though my mind is not in the same place as when I started, but those are my thoughts.

I wish clubs, in which members truly do a significant amount of work related to a specific subject area, could actually receive credit for required high school or college graduation requirements. (I bet some schools do already, now the rest of us just have to catch up.)

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The End of Normal

My “normal” has officially forever changed ever since graduation. While I don’t think life is ever in a state of complete normalcy, because people aren’t normal and everyday is a new day full of new adventures, there is no denying that a lot of things stay constant in our lives for given periods of time. My semi-normal was living at home, going to Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, seeing my friends, doing a ton of theater, working at the gym, performing acro routines, playing the occasional soccer game with my rec team, etc. This semi-normal no longer exists.
After Italy I didn’t go home back to “normal life.” I woke up in New York City and got on a plane to Vermont to visit Zeno Mountain Farms, a collection of friends with diverse needs, where I went to camp for a week and got to be in a movie; that’s not normal. And now (well while I’m writing this even though I won’t have internet to send it until I’m back in NYC), I’m at Capon Springs, our family reunion place in West Virginia that is essentially Dirty Dancing without the dancing (or the dirty as someone also felt we should clarify on our teen hayride last night).
While Capon is kind of normal because we go every summer, it isn’t like the rest of the year because we get to just chill and run around with friends playing badminton and shuffle board and ultimate frisbee and really whatever we want without phone connection and limited internet. Plus I continue to travel after this. Next I’ll be in NYC and then Ohio before returning home for a weekend before orientation and then my first year retreat and trip to Scotland with the other Stamps Presidential Scholars at Georgia Tech. Then we get back and only have a day before I move into my college dorm and my life is forever different, cus college…
It’s just so crazy to think that everything I once considered to be normal life is never fully going to exist again. I will be attending a different school with different some friends, and new activities, and living in a new place all together. And that will continue to be slightly weird until one day I wake up and realize that this new life is my new normal.
Obviously not everything will change, and with being only about 20 minutes from my house, honestly less will probably change than the normal college student; however, it is just weird that it finally hit me that it’s officially the end of normal.
And while all of this traveling has been quite fun, it’s also a little scary to think about how much is going to change all at once, because unlike a lot of other recent graduates I know, I wasn’t as super ready to “escape” as some said. But it doesn’t really matter if I’m ready or not, because now it’s just time to live in the present and adjust to this new normal that’s out there, even if, like this summer, one day that normal becomes constant change. Change in my opinion isn’t always good or always bad, but it is ever present and full of new opportunities.
So good bye normal. It was nice knowing you.

I Am a Designer

IMG_7447What feels like a very long time ago, I had to start writing my Common App essay for college. Back when I did start brainstorming what to write about, I turned immediately to my blog; it’s been amazing to have a an entire collection of reflections from some of the most memorable things that have happened over the years. It only seemed right that now, now that I’m finally decided on a college and graduated high school, that I should officially post my Common App essay:

 

Common App Prompt 3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

I am a designer. Anyone can be a designer. You don’t need a fancy degree or a Mona Lisa to prove it. You just have to be confident enough to say it, “I am a designer.” This was the message I delivered to inspire creative confidence to a “young” audience of design thinkers. Let me set the stage.

The summer after sophomore year, I earned the opportunity to be one of four guest speakers at an annual summer conference called Fuse, facilitated by the Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation. This event gathers 110 educators, business leaders, social innovators, change agents and dreamers from around the world to make an impact while learning more deeply as design thinkers. A slide deck appears on stage and the attendees saw the peculiar twitter handle @Pinyabananas, then a single spot light illuminated me- a 16 year old girl with her hair in a scrunchie. As a speaker, I delivered a 10 minute presentation similar to a TEDTalk where I shared about “Thinking Like a Designer.” My role: to get the room full of educators excited and confident in their abilities to spend three days problem solving for four different non-profit organizations. As the only speaker under the age of 30, the one with the least formal schooling and lacking the series of credentials and accomplishments of the other speakers, I was nervous.

Being an actress, I’ve been up on stage dozens of times in front of audiences larger than 110 people. I’m comfortable with public speaking, but this experience was different. This time I was the only student; specifically chosen because the organization believes that I have a story and ideas that educators should hear. Typically, it’s assumed that anyone still in secondary schooling has much to learn and not much to teach. When asked to speak, I was tasked with representing not only myself, but all students– to prove that we can have insightful thoughts worth sharing in serious conversations about the future.

I got up on stage vulnerable yet confident, and shared what I believe to be a recipe for success: to have community involvement, work with a #fuse15 MoVe Talkpurpose, a mentor to guide you, a mindshift to turn problems into opportunities, and a bias towards action. I challenged the entire audience to say the opening lines of this essay with me: “I am a designer.” To my surprise, when I repeated this statement, a chorus joined me; 110 educators accepted the challenge proposed by a 16 year-old girl to think like designers.

Age doesn’t have to be a limiter in life. If I am willing to take action for a cause that I care deeply about, then anything is possible. After my talk I had a number of educators come up to me and say, “You are inspiring!,” “I can’t believe you’re only 16,” “Thank you for giving me the confidence to do this.” Later that night my phone was blowing up with the number of twitter notifications I was getting from people commenting, liking, and retweeting things about my talk; our head of school even said, “Sounds like the takeaway of the night was from @Pinyabananas ‘I am a designer.’” It was a crazy night for me; it’s hard to believe it really happened.

This talk has since been used at a number of other workshops, some of which I probably don’t even know about. I remember researching myself online one day and found a link to a presentation by a professor in England who used the video of my talk! I am still astonished to think that my work had such an impact, and have continued to use my digital presence through daily blogging and tweeting as a mouthpiece for students around the country who remain silent school consumers. Anyone can be a designer. You just have to be confident enough to say it, “I am a designer.”

Improv Rules for Life

I’ve officially pushed submit on all of my college applications!!!!!!!! Technically this happened a few nights ago, and I still have a few portfolio pieces left to submit, but everything required is finished which is exciting!! I didn’t blog about CxWb-RGUQAEV88c.jpgit earlier because I’ve been on the road since Thursday night in order to interview at 3 of my 5 schools which are all in the north east… Currently I’m in Pennsylvania with 1/3 interviews done. (And I must say I think the first went rather well.)

Even though I’ve already hit submit, over the past few years I’ve come to learn my strengths and weaknesses well and I know that I’m much better at talking than CxbPibbWIAAzx1w.jpgwriting .(Even though my writing has improved tremendously since I started blogging.) However, despite knowing myself better, I still don’t know where I most want to go to college yet. There are just so many options and different factors, and it’s so hard to really know the culture of a school without immersing yourself in it first- a luxury I don’t have when looking at colleges.

It’s times like this- when I feel completely lost in a situation- that I feel grateful for being in drama and thus constantly learning about improv. In fact, last week was show week for our 2nd theater production of the year which was an improv meets comedy sketch variety show called “A Night of Stars.”

There’s a lot we can learn from improv- no matter who you are. I like to call these key learning moments the “Improv Rules for Life.”

  1. Jump In & Have Fun: Improv, like life, can feel scary and uncomfortable, but the only way to stop feeling uncomfortable and move past the fear of the unknownCwNYjOcWcAEPQ5n.jpg is to jump in and try it out. Put yourself out there and over time it will stop feeling so scary. One of the hardest parts of taking the first step is often just standing up, but once you’re up it’s a lot easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep having fun and you’ll be fine.
  2. Go All Out / Believe in Yourself: Make big choices and commit to them! If you are going to use a toy horse as a tennis racket, then you have to do everything in your power to really make that horse seem like a racket. You have to convince yourself of your choices before your audience will ever believe you, so if you start swinging a toy horse around like you truly believe it’s a racket then you’re audience won’t even think about calling it a horse.
  3. Listen and Respond: Help you’re partners out!!! It’s hard to constantly come up with ideas all on your own, so listen to the people you are working with and work off of each other. Listen to what they suggest and respond to it with a new suggest that adds to what they said. When everyone helps each other out, things get most exciting.
  4. Think Positive / “Yes And…”: Saying negative words like “no, but, death, etc” is the fastest way to kill a scene and put your stage partner in a really difficult CxdYOfFVEAA9OUe.jpgposition. Keep conversations light hearted and agree with your partners; it will make for a much more interesting conversation with some crazy ideas being easily generated.
  5. Fail-Up : Push the editor off your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s inevitable that you’ll mess up at some point in time. Just keep trying your hardest and commit to everything you do, that way when you fail, it’s a spectacular failure that you can later laugh about because it was just that horrendous. The best improvers still fail, but when they fail, they laugh it off and keep moving forward- sometimes it even becomes a part of a later sketch. It’s true that if you don’t try you won’t fail, but you also won’t succeed that way.

CxQy931WIAA_633.jpgWhen thinking of college, and many difficult and potentially uncomfortable life situations, I try to remember these improv rules for life. I’m never going to feel 100% ready, but eventually I’m just going to need to jump in, go all out and believe in myself, learn to respond in my new situations, think positively and don’t shut down new ideas, and remember that the fear of failure should never stop me from dreaming big and committing to my actions.

Part of Life

IMG_4221.jpgI know I’m a nerd and an actress, as do many others, but a lot of people don’t realize, or remember at least, that I’m also an athlete- and I’m not just talking about gymnastics/acrobatics. I’ve been playing soccer since I was three years old and I’ve played on a number of teams from the YMCA, to Concord Fire, to Windsor’s select team, and my freshman and sophomore year I attempted to juggle playing Varsity on top of everything else.

Last year was actually the first year since being three that I didn’t play soccer for any team. My rec team didn’t have enough girls signed up to play in the fall. Then in the spring, I quit Varsity because trying to go between drama and soccer was challenging, and being the only girl in the grade playing on top of not really making practices made it hard to connect with everyone. But connection is in my opinion one of the most important parts to having a successful team of any kind. My rec team has been playing together since u8, so for about 10 years now. Back then we had two teams because there were so many girls and our coach had two daughters about 2 years apart, so there was an older team and a younger team and some of us played for both. Every year we have some people leave, some people get too old to be on the team, and some new people join, but the team has always had a strong core of people who have been playing together since the beginning. This strong core has continued to make the team so much stronger because we all know how each other play and can trust each other on and off of the field. The group mind is so good that there are times where we can say nothing and yet know exactly how people will move on the field and get the ball to our team.

I use to go to school with a lot of my teammates and they’ve always been some of my best friends, so not having this team last year was really hard because then I didn’t see people as often. Luckily this year our team is back and I’ve had a great time so far at our two games getting to play a sport I love with people I love. We call ourselves the Misfits since most of us have past playing for really good teams, but now we just play rec, don’t practice, have barely enough to play each game, and typically play the entire game, yet we are still able to win 4-0 like this weekend’s game even with two new girls who have never played before.

Playing on this team reminds me of how sad it is when you stop seeing some of your best friends all of the time. School is such a big part of our lives that once you go to a different school it becomes so much harder to stay in touch with people. That’s what I’m least looking forward to about college- saying goodbye to so many great friends. Sure I hope to stay in contact with people, but I know from experience that you never stay as close to people once you stop seeing them everyday. Even seeing my soccer friends again this year at games doesn’t feel like enough. It often seems that there will never be enough time, so I’ve just learned to remember to cherish every moment of time we do get to spend together.

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.

Blogging Helps with College

Image result for essay writingIt’s amazing how much blogging has made my life better. Not only has it made me a better writer, increased my network, allowed me to track my learning, helped me clarify thoughts in my head, and gotten incredible writing opportunities, but it’s also helped a lot in the college process.

Most students have a hard time writing about themselves because creative non-fiction is a genre of writing that is focused on hardly at all in grade school. However, my blog is entirely about myself in someway or another because it’s all about my thoughts on the world, and my actions, and my life in general. My blog has helped me find my voice- not just the voice I take on when trying to write for school- but my authentic internal voice, which is supposedly what colleges want to see.

I’ve had the opposite problem of most students when writing my college essay because most students don’t know what to say or where to begin. Meanwhile, I’ve grown so use to writing a story every single day, that I felt like I had a million stories I could potentially use for my Common App essay. I had 3 different drafts done by Senior BootCamp, and had many more stories I could’ve told. I then narrowed it down to two, but thought they both represented me well. Finally, after some help from my college councilor tonight, I was able to pick one for my Common App essay which has to do primarily with when I first gave my MoVe Talk: Thinking Like a Designer.

I can only wait until I start working on college specific essays and other supplement questions, because with my blog it’s so easy to just scroll through the past few years and remember not only things that I’ve done, but also how I felt and what I was thinking about the day they happened. It’s kind of the best!

 

Senior Bootcamp

I’m officially starting to feel like a senior after our first Senior Bootcamp day of the year. I don’t know what that means quite yet, but I guess calling myself a senior seems a little less weird. 

There’s no exclamation point after either of those sentences because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I actually really enjoy most parts of school, which not every student can say honestly. So it makes me sad in a way to be a senior because I don’t feel ready to leave just yet. I feel like there is so much more I’d like to do and contribute to the school community, but mostly I feel like so much of the excitement about some of what I do is just because I’m a high schooler. What happens when I stop being a high schooler?

Plus on top of that there is the whole application process, which honestly frightens me…

I know it shouldn’t be that scary, but it seems like I’m just constantly learning more things that I don’t know. I don’t like the feeling of feeling like I don’t know everything about what I’m working on. I definitely learned more today at bootcamp where we discussed everything from the nuts and bolts of how to use different websites to discussing the art of storytelling and how everyone has their own story for an essay.

In short, there was a lot talked about today from 8-3 with the class of 2017, and also a lot of laughs too which is good. Yet, there seem to be so many unknowns still.

I am excited for this next school year, but the whole “being a senior” part only kind of excites me. I am terrified for that moment when I start loosing my motivation. I know it happens to pretty much every senior because the end of the school year after being accepted just seems to stop being so important. As one of my friends who graduated said, “You’ll want to continue to do well but you won’t want to have to work for it.”

I’d like to say that I’ll be the person to not fall into that stereotype, but who knows. I already wish so much of school, and sadly a huge current motivator for half of it just has to do with getting into college; and I love learning, but that doesn’t change much.  I don’t want to loose motivation, but what if I do? What if my drive leaves? What is my motivator to do well in school? Not theater, ID, band, extra projects, or those kind of things, but just the nuts and bolts of school: classes.

These are the questions I wonder while going into my senior year after a day of learning about the college process.

Many Roles

One of the most interesting parts about the theater is how everything always seems to somehow come together in the end.

I had another day of rehearsing for “PAINted” today (well technically my aunt’s show is called “The Gender Police” and the whole event is “PAINted,” but that’s just a technicality). Rehearsal was still al little rough today, but it get’s better each time and we all know tomorrow will be great when everything comes together.

I also saw “Finding Neverland”  today which was as magical and inspiring as you hope for any good musical to be. What really intrigued me about the show was actually the casting. Four of the leads are young boys, so there are actually seven boys in all that rotate threw all four parts. I just found that crazy because that means the boys each know four different characters, harmonies in songs, blocking, and choreography, which just seems crazy to think about how rehearsal must have worked. Most people have hard enough time learning one part and maybe an understudy for another, but four different roles is crazy!

The four boys I saw today were amazing as was the entire cast and crew. With each new show I see, I just get even more excited for next year’s theater season at MVPS!! I guess I should probably finish my college essay drafts, so I feel excited and prepared for next year to start…

Stories are the Magic

imgres-1.jpgI’M IN NYC!!!!!! I love New York. There’s always something new to do, and somewhere new to explore, and it’s so easy to get around!

As tired, and often frustrated, I get from a day of traveling I always pleasantly amuse myself with people watching and talking to new people.

Today I realized that I shared pretty much the same portion of my story to 4 different people. I was talking about Innovation Diploma, my MoVe Talk, my recent travels, college plans, education transformation in general, and my blog.

I don’t know why that amused me, but by the 4th time talking about relatively recent events in my life I realized how fun it is talking to new people and trading stories. Stories really are everything. Stories are our past, our present, and will be our future.

Stories are the purest magic this world has.