Starting Up Again

Way back when in freshman year…

Today was my last first day of a high school semester and I already feel like we’ve jumped right back into things. I’ve already been planning events, attending meetings, and doing homework; not much has changed, and yet things feel somehow different knowing it’s almost over- not yet though and there is still so much to do!

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to take off right where you left off when you are around the right group of people.


Best of Both Worlds

Days until the first day of school: four. Days until senior bootcamp: three. Level of craziness happening in my head right now: threw the roof.

I feel as if I have so much to do still before school starts. I only got back into Atlanta on Tuesday and I’ve been busy every second of the day. This week I’m finally taking my in car driving lessons; most people that know me know this is a big deal because I’m always hitchhiking rides with friends since I just hadn’t really taken the time to learn how to drive within my two years of having a permit…

Meanwhile, I’ve also been helping move stuff in my sister’s room (including setting up an IKEA loft bed), coaching camp, going through old school supplies and preparing new ones, trying to finish editing the article I’ve written for an e-magazine, working on finishing at least one of my 3 college essay drafts (I only need 1 but I can’t decide on an approach I like best), finishing up summer math (2 topics to go!), finishing up my AP Latin summer reading, and going to both of my siblings orientations since one is at camp and the other needs an adult figure. So basically there’s a lot to be done in the next 3-4 days.

However, at the same time I am excited for parts of school to begin. I am super excited that my study hall finally is the same time as band so I can actually practice with the high school band some without missing a core class! I also can’t wait for theater to start especially after talking to my director today and learning more about our awesome set and one act play competition plans. (Plus my next show makes me the record holder for most high school shows with a total of 12!) With knowing my schedule it also means that I already know which classes I’ll have with some of my friends and there are some that we’re just all really excited for because we know that when we’re in class together it’s always a good class. Innovation Diploma will also be welcoming our 3rd cohort, the Gates Cohort, starting Tuesday and I’m deeply curious as to what the future holds for us there. And as much as I am not thrilled with ending senior year, there will definitely be a lot of fun senior moments in the future which I’m also excited for!

I love how in the summer I have the freedom to travel and create my own schedule, but I also love how the school year has so many opportunities due to resources and the benefits of collaboration. If only there was a way to have the best of both worlds, because that would be wall shattering, mind blowing, and game changing in the most awesome way!

Flexible Schedules

images-1.jpgWow it was a crazy weekend of late nights. I saw West Side Story Friday night and then right after drove to a friends lake house where we arrived at 1am. Then the following night one of the parents stepped on a copper head snake, got bitten, and had to go to the hospital where he spent the night. Then the following night the power went out and we had no battery operated fans, but we couldn’t get the car out of the garage so we called a friend to do a late night run to Walmart in PJs. And then last night we just watched a family movie and afterwards I fell asleep reading.

Long story short, I haven’t blogged in a while. I realized today how it’s surprisingly a lot easier to blog during the school year. I remember after school started during my original 100 day challenge, one of my teachers had said that he expected me to be writing less after school started because I would have less time, but I actually wrote more. I believe this was for a number of reasons. At school there are constantly people you are having intellectual conversations, despite if it is by  choice or not. Plus you often find things that bug you which are some of the easiest to blog about. And furthermore, over the summer you stay up later with friends and family because you don’t have school in the morning to worry about so you can actually sleep in!

However, summer isn’t only about staying up late, playing with friends and family, and sleeping in. In fact I like to say summer is when I can finally work on all of the things I don’t typically have time for during the school year. Currently I’m working on 4 different project teams, have almost finished my 4th book, have made over a dozen gymnastics songs and routines for next year, have practiced an entire new music book of songs on flute/piccolo, have coached at fuse16, have coached summer camp, have/will have several conversations with schools around the country and Grant Lichtman about the future of education, and to top it all off I have intensely researched over 20 different colleges and will be touring some later this summer while visiting family in the north east.

Summer doesn’t just mean fun time, but it also can mean fun work time. And this isn’t like a teacher trying to be clever and trying to make homework sound better, because this work is often self assigned.

It’s amazing what we can get done with a more flexible schedule.


I Want Off the Train


What happened to the drive? -The motivation?

Why have I stopped without hesitation?

What happened to my spirit? -The one pulling me to the sky.

It seems my wings have been broken. It seems I can not fly.

I haven’t blogged in several days. Far more than I’d like to admit.

The funny thing is that I’ve been thinking about procrastination. How our minds need creative breaks; time to divert in order to later commit. Time to relax before rebooting. Time to explore the nonsense for inspiration.

I’ve been on the procrastination train for several days. Away from blogging that is. But not by choice. No, not by choice at all.

Late nights till 12:30am at least. Performing, coaching, studying all day. The hour to blog just seems to get away.

But more than just blogging; yes, much more than just that. When no one is looking I’ve not been myself.

That passion for my work– especially in ID. It just isn’t there, at least not that I can see.

I go home not feeling driven. I’ve been leaving the work for at school. Not even my Gold Award has seemed to move.

I know it’s a problem. I think that’s quite clear. But where’s the opportunity? Where’s the road back? The procrastination train can’t be a one way track.

It goes round and round, on it’s long windy track, but to quote Miley Cyrus, “we always find our way back home.”

Don’t we?

I mean the train of thought in Shark Boy and Lava Girl may make us think differently- considering it never travels quite clearly- but even that train with all it’s twisting and turning hasn’t yet left the planet, so there’s that for a fact.

Why is it that sometimes we can be so excited about something, but then as time goes on it just seems uninviting? I just don’t understand. I have no comprehension. I mean even right now I’d like to be watching the High School Musical 10 year reunion, but instead I’m caught not near a TV and thus this blog is finally happening.

How do I get re-excited about my projects? How does it become something I just can’t put down? Like a good book that makes you ignore everyone for the purpose of finishing in a day?

I know I need to work when no one is watching, but instead I wander and wonder. And is that so bad? Maybe not all the time. I’ve enjoyed time with friends, family, and searching online. Buying a piccolo, coaching at a meet, performing a show all about feet. Watching new shows and choreographing new dance, even going to a basketball game- would you believe it?

I’ve been doing these things, and it’s been quite fun. But my work lately hasn’t been giving me this same thrill.

This train is fun to ride, but at some point the train comes back right? Back to the stop of productivity? Back to a time when you fell motivated to fly?

But how do we get back there? I’d like to try. But creating motivation really is like trying to fly: it’s nearly impossible on demand.

So I’ve looked to  old blog posts that tell me to “jump in,” but that advice doesn’t help when I’m in but can’t swim.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been productive on some level. I have a role as Curriculum Manager for my current venture and have looked at many objectives, essential questions, and emails lately. Even learned about vinyl cutting and laser printing.

But I know I’m not in it. Not 100%. Because when I go home it’s not on my mind. I don’t feel the drive. I don’t keep working even when I have time. Instead I just wander along on my path not knowing where I’ll be going next.

I hope I find it again. The engagement in all that I’m working on and in. I want to want to work when I’m out of site of peering eyes. When it’s just me and my computer with my tiring eyes. I love the feeling of being excited, working non stop because I’m having fun. I know this can’t happen all the time, but I’ve been in this rut and am ready to escape.

I’m ready to get off of the train if only I could figure out how.




Focusing Time


With about 10 days until exams start things are getting crazier by the day. On top of finals studying I’ve been working on putting together my portfolio and MoVe Talk for AP Lang next Thursday, working on my iVenture for a pitch Friday, working on finishing up our product design before the end of 1st semester for my CoVenture,  working on getting off book for our current theater production that preforms a week after break, working on coaching routines for a gymnastics meet this weekend, working on studying for the SAT Saturday, and then of course good old homework, tests, and quizzes that we’ve been given as that last grade before finals.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to blog a bit differently for the next few days because I want to blog, but I simply do not have the time to do long winded observational posts. Instead I’m going to have my daily posts be in shorter forms: haiku, quote, 5 sentence max, maybe even a 6 word memoir. I will also keep a running lists for if there are longer things I’d like to talk about, but don’t have time to write, then that way I can always come back to them later.

For today here is my haiku:

What is your focus?

Next, know the type of problem,

Then, how might you solve?


Hello October


Today I really felt like school was back. The reason being because I had one of my first days this school year where I had a ton of different things to do and people to talk to during my “free time”.

The funny thing is that this feeling made me a little exited actually. Being busy makes me feel productive and helpful which I enjoy. Sometimes it’s just a pain to have so much to do and so little time, but this was different because it was the first time.

October in general is a busy month for me. We have our drama performance and competition, a band concert, auditions for the winter play and spring musical, people start touring MVPS, I’m going to Ohio this weekend to tour Case Western and visit my grandparents, the Council on Innovation happens, I’m helping facilitate a few other things, we have a design challenge coming to an “end”, Halloween, pre-Halloween laser tag in our costumes with Girl Scouts, and this isn’t even including school work…

October is just a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. So many great things are in the works and I can’t wait for every one of them!


Working For Tomorrow


It’s almost show week for drama and I feel like that makes everything chaotic for cast and crew members. We’re tired today for a happier tomorrow. The hard work will pay off.


Down to the Second


The game was tied 5-5 and the Watercolors had the frisbee. It was thrown up into the air about 10 yards from the in zone, but a member of the Dream Team touched it sending the disk off course. The Watercolors captain dove to the ground and in a beautiful moment, he caught the frisbee! People looked around and he was sitting right on the line of the in zone when the ref called time thus scoring the winning point for the Watercolors in the final seconds!

That was how the the Watercolors versus Dream Team game went today, and we have to win one more game against them to go up against the staff next week in the infamous student faculty ultimate frisbee TIP game. I’m ready to kick some Dream Team butt tomorrow.

Though the names may be odd, the Watercolors is actually the team that usually wins because it is run by 4th yearers and there is a bunch of tradition and stuff with being on that team. So actually, this game was scary close and we got really worried we may have a repeat of last year where the Dream Team would win and play the staff. We are determined though to not let that sad year be repeated. I must say, while it freaked me out to be so close even at the last second, the game was probably far more interesting and exciting to win because of how close of a game it was.

When you have very little time left it tends to make people “wake up” so to say. People become alert with a rush of adrenaline that helps them push through no matter how tired they may be.

I’ve seen this happen at school too. Some students prefer to wait until the last minute to do homework because then for some reason they feel more motivated and excited to race the clock and get it done right before the buzzer (or bell in this case).

What if people could have that motivation and energy level through out an entire process, may that be a ultimate frisbee game or a homework assignment? In the secret sauce to just have a timer? What if homework assignments had some added challenge/competition level to them somehow where you had to race against yourself to get the answers right.

It’s like back in elementary school when we would do mad minutes to learn our basic multiplication skills; the goal was to see how many equations you could correctly solve in a minute and then each time you would try to beat that score. It was only for a completion grade, but because of the challenge component people seemed to get better and really learn that skill. Could this concept potentially be applied to more challenging material now that I’m a high schooler?


Taking Control of My Learning

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Well I was very ready to finally get out of the house a little more today. Of all places, I ended up at school again. Even though it is summer, I’ve been at school quite a bit. I will be there again tomorrow and all of next week, so at this point teachers that see me there have moved past asking “What are you doing here when you don’t have to be?” and now they just say “Hi Anya, nice to see you again.” I just find it funny how it’s officially not new news anymore for me to be at school a bunch.

I was really happy all day today for some reason. Getting that scene change out of the house I think was just really nice because I showed up at school happy and ready to work.

Kat and I had a great 3 hour work session too. After speaking with a few teachers on their way out to lunch, we went into the ID room and got busy making our thinking visual which was amazingly helpful!

I haven’t really blogged about the coVenture we’ve been working on because I haven’t known what words to use, but I think I’m getting a better handle on it now and was really excited after working today. Seeing as we’ve been talking about it with various individuals so much more frequently now, I think its time to try to give an overview of how we are going about on our daunting process to design a course.

Next year the English course I’m going to take is AP Language and Composition, which is the course all juniors at MVPS take if they are on the AP level. However, 2 of us that will be juniors in the Innovation Diploma will not be taking the the same AP Lang course as the other AP Lang students. Why? Well because Kat and I are currently working on designing our own AP Lang collab-course which we will be taking next year.

So the reason we call it a collab-course is because it isn’t exactly an independent study because there will be 2 of us and we will be working closely with various teachers and hopefully some mentors outside of MVPS if we can get people on board; however, there will not be one teacher that has created a syllabus that they will then use to help teach us throughout the year like your typical school course. In this collab-course the 2 of us are actually in the process of creating our own syllabus (that’s right student’s are making the syllabus #mindblown right?) that we will then submit to the college board  to get approval for our AP course, and then we will take the AP Lang text at the end of the year.

For me there are a few key reasons I was inspired to work on this venture:

  1. I love testing the water with the possibilities to school learning. Have you ever created the syllabus for a course you will later take? It seems a little paradoxical to create the teaching guide for something you haven’t yet learned, but that is what we are working on doing right now because we really want to lead by example with what “taking control of your learning” could look like. Don’t get me wrong there have definitely had some struggles and confusing moments, but so far we’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve never heard of something like this collab-course, but I wanted to be on that team of people that test it out because every great innovation has to start somewhere so why not now and why not with me? This is an innovation in process and with my passion of education redesign, I needed to be a part of this one. 🙂
  2. The need for truly meaningful work. Overall I really enjoy school, but there are definitely times where I don’t feel like I’m doing the most meaningful work in terms of what I’m passionate about. With this collab-course we are getting to actually say “This is what we want and hope to learn by the end of this course,” and then shape the activities we do based off of those concepts. All of those times we’ve said that we “want to do meaningful work” while in school classes, well now is our chance to try and create those activities that we would consider to be meaningful work. We get to pioneer some of our own teaching method ideas and see if they actually work which is really exciting.
  3. The freedom and choice. We don’t have a singular teacher for this class. We are the deciders for what we want to work on, plus we are a class of 2, so that means we can be flexible to our personal passions with what we learn. For example, an idea that we’ve talked about is not necessarily meeting every day every week. This isn’t set and stone yet, but if we did do this, it would give us flex time in our day to continue ID work, to observe other classes maybe, to personally work on AP Lang work, or in my case perhaps go to more band classes! We can also take time to learn through specific lenses like education and innovation at times because we know we are all passionate about that. We have so much freedom and choice with how we learn that just feels awesome. Now of course with freedom and choice comes responsibility, and I also predict this course will help all of us develop our responsibility skills even further because we are going to be held accountable still with learning certain AP Lang specific skills in order to take the test at the end of the year and also simply to pass 11th grade.

I’ve been getting really excited about this course especially as we further create the syllabus. None of us have ever created a syllabus before, and obviously we are getting some help from mentors of ours, but it has been kind of cool to dive into completely uncharted waters and just mess around to figure out something that works. What we came up with I think is pretty cool.

To start we knew we needed to discover what even an AP Lang course is all about because we’ve never taken the course so we know nothing about it. We interviewed some of the different English teachers at school, researched on the college board, and even talked to some people that took AP Lang in the past to get a better idea of the course and to empathize with some of the people we may future work with.

Then we’ve since moved on into the experimenting phase where we currently are. We’ve been doing a ton of brainstorming. After a while we thought, “well we have a years worth of learning to plan for, why not structure it like telling a story?” We ran with this idea and it lead us to an interesting concept of using the Hero’s Journey as our guide for the syllabus, and we’ve been using design thinking to help us create it.

The Hero’s Journey is basically the stereotypical plot line to a lot of great books. You start in the ordinary and known world, then there is a call to adventure. After the hero refuses the call they meet a mentor and then cross the threshold into the unknown, special world. There is a road of trials where the hero is challenged and tested as they approach the “dragon’s den”. Eventually the hero has some great revelation or ordeal that is life changing. Then after seizing the treasure the hero starts on their road back where eventually there is some great reflection as the hero returns once again to the ordinary world back at home.

We want our AP Lang collab-course to be a great story when we are done, so we figured we should write the syllabus (#thescript) like the Hero’s journey because it makes for great stories.

The units themselves have even been created based on the Hero’s Journey. (Keep in mind this is still a work in progress and we’re currently workshopping some of the names, but because I like thinking in terms of the process I think it is important to share and gain feedback early so we fail fast rather than right before we try to produce. #thinkinglikeadesigner )

Unit 1 covers up until the “call to adventure” and it’s titled “The Power of Words.” Then Unit 2: “The Art of Innovation” is up until “crossing the threshold”. Unit 3: “Exploring new Frontiers” takes us up to the “ordeal” which also leads us to the end of semester 1. Over Winter Break starts Unit 4: “Kick-Starting” which get’s us to “seizing the treasure”. Unit 5: “Taking a Stand” leads us on our “journey home” and through our big “resurrection”. Until finally we get Unit 6: “Bringing it All Together” where we return home with the treasure of our new found knowledge from the year.

This big metaphor has been really helpful so far. Once again because of our design work we thought, “let’s make it visual.” So we made a big hero’s journey circle with pictures, labels, sticky notes, and color coded string and push pins. (It looks absolutely fantastic!) We’ve been dividing up the circle and using it almost like a circular calendar to figure out how long each unit should be, where breaks should fall, what kinds of essential questions we want to be learning about (#startwithquestions), and what types of activities we should be doing in the different units. This is all based on the amount of time we have in a school year and approximately how long we think each section should take based on how much space the corresponding Hero’s Journey sections take up on the circle.

It hasn’t only been helpful, but it’s been fun! (Thus I was still happy all day after working on a syllabus for 3 hours!)

And that’s just a snippet of what we’ve come up with, but it’s been pretty exciting so far and I’m loving the concept of a course being like a big story for learning. I’ve also been amazed with how design thinking has been so easily incorporated and so immensely helpful with trying to figure out how to navigate through uncharted waters. Plus these uncharted waters is something that may seem tedious like designing a syllabus; I mean I know they aren’t typically fun to read, so I feel like I shouldn’t be having so much fun making one.

Now I’m pumped to keep working tomorrow!


Jump In


Of all of the random ways to be inspired, tonight I was inspired from a song from the musical The Book of Mormon. It’s a very catchy song my best friend and I will constantly get stuck in our head called “You and Me (But Mostly Me),” and the line that inspired me tonight was “So quit singing about it and do it!”

My friends and I have a joke about the “procrastination train”. When we find ourselves procrastinating to get something done by doing odd things, typically involving music and the internet and lots of texting, we will say that we are on the procrastination train and will mention the various stops that we are on.

Lately I’ve spent an oddly large amount of time at my house now that school is out and I haven’t left for various states yet. I’m really not use to being at home alone so much and frankly it is almost bothersome at this point because I’m so use to being constantly busy and on the move and talking with lots of people. While at home, besides watching Gilmore Girls with my family, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and packing and that’s been about it. Even though I’m still doing things that need to be done, I can’t help but feel like there are so many other things that I should be working on and even reading has been starting to make me a little anxious about stuff.

Today as I was reading and getting stressed I started texting my friends and finally was convinced that I just needed to stop reading and do something else. So finally I was able to “quit thinking about it and do it.” I put my book up and started on my computer with various things I need to get done.

I’ve been learning on multiple occasions lately that it’s easy to find yourself thinking and stressing about work. And while sometimes you may feel like you have no idea what you should be doing, the most helpful thing to do is to just start doing something and figure it out along the way.

It’s like learning to swim. As a young child you don’t know where to begin when it comes to large bodies of water. But then someone helps push you in and, slowly, your instincts kick in and you start to learn to not drown. Then after some time your “not drowning” becomes floating and swimming freely where ever you want. Then what comes with maturity, is that eventually you have to learn to jump into new waters yourself, trusting that someone will always be there just in case you need a lifeguard. But if you never get in the water, you aren’t going to learn to swim.