Latin Class Goes Underground

WE’VE ARRIVED IN FRANCE!!!! It’s Interim Week for MVPS which means that groups of high schoolers and faculty are off to different places around the world for a week of learning while immersed in cultural experiences. Personally I’m on the France trip where we will be spending 7 days in Paris and Normandy this week.

IMG_2351.JPGWe landed at 5:30am and have been going non stop ever since, so I’m exhausted and jet lagged like everyone else; therefore this post will be short. I’d also like to preface this post by saying that like most of my posts, I wasn’t required by any teacher to write this as a form of assessment, but I will be reflecting on my learning adventures throughout the week.

First off, it goes without saying that the food was AMAZING!!! I’ve had a lot of oddly timed meals since getting to the airport at 2pm on Friday, but ever since arriving in France we’ve been eating some amazing breads, cheeses, and meats as expected.

IMG_6771.JPGHowever, my favorite part of the day was exploring the catacombs. Even though we had to wait in line for about 3 hours in fairly chilly weather (we did take turns leaving the line for another pastry thankfully), the catacombs of Paris were entirely worth the wait. It was incredible to see the walls of bones still perfectly stacked up after hundreds of years. And also, being 1 of 3 AP Latin student and having 2 of us plus our teacher on this trip, I actually really enjoyed getting to translate some of the written pieces in the tunnels.
IMG_6772.JPGNo one really speaks Latin anymore, and people constantly say it’s a pointless language to take, but I enjoy the stories, culture, and history we get to learn from reading ancient works. However, there aren’t many chances we have to actually practice Latin in the “real world,” so it was really fun to get to be one of 3 people nerding out about being able to actually understand some of what was written on the walls. It was also really gratifying to know after taking Latin for 6 years that there’s clear evidence we’ve improved, because now we can somewhat translate on site things we’ve never seen before. A grade only tells you so much about your abilities, but being able to actually apply what you learn while out in the “real world” is so much more fun and proving of your knowledge growth over time.

Needless to say, the trip’s off to a great start and I know there’s more greatness to come!

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Crossing Subjects: Engages and Entertains

images-1.jpgI love it when “class” stops being defined by what subject you are talking about.

Today in AP Lang Kat and I made an interesting choice. Rather than spending the period looking up old AP essays and spending a class analyzing and outlining one of them, we instead decided to join the Latin 3 class going on during the same period. But don’t get me wrong, I feel that we were still preparing for our exam next week in a very productive way.

We joined the Latin class because we knew that today they were giving speeches to defend Verres in a law suit where the great orator Cicero was the prosecutor. When the trial originally took place, Cicero’s speech was so amazing  that Verres’ lawyer, Quintus Hortensius who was one of the greatest lawyers of his time, told him to pleed guilty because there was no way they could win the case against Cicero and the defense speech was never given. Therefore, the Latin assignment was to write the unread speech to defend Verres.

The problem is, that Verres really did do some pretty awful things like crucifying Romans and stealing from sacred buildings, so writing a good speech comes entirely down to your use of rhetorical devices. (It’s at this point that a light bulb may be going off saying, “Oh here’s the connection back to AP Lang!”)

Yes, indeed, rather than looking up essays online, Kat and I listened in on about 5 different speeches and outlines/took notes on each of them as if we were going to write a rhetorical analysis essay about how the speaker used rhetorical devices to support their argument.

It was so much fun!!! We got to listen to some hysterical speeches while learning a little Latin and history, while participating in discussions with a larger group, while all the while practicing our rhetorical analysis skills. (Because like I said the case wasn’t one you’re meant to win, you are just meant to throw some crazy arguments together and try to make them sound good.)

Kat and I were even given a refresher on some devices that we had forgotten about because we hadn’t seen them used in a while. Plus I think joining the Latin class helped make us outline at a rapid fire pace because new people kept presenting, so I bet we had far more essay analysis done by the end then we would have otherwise; it’s just so easy to waste a little time here and there looking and deciding what to read or thinking about other big things coming up.

Overall today’s Latin-AP Lang mash up just reminded me how powerful learning can be when you cross disciplines and add a little layer of entertainment to your work.

Making Latin Art

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(Sorry about my sticker being in yellow, I know it makes it hard to see in the picture.) 

The Makers Movement is spreading; are you on board?

This story requires a bit of a backstory.

A week or so ago one of my mentors, Tedwards as we call him, walked by during my Latin class and stuck a vinyl sticker on the glass wall. It said “et tu Baroody” and had a picture of the colosseum. My entire class thought it was great, but our marvelously OCD class got frustrated with the fact that it was slightly crooked on the glass. Our natural conclusion was that we needed more, so that it looked like it was purposefully crooked.

Then, earlier this week, Tedwards came to take down the sticker and a few of my friends said no we wanted it and wanted more! So we set up a time for Tedwards to come work with my Latin class, so we could make more Latin stickers!

This Friday was that day!

We were given the challenge to help Tedwards with a Guerrilla Art idea he’s been wanting to start up for a while.

Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. –Keri Smith

So each of us was tasked with picking another high school teacher and creating a sticker for them that connected their class to something about Latin.

While some may think that this day was just a pure day of fun, I think the mixture of Latin and Makers proved to be a great day of learning, which also happened to be fun! I mean just think about everything we accomplished:

  1. We learned how to use a new tool– the vinyl printer.
  2. We worked on Latin prose composition when writing our Latin phrases.
  3. We learned some History while picking what Latin images best conveyed our message to the other teacher.
  4. We promoted the use of art and technology as a learning tool in the classroom by tagging other teachers with our stickers. (Most haven’t been tagged yet because most of us hadn’t finished Friday so we worked over the weekend on finishing.)
  5. We got students excited about learning and talking about their experience with other kids that aren’t in the class.

Sounds like a pretty  productive, successful, and fun day to me! I love it when things that start as a little joke turn into a great learning experience. 🙂

Start of Something New

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Last night was the 10th year anniversary of High School Musical, and you bet I watched the movie with the cast commentary last night on Disney Channel! It’s crazy to think that movie first played 10 years ago. It feels like it was only yesterday…

That movie, while extremely cheesy, makes me so happy. I mean it was a part of my child hood. (Even though technically I only started to like it after a little while of it being out.) I still know just about all of the words and several of the dances too.

One song that has been stuck in my head all day is “The Start of Something New”  (which is slightly ironic because I missed that part of the movie last night).

The song has seemed fitting today though because many new things have happened. I got my new piccolo!! (I had never played one before today and that was interesting, but I’m excited to learn!) Our ReSpIn team in ID worked with the laser cutter and made huge progress in terms of design concepts and connects. Kat and I have been working on planning a big discussion around the “American Dream” and success, which we made a lot of great progress on today in AP Lang.  And tomorrow is my first meeting with the MViFi team now that we’ve actually announced that I’m the first MViFi Fellow, and I’m so excited! (I finally put my shirt on today that we joke about being a bowling team shirt, and it’s kind of giant on me considering there are only guy sizes, but it makes me laugh in a happy way anyway.)

I don’t know why exactly, but it just feels like a lot of “new” is coming soon to my life. It hasn’t quite hit yet, but there’s something in the wondering air…

(I feel the need to explain the term “wondering air,” it basically means “breeze” but it became a joke in Latin today because when we translated a piece literally it said “wondering air” which we all found funny and I thought it was fit in this situation for some reason.)

The Wisdom of Justice

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So I honestly don’t know where this 20/20 on Plato’s Book 1 of The Republic will go because to be honest, philosophy is hard to capture in words sometimes.

Book 1 ends in an “agree to disagree” situation between Socrates and several others while trying to decide on a definition of justice, and a “just man”. This conversation begins with a discussion about old age, and how someone makes the claim of old men being wise.

I like how Socrates describes that you can’t just become old and then instantaneously become wise, but instead your character as a person throughout your life time influences what you are like in old age.

But what makes someone wise?

How are wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and education related and yet different?

Well here are my thoughts.

Knowledge is knowing facts. Intelligence though, is being able to interpret and analyze these facts to make conclusions and actually put the knowledge you have to use in your life situation. Wisdom then, is the ability to learn from the experiences that occur in your life and to be able to teach the intelligence you’ve gained to others. Education finally, is the actual process of learning and teaching facts.

So you may notice that education leads back to knowledge once again, thus forming a lovely circle. (Because we all know life is full of circular thinking, and circles are pretty cool.)

But Plato is writing about justice, so how does wisdom connect to justice?

This is the question I am left still pondering, but I’m thinking that in order to be just you must use your wisdom. When you reach the point of being able to teach something to someone else, then you must know that thing well enough to help influence decisions that need to be made around a debate around that thing. (I feel that I may be getting a little “up in the clouds” as we say in Chemistry when we start speaking more conceptually, but again, philosophy is hard to articulate without some extent of confusion and with things left for interpretation.)

So I’m not going to attempt to define justice yet, but I am starting to conceptualize the relations between education, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, and justice. So hopefully, like the periodic table, once I have more background information I will be able to predict the future better and therefore better understand justice itself.

Justice is not a simple thing, it is a concept, defined by the definer, used to settle debates, created to shape governments. A just man is one that must try and decide that which is the just decision. This task is difficult and requires much wisdom.

Venturing Back to the Prison Cave

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Today was another 20/20 Day: Allegory of the Cave part 2. 

Today Kat and I discussed Plato’s Allegory of the Cave again, because this is one of those pieces that you just have to reread since new insights come from it each time.

From the combination of multiple discussions, I think I am starting to have a more refined definition of “truth”. Truth is the agreed upon facts that a group decides upon. There are always multiple truths, and that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a “right” or “wrong” truth, it simply means they are different. This makes the line between truth and belief hard to define.

In the terms of the allegory, Plato says, “[Socrates] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”Which seems to argue that the prisoners do not know the truth because they only see the shadows. However, later he says, “[Socrates] But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.” This new statement eludes to the idea that knowledge must build upon itself. After all, you can not do calculus without first understanding basic principles of geometry.

Therefore, if knowledge builds upon itself, and truth is built upon knowledge, then the prisoners must have some sort of known truth. Plato uses light as a metaphor for knowledge and understanding, so I find it interesting then that shadows can only be seen if there is some light. While the prisoners may not be able to full see the light source, they do have some knowledge and understanding; they just are not yet exposed to the full truth.

The prisoners know that there is more out there: “At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains.” While their curiosity pained them, Plato does not deny that the prisoners were curious and knowledgeable enough to know there must be something they can not see. This is a truth that the prisoners understand.

They might not know what is out there where they can’t see, but they hypothesize that there is something.

If the prisoners are ever expected to understand the truth, Plato claims that their guardians must venture back into the cave themselves: “[Socrates] I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the cave, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.” The guardians, if they wish to become teachers, must join their students, the prisoners, to understand what truths they understand in order to help guide them to a fuller understanding of the truth.

Teachers must invest themselves in the world of students, if they wish to truly challenge and grow their perspectives, beliefs, and understanding of the truth.

Life = Humanities “and” STEM not “or”

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MVPS is on fall break currently so we have a long weekend with no school today. It was such a great day!!!

And I spent half my day at school by choice. 🙂

While the students had today off, teachers had a planning day. While I haven’t been to a planning day before, I do know that this was not the normal planning day because it was run by MViFi and set up like a conference. Teachers seemed to really enjoy being able to have the choice of what sessions they attended and also being able to do a lot of hands on work.

The reason I was at the planning day was because I was offered the opportunity to co-facilitate one of the sessions, specifically the recycling session. This was a great and fun opportunity to lead and share our work in ID with teachers from across divisions. After years of talking about recycling problems that need to be solved for, I’m excited with the conversations that have been started and can’t wait to see how things continue. It’s also always nice when people get excited about your prototype. (Which is officially done and in place in a middle school classroom collecting data!!!!)

However, what I think I enjoyed most about today actually was my second session on designing a humanities course that will be launched for freshman to take for 2016-2017. It was a great group and a great challenge that sparked great conversation!

One of the big take away thoughts that I had was around the idea of fun work versus meaningful work.

My table had a conversation about how the humanities are about humans, which also has a lot to do with struggle. (By the way also there was an important distinction with “humanities” not just meaning English and history classes, but also arts and language and being more about culture than just being a combo of subjects.) Both analyzing and communicating the struggles of others, and having to struggle yourself to get work done. The truth is that there is a lot of struggle in life. I might not have the years of experience to really be able to say this, but I’d like to think, while I may not be able to empathize, I can at least understand on some level.

Sometimes you will have work that you simply don’t want to do, but you still have to get it done. In life you don’t always get to do what you want. It’s not always fun. That’s ok thought.

We talked about how you can do really hard work, that might not be the most fun while you’re working on it, but afterwards it can feel so rewarding. Rewarding to the point where students even comment by saying, “This was really hard, but I loved it! I feel like I really learned something.” One of the teachers mentioned our past show “Beast on the Moon”, and how it obviously was not a very up lifting comedy kind of show. The show was very serious, with lots of emotions and moving pieces constantly changing, and in general it was a tough drama, not to mention the amount of lines to memorize. However, after the show, we were thrilled with what we had just pulled off. It was rewarding to know we went through all of the hard work and then could put on a show that truly moved people.

However, the interesting question/struggle comes with how to make the hard work then feel rewarding at the end. In my opinion, this requires for students to be given the opportunity to do meaningful work.

Meaningful work can be fun. Feeling happy about learning something I think is pretty meaningful– being happy is important to a healthy life.

However, meaningful work can also be hard. It can be tiring and stressful and time consuming and still be meaningful.

In AP Lang we’ve been working on our Creativity Crisis papers (in fact I was going to officially share mine today, but I was much too passionate about today’s adventures to not talk about them). Now while we were still writing a paper, and staying up late to meet deadlines, and getting specific feedback that wasn’t always positive, we have been ok with all of it because we know that we have to go through all of that hard work in order to share something valuable with a wider audience. That is how we are choosing to try and make the work we do meaningful in this situation.

Teachers can’t just make work meaningful because for work to be meaningful, students have to find that meaning. However, it is possible for the work to not be given the chance to be meaningful. When this happens, this is when work feels tedious on top of being tiring and stressful and time consuming.

I feel like there is a common assumption that students (especially those of us helping more significantly with shaping our own learning experience) think we should only do work we find to be fun work. Another assumption being that your typical “STEM student” (a bubble to which I find myself often included) thinks everything should be about brainstorming and creating a product.

I’d like to dispel these beliefs at least a little because I don’t believe either of these assumptions to be true.

In fact I don’t want to ever only be doing fun work because after a while it stops being fun if it isn’t also challenging. While “fun stuff” is needed to help relieve stress and keep high energy levels to be able to work on harder stuff, overcoming challenges often feels more rewarding then just doing the fun stuff.

Also I find it interesting, because while I do love STEM and will likely go into a STEM field, I have found myself in a lot of humanities conversations lately. Sometimes it is important to just have a conversation. To not be focused on trying to make an end product, but to just sit and have a deep talk. However, you can’t always just sit and talk because eventually it will start to feel like you are having an empty conversation because it’s the same type of conversation you’ve had before but nothing is changing.

STEM and the Humanities need each other. Humanities, understanding humans, is at the basis of any thing you are trying to design, and you need the STEM skills to then actually design it to help provoke change which then leads to new conversations.

I feel like my thoughts have been all over the place tonight. (Probably doesn’t help with it being so late and my flight to Ohio being such chaos tonight.) I think part of the disjointedness to this writing tonight is because I have so many thoughts about this idea of Humanities and STEM; it feels like they are always working in competition with one another rather than collaboration with one another.

My big thought I guess is that great learning is about overcoming challenges that leads to something where you are able to feel happy and proud about what you’ve accomplished at the end. If you aren’t happy and proud at the end, then why did you do it?

MoVe Talk Planning

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With many things I could be doing tonight, the one I have spent the most time on, yet I know it isn’t finished but I need to move on, is my MoVe talk presentation.

So now that will be the only thing on my mind even while trying to study for history, math, and Latin.

Yay for the procrastination train! (And the sad thing is that I haven’t really been procrastinating too much this time, there is just a lot to do.)

Paving a Path

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(This post is a little long, but that’s just because there were so many inspirational things to think about today!)

Everyone has something they are passionate about. Even if they haven’t discovered what that is quite yet, it still exists.

I couldn’t agree more with Kat’s interpretation on students finding their passions and the importance of a mentor that really cares about you outside of the class.

I find it ironic that she mentions are 9th grade history teacher because he recently posted a blog entry about “Where are you JamCam?” which was a song and video I created with the help of a few others at the end of last year. The song started as a joke because he was our mentor for our year long project last year (TDed as it was called, and it was on GMOs), but since he was a head person, he was often at meetings and we couldn’t find him.

One day Jacob started singing “Where are you JamCam” to the tune of “Where are you Christmas”, and after that I had decided that we needed to finish the song; so I did.

It wasn’t until the last week of school that I had gotten my best friend Dana to record the song after school on my computer, and I had asked a bunch of students to send me pictures of JamCam from his class or just pictures that he had sent us at some point by email. Then I went online and found a bunch of pictures he had posted of our class to also add to the iMovie. I was even working on finalizing the video during the last class we had with him, so I was really happy when I found out he had no idea we were going to present this video to him on the last day of school!

I couldn’t begin to explain how important his role was in getting me to be where I am today. It was in his class that I first started dreaming and imagining how much more there could be to what “school” means. Kat talks in her post about how, “Some of my favorite teachers of all time are the ones that got to know me beyond the class, learned what I liked, sent me random email with links to things to check out, encouraged me to just start doing things, like starting my blog or my Twitter account, and always being there to lend an ear when I wanted to vent about a problem I was having and helping me find a way to fix it.” Let me just say, this is sooooooooo true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This personal connection is what really sets apart a “teacher” versus a “mentor”.

Just today JamCam and I were Tweeting about a book he found in Barns and Noble about Einstein which he thought I would like, and then we talked about his blog post and the “Where are you JamCam” video.

I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t know how much I remember about World History from that class. (I’m sure I remember more than I think I do because when things come up I’ll be like, “oh ya we learned about that some last year”.) The thing is though, when I think back to all of last year, even outside of that class, what I learned isn’t what stands out to me, it is the fun, random moments of inspiration that you can’t plan for that I remember best.

For example here are my top memories from classes of last year:

1st period: Band

I have a lot of memories from band because we were always fooling around with music before and after class, and it is the one class I had already been in for multiple years and with the same teacher, so being in high school didn’t really change anything about that class. Last year I really started to mess around with stuff that I just wanted to play rather than just what our conductor gave us. I remember one day when no one else was playing because half of the band was gone (back when middle and high school band was together), but Marz, Dana, and I decided to take that opportunity to play some stuff with just us 3 flutes. We played songs from Little Shop of Horrors because we just did that musical. We played old songs from years past. We even hooked up my computer so we could play “Let it Go” with the instrumental in the background! We weren’t playing because we were told, we played because we wanted to experiment for ourselves.

2nd period: Latin

I’ll admit, Latin last year was ruff with that particular teacher. And the funny thing is, while we make fun of this particular day, I will never forget the day she had us all sit down on the floor in a circle and told us we were going to be kindergardeners and tell a story. Everyone was given a role and she told us the story of the golden fleece, and when a character would could come up she would point to whoever in the class was playing that character and act like it was them.

3rd period: Math

I’m a major math nerd, so it shouldn’t be surprising that my favorite math memory was when someone challenged me to a speed race to derive the quadratic formula from the standard formula. We had been working on this all unit, and I had even gotten a Student of the Month award for the communication mindset because I helped a bunch of people understand how to do it. It had been on our quizzes and our teacher had told us it would be on the test. So the day of the test while our teacher was printing the tests (I think, I know she wasn’t in the room quite yet) another kid challenged me to see who could derive it fastest on the whiteboard. (I won.) 🙂 It was really great to see our teachers face when she walked in and saw us all having fun playing with math! To this day I will still occasionally test myself with remembering how to derive that formula because there is this memory attached.

4th period: Biology

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This is one of my favorite stories! Last year in science there was one week where we had gotten super a head of the other period, so our teacher didn’t know exactly what we should do in class. So we suggested “let’s just go grab the prototyping stuff and make stuff!” He seemed hesitant, so we put on our thinking caps to think of a way to justify it. We decided that we were going to all pick animals and try to mash them together, essentially to make our very own GMO, which was not only what we were learning about in science at the time, but it was also the big topic for all of the 9th and 10th graders for their year long project. We explained how we were also demonstrating the mindsets: working in teams (collaborating), finding a problem we think could be solved with a new GMO not yet existing (solution seeker), thinking outside of the box to create these creatures (creative thinker), designing them with a  purpose in mind for these creatures (innovator), making sure our purpose was helpful to society and weighing the potential down sides (ethical decision maker),  and at the end explaining our ideas to everyone in a short to the point fashion that also pitched why we needed that particular GMO (communicator). We had him convinced! We did this little impromptu project and it was amazingly fun and entertaining because it was really random and took a lot of creative power even if there wasn’t a ton of fact involved. (Then a tour came in and we had to explain to them what we were doing and why, which was pretty historical.)

5th period: World History

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I’ve already talked a bit about how much I enjoyed this class. My most memorable moment is the one that started it all in my opinion: The Big History Project. The original prompt was to find some topic with in that time period range we had discussed so far and to research and present about it in some way of your choice. Well I didn’t like this. I was being really frustrated about not knowing what to work on or what topic to pick because I didn’t want to just do a typical project where you research a bunch of random facts and then relay them to everyone. JamCam understood. After 3 days of struggling and experimental ideas with the class with writing passions on one note card and potential topics on another and trying to find the connections (this activity was mainly for me, but it still left me stuck), JamCam finally came to me and said, “I have an idea. I’ve been struggling with how to make our work more meaningful and I can’t figure it out. How would you like to make that your topic; HMW redesign projects?”

My response: Challenge accepted.

I think I did more work in that month then I ever had for any project. I was researching schools and techniques from around the world. I scheduled meetings with faculty members to learn about how we design our school schedules. I sent surveys to teachers, students, and parents. I worked intensely over Thanksgiving break because I wanted to get all of my ideas just right. I gave practice presentations to family members, students, and teachers. I stayed up until 2am one night pondering over ideas with my mom. I prototyped and drew up poster boards and created an entire 45 page slide deck.

I was so dedicated I asked to go last so I could have as much possible time prepping. Then on the last day of 1st semester I gave what ended up being a 45 minute presentation on HMW Redesign Projects, which ended up leading to so many other ideas like new schedules that allowed for subjects to work on trans-disciplinary projects with multiple teachers at once. There were even 3 people video taping the presentation, one of which was Mr. Adams who at the time I really did only know as the mysterious bow tie guy that came into class rooms to observe occasionally (little did I know back then how much our paths would cross).

It is hands down the project I am the most proud of ever, and like I said, “it started it all”; I don’t think I would ever have become so interested in education reform if it wasn’t for this project and the opportunity to go against what everyone else was doing for class. (This was no longer just for a class project, it was for me.)

Thanks again for that JamCam! 🙂

6th period: English

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I’ve said before that I didn’t really consider myself to be a writer before starting this blog over the summer, and this is very much true, so as you can imagine I’ve always had a love hate relationship with English classes. However, this particular class was amazing! The teacher and students just all clicked so perfectly as did many of my classes last year. I’m stuck between two memories from this class, but I think I have to go with the creation of “Feeds”. We were learning about dystopian societies at the time, which is probably my favorite style for some reason, and we were also suppose to be connecting class stuff to GMOs at the time. So we got in groups to create dystopian stories about GMOs.

I loved the way this teacher made the groups because it was a nice mixture of student picked and teacher picked. I don’t recall the exact questions, but she created a Google form with multiple choice questions where you could choose as many that apply, that asked things like “what type of project (medium) would you like to do?” “What skills do you bring to a team?” “Name 3 people you would like to work with.”

Then she took all of this information and created the groups herself, but kept everyone with at least one person from their list. (So if 2 people put each other they were basically always put in a group together.)

My group decided to do something interesting for our presentation which none of us had tried before. We took what was originally going to be a short story, then turned it into a script, and then recorded parts of it and left other parts to be acted out live. We had two narrators and then 2 of us playing all of the other roles, but some of them were pre recorded and one girl was working the tech stuff to start and stop the recordings. In the end we got it so we could be having a scene with ourselves and it was really cool the way it all worked out! It was also a ton of fun because we got to decide everything; the only parameter was it could be no longer than 15 minutes and had to be a dystopian story about GMOs. It was also neat because most of my class mates hadn’t seen me act before so they were really impressed and that is always nice to hear!

It was also fun to see all of the other productions. One group wrote a 30 page novel. A few did movies, and this one group did the most amazing school video of the year. The girl who edited it was really talented and their story line was pretty funny.

I had some great memories from 9th grade. I know everyone says the information is the important stuff, but is it really what we remember after the test? At the AATE conference last Friday, Mr. Edwards/Tedwards (my bio teacher from last year by the way) had said something about how students will relearn most of the “important” information again in college, and any student that wants to do well, will. Well how do we get students to want it? For me want and fun are pretty closely related.

I could list a ton of things I learned from these experiences, but the grades don’t matter a smidge  to me (most of them didn’t even have real grades, but I still learned and enjoyed the moments enormously.) These stories I shared were all moments were I had incredible joy and also felt incredibly proud of my work because I took part in the creation of the end product and felt connected to the outcome; a teacher hadn’t predesigned what would come from the experience.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense; if the teachers already have the path paved for the students, how will they ever learn to make their own path? 

What to Do

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Ever feel like everyone else seems to know your future expect for yourself? I’m kind of at that point right.

Today we had one of my least favorite conversations that has to happen once a year about now: “What courses are you going to take next year and what is your plan for the rest of high school?”

The reason I hate this conversation is because I get told so many conflicting things, and I’m already pretty bad at making decisions, so this doesn’t help.

The set up of school is meant to get you into college, correct? You are told that this a good thing because you want to go to college. It didn’t always use to be assumed that you were going to college. The question use to be “Are you going to college?” Now the question is, “Which college are you thinking about going to?”

Any student born in these past few generations has already been born with some part of their future planned out for them by someone else: they are going to college.

Now that it is clear that we want to go to college, I would like to describe how school helps us get there.

We are told that to be competitive in getting into a good college, we need to take as many AP courses as possible. (And do well in them obviously.) When signing up for these courses they tell you that the course will be a college level class, meaning it will be difficult, and typically involve lots of reading and dedicated time outside of school in order to keep up with the fast pace. We are also asked in the application we have to fill out, “why do you want to take this course?”

Here is where things get a little paradoxical. They just told us that in order to be competitive we need to take as many APs as possible, but then they also don’t want us taking APs just because they are AP classes; which do you prioritize more?

The worst part is that because my school is so small, there isn’t an honors course offered for several of the AP courses. You either take on level or AP, and there is no in between.

This brings me to my first debate: AP US History vs. On Level US History.

I’ve discussed many times how I have a love-hate relationship with history classes. I like history debates and discussions around issues, but overall history is probably my least favorite subject. I just don’t have that same love for it as some people do and I haven’t quite nailed out why yet. I also would consider myself a relatively slow reader, yet I keep being told that APUSH involves a lot of intensive reading. Based off of this, I feel like it would be wise of me to not take this AP and then not have to stress about the AP level work for a topic I’m not particularly thrilled with.

However, I don’t really want to be in an on level class. My primary reason is because I like challenging myself, and I like the level of depth of conversation that happens at the higher level of thinking with people I’m friends with that typically take honors and AP classes. I don’t think an on level class will challenge me that way or give me that deep level of conversation I enjoy. Plus, once again I’m told I want to go to college; therefore, from a “getting into college” perspective, the on level class will drop my GPA, and would also likely take me out of the running for valedictorian knowing other people’s course selections and typical grades. Plus if I can take an AP and score well in it (which I’m decently sure I could based on past performance), then it looks better on an application.

(Quick tangent on valedictorian, I hate to sound over confident, but many students in the grade have said that they think  I will be the valedictorian. On the one hand I feel pride in this, because it is competitive and like everyone else, I like winning because it means your hard work paid off. However, I hate the fact that this is considered like the “highest award possible” in high school, yet it is purely based on grades and what classes you decided to take because you want to get into college. The award has nothing to do with any impact you made, or how much you helped others, or how you did as a student and teacher and mentor, or how much you learned, or anything about enjoying learning, or really even saying you learned at all for that matter. It is just the numbers, and that seems like a pretty awful award to strive for in my opinion, yet that is what is considered the “best” and what to strive for at school.)

I don’t want to it to feel like I’m taking the easy way out by not taking the AP, and I’m worried that an on level course will make me board and not test me as far as thinking goes. However, I also know that I would get frustrated devoting so much time for an AP course that I’m not passionate about. I also don’t know how much I should value GPA into all of this, because since I want to go to college, shouldn’t that play some role?

What I would really love is to not take this history course at all to be honest. If I have to take school courses, what I want is to take is math and science courses because I do love those and I have confidence in my advanced skill level in these areas.

For math and science I have a different problem: deciding which to take.

I’m already ahead in math for my standard grade course, so I have 3 options left available to me for the rest of high school: AB Calculus, BC Calculus, and AP Statistics. Last year at this time I was told that I could potentially skip straight to BC Calc. without AB Calc., now apparently this has changed and I need to take AB first, so I guess I’m doing that next year.

For science I have also been told previously that a “rule” that we have I could potentially be exempted from. This would mean that I could take AP Physics without taking Honors Physics. The reason I would like to do this would be so that I can take AP Chemistry next year right after having taken Honors Chemistry this year and then I would still be able to take AP Physics like I want as a senior.

Things really get complicated when it comes to how many class periods in the day I actually have. There are 7 periods as of this year. One period is your elective, which for me is ID, and that is a nonnegotiable for me; I’m doing that. Then one period is GTD (Get Things Done) which everyone takes; because I’m in ID, I could potentially not take this, but I think I need this time for getting ahead on school work and being able to have time in cases I need to make up work I missed while at a different opportunity, and college counciling meetings will likely happen in this time which is important as a junior (next year remember).

This leaves me with 5 other period spaces to fill. I have to take at least 1 science, 1 math, 1 English, and 1 history. However this next year I do have an option for my 5th spot because I no longer have to take a language since I’ve gotten to level 3 of Latin.

If I don’t take Latin next year, this would mean I could double up on a course (probably a science, but maybe math then science as a senior either way) which could help me take all of those course I want to be taking. The problem is that I really enjoy Latin class. It has been my favorite class this year because it always makes me laugh and have a good time while learning; there has never been an exception to this so far. While over all I don’t like standard classes, Latin has always been the one I can look forward to, and I’m worried to not have it especially after 4 years of taking it. (I think it could be like band where I later realize how much I really did enjoy it.)

Then once again I’m brought back to GPA, because we want to get into college, so your GPA is important. Latin is not an honors course, and if I didn’t take Latin I would probably take another AP. This is a whole point difference in regard to GPA. Plus, like I said, I really want to take AP Stats as well as BC Calc. At this point, the only way to do this would involve eventually dropping Latin. If I dropped it next year I would probably apply for AP Environmental Science, and unlike some of my friends who may take it because it is known to be the easiest AP, I would take it because after taking Sustainable Green Architecture as my course for Nerd Camp (Duke Tip) it sounds like it has the potential to be interesting. So the Latin or no Latin is kind of a big decision as far as what to do.

Next there is English. I’m actually pretty sure I want to take AP Lang next year. However, it would be much more amazing if our idea about getting an English credit while working in ID could happen. I wouldn’t even care if it is an AP course or not, because this sounds personally, like more fun work involved, plus it would open up a space for me to then still take Latin and the extra math or science potentially (at least in my world where everything would work out nicely).

There are a few hitches in this plan though.

One, we don’t know if this can happen; it would take a lot of work, planning and pitching to show that we could hit all of the course objectives. Two, I wouldn’t want to nor could I do this alone. I feed off of working with others and need those good group discussions because that is what makes me really excited about learning. However, what if no one else wants to embark on this unknown track of getting credit without taking a typical “class”? In a nice little world it would work out where I could go to some of the classes and participate in discussions, or we would have at least a few of us so we could really fully design our own course. Again though, we don’t even know if this will work out next year, so I can’t really plan for this. (Don’t think I won’t continue this conversation of trying though.)

It is all a big game. It is a competition for who can get the best grades and get into the best college. Why do we play this game though? Shouldn’t the course selections we pick be based off of actual passion for a course? It feels so wrong to have to be choosing between multiple classes I want to take because I want to learn about the topics and don’t have time.

People will tell me “oh you will be fine with whatever course you take”, but just because I could handle the work load doesn’t mean that is the best place for me to be or where I would want to be. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. There are a lot of choices and the truth is that I don’t feel like I’ve been well enough exposed to the myriad of choices in order to actually pick something. Other people have talked about me coaching and taking over the gymnastics business, or moving to New York and becoming a struggling actor or musician, or getting a job at a school somewhere. Ya these things intrigue me, but I don’t know a ton about what it would mean to do any one of those. I don’t know what college I want to go to in order to learn about one of these options.

School can say as many times as they want “don’t pick courses just because they are an AP”, but that doesn’t refute the fact that it is the environment that having APs and the push for college creates. I do not go to school alone, and the people in my class will highly influence my learning which is also something to keep in consideration, but at the same time we are told to not pick based off of anyone but yourself. We’ve also talked in ID as well about how you don’t want to completely ostracize yourself from the rest of the grade because that could be hard socially, and school is very much a social place.

I finished The Falconer finally and I can’t stop wishing I took the Falconer Seminar and only that for a year, this one paragraph really spoke to me:

  • “Many of the Children’s heroes would reflect these same traits. Crossover sciences like biochemistry and artificial intelligence that will be the hallmark of the twenty-first century require individuals who are both rigorous in their management of knowledge and innovative in its creation. Unfortunately, our educational and training systems are still rooted in single discipline mode. The best education today teachers multidisciplinary knowledge, and that is a huge step in the right direction. The real leap will be when we overtly teach our students and employees how to be creative, how to bridge the gap between the left and right brains, how to synthesize data, how to use risk as a strength and not a weakness, where to look for the gaps that will lead to the new discoveries and innovations and designs that have always been the high water marks of human development. these are the intellectual tools that are demanded by the world ahead.” -Grant Lichtman (page 152)

What bothers me a lot about course picking, despite the problems I’ve already mentioned with the assumption of living in the system, is that I know next year when we start I still won’t be doing what I really want to be doing at school. What I really want is for school to get rid of these traditional courses all together. I want to be learning all of the subjects at once. I want to learn about the cross overs in between subjects, and I want to learn them while really learning bigger skills, skills for life out of college.

What I want more than anything from school is to be in an environment where I can learn, do, and create while working in the “real world”. I don’t feel like we are there yet, so having to work in the system frustrates me and confuses me as I try to make decisions that are best for me not just because it looks good for college.