Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thoughts on grading

I really don't know why I'm writing, considering it's 10 PM, I just got home from school and still have chores, homework, and stuff to prepare for theatre. Yet, I'm here. On that note, I apologize if this post makes no sense, my brain quit on me a few hours ago.

Lately there seems to be a heated debate going on over what eliminating grades would entail, and it made me think of my middle school GT teacher. To this day, Mrs. Getzel has taught me the most of any teacher and made me work much harder than any other classes. Her classes ultimately hasd no grades. She graded us based upon our effort and improvement. With our papers, she would simply give us points out of five, most of us started at 3 at the beginning of the semester, and she had us feverishly chasing that elusive 5. I worked harder in her classes than any of my high school classes combined. She made us work so hard at learning for no grade, I'm really amazed at her. Initially I hated her, my life was no longer easy, I could slack off in other classes and get A's, but not with her. But eventually, she taught us all how to write effectively, and with no traditional point system. I still remember the day I finally won that wonderful 5-. I had never been so proud of a measly 5 points in my entire life. I would really suggest talking to her if anyone's still interested in a pointless grading system.

In many of my classes, I know how the teacher grades, and base the effort I exert on aassignments on that. I really wouldn't do this if I could, but on nights when I have 30 chem problems, math homework, 30 pages of history to read and a paper to write, it would not be practical to spend all night writing my paper to the best of my ability. Practically, it would be stupid to do so, so I simply write well enough to get an A in whichever class and am satisfied. In an ideal world, I would make the paper my best effort, but basic bodily functions such as sleep tend to take over my little educational utopia. This is ultimately the most difficult thing about eliminating grades, we have so many classes, among other commitments, that something is going to be done less than our absolute best. I think the best thing we can be taught is how to prioritize without completely abandoning certain aspects of ouir responsibilities.

As wonderful as it would be to try our hardest on all classes and learn every facet of all our subjects, it simply can't happen. As scary as it is, we're in high school. I'm being kicked out into the real world in a mere two years. I'm already focusing on my likely career, and I'm only 15. It is pretty scary to think that learning has to have a deadline.

Now, as for that math homework...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

All I really need right now is a nice, long thunderstorm.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Real teaching.

I think one of the main things that causes students to turn away from schooling is the teachers' mentality that students are somehow inferior to them. I loathe this mentality, detest it. I feel like a real person, and when teachers feel the need to condescend and dumb things down in order for us to get it, I feel as if I'm slamming my head into a wall. How can someone teach who is incapable of seeing who is being taught? The best teachers are those who see us as people, not students. I don't care what is being taught, it won't be successful if the students feel condescended to. I don't care what any teacher, however smart, says, I am a real person and I know that I'm capable of logical thought process and I know that I'm capable of appreciating concepts whether they're "appropriate" or not. Arrest me, I've watched R-rated movies before. And, horror of horrors, I didn't sit sniggering at the f-word and my retinas are still intact after seeing a few scenes with nudity in them. And, surprise, at the tender age of only 15, I'm capable of looking past the nudity and cussing and seeing the message of the movie. Shawshank Redemption, is it "appropriate"? No, but it is a genuinely good movie with a good message. But clearly, since I was only 13, I couldn't possibly understand the movie. No, certainly not, all thirteen year olds are incapable of understanding a mature movie.

And it all depends on the students, but teachers who lump all the morons who get drunk on weekends and don't have the attention span of a fly with the regular people are really detrimental. Because even the morons who do dumb things are capable of comprehending concepts. And everyone suffers.

A certain comment on a certain other blog really made me angry. It was along the lines of, "this movie really has a good point, but I don't think the students are capable of understanding the content or "getting" the message." That really bothered me. My response to that was such:

"I hate to offend, but it's often this kind of issue where students turn from education. All too often, we feel as if our teachers are condescending or trying to spoonfeed us things. I would suggest you sit down with a few students and really talk to them. Not about grades or what they did in biology last week. But talk ot them, you'll find that we're people. Actual people with thought processes just as complex as anyone over the age of eighteen. Any given student in any given class is not only capable of getting a message, however disturbing it may be, but really learning from it. Mental maturity and ability to "get" things is not magically bestowed upon us on our eighteenth birthday. I don't know where exactly the line is between 6 and 15, but we are much more capable than people seem to think. It really depends on the student, but we are very much the same as you are. Young students hold that belief that teachers sleep under their desks and aren't real people, that mentality seems to be reversed sometimes.

There is certainly a line between 6 and 15, but as a 15 year old, I certainly feel like I'm capable of appreciating just as many ideas, however disturbing, as my teachers. Who knows, perhaps I'm wrong and there really is some sort of intellectual epiphany at 18. But where is the line at any age? Is there a real line between a high school sophomore and a college sophomore?

I know I strayed from the topic about links and blogging, but I really felt the need to express my thoughts on this. Sometimes adults, parents, teachers or just people in the community forget that teenagers are still people. I could be wrong, but I certainly feel like a real person, and I hope to remind people that perhaps we aren't so different after all."

I really wish that every adult who deals with youth could sit down and think back to their high school and college years. I certainly feel like an intellectually capable person. And although we may lack life experience, we still have valid thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and when an adult totally dismisses them on the grounds that they're "older than you, better than you, and that's just how it is," it makes us feel inferior. And we're not inferior. When does a student become an adult with valid opinions? Because, for years, I've thought of things that seem worth thinking about, but when I offer my opinions to adults, they're entirely dismissed. What happens when I turn 18? Do I get blessed by the God of Sudden Knowledge and Wisdom? Cause if that's the case I'd love to know so I could just shut up and stop spewing all this wrong information. Are my opinions suddenly valid when I turn 18? Or am I just the same as anyone else? Please, I'd really love to know.

Every teacher should take a lesson from a mentor. My mentor is my archery instructor. I've known him since I was seven. The reason we get along so well is that from the moment he met me, he respected me. He was the first and only adult I could ever really talk to about real things. I could talk to him about my ideas, and he would listen as if there were some minute chance that I could have a legitimate thought in my head. And even better, he would tell me the truth. He didn't sugar-coat things for me. He realized that even though I'm young, I can understand the full depth of things. That's a real teacher.

I apologize for the length, but I really needed to rant a little bit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We found Osama!

I really, really, REALLY want the rest of my voice to come back by tomorrow. We're doing such good music in choir that I woud be genuinely dissappointed if I couldn't sing it.

I only have one real day of ALIS left of my entire life, yet I have this terribly dark, ominous feeling that it will prove to be a very, very long day. I entirely forgot the fact that I have a choir concert the night before massive paper due.

So I found this thoroughly entertaining song. "I hate you all" by get set go. It's really a rather terrible song, all of the lyrics are detailing how I hate everyone, and all the different reasons, but the tune is so wonderfully upbeat and funny, I just can't stop playing it. You will find yourself singing and dancing around the room, then stop and wonder why you're so happy that everyone's gonna die.

Having a few days off of tech is rather nice. I love tech, but I've found that whatever relationships I have outside of theatre are suffering because I'm ALWAYS at theatre. Rather a dilemma. So having a few days with no lighting it kind of nice. Plus, as much as I love talking to gobos and fresnels, they aren't very sociable, so having a few days to talk to people is rather healthy.

I love silly putty.

Recent reports show that Vice President Cheney did not, I repeat, did not shoot Henry Whittington. He found Osama. Dressed as a texan lawyer, in the middle of a field, making quail noises.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Oh Wales, how I love thee

It's odd, but lately Wales has constantly been on my mind. Every time I do something my mind drifts back to the little town of Llangollen, Wales. I only spent a few days there but it's become one my favorite places in the entire world. It's just somehow different. Here everything seems so disconnected and cold compared to there. It's still just a village. No massive sbudivisions of subdivisions or sprawling suburbia. The air is clean, fresh, it feels like it hasn't already been totally depleted. The little roads winding up and down the mountain with ittle cottages to the side of the road. Walking down the streets you can smell the different dinners people are making. Looking out the window you can see the little lights of other houses on the surrounding mountains. People there genuinely know each other. Everything and everyone is just interconnected. Houses are small, quaint, people simply don't feel the need to compete with material possessions. Every back yard is meticulously turned into a garden which yields half of dinner. There's just something there that we're sorely missing. It seems that the whole street smells of roses. People just take the time to enjoy life, to cultivate it. My host parents had been married for 56 years. Fifty six. They just genuinely loved each other. They met during the war and have been together since, they never broke up for petty differences. That's part of what that little town that we don't. I"m not quite sure as to how to articulate it, but the difference is there. On our last night there, we performed with the local mens choir. It was at the local cathedral, we performed the Battle Hymn of the Republic with a choir we had never sugn with before and it was amazing. There's just something about the final chord in a piece like that that just reverberates in some sort of way that I can't quite describe in words. After the concert, they took us back to their home and we just all sat up talking for a while. They told us about the war and how they met. This was only two days after the bombings in London, so we talked about that. After a while, Ken (our host dad) got out his quitar and was singing for us. This lies most vividly in my memory. Ken had taught himself to play when he was sick and couldn't sing for about a year. So he had gotten his voice back and was kind enough to sing for us. He sung a few folk songs and the last song he sung just sticks in my mind. And I'm so glad I finally found the exact lyrics for it.

Have you seen the old man outside the closed down market
Kicking up the paper in his worn out shoes
In his eyes you see no pride and held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news

So how can you tell me that you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something that'll make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking
Carrying her whole life in two carrier bags


In the all-night cafe at a quarter past eleven
Same old man sitting there on his own
Looking at the world o'er the rim of his tea cup
Each tea lasts an hour and he wanders home alone


Have you seen the old man outside the seaman's mission
Mem'ries fading with the medal ribbons that he wears
In our winter city the rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero in a world that doesn't care

That's what makes that little town in Wales different. They simply appreciate life. They aren't compelled to constantly compete with one another for a better life. They simply see the good things in every day life and appreciate them. I"m determined to get back there one day. I don't care where my life takes me, I'll be going back there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ramblings...with aid of tea

Agh, ever get that feeling that you just have to write, but any topic at all elludes you. I hate that. I just have to write, but I have nothing to write about.

I really want it to be spring now. The cold is getting awfully...cold. And I really want to be able to go outside again. Yesterday was perfect. I twas warm enough to go outside and play frisbee, and as much as I sucked, I loved it. I've been missing frisbee. Plus, I really, really want to start archery again. as soon as it gets warmer I'm going shooting. Seriously, last summer I only got to go a few times. I really want to be able to see my instructor before he goes to Uganda. Seriously, he's not really my instructor, more my mentor. He's amazing. I've known him since I was six and he is just an amazing person. He's the one who's heading the crutch charity at school. He's gone statewide collecting crutches for people with polio in Uganda. So I'm so excited for the next time I get to see him.

And there is now absolutely nothing to write about. Scotch and Chocolate is an amazing song, seriously.

So I've decided that the one thing I miss about being a little kid is the belief that your dreams will come true. When I was younger, I had no doubt that I could grow up to be a famous singer or win the world championships in Ireland for dance. I just knew that I would grow up to be a happy, amazing, talented and successful person. I had no doubts that I would be a professional singer, dancer, performer, whatever. I miss that. I hate being faced with reality.

But, one thing I do like is taking Beethoven's Scherzo and playing on my media player at super speed then running around the room directing it. I feel so nerdy.

Also, I just made myself a lovely cup of mint tea, and the smell suddenly reminded me of my Welsh host family's home. A very happy smell. Seriously of all the countries I visited, Wales was the best. It's just different somehow. The people are different, nice to each other, considerate, and everyone greets everyone on the street. You look out the bedroom window and there's just a pretty little cottage on a big hill with the occassional lamplight. You go outside at night and it's quiet. The air is fresh and it actually feels like maybe the human race isn't so bad after all. All the houses are small and have large gardens. I miss Wales. Can I just skip a few weeks of school and go live with my host family for a while? Please?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

March 26!! March 26! And work at a new theatre starting today! Anyways

"Initiative comes to those who wait."