Category Archives: Short Essay

Social Implications of Kindergarten Worksheets

I find the dichotomy between what we teach our children and what we tell our children to do interesting. I could talk about multiple subjects but today I’m going to talk about what I saw on the back of a box of Dory Crackers (yes, when I say children, I may be one of them based alone on that I eat children’s food).

There were a couple of games on the back of the box and one of them was a ‘spot the difference’. I use to love those games and I must admit I still love them.

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I think I’ve found 11 ūüôā

The purpose of these games are beneficial to develop observation and attention to detail skills. Of course, I’m a writer and I look for deeper meanings, so let’s look at the social implications of this game. ūüôā

Spot the Difference games teach us to find the differences in situations and so it is a reasonable assumption to carry those skills over into real life and spot the differences in people. That girl has two different colored eyes; that boy is shorter than all the rest; that boy is the dumbest in the class; that girl has squinty eyes.  We tell our children to spot the difference in pictures then tell them that it is not nice to stare or point fingers.

However, ¬†the existence of differences is not bad, how we treat differences is what matters. Spot the Difference games are neutral: neither side of the image is considered ‘right’, they are just not the same.

This neutrality on difference, on diversity, enables independent thinking and allow students the ability to decide what difference is good and what difference is just a sign of individuality. God created our world to be full of differences, but it is our choice if we celebrate or condemn those differences.

The puzzles that I do not think are as beneficial for social implementations are the ones ‘Which one doesn’t belong’

What Doesn't Belong Picture

Source: Color Me Happy in Kindergarten

These puzzles compare the group to the individual and outcast that individual. This may be a little deep for kindergarten worksheets, but let’s continue with the thought. The title of ‘Which one doesn’t belong’ celebrates the group while condemning the individual. The ability to decide what is good or bad is absent from these puzzles.

From the above picture, what if I said the cake, pool, and pizza belonged because they are circular but the carrot doesn’t. Or what if I said the cake, pizza, and carrot belong because they are food but the pool isn’t.

Conformity should not be synonymous with superiority, yet rebellion should not either. Comparison can do a lot of damage and yet at some time you have to compare apples to oranges. The key is the ability to see a situation from multiple perspectives; only then can we not only celebrate or condemn diversity, we can coexist with it.

Yep, I just debated the social implications of kindergarten worksheets and made a philosophical conclusion. Can you tell that I am going to be a social studies teacher?

More Than a Quote

I have a blue notebook in my office that I received for Christmas in 2014, in which I write down in colorful pen whatever words touch me. I call it my Quote Book and I’m up to page 49 now.¬†Not all the quotes are from famous people though, some are from my best friend, my teachers, myself, textbooks, or just random people who I hear talking in the halls.

Yes, this is what nerds do on perfect Sunday afternoons or on late Friday nights. I¬†scour Goodreads looking for quotes and then I get lost in the ocean of humanity’s mind just like I get lost in the encyclopedia. Ralph Waldo Emerson once penned “Words are finite organs of the infinite mind” and I want to¬†douse myself in other’s lively minds. I want to pour wisdom into my mind from wherever I can find it, so that I can have that wisdom while I live my life.

And so if I get lost on Goodreads then that just means that I am getting lost in wisdom that will prepare me for living. I am being found.

I am in a constant state of losing and finding myself. I am designing and developing myself by adding to my schema the thoughts of others who have already lost and found themselves hundreds of times over.

This is why I like learning because in learning about the world and how it works or doesn’t work, I am really learning about and forming myself so that I can change the world. Muriel Rukeyser once said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms” and so I learn about the universe by learning about stories and the people who tell them.

If you can’t tell already this blog post is gonna be loaded with quotes ūüôā¬†If you are asking yourself why a teenage girl is writing a blog post about quotes when most girls her age are either taking duck-face selfies on snapchat, let John Green answer your question, “Nerd life is just so much better than regular life.” And let me remind you, you are reading this nerdy blog post so you might be included in that “nerd life”. Plus, you have hope for humanity.

Anyway, back to the Quote Book, on the inside front cover I have written a quote by John Green “Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.” So what does my Quote Book say about me?

Well, on surface level, I at first only wrote down quotes from Superhero movies and comicbooks then branched out to other types of quotes. I was on a Mark Twain kick for a while (thanks, Goodreads!) and now my quote-obsession is John Green.

On a deeper level, just from that information of who I quote (comicbooks, Mark Twain, John Green), a statement is made about me. I do not care about who said the words; I care about what the words say to me.

I like to play a game where I read a quote from my book and a friend has to guess who said it: a professional writer, a normal person, or a comicbook. Generally they are surprised by who said it, and so the speaker of the words holds little power over the words themselves. Just because comicbooks has fist fights and aliens, doesn’t mean that they also have heart and poetry. “No acknowledgement or any amount of money can return integrity once it is spent” is a quote from One Month to Live #5, which was a comicbook ¬†produced by Marvel Comics in 2010.

But what is my favorite quote? My favorite quote is my mantra, my motto, my manifesto that was written two thousand years ago; it is my rallying cry when I do not want to move forward; it is what is written on my heart and what I want to be written on my every action. My favorite quote says everything I want it to say about me and what I want to say. “But anyone who is not aware that he is doing wrong will be punished only¬†lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater” Luke 12:48. ¬†I have a great purpose to accomplish and I will fulfill my potential with every breath I take because that is why I breathe. My favorite quote tells me the meaning of my own life and what I should do with it.

Plus, my favorite Bible verse is oddly similar to my favorite comicbook quote, “With great power there must also come great responsibility” from Amazing Fantasy #15. But this is a case where authorship is everything because I want the words I live by to mean more than words. Although I love Stan Lee, I have so much more assurance in the truth of words spoken by Jesus Christ, Creator and Savior of the Universe.

Ossie Davis said, “Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change — it can not only move us, it makes us move”; I think that quotes are similar to art. Quotes¬†necessitate action. They inspire us to move forward and encourage us to keep moving forward. Quotes tell us to live. And yet quotes are just words of other people to whom we entrust power of our belief upon. A quote — if I choose to give it power — could literally be as plain as “I walked my dog”. ¬†A quote has power if we accept it as truth.

And so, John Green’s quote about quotes has power because I accept it as truth and will transform its words into actions. With this in mind, I think that my Quote Book is not as its name implies; rather it is a collection of words that I have granted power and have promised to take action upon. It is a¬†compendium of thoughts I have deemed worthy to hold prestige in the ranks of my identity. The words that others declared and whispered and hoped are the ones that tell my story because they are the ones that I have chosen to tell it.


“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

-Proverbs 7:2-3

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On Education

I am so blessed to be able to list all the homework I have to do this weekend. I am so blessed to be anxious over my next AP Calculus test. I am so blessed to feel like the school day will drag on forever. I am so blessed to not be able to sleep because my mind won’t stop taking derivatives. I am so blessed to have to finish a whole book for AP Composition in a weekend.

My mentor once told me a story of how he was in Nepal hiking to the top of a mountain and saw a little boy running the other way. He stopped the boy and asked why he was running. The boy said that from his house up on the mountain it was a two hours run to the school at the bottom of the mountain. The boy said that he didn’t care that he spent four hours going to and from school because he was learning to read.

How could I ever be grumpy or unappreciative that I have homework when children around the world are crying out for education? I am so blessed to have a socioeconomic status where college is almost expected as the next step after high school.

Syrian refugees have said that the thing that they want most for their children is to get an education. The schools in their refugee camps are underfunded and over-packed; yet, the smiles on the children’s faces look as if they were in Harvard.

I believe that education — along with any opportunity in life — can only be used to the full if it is appreciated. And I wanted to say to Education and all the Opportunities you’ve given me, thank you.

And yet there are others in my school who do not appreciate the gift we have been given, which saddens me because then they aren’t fulfilling their potential. Part of their education is wasted on them because they do not appreciate and thus don’t use it to the full.

Other children around the world plead for the chance that seemed to be my birthright. I was born in the United States of America to two white parents both of whom have professional careers. I was born into a life better than most of the rest of the world could only fantasize about. Frankly, most of history could only fantasize about.

And so I thank you Johannes Gutenberg and Horace Mann and John Dewey for making my education possible. I am grateful that from my education I know your names and how much you have done for me and the world.

The education system isn’t perfect; I’ve experienced that first hand. However, if we expect perfection and nothing less, there will be nothing. We should always be trying to enhance what we have, but attaining perfect is like chasing the horizon. We should not settle but we should know when ‘good enough’ is good enough.

I know teachers aren’t perfect; I’ve also experienced this first hand. However, they are the real heroes of this story. They are the one who taught me my letters so that I could write this short essay. And teachers don’t have to be paid educators in schools. My teachers are my parents, my minister, my family, my friends, a stranger on the street.

But I do have to say that my teachers in school have taught me some of my best lessons. The reason why teachers are the real heroes of this story is not because of what they teach out of the textbook, rather what they teach out of their heart. I have learned joy and perseverance and individuality and courage and wonder and faith and community and kindness and laughter and empathy.

Education is not an act of charity but rather an investment in the future. By paying your taxes for public schools, you are investing in the child who will cure cancer one day. You are investing in future firefighters and entrepreneurs and computer programmers and rocket scientists and social workers and nurses and engineers. You are invested in a future. You are investing in hope.

So I just wanted to say, thank you to all of you who have invested in me and didn’t even know me. Thank you for giving me opportunities and hope. I can’t wait to go out into the world and fulfill your investment. I appreciate my education and I will use my education to the full. Please know it¬†will be my joy to one day invest in other children’s dreams and hopes just like you did in mine.

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Minty Memories

 

Isn’t it funny how just a taste, smell, or song can bring back a flood of precious memories that somehow you hadn’t thought about in years.

Spearmint mouthwash reminded me of being six years old again. My twin sister, my cousin and I would act like the three spare bedrooms in my Grandma’s house were our apartments where we lived on our own.

My cousin was a spy, my sister was an accountant, and I was teacher. We would come home from “work” and promptly check our mailbox. (We actually had a little red play-mailbox with a flimsy yellow flag.) It didn’t matter that I couldn’t read or write more than my name and “I saw the dog run”, we would just tell each other what the scribbles meant.

After we read our mail, we would go over to my cousin’s “apartment” and she would make us Spearmint Gum Tea. We didn’t have any of those little girl tea cups, so we just used some of our Grandma’s little glasses that always felt like they had been washed in too hot of water. The gum itself was too “spicy” for me and that’s why it became tea. One third of a stick of Extra Spearmint Gum mixed with water was perfect. We laughed and giggled because we could and that’s what little girls do.

We would finish our “tea” and go back to our “apartments” and go to “sleep”. Then a few minutes later and one of us would cock-a-doodle-doo like a roster and we would “wake up” and “go to work”.

We would play this game of “life” until Grandma would zip up the stairs in her pure white blouse and gold rimmed buttons and tell us that it was time for lunch: chicken noodle soup, peach slices with the skins off and Italian bread with Meijer brand raspberry jam.

I hadn’t thought about that in ages, but each tiny detail came back with just a little taste of spearmint mouthwash.

spearmint

Priorities, Textbooks, and Bible Verses

My mother does a sign out by the road at our church and on the first week of school – just as reliable as teachers giving out syllabuses – she puts on the sign: It’s time for A B C and G O D.

One of the reasons why we go to school is to hone our talents to better use them to serve God. So then throughout the school year we should keep this in mind. If we set up our priorities the first day of school, then the rest of the school year will follow those priorities. God comes before grades and even in itself, learning. God should come first before anything in our lives.

Now I’m not speaking from a high self-righteous pedestal, but instead as someone who slowly let my strong and close connection with God slip due to different factors, priorities and school included.

I’ve always said that God comes first before anything but sometimes you need to take a step back and see if your actions line up with your beliefs.

For years I’ve always had Bible verses hanging up on the inside and outside of my locker. Before homeroom, during passing time, before and after lunch, at the end of the day, I would read and recite my locker’s Bible verses. They would give me strength and refreshment for the next part of my day.

This past year I didn’t hang up Bible verses. I only put a magnet with a Bible verse on the outside of my locker.

I knew that I was going to be taking harder classes than I ever had before and I needed to use every spare second of my time to study. My textbook was my bus buddy and my lunch date. So I figured that I wouldn’t put up my locker Bible verses because I would need to study instead.

Remember how I had said that I needed every spare second to study, well, reading my Bible verses were not spare seconds, they were needed seconds.

I wouldn’t say that I lost my close connection with God, I just let it slip. Instead of growing my relationship with Him, I let it go stagnate. I grew in my academic knowledge, but was stagnate in my relationship with Christ. However, I firmly believe that people can be pursuing God and life and grow in both. We just need our priorities straight.

I also had an “un-reconciled spiritual difficulty” and I had figured that time would fix and heal it. I was wrong again. Problems won’t go away with time but solutions need to be actively sought. Just like God needs to be actively sought to keep and grow a close, strong connection.

So this year I’m actively seeking God with my locker Bible verses, inspirational quotes and Bible verse cards, Bible magnets, reading extra devotional books, talking more about my faith. It is not easy, but it is simple. Focus on God.


“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

-Jeremiah 29:13

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

-2 Corinthians 4:18

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Takes You to New Worlds

In third grade, an author visited my elementary school. At the time I hated reading. Our whole school gathered around him and sat criss-cross-applesauce on the cool tile gym floor. He talked about writing his famous book series and his writing process. Then he challenged us to read and write more so that we could become authors like him, if we wanted to.

Now I am expecting that you think this was my big writing epiphany. By all means it was not. Quite the opposite in fact.

The author had said what my mother and father had told me since I started reading, which was the same thing my teachers had said everyday during reading time.

“Reading books takes you to new worlds.”

The first, second, twentieth, and one hundred seventy sixth time I heard that line I believed it was false and to this day do I still believe so. I insist upon it to this day. Reading books does not take you to new worlds.

Now, anyone who knows me at all knows that I love reading. I am always reading a book if not five or six. I will read anything except for horror or heavy romance. I average about forty-five books a summer. Quite the opposite from my younger self.

But still I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds.

I read We Were Liars and yet I could never feel the sand underneath my toes on the Sinclair family beach.

I read Minders and yet I could never feel the cement streets beneath my feet as I ran.

I read The Great Gatsby and yet I could never feel how tight my feet felt in my shoes on the very hot fateful day.

I read the Shatter Me series and yet I could never feel the Persian rugs on the marble floors.

I read Anne of Green Gables and yet I could never feel the grass in the spring time.

These are just to name a few that even my toes could not tactical touch their worlds. Yet in my own world, I can recall every memory of my toes digging into the sand on summer vacations and of my toes discovering again the grass on my bare feet in the spring time.

I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds, but instead you meet new people.

I read so many books with so many characters and yet they are the ones I can recall swiftly. I can remember exactly when and where I was reading the book. I was grounded in this world, but I was talking and thinking in the manner of the characters in my head.

From the first books that got me hooked on reading A to Z Mysteries and My Side of the Mountain to the novel I just finished two hours ago No Place to Fall, no character is the same just like no person is the same or snowflake.

In books you are able to meet people in so much more of an inmate way than in reality. You know his thoughts, so vulnerable, and his past that is so much more than what is written on his face and clothes. (Pun not intended, of course!) You learn what is his driving passion and weakest downfall through out the two hundred plus pages that a quick five minute conversation could not.

I met a narcoleptic orphan genus boy in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict that was my favorite when I was younger not because of world he took part in, but because of who he was. I learned about motivations and how people always have reasons behind their actions that may not even be the most logical ones.

I met an aspiring comicbook (sorry graphic novel) artist and writer in¬†The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl¬†that was my favorite a few years ago because of his creativity and passion for superheroes that I formed a connection with. His world was forgettable, but he wasn’t.

I met a talented, tortured, and tormented slave in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party who taught me about the cruelty of humanity, if I did not already know. I learned what freedom truly meant.

I met a super-powered broken fighting girl in the Shatter Me series that is my current favorite. I have never connected so deeply with a character, a person, like her before. I have never experienced a writing style like Mafi’s before because writing is truly an experience.

That is another problem with what the author said, “Reading books takes you to new worlds.” I am not taken anywhere. I meet new people and experience new writing styles.

Reading is a journey, from the first glance at the spine of the book to the last punctuation mark. Along the journey you meet friends and quite possibly enemies, but they are people all the same.¬†That’s what they should have said to my little third grader self.

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Pixabay/user:Comfreak