Friday, May 5, 2017

WORDS TO THE WISE: Sage advice from our Seniors to the Next Generation of IB Lang and Lit Scholars...

Well, it is hard to believe, but we are almost to the close of another year at Odyssey.  Soon, our second graduating class, the Class of 2017, will be zipping up their gowns, donning their cords, and looking forward to the next phase of their exciting life journey:  college, career, military service...wherever their dreams take them...

They have, no doubt, learned a great deal over these past four years; not just academically, mind you, but also in the realms of life skills, cultivating and nurturing relationships, and learning from both mistakes and triumphs.

It is for this reason that I thought reflection was in order:  reflection that can help our next generation of upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, as they navigate through similar waters and build upon their knowledge as IB scholars.  So, here it is:  advice from your seniors to you...those who have successfully reached the summit of IB Language and Literature in the DP program.  They were the "official first" to finish it, so really take their words to heart!  And to you seniors who are quoted here, please know that I have learned just as much, if not more, from working with you as you did in this classroom.  I will miss you terribly, but I am ALWAYS and FOREVER in your corner, cheering you on, through all of life's challenges and celebrations!  LOTS of love, gratitude, prayer and pride to YOU from me!

Buckle up, here we go...

To the kids who have not yet been through their first year of IB Language and Literature, and those about to begin their second, we have some advice that will help you get through the two years…

First and foremost, DO YOUR WORK ON TIME.  Some credit is better than no credit/getting points docked for it being late. But do try your best. I find it great looking back on my written tasks, projects, and other assignments. You can really see your growth by doing that, so save your work and keep it organized. 

Try to relax and have fun. I'm not just saying this to make you feel better, it's true: I really enjoy DP Language and Literature. Don't make it stressful, and it doesn't have to be. Just do your best, and you'll make it through just fine :)

Although we write many written tasks over the two years, appreciate them.  You get to be creative with them and pretty much have your own structure.  Also make sure you use the in class time.  That is a whole 65 minutes to help get a start on your written task.  The time Mrs. Caraway gives in class helps tremendously, but only if you use your time correctly!

Learn to love "Critical Friends."  Although the first time doing it can be hard and scary, because who am I kidding, who wants to sit in silence and listen to your friends tear apart your essay?  But with all the great feedback they give, it is something you most likely would never have thought to add.  Therefore, you are able to add to your word count and come out with a better written task.


Listen in class.  Although Mrs. Caraway doesn't yell at students for being on their computers in class and for not really paying attention like most teachers do.  The things you learn in IB language and literature build on knowledge that you can use in other classes, at home, and definitely in college or the work field.  We don't just discuss books, but culture, and the history behind these cultures, novels and plays.

A piece of advice I would like to give to the incoming juniors is to be prepared to be challenged because language and literature is not just about reading books or writing essays, it involves critically thinking about pieces of text and applying that into a bigger context.

My advice to the future year one and year two DP language and literature is to not procrastinate when it comes to writing your written tasks.  It is a lot less stressful to write the written tasks in sections.  Also, make sure to actually read all of the novels and plays.  You will definitely be missing out if you don't!

Make sure you're extremely interested in whatever you pick for your Written Task One.  It's much easier to write a thousand words about something you're passionate about.

Put your best foot forward on all of your QPA's.  They may seem restrictive, but you'll learn to love the structure. 

Make a template for the QPA so you never forget the structure!

Always ATFQ.  ALWAYS.  Don't worry...you'll soon learn what that means!!

Read books you're interested in for your summer assignment.  Like with the WT1, it's much easier to read a book you're interested in.

Start your summer assignment early.  Don't be the kid who has to spend the last week of summer inside on your computer, writing!

TAKE GOOD NOTES!

Make sure you mark in your text, especially parts you go over in class.  You might even want to invest in a digital copy of the book to type in notes you take.


If you're having trouble with one of the books, read the chapter first, and then go over the Shmoop or Sparknotes.  Not the other way around.

Ask questions! Seriously!

Try to find ways to see the characters in modern day, it'll help when you are trying to go over their characteristics. 

I want to tell you to buy all of your books during the summer and to put them in your backpacks.  Trust me, if you don't, they WILL magically disappear.  Also, plan out how you're going to write your written tasks before you even read your novels/plays.  It may sound ridiculous, but get a good feel for the book.

As you are entering the second year, make sure to keep up on all of your assignments. Senior year goes by extremely fast, enjoy it, but do not forget about your responsibilities! Senior ditch day is extremely fun, but make sure you have everything ready beforehand, so you do not fall behind.

These blogs are actually fun!  Seeing that I love to write casually, the blogs are a free space to respond in anyway you would like!  There's not a set structure, and you can honestly say anything you would like.

The blogs are easy points!  They will add up quickly and can make or break your grade.  Just do them.  AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  They don't take up much of your time.  Just take the points.

Read the book.  Even when you think they are boring.  If I had a penny for each time I wanted to fall asleep while reading Jane Eyre, I would be a billionaire.  However, I wouldn't have passed my written task if I didn't push through.  The books can be boring, but Mrs. Caraway has this amazing way of talking about the books in a totally different way!  She makes you want to know more about the story, she makes you feel a part of the story.

There is no "busy work."  
Everything that is assigned to you
has a purpose.  Remember that.

HAVE FUN.  Throughout all of my years at Odyssey, I never quite felt like I was having fun while learning through multiple subjects until this class.  Mrs. Caraway is funny, and often lets us discuss things as a class to help with understanding.  We often turn and face each other and talk about our experiences with whatever subject is being taught.  This helps tremendously....
and we almost always end up in a class full of laughter!

So if you decide to stick with IB Language and Literature for the full two years, I promise you that it will become one of your favorite classes!



Now...FUTURE seniors, and those scholars just about to begin the journey that is IB Lang and Lit, DP, it is your turn to comment. What are you MOST excited about? What are your fears? OR, what words of advice really helped soothe your fears or inspire you? I cannot WAIT to begin and continue the journey with YOU!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

BEYOND THAT FORTY PERCENT: PUSHING YOURSELF TO ACHIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE

To this day, I believe the most incredible speech ever given by a human being is McRaven's inspiring commencement speech at the University of Texas:  "If You Want to Change the World, Start by Making Your Bed."  That has become my favorite pep talk to rewatch - even though I still struggle with making my bed on a daily basis.  Recently, I had the opportunity to read an interview with McRaven and others, and once again, I was stunned.  When training the future SEALS, McRaven said something to the effect that his job was not to teach them things they didn't know how to do. These guys are the best of the best when it came to physical conditioning and athleticism.  His job was to push them beyond that forty percent.

What does that mean?  Well, earlier in the interview, McRaven said that when we, as humans reach the point of exhaustion, we still have only used about sixty percent of our capacity.  That means, we have forty percent left.  Forty percent!  That's a lot, when you really think about it!  So, what is it that holds us back from pushing harder?  What is it that keeps us from accessing that power that we have in our own reserve tank?  How do we learn to push beyond to achieve that result we so desire?

I have thought a lot about this over the years.  I have watched individuals and teams achieve what many had said was impossible.  I have seen people shut down incredible odds to realize their dreams. What is it, exactly, that enables them to do that?  I believe it is that same thing that sets the SEALS apart in their training as elites:  They manage to push beyond into that extra forty percent.

In my own experience and observation, and in listening to those who have coached and achieved the impossible, here is what I have learned:

1.  "Any team can win on any given day" (Terry Bradshaw).  It all comes down to gumption.  How badly do you want this?  How far are you willing to push yourself to get it?  My mother used to say all the time, "Is this a mountain you want to die on?"  Same thing.  How important is it?  Your mind is king when it comes to pushing your physical limits.  Many think it is the condition of the body.  It is, to a degree.  But even more powerful is the will of your mind.  It is profound.  In short, passion is just about everything.

2.  "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment" (Jim Rohn).  My dad called this work ethic.  Achieving the impossible requires discipline.  Discipline requires denying yourself things that you want now for the ultimate goal you dream to achieve then.  I have been very hard on my kids when it comes to this one.  Maybe your parents have, too.  You can play later.  Work and chores first.  It's a lesson I started learning very young.  My own father lived in poverty in South Dakota.  His home didn't even have actual flooring - it was dirt.  They lost their farm once, and had to work hard to get it back.  He had to set out on his own at thirteen because he didn't want to be a farmer like his father.  He lived at a boarding house, trading a place to live for cooking breakfast, cleaning, and other chores.  He worked three  jobs in high school, and went ROTC to pay for university.  After serving his country in the Korean War and landing a job with a huge retailing company, he promised loyalty as an executive with that company in exchange for them financing his Masters at NYU.  He was a self-made millionaire.  When dad told us to finish our work, we didn't challenge him!

3.  "I like criticism.  It makes you strong" (LeBron James).  Another thing that separates the wildly
successful from the moderately successful is their ability to take and apply criticism.  If I may be perfectly candid, our society has, in SO many ways, gone soft.  We have spent so much time focused on making everyone feel good about themselves, we have lost that art of offering and seeking constructive criticism.  If you cannot take criticism, you cannot grow.  You cannot develop.  You cannot challenge yourself to push harder.

4.  "Have patience.  Everything is difficult before it is easy" (Saadi).  Sometimes, the fastest way to something is far from the best way.  I have found in my life that anything that is worth having requires both hard work AND patience.  You may hear a thousand no's, but all you need is that one yes!  Instead of hearing no, hear "Not Now."  Waiting is SO hard....but anyone who has had to endure waiting knows it takes a lot of energy.  Patience is the art of enduring the wait and keeping the upbeat, will do (not can do) attitude.

5.  "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail" (Ralph Waldo
Emerson).  Closely related to patience (I call it patience's twin) is persistence.  You must have the endurance to persevere.  At the risk of using a corny runner's metaphor, Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  To those with big dreams, it is a race.  You need to tackle it as such.  Looking forward to what lies ahead is much more productive than looking back.  Use the hard lessons, pain and hurt to propel you forward.  You'll be a better person with a stronger character and lots of wisdom that way when you do reach your summit!

In all of this, be kind.  Accept the help and support of others, and when you have achieved, offer what you have learned to those who are in the midst of the storms of struggle.  Inspire others!  And always, above all things, be grateful.  Nobody reaches beyond that forty percent without someone shouting encouragement and urging them on along the sidelines.

I hope this is helpful in some small way.  At the very least, maybe it will give you something to think about as you assess your goals and dreams, your gifts and talents, and your willingness to push beyond that forty percent.

Attached, are two articles about pushing beyond limits, and, of course, the infamous McRaven speech.  What stands out to you?  What is your secret formula for success and pushing beyond your limits?  Teachers who read this blog:  here is your chance to also share your wisdom with scholars!

Article #1:  https://hbr.org/2012/07/how-hard-are-you-willing-to-pu.html
Article #2:  http://dereklauber.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-summiting-everest-running-inventing-light-bulbs/

McRaven's Speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70

Sunday, March 19, 2017

HUMOR, HOMAGE AND HUMILIATE: EXPLAINING & DIFFERENTIATING BETWEEN LITERARY INTENTIONS

Ever since Alanis Morissette released her song "Ironic," people have started buzzing about the true
meaning of certain literary terms and whether or not they are truly being used properly in context.
Irony confuses, and like the two p's and satire, which will be addressed momentarily, it depends somewhat on the intention of the writer or speaker.

Irony requires an opposing meaning between what's said and what's intended.  Stop.  Think about that for a long moment.  Even the definition is somewhat head scratching, so if you often find yourself confused by irony, you're in excellent company.  One of the confounding factors of irony isn't just that its definition is a bit, well, complex, but also the sheer number of possibilities for correct usage.  It's bad enough that irony is hard to grasp, but now add to that fact that there are, in fact, a multitude of definitions for different forms of irony, including verbal, dramatic, and cosmic. The sheer plethora of ways ironic can be used meaningfully suggests that is something of a "catch all" for a situation that seems odd, upsetting or amusing.  Enter Ms. Morissette...

If it rains on your wedding day, that may be seen as a coincidence, but not irony.  However, if you moved your wedding to an indoor venue because the forecast predicted rain, but the day turned out to be sunny, and then the sprinkler system at your venue malfunctioned and doused the ceremony with water, so you all get wet, after all, THAT'S ironic.  If you win the lottery and drop dead before claiming the money, that is simply good luck followed by bad luck.  If you meet the man of your dreams and then meet his beautiful wife, that's just a bummer.  But if, then, a song called "Ironic" contains no irony, is that in and of itself ironic?  Nope...not really.  It may just be an example of ignorance.  It depends on the creator's intent.  So if Alanis purposely wrote a song about irony with no ironic content at all, is THAT ironic?  We are getting closer....

Here are six ways to look at Irony:

1.  VERBAL IRONY:  when a speaker or writer is intentionally using words that literally convey the opposite of their true beliefs, generally for comic emphasis (sarcasm).  In fact, there is a strong overlap between sarcasm and comic irony.  Example:  Saying "Oh, that's just fantastic," when the situation is really poor.  OR Dimmesdale's sermons about how sinful he is, and how he deserves disgust resulting in the congregation loving him and following him even more.

2.  SITUATIONAL IRONY:  A sharp divergence between expectations or perceptions and reality.  Expectations, of course, often differ from results, but to rise to the state of irony, the gulf between them should be vast and the contrast sharp.  See the wedding example above with Ms. Morissette's song breakdown.

3.  DRAMATIC IRONY:  Perhaps the easiest to understand as its use is so specialized.  The device in which the reader or audience is tipped off to a crucial fact still unknown to one or more of the characters.  Example:  The audience and friar know that Juliet isn't really dead, but Romeo doesn't.


4.  COSMIC IRONY:  Not very often used.  It denotes the idea that the fates are against us, if not indifferent to us, and that our struggles are the result of higher forces amusing themselves at our expense.  Example:  The owner declared of the Titanic, "God, Himself, cannot sink this ship."  Well, you can infer the rest.

5.  HISTORICAL IRONY:  Some things become ironic with time.  If the passage of years creates an amusing juxtaposition between a historical event or claim and what has happened since to contradict it.  Example:  Isn't it ironic that the inventor of the machine gun thought his new weapon would end war?"  Answer:  YES! It is, in fact, historically ironic. :)

6.  SOCRATIC IRONY:  The pretense of ignorance used to draw an opponent into slipping up or revealing flaws in their argument.  Example:  She used socratic questioning in order to poke holes in his emphatic argument.

How's that for confusing?  If that isn't enough, irony is only one way to bring in humor or thought-provoking elements in literature.  There are also parody, pastiche and satire....Buckle up, here we go!

PARODY:  An imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialize an original work, its subject author, style or some other target, by means of imitation. Example:  The movie "Airplane" is a parody of 1970's disaster movies.  AND Most everything created by Weird Al Yankovic.

PASTICHE:  A work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.  Unlike parody, the intention of pastiche is to celebrate rather than mock. Example:  Many modern artists seek to produce works of impressionism in homage to Renoir and Monet, who are very much beloved.

SATIRE:  A genre of literature and art in which the vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations or society, itself, into improvement.  Although funny, its intention is to shame or offer constructive social criticism.  Examples:  The Daily Show, most political cartoons

Just for fun, the definition of cynicism, or cynical, is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.  It is a form of skepticism that often leads to the production of satire.

There you have it!  Here's to understanding the various ways authors, speakers, poets and artists humor us, pay homage to us, and humiliate us in all sorts of creative and confounding ways!

I have attached the Morissette song for you to evaluate, armed with your new knowledge of irony.  I have also attached two very funny little videos for your enjoyment.  Reply with the following:

1.  Did you find any examples of true irony in the Morissette song?  Give me an example of irony in something you have heard or read.  What type of irony is it?  Why?


2. What are each of the funny little videos an example of and why?

3.  Which of the previous definitions confused you the most?  What literary device do you find most confusing?

Alanis Morissette:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jne9t8sHpUc
Tim Hawkins Video #1:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5R8gSgedh4
Tim Hawkins Video #2:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO2eh6f5Go0



Saturday, February 18, 2017

IT'S ALL QUITE ELEMENTARY...

Currently, in our year 1 IB Language and Literature Diploma Program class, we are reading through various short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, while several of our year 2 scholars are completing their Individual Oral Commentaries on these works, as well.  While there are many things that make Edgar Poe especially intriguing, one big thing is that he is aptly named "The Father of the Detective Story."  As Americans, we can be quite proud to be the country of that particular "first" in literature.   While the Scotland born Doyle may be the proud creator of the most popular literary detective,  it is the American author, Poe, who ultimately inspired him; yes, he is the first to take up the pen and the risk in writing the stories centered around Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, thus creating a whole new genre of the Detective Story.

Some of the most serious public figures of our time, from Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill to W.B. Yeats have been addicts of this form of fiction.  Millions of people all over the world are avid fans of the television dramas and movies that fall within this designation (as a forever addict of Law and Order, I am here to tell you, it is very serious business...I admit freely that my love of this genre may be said to border on obsession!)  We know through our studies of Poe and his own strange, mysterious and in many ways tortured, too short life communicated through Dupin something of his own ratiocinative intensity.  Despite the spider web level of complexity through which Poe weaves his tales, the detective story stuck fast.  The public cried out for more, and at Poe's untimely death, there were plenty of other gifted and creative minds to take up the pen and answer their demands.  The detective story has held fast to our imaginations, even through two decades of great wars, and has become, through its own series of evolution, more popular than ever before!

What's not to love about a good Detective Story?  EVERYBODY is suspect!  All the characters,
majors, minors, and those that fall upon a couple pages in between play a potential role in the perpetration or solution.  The streets of the various settings are full of lurking agents whose allegiances we simply cannot fully know.  Nobody is guiltless, and nobody is safe...a perfect formula for suspense!  We are walked through the various clues - too much information is given, and like the detective, we, the reader, must sift through it ALL.  No more does our reading become merely an escape from our lives and realities: we are active, we play a role!  Both left and right brain are engaged as we seek to untangle the mystery and crime along with the brilliant mind of the protagonist.

*Author Joe Bunting offers two theories as to why people love the Detective Story and why it is a genre that is firmly fixed and here to stay:

1.  People Love Puzzles.  "Murder mysteries and Detective Stories are the only genre of literature which consistently offer the chance to figure out the story for yourself.  Puzzlers LOVE to catch the killer before he/she is revealed.  Detective stories are not just tales, they are games and puzzles.  They offer a unique brand of excitement."

2.  People ARE Puzzles.  "In no other genre does a team of people expend such energy to understand the identity of one person.  We usually focus on the murderer, but it is really the dead who are the stars for one last moment.  To solve the murder, the detective must know the victims' history and their motivations.  They have to find out no only who killed them, but why and how.  In looking for the killer we have to discover the soul of the one killed first.  The murderer is, therefore, not the only one on trial.  Detective stories give us a glimpse into people we would never get in real life."


I love a good detective story, and because I do, I am very grateful to  Edgar Allan Poe, and all those who followed and kept that genre alive, on the page and on the screen. I often wonder what he might think if he could come and see ALL the great works of mystery his own life's work inspired??

 Just for fun, I have below links to several trailers for some of the best and most famous crime shows and even one video game (with two links) inspired by Poe's great first detective.  The first is a tour of the set of my favorite, Law and Order, led by Jerry Orbach (my favorite Law and Order Detective) featuring Jesse Martin (my other favorite detective) and Sam Waterston (my favorite L and O attorney).  Enjoy a few of them, and then comment...

1.  What is your favorite detective show, book, story, or movie and why do you like it? 


2.  Which of the trailers did YOU find most interesting?

When it comes to the Great American Detective Story, it's truly elementary, my dear DP scholars:  we owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, whose own life and death reads like many of the mysteries he wrote and inspired....









Law and Order Tour:  https://www.youtube.com/watchv=9RJQghAf95Y&index=3&list=PL7FUsYBdSKVynvO4qU-RNnh36tNmBVlbO

C. Auguste Dupin Video Game:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vtycPqw4l4  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xDE3MNSSiM

The Raven Movie-(a Mystery featuring Poe as detective):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuireoKBiC0

Sherlock Holmes Series, BBC:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B89DeXZ7mhc

Sherlock Holmes Movie:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7nJksXDBWc

Columbo:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8-tBxALvyA

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZfKF8SwEw

Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI6Y7is723A

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysterieshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aEqGHISwqk

HBO's True Detective:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXG1netn9_g

(    *Bunting, Joe.  "Why People Like Detective Stories."  The Write Practice Blog:  http://thewritepractice.com/detective-stories/)

Monday, January 23, 2017

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: In Learning, Language, Life and Love

IN LEARNING


Shakespeare's power of imagination was as fertile as that of any man known to history, but he had another power which is quite rare in the high tech, fast-paced world of today:  the power of absorbing or assimilating the fruits of reading.  Spenser, Milton, Burns, Keats, and Tennyson had a like power, but probably none had it to quite the same degree as Shakespeare.  In his case, as in the case of the other poets, this power of assimilation strengthened and rendered more robust the productive power of his imagination.

IN LANGUAGE

Shakespeare's readers can find themselves caught in a series of implicit choices where, for example, a particular wording or phrasing may correspond to a specific stylistic effect, which is used by the author to persuade the audience.  All of Shakespeare's plays draw on the resources of rhetoric, which is not considered as a mere method of composition, but also a tool to experiment with language. Linguistically, Shakespeare's manipulation of language serves to construct characters, conflicts, and themes.  As readers of his texts and audience members of his plays, we are challenged to analyze Shakespeare's choices at the levels of word and phrase, and at a more abstract, figurative level, specifically in relation to how those word and phrase choices reveal power or powerlessness.  In this regard, we focus on sound devices, such as alliteration and onomatopoetic phrasing, a range of metaphoric usage--chiefly metaphor, imagery, and symbolism.  Technically, we complete a simple analysis of metrical features, such as iambic meter, rhythm and rhyme.  Through the study of Shakespeare's works, we can draw clear connections between the meaning elicited from a text and how Shakespeare went about creating that meaning stylistically.

IN LIFE

Shakespeare never goes stale.  And there are good reasons for that.  Through the years, Odyssey scholars have studied the plays of A Midsummer Nights Dream, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet.  As your experience with Shakespeare's texts expand, so does your understanding and appreciation of the author's work and its connections to life.  Shakespeare has been done and redone hundreds of times in settings as varied in time and place as one can imagine.  Shakespeare had a profound understanding of human kind: our struggles, our desires, our hopes and fears.  These common sufferings and triumphs connect the characters on his stage with those people we meet in real life.  This is what it means to be universal.  No matter how old we are, where we live, or in what time, all boundaries can fade to nothing in a tale of Shakespeare.  As the characters fall in love, so do we; as they grow enraged at injustice, so do we; as they are overcome with jealousy or humiliation, we blush crimson right along with them.  The brilliance of Shakespeare comes through his mastery of the mechanics of the English language to elaborate on his intrinsic knowledge of the human psyche.

IN LOVE

Each year, the English Speaking Union invites students and their teachers/directors who share a love and enthusiasm for the Great Bard to participate in their National Shakespeare Competition.  It all starts in the classroom.  Schools all over the country conduct in house, school wide Shakespeare competitions in which scholars present a memorized monologue of no more than twenty lines.  After the school selects a winner, they are sent along with other scholars across their state, to compete at the branch level.  This time, they present their monologue and one of Shakespeare's sonnets.

The lucky scholar selected at the branch level is then flown out for a week long trip to New York
City, where they are dined, entertained, and have the opportunity to mingle with other branch winners and students of the infamous Julliard School.  The grand finale, however, is that each student gets to perform his/her monologue, sonnet and a cold read on the stage at Lincoln Center in the National competition.  The competition is stiff.  Every scholar brings with him or her a uniquely brilliant interpretation of a beloved work.  The judges no doubt agonize over their decision, but only one lucky scholar will be chosen as the grand prize winner.  This scholar will win an all expenses paid trip in the summer to study at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. A second place scholar at competition will earn an all expenses paid trip to study Shakespeare with other classical actors in Staunton, Virginia, including tuition, transportation, food, and accommodations.  The third place scholar wins a $500 scholarship from The Shakespeare Society of New York City.

We will enjoy watching the winning performance of 2016 in class.  But for our blog post assignment this week, we will watch an inspirational educational video by the creators and actors of the Oscar award winning film, Shakespeare in Love.  I promise, you will enjoy it!  It is about 45 minutes in length, so allow for some time to put your feet up, brew some tea or hot chocolate, and enjoy!  (There are two possible links--they are both the same.)  It looks at the life and art of William Shakespeare through the lens of his play, Romeo and Juliet.  For your post, please comment on the story, what you learned and anything specific that impressed you, and then see how it all comes together at the end:  summary, poetry and then...the color!  I promise, it will be worth the time...for, as we know, "Never was a story of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo..."





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

THE NEXT GENERATION...

Today's generation.  The Millennials.  "Worst generation ever."  "The ME ME ME Generation." There are many commentaries on those born from mid-80s to 2000, and frankly, none of them are very positive.  Honestly?  As a parent of three millennials, myself, I find it very disconcerting and I don't like it.

There is a lot that goes into "creating" or "molding" a generation of people:  Their parenting, their environment,  their education and coaching and training.  I would say that if we put down a generation for their failures or lack of "gumption," we really need to point that finger back at all of ourselves.

Whether you are happy or disgusted with our most recent election results, it definitely put a big
mirror up to all of us:  who we are, where we are going, and how we cope with it all. Universities called off classes and set up cry rooms.  People took to the streets and vandalized and looted businesses.  Others refused to accept the results or the new president even before inauguration because it was not what they personally wanted.  But I would ask the question: what does that say about us?  I was taught growing up that learning to lose gracefully is one of the biggest lessons to be learned about winning.  But in a society where participation trophies are awarded whether you win or lose; in a society where you are told you are special, in general--with no specifics--just "you are special"; in a society where so many of us fear giving any form of constructive criticism because it may hurt someone's feelings, what are we really accomplishing?  Who is really responsible for the negative qualities we point out in this generation, and what are we doing about it in the business/corporate environment, or otherwise known as "the real" world?

A video of an interview with Simon Sinek was sent to me by a friend recently, and honestly, I believe it really nails the Millennial "problem."  Instead of whining and complaining about the next generation, it offers an explanation for how it all came to be and a possible solution.  I have often told many of you that while it was harder, I am so grateful to have grown up in a society before cell phones and computers.  You know what?  I was surprised that many of you told me that you wished you had, too!  That makes me sad.  It is not ANY generations' fault what time or environment they are brought into!  Frankly, it is more the fault of those who bring up that generation: what sort of boundaries are we creating?  What sort of guidance and teaching are we offering?  What example are we setting?  Do we allow our kids to experience the agony of defeat from time to time, or do we rescue them?  Do we put limits on their technology access and use, or do we just give up and let them use their technology to keep themselves busy and out of our way?  Do we teach our kids that learning and growing involves making mistakes and seeking out constructive criticism for ways to improve, or do we just give them a blanket "you're special and perfect?" Do we offer, instead, specific praise for their gifts and acknowledgement for what they really do well, and advice for areas in which they can improve?

I would love to get YOUR feedback.  Where do you see a need for personal growth?  What are your goals?  What do you think you do well....specifically?  Who are the classmates you admire, and for what?  THIS is where it starts.  I want to say as a member of the previous generation, I am sorry for the ways that WE have failed YOU.  We all need to work together to make this world a place we can all learn, grow, fall down, and get back up again in...a place where we can learn to interact with each other, to endure awkwardness, and to find time to just think and create and be innovators!  What a great goal for 2017!

Please watch this video all the way through, and give your feedback, as well.  I look forward to your posts!
1.  Where do you see a need for personal growth?
2.  What are your goals?
3.  What do you do especially well?
4.  Who are 1-3 classmates you admire, and why?
5.  Reaction to video...what hit you, what felt true, why?

I think we can make millennials a truly GREAT generation that can climb the mountains of challenge willingly, with true grit, and bring a lot of bright innovation into the world!!

Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

Monday, December 19, 2016

THE WAITING GAME

PATIENCE IS POWER.

Patience is more than just waiting.  Patience is restraint when you are provoked and hope when you are low.  It is about striving to get up no matter how far you have fallen.  And to do it without hurting others.  It is a means of purifying your heart...

Many of us feel like we spend a majority of our lives waiting and longing for what comes next.  We wait in line to ride the roller coaster, to pay for the groceries, to taste our lattes.  We wait for our food to be delivered to the table, the day we can get our driver's license, that text or call from someone special.  We wait for that college acceptance or (gulp) rejection letter.  We wait for healing when we are sick, that special vacation when all is well.


We wait for our father, mother, sibling, son or daughter to return from duty in places faraway.  We wait to be noticed...chosen...loved.  We are always waiting for the next season, hoping better things will come once we graduate, give our lives to a career worthy of of our talents, find that perfect person to marry, and then we wait to start our own families.  We live in an age that caters to our impatience: instantaneous overseas communication, overnight shipping and microwave ovens, fast food and fast tracks.  We are constantly looking forward to the next best thing, hoping to get through the now so we can get to the "then."

But is holding out for what's to come the smartest strategy?  We all want to live meaningful lives full of experiences and accomplishments we can be proud of.  We want a story to tell our grandchildren. But many of us fail to recognize that the best moments are the ones happening...
Right now.

Maybe the best time in our lives isn't ahead of us or behind us.  Maybe it is actually somewhere in the in between.  Maybe the "mundane" is really what it means to be alive.  Maybe we have an incredible opportunity to make of it what we will--to resent its lack of adventure or simply rejoice in the beauty of taking a moment to relish our next breath.

Real life doesn't happen on the big screen.  Sometimes, it's boring.  Sometimes, it is lackluster.   And as hard as we may try to hurry it all up, we are still often stuck in the waiting game...those less than remarkable moments.

So, what do we do with those?

We learn to embrace the wait.  We fall in love with the in-between, relishing those interruptions
instead of resenting them.  And in doing this...in allowing ourselves these moments to wait, we might just learn a few lessons that strengthen and nurture our souls.

When we are forced to slow down, we are reminded of the truth: we are not in control. Whether stopped at a light, stalled in a line, or put on hold, we can let it tie us into knots of anxiety, or we can accept that we cannot live in the past or the future; all we have is the right now, so we may as well take our time!  Waiting is not a detour, it is a very important part of the journey.  We need to learn to appreciate the space in between Point A and B.  After all, it is in this space that we grow.  It may happen slowly--almost painfully so--but one day, we will wake up and be amazed at the distance we have come!

Waiting can be about much more than waiting, and it can certainly involve more than the digital pacifiers we carry around with us.  We need to reframe waiting as an opportunity to disconnect from the task driven part of ourselves that craves stimulation and reconnect with the other, quieter part that longs for stillness, peace and reflection.  Maybe we can start to think anew about waiting as the space between the notes of music, a deep breath after a steep climb, a blank page dividing the chapters of a book, a patch of green in a towering, grey city.

In both the Jewish and Christian traditions, we are currently in a season of waiting.  Only one candle at a time may be lit on the Menorah and advent wreath.  Both holidays commemorate a "waiting" for a miracle, and both require a great measure of faith, hope and love and patience.  What better time then to stop and think? To create and capture rather than consume?  To work out unresolved issues and let yourselves daydream and take in the surroundings of right where you are?

Trust the wait.  Embrace the uncertainty.  Enjoy the beauty of "becoming."  Because when nothing is certain...

Anything is possible! 


Please enjoy this very special story/lesson on patience:  http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/story-one-taxi-driver-will-change-entire-day/

Then take some time to tell me what you thought.  What was the hardest thing you have ever had to wait for?  Did you learn anything in having to wait?  What was it? 

I wish you ALL a very Merry Christmas, Happiest of Hanukkahs, and most wondrous of holidays!