Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2nd Semester- Blog Post 1- Personal Reflection

Use your 1st Semester reflection sheet to write a blog post on how you did last semester and how you plan to improve your academic performance this semester. Please refer to the attached rubric for basic standards and remember: 

1. Any post below 500 words: automatic zero. 
2. Any post without at least 3 examples of multimedia embedded: automatic zero. 
3. Any post without at least 5 relevant and useful hyperlinks: automatic zero. 
4. Submit a link to your academic journal POST, not the home page, here. Make sure your blog is not private. 

        The first semester was a time of many changes for me academically and personally. I did not expect such a major change between my freshman and sophomore year. This makes me very uneasy, considering the fact I am gradually approaching yet another major change, junior year. 
        Unlike anything before it, this first semester required a lot from me and made realize many flaws in the way I organize my time. Even though I  was able to maintain my GPA, as well as participate in my usual extracurricular activities, this first stressful slice of 10th grade really took a lot from me,  even affecting me in a psychological manner. I found myself working until very late hours and waking up completely exhausted and fatigued the following morning. 
        Another thing I was highly disappointed with this past semester was my lack of preparation for the PSAT/NMSQT. I ended up taking it for granted, and on test day,  found myself at least 80% less prepared than I should have been. As a result for my insolence, my scores were absolutely mediocre, severely crushing my pride. This experience, although unpleasant, did, however, help motivate me to study harder and better prepare myself for the future. 
       As of this semester I decided to make drastic changes to both my personal and academic life. I had many long chats with my parents and realized I was underestimating the requirements to meet my goals and objectives.  I suddenly remembered why I was struggling so hard to keep my grades up and realized that achieving academic success was no walk in the park. From then on, I put a lot of thought into organizing my schedule, restricting (to some degree) my social life, managing time more efficiently and preparing for the challenges that are yet to come. 
     For instance, I decided to reorganize my extracurricular activities. Whereas before, I had to juggle Tennis, Guitar, Academics and French, I now have much more free time to dedicate towards my future. I decided to drop tennis, a sport I never stood out in, and replaced for a more accessible physical activity, going to the gym. My parents and I located a gym just across the street where we live, saving time in transportation and providing more time for academics while still showing some concern for my physical well-being.
     I also thought back to how disorganized I was with my time, and developed a strict regime for completing HW and studying. I decided to quit procrastinating once and for all and began using my time more efficiently. I even downloaded a specific app to make sure I follow a daily study plan I have devised for myself. The application I selected to do so is called Daily Agenda, and it works like a planner, allowing me to assign hours for studying, extracurricular activities, and free time. I found this new game plan very useful , allowing me to rest properly and avoid stress.
     Besides organizing my time and devising systems to avoid procrastination, I began taking preparation for college a lot more seriously. For instance, I have assigned myself time to study for the PSAT and the SAT. My parents and I, in fact, on our last trip to the US handpicked a couple of SAT prep books, one of which is Kaplan's SAT Strategies, Practice & Review (offered both printed and online). Aside from text books, I have also made use of CollegeBoard's QuickStart website, which allows you to access your PSAT scores, practice for future tests, and find colleges suited for your interests and academic capabilities.
      These changes have already influenced me in many ways. Even though, this semester has just started, I truly believe that staying on track and having determination to accomplish my goals  will make me overcome any challenge that is thrown my way.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Promises- Analysis

             Our Academic Leadership class just recently watched the astonishingly informative and groundbreaking Promises,  a documentary put together by B.Z Goldberg,  Carlos Bolado and Stephen Most. The movie, rated an 8 on IMDd and even nominated to the Oscar of best documentary in 2002, tells the story of a group of children, pertaining to different religions and ethnicities, who live a mere 20 min of each other near the city of Jerusalem, Israel. The movie attempts to portray the infamous Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the perspective of children. The ones involved in this production were: Daniel and Yarko, two Non-Orthodox Jewish twins who live in Jerusalem, Shlomo, a devoted Jewish/American who also lives in the city of Jerusalem, Moishe, a Jewish boy who lives just outside the city in an Israeli colony, Sanabel and Faraj, a boy and a girl who live in refugee camps surrounding the city, and Mahmoud, the son of a fairly wealthy, Palestinian coffee-shop owner in Jerusalem.
            Each of the children, because of their infinitely diverse environments, has very different views on the subject. Basing themselves on their relatives' instructions, religion and life experiences, each child shares his/her opinions with the interviewer, B.Z Goldberg.  For instance, when the Jewish boy Moishe shares his thoughts on the subject, he is extremely radical, a form of thinking probably reflected from his father's, a prominent politician in the fight against Palestinians. Faraj, much like Moishe, is also very passionate about his cause. He refers to the death of his close ones and the fact his ancestor's home was destroyed to viciously insult the Jewish. 
         However, in spite of all this friction in the beginning, over the course of 3 years (the time span in which the movie was shot) B.Z is able to incite communication between the children of opposite nationalities. At first, the crew of "Promises" attempted to ask the kids for their opinions on the subject, which led to very different answers. However, over the course of the movie, the interviewer begins proposing hypothetical meetings. Yarko and Daniel, being secular Jews, are the first to consider such idea. Despite being terrified of terrorist attacks, the two boys are very open-minded about the subject and at one point even mention they were "more afraid of devoted Jews than arabs"(Goldberg, Promises).  The next child to open up to the idea of a possible meeting is Sanabel. She claims that communication is key to solve the issue.
         Eventually, Faraj agrees with the idea of a meeting with the twins Yarko and Daniel. Both parties communicate in english, and surprisingly, despite the friction between their respective cultures, end up getting along like most children. When watching that scene, I found surprising how children that only a few minutes back in the movie were disputing over serious political issues, got together and played as if there was nothing going on.
        In order for such an odd yet inspiring event to happen, there had to be much communication. At first, through the interviewer, B.Z, and his crew, the children gained access to each other's realities. This generated a sense of empathy among the children, who then came to, in the most part, understand each other's perspectives and, consequently, open their minds to interaction. For instance, once Faraj and the twins met, Faraj opened himself to the idea that not all Jews are bad. Another example of this is shown in the 1st epilogue to the movie Promises, filmed in 2004. In it, Mahmud, who at first was extremely against interacting with Israelis, tells of how he, upon attending the premier of Promises and meeting the children involved, "stopped being afraid of the jews".
A final example of how communication  helped the children of the movie understand each other, is shown in the 2nd epilogue. In it, Sanabel, Faraj and Yarko talk about how as time went by, communication diminished. Whereas before, the children were able to understand each other's perspectives, they no longer could. For instance, when Sanabel indirectly receives the information that Yarko joined the army, she becomes infuriated. What she did not understand, however, aside from the fact he was forced to do so, was that Yarko felt a sudden urge to serve the country in which he grew up.
      Promises, aside from exploring an interesting and insightful concept, also depicts the importance of communication when dealing with great cultural/political issues like the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. By inciting the communication between both Jewish and Arab children, B.Z and the others responsible, were able to portray a new hypothetical solution the what seems everlasting middle eastern altercation.
Israel/Palestine Conflict: An overview of what is going on currently. (courtesy of BBC News)



Monday, April 8, 2013

Final Quarter Blog Post

"What does it take for someone to move from a position of hate and racism to a position of tolerance and respect like the transformation that occurred in Derek?" 

         Derek, one of the main characters of the movie American History X ( summary of the movie's plot) , has a drastic change of opinion throughout the duration of the movie. At the beginning, he is an all out supportive of the neo-nazi movement and was severely racist against african americans and hispanic immigrants. He, in fact was so deeply involved in this faith of his, that he committed severe acts of violence against other races, leading to his arrest. However, later in the movie, after a definitely traumatic and also life changing experience in prison, Derek abandoned these old feelings of hate and prejudice.  


          In my opinion,  the reason  behind Derek's sudden change of emotions towards racism has to do with what lead him to believe in these horrible things in the first place. All of Derek's hate goes back to two important factors. One was the traumatizing death of his father, which was caused by a gang of African Americans, and the introduction of gangs to his neighborhood, and the other, the fact Alexander Cameron had taken advantage of his juvenile ignorance and rash thinking to mold Derek into doing his bindings and preaching his ideals .  

      The environment in which Derek lived in, which had just been took over by gangs composed by Black men, gave him a bad and wrong view of non-white races and his fathers death served as trigger to emotionally destabilize him. In fact, as states David O. Carpenter in his article about enviromental causes of violence, a person is led to do actions of violence and hate due to the bad stimulus in their environment and society.          
      Upon being being emotionally destabilized by his father's death, Cameron took advantage of Derek and led him to into his life of hate. Derek, then, not having a full  understanding of his society and by relying on solemnly generalizations , jumped head first into the world of neo-nazism.  Similar events like these actually happen quite frequently throughout the USA. Many young folks, due to lack of understanding, ignorance or emotional anguish, tend to be influenced into joining theses kinds of societies. Mr. T.J. LEYDEN talks about this very issue. in this NPR News article.

      What then led Derek to abandon his old ideals, was his once again traumatizing yet revealing time in jail. There, he was able to live among the different races in which he despised so much. After a while, due to his newly acquired friendship with a black man, he then, discovered race did not necessarily determine a person’s character, causing him to confront Cameron and free himself from the hate he harbored for so long. What freed in fact freed Derek from his unpleasant feelings was the empathy he felt for the very first time. Only by looking at things from a black person’s point of view was he able to determine what he was doing was wrong. 
    The reason people in general change ideals the way Derek did has to do with them eventually placing themselves in another’s position and realizing how irrational their thinking was. A quote I found to be very relevant to this idea of empathy is from Antoine Saint-ExupĂ©ry in “The Little Prince”:
       “I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him... The land of tears is so  mysterious.”
    This has to do with how Derek was never able to understand those people's feelings. He was not aware they were normal people that in no way deserved  to be treated they way they were.
Relevant video- Very similar story to Derek's. (Had a traumatic event in his life ( Parents' divorce) and was moved by ignorance.)
Twitter- @VictorPianowski

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blog Post #5- Response to the Seattle Boycott Article

Post a response to the article on your Academic Journal (normal guidelines apply) and then leave a properly formatted message with the link in a comment under the article. Due date: Friday, 8 February. 


         According to both the article and the video on Mr. Tolley's blog, Garfield High and a growing number of other schools are boycotting the standard testing program. They feel these mandatory tests do not reflect the content taught in class and that, although the results don't affect the academic life of students (not directly anyways) , they do affect the teachers and lead to the misjudging of their teaching skills. Another unique characteristic of this event, is the fact teachers, parents and students share the same opinion on the topic and agree on discontinuing the test. This is a quite rare phenomenon and proves that it is an issue not only viewed by a specific group of people, but the entire school community.

          In my opinion, the boycott does make sense and the mandatory test they refer to is truly not the most accurate method  of analyzing student academic capability. If anything, students should have tests proportional to the pace of their own individual class and that involve examples and situations they can relate to. Not only would this significantly increase scores, but it would also positively affect  a student's learning and help them understand the applicability of what they learn in school. However, in my opinion, even though the mandatory standard tests teachers are rebelling against seem like an unorthodox  and outdated method of testing academic ability, tests like the SAT's and the ACT's are a completely different story and should not be disposed the same way. These tests, unlike the MAP test, are a method of determining wether you learned everything you had to in school and wether or not you are prepared to move to the college you desire. These two very important tests, have the objective of testing an individual student and its results affect solemnly that specific student. Unlike the MAP test, the SAT's and the ACT's are not designed to test the qualification of a school or its teachers, but the merit of the one taking the test. This boycott is a very important process in changing the way the educational system works, though it should not go as far as demolishing functional and effective sections of it until a better solution is presented.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blog Post #4

Topic/ Assignment:"What does the re-election of President Barack Obama mean for me and the world?"


       Barack Obama, besides affecting his own country, also has influences world wide. The fact he is president of the wealthiest country economically has several repercussions on the entire world. To myself however, at this current time, I do not feel like it impacts my life on a large scale. The one thing that does benefit, not myself, but my country, though, is the fact that Romney planned on exploring and using South America, and Obama's election prevented that.
    One major thing that this election does affect, though, is the situation in the middle east. With Obama in power, Israel will be benefited, since he chose to support it, countries will not have to fear having American troops in their territory and he will continue tackling the emission of greenhouse gases, which not only benefits the US, but the entire planet.
    On the other hand, Obama's re-election does not please Pakistan, which is still infuriated due to invasion of American troops in the Osama Bin-Laden mission.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blog Post 3- Time Management

Blog Post 3- Time Management

Assignment 1:
Think about what you’ve learned, and write down the skill(s) you want to work on during the next few weeks.

Based on what we learned during Ms. Terrell´s time management themed class, I have formulated a list of a few things I plan to work on to improve academically and, eventually, throughout the rest of my life. The thing I regret the most about the way I manage my time is, although I never miss any assignments,  the constant procrastination. I tend to leave projects and assignments to the last few days before the due date and end up sterssing out. For this reason I have decided to distribute my time more effectively and, to keep my self on track, record these work hours down on my iPad callender. I have also set the following goals: avoiding to start my homework way too late, take more advantage of the time given in school and doing some more work on friday so that my weekend has a lot more free time.

Assignment 2: Write a paragraph in which you reflect on the time management goals you set on 19/20 Sept. In your paragraph, include whether or not you met your goals, any problems you had, any successes you had, and anything you learned. Also include an updated version of your goals based on your experience.

It has been a few weeks and I have been doing my best to follow my goals. I am especially proud of how I was finally able to decrease my amount procrastination I experience. Lately, due to this, the feeling of having homework stacked up to the roof has completely vanished and I have much more free time then before. Besides my goal involving procratination, I have also begun doing my homework as soon as I get home and decreased the amount of time I stay on the internet during the week. However, in consequence to my french lessons, I was still not able to finish my homework on Friday and my weekend is not as free and stress-free as I expected it to be. Therefore, I have decided to abandon this idea which, based on current events, has no chance in succeding and thought up a new goal:  To do most of the work towards the beggining of the week, causing each day that follows gradually less intense homework-wise.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Assignment 2


You briefly met with a college recruiter last week, and you reviewed a number of questions to ask about colleges. This must have gotten you thinking about your future, so tell us about it: Without any strict requirements, write about your expectations, goals, fears, concerns, questions that you have concerning your future in college. Additionally, now that you know that recruiters want to hear about you and your intellectual interests and pursuits, how do you think being an aware Academic Leader will give you an advantage when applying to the college of your choice? Good luck!


Even before meeting with the college recruiter last week, I have been thinking about my future and setting very important and strict goals to achieve my objectives. I am definitely thinking about going to college in the United States and I plan to become a mechanical engineer. Ever since I got to middle school I have tried, and most of the time succeeded, to keep my grades above 90, which before was the requirement to get into the high honor roll. I also am willing to do anything necessary to help me achieve my goal. The only fear I have about getting into college is not being able to keep up with all the work seniors go through before graduating. I believe that the qualities of an Academic Leader are actually the qualities colleges look for when selecting their students and will definitely be a strong quality to have. Strong leadership is something societies like STUCO and NHS require and I doubt graduation into college is any different.

The following article talks about what academic leadership means and is written by our wonderful teacher, Mr. Tulley: