UnPlug

A couple of days ago, I recognized how nice it is to get away from technology for a little while. Last Spring, my family and I went to Egypt, where my cell phone had no service or wifi. Accustomed as I was to mindlessly sliding open my phone and checking email, being without my phone just like that was weird, to say the least. But as the days passed, I almost didn’t want the flood of contact, the constant presence of everyone. It was nice to spend vacation with JUST my family- no work, no email, no texting. My senses all got a little sharper, which was nice, but also saddening. It was a really soothing vacation, in more ways than one.

I went for approximately a week without my phone and suddenly, a few days ago, I wanted that freedom again. I’m realizing that while staying in touch is good, sometimes the immediacy is too much. The constant beeping leads to great anxiety and stress, often for no concrete reason. Sure the red numbers on my to-do app motivate me to do work but I’m not sure that’s healthy or if that has an effect on the quality of my work.

I’m not gonna lie, I use my phone a lot. It’s my go to place for writing (anything other than essays), sending emails, taking pictures, my to do list, listening to music and of course, making phone calls. As a society, and many others have said this before me, we are becoming too dependent on our phones and our constant attraction to a screen is detracting our awareness of the world around us. I never understood how accurate that was until now, and how perfectly nice it feels once you adjust to not being in constant contact anymore.

So like all things, I think my phone is great in moderation. My to-do app is awesome until it starts to give me headaches. Being able to ask and answer questions in seconds can get exhausting. Maybe I’ll turn my Internet off and un-plug for a little while.

My hope for the future of education

My greatest hope for the future of education is that it will prepare us students for the “real world”. I believe leveraging student voice is important to achieving this goal. A redesign to achieve an even more practical and “useful” school is possible by getting the true inputs of students- those who are learning and absorbing, and for whom school is designed. I have started to have my voice heard and I want other students’ voices to be heard just as loudly. To that end, I got involved with the idea of promoting student voice through gathering together other students also interested in education “reform”. In the summer of 2012, I became a part of a solid community and team that created stuvoice.org. This website is a platform where students can share their thoughts. Students from across the globe are currently sharing their ideas on how our voices can be heard and how we believe school can become a place we ALL want to go to. Additionally, we have #stuvoice chats every Monday on Twitter, covering various topics related to students, such as education, politics and daily life. These chats are like giant brainstorming sessions- powerful, raw and spontaneous. These conversations, both on twitter and on the site, fill me with new ideas, a renewed sense of community and a desire to do more. In 2013, I hope to further amplify my voice and our collective student voices as we continue to try and help make schools a fun place of learning that prepares us students for the “real world”.

Destruction is easier than creation

As my mother and I were taking down our Christmas decorations about a week ago, I remarked on how much easier it was to take everything down than it is to put it up in the first place.

Then, as my brain gears started turning (slowly… I was on break after all :P), I started thinking about how in life, destruction generally comes easier. For example, the hard fought creation of a sandcastle is lost in minutes, even seconds, with a rising tide or a careless foot.

With education reform, many people are earnestly supporting the scrapping of the current system (and I’m partially guilty of the same philosophy). However, the process of recreation is not as immediate. Simply changing the mindset or getting people to “discard” the old system is not a new system. It takes a broader curriculum, a shifted focus, a universal appreciation for faculty and teachers, a respect between students and teachers and a drive to truly prepare students for the real world and not just to gets A’s and pass tests. And it doesn’t involve pushing aside those who hold fast to the “opposing” ideas they believe in. everyone’s voice counts. That way students can get the most out of school. It’s a team effort. It takes listening to both those with the experience and hindsight AND the newcomers. And that’s something we can do. It might not be as easy as getting back to square one, but reaching the final (for now) square will be even more satisfying.

I’ve realized that the road to reach a big goal like this is often long. But it’s worth every step. After all, it’s about the journey!

My Year in Quick Review: 2012

This has been a big year for me, to say the least. A lot of who I am at this moment in the space time continuum has been molded by what I’ve accomplished and experienced in this year alone.

I’ve started writing more: first for the Cooperative Catalyst then Huffington Post (Teen) and Stuvoice. I’ve also become much more involved in the education community, thanks to the emergence of a larger student voice movement. Thanks to that alone, my circle of like minded individuals has expanded, and I’m proud to call some well known fellow students my friends. It’s hard for me to imagine a time where I didn’t have chats on stuvoice and education every week, which is awesome. I’m proud to say that I’ve made my voice heard this year, through the aforementioned publications, my very first interview, talks with my principal and video conferences through HuffPostLive as well as other means.

A part from the education sphere, I made my way to China this summer, which was an eye-opener in of itself. I grew so much as a person and experienced a whole new kind of world. From the friends I made, to the lessons I learned, it’s definitely an experience I will never forget.

And from China, I entered my sophomore year. As the girls dean enlightened us, sophomore means “wise-fool” and is often characterized as a “buffer” year. For me so far, it’s been anything but the slow ride I imagined. I joined girls cross country, ran a half marathon, hosted and participated in a listening session, am taking AP Chem, was a part of a team to recreate my school’s schedule, hosted an exchange student from France and published three issues (and counting) of my school’s paper, as an editor.

It was my goal to reach a total of 100 posts on this blog by the end of this year and I’m proud to say I accomplished that. What’s more, my work on other sites as gotten many hits. My piece “Homework: Help or Hassle?” was the most viewed piece on the Cooperative Catalyst this year, and my first ever post for them, “Caution: Work in Progress,” was the 3rd most viewed. Thank you so much to everyone who reads my work here and on other sites- it means the world to me. 🙂

Here’s to 2013 and all that it may bring. I’m looking forward to more writing, more running and hopefully, more travelling. And as always, I’m savoring the journey, every step of the way. Happy New Year!