Monday, April 10, 2017


Quotes of the day:

"Makeup should never be used to hide yourself. It should be used to enhance your natural beauty." - Kira Carl.

"Beauty is not flawless, it shines even through your flaws" 

Foundation and Expectation 

The magazine cover stares at me from across the Kroger stand as I slowly look away in determination.   No. I am not conforming to the unrealistic  social standards of beauty that are demeaning and intolerant towards many women. I am not going to support Photoshop,thigh gaps, and shallow expectations for the girls of the future. That magazine does not attract my attention. I felt so proud of myself as I left the Kroger parking lot overcome with a feeling of social consciousness and awareness. Despite of this consciousness,  I forgot about one simple thing I had in my bag, a thing that was basically a part of me, and that I almost could not leave the house without: foundation.

Your typical bottle of foundation
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What I am talking about is a tiny bottle of a flesh-toned, lotion-looking liquid. It's job is very simple; you open the bottle, put a little bit of foundation on your hands, and then rub it on your face, neck, etc. That way, you cover up pimples, scars, discoloration, and other “imperfections” of the skin.  Foundation, as the name suggests, is the basic, underlying structure of any beauty routine, and one of the most common beauty items in the market.

But, as simple as foundation may seem, it is an art in and of itself. To do the job correctly and cover up your skin in a natural manner, you must know how to blend it with your skin tone, how to make sure it stays on your skin, and how to cover what you want it to cover. But foundation  is not one-size-fits-all. It assumes that your skin tone will match the color of your makeup. For this reason, many women who are not of typical white and Olive complexions tend to have a more difficult time finding makeup that matches their skin tone. In fact, women who have darker complexions tend to spend more money on make up than white women because drug store brands usually have less options available for them. This creates what is called “colorism,” meaning a discrimination of skin tone in which one skin tone is more favored than the other and is considered the “normal” skin color. This creates less diverse options for people whose skin is not of that color.

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Also, foundation is not very smart. It's hard to put it on without having it cover your whole face. This means that in order for foundation to work, it not only covers the unwanted pimple of discoloration, it may also cover some birthmarks, freckles, and anything on its way. This creates the expectation of beauty and the  ideal “healthy” skin be an image of a  perfect, homogeneous face with virtually no marks, scars, discoloration, or birthmarks that many people have.

We use foundation to cover up small insecurities and try to better our appearance,  and foundation, in turn,  demands an action from us. To wear it, we have to look at the things we don't like about ourselves, and instead of accept them or change them, we cover them up, never solving the problem from its roots. Foundation also requires that we become aware of our imperfections, appearance, perceptions by others, and our skin tone in order for it to work like it is supposed to. In some cases, this  may be a good thing, making us aware of who we are and what we want to be, but in other cases, it can create an intolerance for ourselves, and deep insecurities in the way we look, especially put together with Photoshop, a biased beauty industry, and unrealistic standards for women. This is so prominent today, that the #NoMakeup look has gained a huge momentum, while even so, celebrities that claim to have the “all natural” look still, in fact, wear makeup and use beauty products, creating false expectations of what a natural beauty should look like.
This quote describes the #NoMakeup move
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This however, is not meant to judge or shame people who wear foundation or other forms of make up. I'm the first to admit my obsession with beauty products. They make women feel secure, pretty, and flawless. Many of us find it fun to wear, not because we have insecurities but simply because it's fun, artistic, and interesting. But, just like any object, we must be conscious on how our usage of it affects others. The usage of foundation and other forms of makeup nay sometimes close opportunities for other women by setting expectations of beauty that are unrealistic and intolerant of specific skin conditions and skin tones. Also, because many women are so used to wearing products that create this image, foundation and other forms of makeup become almost a part of the skin, of the ideal beauty, and of a woman.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Who are we? God, Science, and Humanity

Quotes of the day:

"The human brain is a most unusual instrument of elegant as yet unknown capacity" - Stuart Seaton

"The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane" - Gandhi

"A human being is a single being, unique and unrepeatable" - Eileen Caddy

God, Science, and Humanity 

This blog is a response to the following knowledge question:

“Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are.” To what extent is this true in the human sciences and one other area of knowledge?

For the past century,  scientists had been using animals for medical trials, surgical procedure practices, and cosmetic testing. This brought about many new benefits for the human race, including insulin treatments for diabetes patients, and heart valve transplants from pigs to humans. However, with the new scientific era came new ethical, social, and scientific questions for humanity. Do animals have feelings? As human beings, what are our responsibilities to other living creatures? What makes us any special, any different from other animals? But, from all of these questions, the token question of all time was clearly highlighted: what does it mean to be human?

For thousands of years, we have looked to areas of knowledge to explain what it is that makes us different from other species. Our curiosity, imagination, and intelligence brought us religion, astronomy, other natural sciences, history, and the human sciences to explain "who we are" or what makes us human.

Modern natural sciences have often looked at human beings objectively as other mammals, and in many recent studies have tried to explain the power of the human mind as a simple evolutionary coincidence. This area of knowledge gives a secular view to what makes us human, and while it may seem to degrade the status of humanity, in many cases it explains the uniqueness of human beings through studies of the brain and our reasoning abilities.

Meanwhile, the human sciences give us a sense of who we are through our collective history, this area of knowledge is a living, breathing example of how our complex and scientific brains adapt and react to change. They show how we are affected by our surroundings and how we affect them.

From atoms to homo sapiens sapiens

In 2012, a declaration was signed by the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. It stated that animals have a conscious understanding to the same degree as humans do. Since recent years there has been a lot of evidence and studies that prove that we share pain and emotions and genetic features with other animals. Biology and other areas of science give us a sense of who we are by explaining how our bodies work, how we have evolved, how our brain learns and makes connections, and also what our place is in the universe. 

God and Science: not a binary

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Many people find science to be discouraging, it can show us how tiny we are compared to the grandeur of the universe. It can tell us that we are nothing but about eleven elements (and a few sprinkles of others) mixed together in just the right amount, and just the right conditions. Science places humanity in context with its surroundings in a way that frightens many people, especially those of certain beliefs. In fact, for people who have been raised in families of strict Christian faith, for example, may find that science does not give them a sense of who they are. It instead challenges their beliefs and their ideas of what makes them human. Theories of evolution, the origin of feelings and emotions,  theories of creation and origins of life are challenging to biblical stories such as Genesis. In addition, many religions with concepts of the soul, heaven, earth, hell, and sin often find science as contradictory to their ideas of where they come from and who they are.

But while the natural sciences can make some feel uncomfortable, it can also strengthen the faith of others. In fact, many people of strong faith have actually contributed to many scientific discoveries, and many argue that it bring their faith and their sense of who they are closer to God. As an example, many of the early scientists that supported and helped come up with the theories of evolution were devout Christians; they felt that it helped understand God's methods of creation better. Furthermore, many things in science are taken as miracles by people who believe. Numbers such as the mass of the Higgs Boson or the force of gravity in the universe are so perfect that if they were any different it is highly unlikely the universe could exist.

You're special... but you're not...

So how does any of this give human beings a sense of who they are?

1. Gratitude and amazement

In order for you to get here, millions of random coincidences had to happen. First of all, the universe had to be created with just the right amount of everything from gravitational force, to matter, and strong and weak forces. The universe had to have exactly the laws of physics it has now,  and the right elements. Then, millions of collisions of atoms must have happened in just the right way to create this galaxy and this solar system. After that, the earth had to be formed at the perfect distance from the sun, with just the right amount of water, the perfect atmosphere, and the right size. After this, life had to be formed, and it had to evolve exactly the way it did to create humans. But even so, your ancestors had to meet each other, and live long enough to have kids and care for them long enough to have their own kids for generation after generation. Your parents then had to meet, and be in the exact same circumstances for you to be born, and develop exactly the way you did. All of this may sound kind of simple if you just say it, but in real life, it is an estimated one in 700 trillion chance of you being here at exactly this place, and exactly this time. By the way, this is not very far from the one in 400 trillion chance calculated by Buddhists hundreds of years ago. This can put in context how thankful we should really be to be alive, and how special this world is

2.  Humility
Even though the existence of the human race is almost a miracle, science can also give us a sense of unison and humility with other people, as well as with animals and other living creatures. Genetic studies have shown that we share about 98.8 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees, and we even share a lot of our DNA with plants and other animals. Furthermore, each one of us shares about 99.9% of our DNA with every single other human in the world. We share many of our behavior traits with other species, including feelings, thought processes, and (to a smaller scale), warfare, social structures, and communication. Knowing these facts, it is easy to tolerate other people, and other animals, and care for them.

The living, talking, breathing experiment: Social Sciences

So, if we share so many traits with other animals, what really makes us different? Well, science can tell why our brain has developed differently, how our anatomy makes us differently, how our genome compares to that of other animals, and what sorts of hormones and chemical reactions are responsible for who we are as people. However, to really see and explain why a human is a human, the social sciences are what we look into. They attempt to study and explain large-scale warfare, human interactions,  and the unpredictability of the human mind in different kinds of environments.

Something key to being human is the ability to think and reflect upon our actions, to have deep thoughts, and to influence other human beings at a large, global scale. That is what the social sciences study, human interactions and how they have developed over time. It studies exactly what the Natural Sciences say sets us apart.

Of course, the Human Sciences are a lot more abstract. They are subject to unpredictability, and they are also subject to bias as many parts of the Social Sciences deal with the stories and interactions of humans. They all have different opinions and ways of seeing the world.

The symbiotic relationship:

One thing that is very interesting is the human ability to use science to our favor. Our imagination and reason come together to find ways to understand science, and in turn impact humanity. The natural Sciences impact the Social Sciences, creating new ways of living, communicating, and thinking, as well as higher standards of living, and higer progress. In turn, people impact nature and science by changing the world around them, creating materials that were non-existent or barely existent before such as some elements in the periodic table, and impacting the earth and all the living species within it.

Finally, we must also be aware that with humanity come ethics. We are the only species in the planet with clearly defined, and clearly communicated ethical codes. We must remember to use them to use science and our discoveries to the favor of other people and the world in general,

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When Plans Go Wrong

Quote of the day:
"Sometimes on our way to our dreams, we get lost and find a better one." - Unknown

When Plans Go Wrong

Oh! The wonders of Junior year! Kids all across the nation from the class of 2018 are stressing over SAT scores, ACTs, NMSQTs, IB classes and harder APs. The homework piles in and GPA is now more decisive than it had ever been. The words of the adults pile in on the subconscious mind of stressed out teenagers. They play over and over in the back of their heads, like this: 

"You're not an underclassman anymore, huh?"

"Better get those SAT scores in before Senior year!"

"So... How many IB/AP classes do you plan to have?"

"Keep that GPA in check!"

"Where are you planning to go to college?"

"Graduation is so close!"

And finally, the most stressful question for a Junior that has too many interests and no idea what to do with them:

"What do you plan to major in?"

While this is something that happens a lot to Seniors as well, by the end of Senior year, things are a bit more definite and at least you have a rough idea of where you're going. However, as a Junior, I've found myself starting to get an overwhelming pressure to have it all figured out. Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be? Where is my life going? The scariest part of all is the surprised/ disappointed  faces of strangers and adults the moment you say "I don't know."

I once had it all figured out, and if you were to ask me last year all of these questions, I would have a definite answer and say: "I want to be a pediatric neurosurgeon." However, I have had the opportunity to have some of the most amazing teachers in school, and really interesting classes that have led me to change my mind, over, and over again. But, the sad part is that we live in a world where there is constant pressure to be prepared and have it all figured out. I've found myself in constant fear of changing my mind, because I've always had the mind set that this is dangerous. 

On Friday, our guest speaker, Professor Noori, talked to us about his career as a Sociologist. He talked to us about war and conflicts in the middle east, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We learned about cultural tensions in the region, about college there, and how he decided to be a Sociologist. All of his research and historical facts were simply amazing, but I think that the best part of his talk was the fact that he said nothing was set in stone; he didn't even know he would become a Sociologist until he decided to take a random trip to Uzbekistan in the middle of college. It showed me that it is okay to take a risk, to change your mind, and see where it takes you. 

The truth is that you may think that you have things all figured out, even in later stages of your life. Yet, something may come along and change your entire world view, whether it be traveling, war, a new class or teacher that blows your mind, or even simply bumping into a random stranger on the street. In fact, 50% to 70% of college students will change their major by the time they graduate, and most will change it on average three times. And then, after college there are millions of things that you are expected to know, or things you should be planning to do according to society, such as marriage, traveling, having a nice job and a good career. However, if there is one thing you can take from Sociology, is how unpredictable human actions can be, and how strangely they can affect you. 

So, what happens when you don't have things figured out, and how is IB related to this?

Risk Taking, learning, and being open minded:

I think one of the coolest things about IB is that risk-taking is part of the learner profile. We are taught from the very beginning to plan ahead, do what might get the best results, and be on the "safe" side. But this is unrealistic. It doesn't prepare you for the chaotic, unpredictable, and strange world out there. While it is important to have back-up plans, and rough ideas about your future, let chances take you by surprise, adapt to them, and learn from the unexpected. There are many benefits from taking a risk and not following plans step by step, such as new opportunities, learning new things, and gaining more success in the workforce and in life in general. 

Try something new!

Even if it is just for 30 days or even a once in a lifetime thing... it can change your life forever!

Because, as Mr. Noori said,  you never get to know a culture until you see it yourself. If you want to make it happen, there are many opportunities if you look into it.

New research from the University of Chicago shows that talking to random strangers can make you happier

Or simply do something you have never done before...You never know what you will find and what it will lead to.

You don't need to have things figured out just yet. No matter how many times you are asked about your plans in life, or what you want to be when you get older, nothing is set in stone. Perhaps, the best thing to strive for in life is not a career, but simply a purpose. If you were to ask me now, what I want to be in life, I wouldn't give you a college name, or a career. I would tell you that what I want is fulfillment. I want to know that I will wake up every day of my life with a purpose, and that whatever I do, I do it because I believe in it. I want to say that I have learned, and that I've taken any chance I could to listen to others, to try something new, and to adapt to the unpredictable and crazy world we live in. 

I think that one thing that I hope we all get from IB is that we learn to put ourselves in new situations and learn from them. This is more valuable than all the book knowledge in the world. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Power of Imagination

Quote of the day:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world." -Albert Einsten

The power of imagination

Close your eyes for a moment, and remember what it's like to be a child again.  Let your mind wander through a world without limits. Remember the days where life was full of giants and mythical creatures, where ordinary people turned into witches, princesses, goddesses, and wizards. Back then, reality was only limited by what your imagination could do. Anything, and I mean, anything, could happen.

We moved through life building walls as we went, defining what was real and what was not. Slowly, we gave up some of our power to dream without barriers, deeming the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus as unreal, childish, and unimportant. Imaginary friends went from being  partners in crime to unrealistic, an escape from the "real" world. What I'm getting at is this: even at a young age, imagination is often underestimated, taken as childish and irrational. Too often parents, teachers, and other adults want to focus in what is "real" and concrete. However, imagination is a way of learning, and it can be just as powerful as any other way of knowing, and in fact can strengthen other ways of knowing.

Through imagination, children are able to better develop cognition and thinking abilities, but don't think imagination is only child's play. Imagination inspires innovation and allows people of all ages to contemplate their realities and other people's.

Cognition Development in children

Recent studies have shown that children use their imagination to develop cognitive abilities. Through imagination, children develop neural pathways that allow them to think and reason through problems, as well as put themselves in the positions of others. 
Imagining yourself as a princess or thinking about how fat Santa Claus could fit through your chimney as a child made you think of possibilities, problem-solving, and outcomes. It also made you put yourself in someone else's position, whether that be a real person or something completely crazy like a spy spider monkey with two heads.
Image result for imagination child
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Imagination can also play a role in early language development. This is because young children have a tendency to start linking objects with words to describe them. As children imagine objects, stories, and the functions of things, they search for words to describe their creations, as well as for role-playing. Thus, this advances their progress in language learning.


While it is true that imagination is key to child development, it should not, and does not stop with Santa Claus and playing dress up. Out of imagination have come the most innovative ideas and inventions in history. Systematic languages and writing, weapons, architecture, the light bulb, and almost anything you can think of. All of these may have come from previously built upon knowledge, but they came about because a person or a group of people put facts together and asked themselves the question (consciously or subconsciously) "I wonder what would happen if..." in order to solve a problem faced by society, or maybe just to satisfy their curiosity.
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But imagination goes beyond the concrete, the mundane,  and the ordinary. Imagination creates ideas that inspire revolutions in every way, from technological advancements to social revolutions and movements, and even war.
Sci-fi works coming straight from people's imaginations have inspired incredible inventions such as the submarine, the helicopter, the rocket, the cell phone and many other technological innovations have been inspired by works in sci-fi such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaClipper of the CloudsWar of the Worlds, and Star Trek respectively. And this is just a short list…

Furthermore, fictional writings in other areas have also proven to make people question their society, loyalties, and what they believe in. One of the big examples in U.S history is Uncle Tom's Cabin. This fictional book centering in the lives of fictional slave characters not only became one of the most best selling books in the world of all time, but it is also said to have helped spark the flames of the American Civil War. It even affected who helped the Union or the Confederacy during the war. In fact, when President Lincoln met with the author of the book, he said, "So you're the little woman who started this great war."

Contemplating Realities

In conclusion, yes, imagination does not technically focus on "real" or concrete knowledge most of the time. However, imagination helps us contemplate our  realities, and see them not just for what we think they are, but for what they could be. It gives us the power to step inside someone else's shoes for a while, or wander what could lie beyond the known universe, or solve a simple problem creatively. It combines everything we already think we know, and turns it into something we don't... something of our own making. We just need to be careful and remind ourselves that our imagination, too, is biased, coming from our own assumptions, beliefs, understandings, and culture.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ethics In Knowledge

Quote of the day:

"Do what is right, not what is easy "-Unknown

The Ethical Responsibility of Knowledge 

"Why don't you just shoot us?" A Nazi official would say during one of the thirteen Nuremberg trials after World War II. What this man did not realize however, is that these trials were not just going to bring a small piece justice to a world that had been bruised, broken, and left in ruins. The Nuremberg trials would become so much bigger that a symbolic gesture. Their grandeur exceeded a group of Nazis in a court room. These trials in fact would be the most famous in history, as they were the first to condemn their caused based on principles, rules, and guidelines that came to existence on the spot, and that had been created for the sole purpose of these trials. They were based on the abstract moral principles of humanity and philosophy.

The Nuremberg trials created several universal laws for the prevention of crimes "against humanity," and out if the came something just as monumental: the Belmont Report. This is kind of a big deal for any scientist or social worker who has ever triad to do an experiment with human subjects anteater in the world. It sets up all of the rules and guidelines for ensuring an ethical treatment of subjects so that no abuse happens, whether that be in a major, Nazi-level, scaring experiment, or a simple questionnaire that may make someone feel uncomfortable.

So... Why does this matter is relation to TOK?

The Belmont Report and the Nuremberg trials show us that with knowledge often does come an ethical responsibility in two ways:

1. The responsibility of looking beyond ourselves

And consequently...

2. The responsibility to share our knowledge with the world for its benefit

1.Looking beyond ourselves

During the Nuremberg trials, many of the Nazis did not understand how their actions were punishable. In fact, many of them said things such as “I die innocent. The verdict is wrong.” They were so twisted and blinded by their work, their goals, and their biases that many of them were truly convinced that their mass genocide, torture, and cruel experiments were not wrong. To them it was amazingly a means to an end.

In the same way, but (hopefully) in a much much much much much smaller, and less twisted a d drastic, scale, we are the victims of our own biases, beliefs, goals and visions. We look at things the way we perceive them , without looking at what we do from a different angle, or a perspective that differs from our own. This is especially harmful in areas of knowledge in which bias or failure to include certain population can influence results. For example, many medicines that have been developed for heart disease have been tested mostly in men but not in women, and they tend to be less effective on the female population.

Even areas of knowledge which are not as directly involved with people, looking beyond your way of doing something can be very crucial. For example, data scientists chose what inputs to put into a machine, they could leave out data because they may find it unimportant or it may not fit their ideals. This ultimately creates bias in the way a computer program works and the results that it gives you.

All of this means that when finding new knowledge/ information, or even when analyzing preexisting facts, we take into account what is being neglected, who is benefiting from this knowledge, and who is being neglected and left behind. We must as ourselves what piece of the puzzle is hidden beyond the borders of our own knowledge and into the realms of things that may not be clear to us, but that others may be well aware of.

2. Sharing our knowledge

Sharing knowledge with the world can solve many problems. New technologies, the development of vaccines, or even something as simple as teaching a girl In a developing country how to read or add can create a change, both in a smaller and in global scales. The more knowledge we all have as humans, the easier it is to progress together by understanding the world, each other, and ourselves.

Ethics and the philosophies used to create them, from Kant to Locke to Rawls to Eastern philosophies, are widely based on benevolence, justice, peace, and order. There can be none of these things in a world where there is ignorance and lack of information to make the best possible decisions. It is therefore our responsibility as human beings, and as citizens of the world to share knowledge to everyone, and to recognize the complexity and ambiguity of the world . This is not only for the benefits of others, but also for ourselves, because we never know what me may learn or gain when we share.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Flat like a pancake: let's talk about curves

Quotes of the day

"Out of nothing, I have created a strange new universe."
- Janos Bolyai

"It's not what you look at that matters. It's what you see."
-Henry David Thoreau

Flat like a pancake: let's talk about curves

Oooooohh do we get to talk about VS models or Kim K's (recently hidden) butt today? Or better yet, can we talk about Kylie Jenner's recent photos with Tyga? Ha! No... but we do get to talk about something even more deceptive (and probably way cheaper) than her half empty lip kits all of the YouTube makeup gurus have been ranting about. Today we are talking about.... MATH!!!

* crowd booing and throwing tomatoes*

I'm sorry... have I deceived you? Well guess what? So have all your math teachers! About what? you may ask... well... lots of things... but today, we will be taking about parallel lines.

Apparently... they aren't a thing... ╮(O_o)╭

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When we were first told this in TOK, I was so confused. I mean, you're telling me that those things I've been (painfully) graphing since junior high aren't real? Well... it's actually a lot more complicated than that. They do exist... but they don't

If we define parallel lines as two lines that never intersect, this is possible in a completely flat surface, like, say, a sheet of paper. If you drew two perfectly straight lines on a flat sheet of paper, they would never touch, even if the paper went on forever and ever.

But imagine a spherical surface, like say a beach ball, or planet earth. Pick any two points on the beach ball, call them point A and point B. Now imagine drawing a "straight" line passing through them(which will be curved because the surface of the baseball is curved, and thus called a "great circle"). Now, extend that straight line so that it surrounds the whole beach ball.

Now, draw another line, parallel to the line that passes through points AB. In order for it to be parallel, there must be a perpendicular line that creates a 90-degree angle when it intersects both lines. Make the parallel line surround the whole beach ball, and you will find that eventually, the lines that were once parallel, will, in fact, touch.

Crazy right? Especially because it's something so simple , that we see every day in things such as models of the earth, but we don't really think about them.

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Also, because in a sphere two parallel lines can intersect, it is also possible to have a triangle with more than 180 degrees.



There's also another type of geometry called hyperbolic which is exactly the opposite of spherical geometry, and in which triangles have less than 180 degrees and parallel lines get farther away from each other, but I think we've had enough math for today.

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So.... why does any of this matter?

It matters because it teaches us that, in the real world, not everything is perfect. The world is full of curves and bends, and answers are never really cookie cutter, one size fits all. This means that we can't just stick to one single idea to fix the deepest problems in society. We must instead realize that as crazy and weird as certain ideas may seem, and as uncomfortable as they may make us, they could be right. It is up to us to open our minds and try to understand where others are coming from. After all, not even the most perfect pancakes are really flat.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Quotes of the day:
"The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don't tell you what to see." -Alexandra K. Trefor
"Never Stop learning, because life never stops teaching." - Unknown

Reflective Writing: How Does One Teach? (For Dummies) 

What is one career that I would never pursue in my life? If you were to ask me this question a couple of years ago, the first thing that would come to my mind would be a teacher. Today, I would probably say a basketball player (ew! sports). But, what made me change my mind?  Why is it that two years ago I would have rather been a basketball player than a teacher, even though I suck at basketball and would have p[robably been broke and/ or unemployed?  Over the years, I've come to realize that a good teaching job does not only depend on how good the teacher is,  but also how good the pupils are towards the teacher. I have come to realize from taking AP and IB classes full of nerdy students eager to learn, that teachers learn as much from the students and the students do from the teachers. It is a teacher's job to open up the minds of his/her students, as well as open up their own minds to brand new possibilities on how the world works and how things could be different. From getting a first-hand experience at teaching, I learned the following three simple things about teaching and how it impacts my learning: 

1. Teaching (and therefore student learning) depends as much on the student as it does the teacher

My group and I worked really hard on preparing an interesting, engaging lesson on how emotion impacts learning. It was packed with videos and discussion questions and even a really neat picture activity. However, none of the lessons would have been interesting to the TOK class if we had not found a good way to make sure the students were participating and paying attention to what we were talking about.

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There is a poster that many of my teachers have posted in their classrooms. It says: "The teacher opens the door, but you must choose to enter it." It is true that the responsibility of paying attention and participating in class falls directly on the student. However, I learned from teaching that it is also the responsibility of the teacher to create ways for students to keep engaged and want to participate in the lesson, even of the students are shy or don't feel too comfortable speaking in class.

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The way we did this was through origami, yes, origami (I have a weird obsession with it). We made these origami paper birds, each of them was a different color. Each student chose their own origami bird at the beginning of class, but what they didn't know was that by choosing a paper bird, they also chose to answer a random discussion question that was assigned to the bird's color. For example, the kid that chose the black paper bird had to answer the last question, which said: "what are some pros and cons of learning with emotion?" This pushed a few students that were shy and quiet to participate in the lesson. It also made them pay attention to what our group was talking about, as they didn't know when their question was going to come up for discussion.

I realized from doing this that when more students participate, there is a more diverse set of opinions that allow for students to learn from each other and have new ideas. This is very good because often times, teachers seem to only be teaching to a set group of students that participate, and the rest of students are simply there, and their ideas aren't shared to everyone else.

2. You learn more when you teach 

Because of the fact that I had to figure out how to explain specific things to many different kinds of learners, I had to really understand what I was talking about and what I was trying to get across. I also had to understand which information was the most important in order to organize my time teaching. In addition, student participation and personal experiences gave me new ideas as to how emotion impacts learning. All of the students that were in my group understand more about emotion than the students that were not in my group, just like students in other groups know about the topics they taught to the class more than we do.

3. Teaching is not easy

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Finally, I saw first-hand something that I had already learned, and that is, teaching is just not easy. Not only do you have to worry about all the students understanding the material, but you also have to worry about them being engaged and wanting to learn more. I learned with emotion that you retain the information that you seem to be happier with, or that you find more engaging, but students have a very short attention span, and often times you find yourself depending on the few students that pay attention and participate to keep the class interesting. Also, it is hard to explain complex topics in a fun and entertaining way. For example, it was kind of hard for some students to grasp some of the ideas on how the brain worked, and no matter how much we tried to explain, some of them just did not seem very interested on the hippocampus or the hypothalamus. I wish we would have found a way to explain that better or make it more engaging, but at least we got the students to understand the main idea right?

Sometimes when you teach you have to make a sacrifice as to what information the student retains. Not every student learns the same, and not every student will understand the same material with the same amount of effort. However, what makes a good teacher is the ability to make the student want to learn more, and make the student understand most of the material and make educated inferences from both what they learn, what they already know, and what their peers know. I would honestly love to do this activity again, as I learned a lot from it. I learned to be open-minded and to look at my class as a whole, with each individual having a unique mind that had something special to contribute.