June 23, 2008

School-Year-End Reflection

I have grown quite a bit this year. At five feet tall, that growth was not physical, but as a person. I've met so many people this past year, and I've been lucky enough to learn and communicate with them. The majority of my learning this year took place outside of the classroom. I've discovered twitter, and I've read so much through the blogs in my PLN. It's all a bit mind-boggling really. You just start talking and then all of a sudden you have connections as close as across the river and as far as the other side of the world. I'm in shock every day.

This year has also taught me to be more confident in myself. I've always been quiet (not to be mistaken with shy), so finding my own voice is quite a challenge. Every year I speak up a bit more! Being an analytical person, I also analyzed absolutely everything I said and worried about if it made the right impression or if perhaps it could have been misunderstood and on and on. Okay, I still analyze most everything, but I don't worry about it so much. I own what I say.

Tandem with my own opinion of myself is others'. Yes, I still care what people think (That's not a bad thing - you should care) but not enough to change myself. That's where people go wrong, when they try to change who they are to please other people. You should know what people think, and you should care about and respect their opinions, but don't let them affect you. Strangely, my personal advancements in this area came from a haircut. Earlier in the school year, I decided to chop off quite a bit of my hair and dye it orange. Bright orange. So I did. Well, the hairdresser did. It was a fairly drastic change, and having to deal with reactions to my hair forced me to own myself.

I guess it's been a big year for personal growth. What with Prozdor (Hebrew school continued) and all the above, and my ILP (explained in greater detail in another post perhaps), and my sudden addiction to Twitter and various other online tools, it's been a pretty good year. For the more schooly things, hmmm. I learned a couple new tenses in Spanish (whoo hoo!), I made some cute Othello puppets in English, World War 1 was actually discussed in History class, and the teachers at SLA are amazing, as always.

Clay Burell wrote how "teachers need positive feedback more than you realize," so here's a shout-out to all of my wonderful teachers:

  • Chase: You know I love you, and you can get all of us involved and caring like no other. The Change the World project really helped me improve my research and writing skills, so even when I complained that I was repeating myself and didn't know what else to write about, I found something.
  • VK: My mother says that we're too alike. Anyway, thank you for letting me help with the schedule, and I really do love alphabetizing. And thanks for putting up with me. I know I wasn't the best student....
  • Baird: Your patience is much appreciated, though sometimes I really do just think that you should whack some people over the head. I am constantly amazed at all of the primary source resources you find and share with us. They're fascinating.
  • Ms. Kelley: Bueno..... :D I think I understand the subjunctive! Somehow you managed to get us back on topic most of the time. We applaud.
  • Best: The chemical benchmark was a good one. It was interesting to see all the ways that we're killing ourselves. Anyways, your sarcasm and music is appreciated.
  • Kay: You know our drama class is the best (What fer they kill our baby?). Your presence is noticeable, even to students, and we really do appreciate that. We like a sense of order. I can say confidently that I have improved in drama this year, and that is because you are a good teacher, and you push us. Thank you.
  • Mr. Scaer: I look forward to seeing you again next year. You are really passionate about music, and it shows (Are there any more Songlines cds? They're really good.).
  • Lehmann: Lehmann, Lehmann, Lehmann. What to say? You're all-around amazing. So is your couch. We love you and it.
  • Ms. Tioanda: Ballroom... we'll miss you! And we'll continue to dance. I got a tango record.

It's been a long year. And I can't wait until September.

In other news, 33 days until my 16th birthday, and 51 days until the Folk Festival.

June 2, 2008

Confirmation is.....uhh....what?

This year I attended Prozdor, the confirmation class, at my synagogue. Yes. Confirmation. I had no idea before this year that there is such a thing as Jewish confirmation, but apparently there is. Go figure.

Anyways, we each had to write an essay about our Jewish identity. Something along those lines. So, I thought I'd post my essay here.

In my world history class, we’re studying the Holocaust. The only difference between me and my classmates (none of whom are Jewish) is that I’ve learned about it already. Throughout my life, I’ve been indifferent to my religion. Yes, I’m Jewish, but it didn’t mean much besides celebrating different holidays than most people around me. I fasted on Yom Kippur, and kept kosher for Passover. But, I did that as a test to my self-discipline, not because it meant anything symbolically, religiously.

My bat mitzvah was more proof of how secular I had grown up. I went to Hebrew school at the JCC, because my family did not belong to a synagogue. The education there was historical, not religious. We learned about the stories in the Torah, and the history of the Jews, in events such as the Holocaust. We attempted to learn a bit of Hebrew one year, and I was one of about three of us who managed to solidly learn the aleph-bet. Beyond that, nothing. When it came to for my bat mitzvah, the synagogue we had joined a year ago refused to schedule me for a bat mitzvah, because I had not attended their Hebrew school. The politics of Judaism and synagogues made my bat mitzvah thoroughly unenjoyable.

Before it appears that I dislike Judaism, there are many aspects of being Jewish that I believe are lovely. The ritual of placing stones on graves is calming. Flowers can be garish, and they wilt. Stones last for millions of years and you can hold them in the palm of your hand. Jews will also readily accept anyone in to a group and make them feel welcome, perhaps due to the group prayer. In synagogue, people are not islands of prayer, but rather one whole ark. Voices join together in reciting prayers, and we are a community. One more voice is welcomed.

Being Jewish can affect my decisions as well. Next year, I will be starting to learn a third language. Hebrew is in my top two choices, because I am Jewish. If I were not, I would not have a desire to learn Hebrew. It isn’t widely spoken, and the main Hebrew-speaking country is halfway around the world and always in a war. However, I have a strong desire to learn Hebrew. I want to know what I’m saying on the rare Saturday morning I attend synagogue. I want to put a name to Jewish values. I want to understand what I’m singing when I listen to songs in Hebrew.

But my newfound interest in Judaism (for that’s what it is) is partially fueled by history class, and learning about the Holocaust. Isn’t there more? When Jewish history is mentioned, it is always either the Torah, or the Holocaust. I want to know what happened in between those times, and then after the Holocaust. That’s never taught. 9th grade history curriculum in Philadelphia is African-American history. We learned about African-Americans from ancient times up until the present, all-encompassing. I want to learn about Jewish history like that, not just as like we currently do. “Well, Jews existed before the Holocaust, and then Hitler tried to wipe them all out, and then there were fewer Jews, but they still existed. The end.” It’s not the end, and it starts in the middle.

There’s still so much to learn. I attended Prozdor to start to learn, and I have. Prozdor, for me, was Introduction to Jewish Values. I’ve puzzled over whose blood is redder, and I’ve learned that the most valuable gift is one that is blind on both ends. But, it’s just a beginning, and I hope to keep studying and learning about Judaism after being confirmed.