Summer Homework: Had Me a Blast

One of my favorite teachers of all time wrote a blog post this weekend questioning the effectiveness of assigning summer homework and it was amazing.  I suggest you all read it on his blog, The Readiness is All.  At the end, he asks readers to share their thoughts in a comment or blog post response.  In the beginning I was going to just leave a short comment and be on my way, but then I realized I had a lot more to say on the subject then would be courteous to leave in a comment.  So here I am, blogging about summer homework, two-week into school.  You would think my opinions would have died down after being in school for two weeks, but nope, I’m still really passionate in my displeasure about summer homework.

To start off, I have had summer homework in at least one class for the past three years.  This past summer was amazing because college doesn’t have required summer homework(that I know of.  Oh gosh, what if they do? Oh no.) and it was amazing.  It was sharply contrasted by my sister’s summer in which she had three books to read for freshman honors english.  Some might argue that the books weren’t super long or hard to read, but that isn’t the point.

The point is that she read all three books diligently and did not wait until the last-minute, but as the first day of school crept closer and closer, she got more and more stressed out.  Talk about nerve-racking! Imagine starting a new school for the first time, one where everyone is bigger than you and there are a bazillion people everywhere.  The stress of six new teachers, finding your classes, having somewhere to eat lunch, being able to find one’s friends in the sea of people, opening one’s locker…the list of stressors goes on and on. Then add the stress of an impending test and multiple essays to be done in class within the first week of school. Poor freshman, I did not want to be in her shoes.

The day before school started for her, I received probably 15 texts, 3 phone calls, and one long FaceTime call in which she was in tears, stressed about the test and essays.  She was so nervous that she would fail and her teacher would think she was stupid and a failure, and even worse, have him think she didn’t even read the book.  She had no idea what to expect except the teachers had given a list of nine essay prompts and said, “Be prepared to answer three of these in class on the first day of school.”  I counseled her and told her that it would be extremely rare for a teacher(especially of freshman) to give a test on the first day because people are getting lost, coming in late, finding their assigned seat, etc.  It just doesn’t work to give a test within those first fifty-six minutes.  She still wanted to be prepared, so she set to writing an essay answering each of the prompts.  She wrote three essays before I was able to convince her that if she felt that she needed to write the essays, to just write bullet points.  She was so stressed.

I know teachers don’t sit around all summer thinking up new ways to torture their students(if they do, that’s a bigger problem than one of summer homework).  So I would like to think that if they knew what summer homework put their students through, they might think twice about assigning it.  Now I know, the reason summer homework is assigned is so that the class can hit the ground running and cover more material in the course of the year.  There has only been ONE class that I have found this statement even partially true and the summer homework necessary.  That class was AP Biology.

In AP Bio, we had four chapters to go over and do activities for on our own over the summer.  It was all review from regular biology, which was a prerequisite so everyone completing the summer homework had taken it, AND we went over it all in class, so if anyone had questions they could get them answered.  The only reason summer homework was assigned in the first place was that the AP test requires so much material to be covered, that one must start in the summer, just to have the time to cover all the required material adequately.  Which is a whole other problem in itself. Why design a test in which all material cannot be covered within the school year?  Oh well, that will have to be a completely separate blog post. The summer homework is justified in the extremely high pass rate that our school has on the AP Biology test.

What I don’t understand is assigned reading for English classes.  And not to bash on the English department at my school; I enjoyed every English class I was in, but I still don’t understand the purpose of the summer reading homework they assign.  I can only come up with two plausible reasons as to why summer reading homework would be assigned.

Reason One: The teachers want to scare of the faint of heart(in an academic sense).  They don’t want to deal with students who don’t want to do the level of work required of a higher level English course. I don’t blame them.  There have been many a time when I have been in class frustrated because some of my classmates did not want to put in the effort and work required of the class, thus unfortunately sometimes bringing the entire class down. I love being in a class with all academic thinking students just as much as a teacher like teaching one.  When everyone is participating and putting something into the class, it transforms the class; discussions flow freely, group projects are no longer a pain, and the positives can go on forever.  But I’m not so sure that assigned summer reading is going to solve that problem.

In fact, in assigning summer reading, one is more likely to scare away those students who are on the fence between excelling in a regular level English class and being challenged in an honors or AP class.  You won’t scare away the students who are forced by their parents to take the upper level course, just to get into a “good college”.  They will just read Sparknotes and take whatever grade they get on the first tests, because they don’t really care.  You won’t scare away those kids that are naturally smart, but have no desire to put any effort into the course. All who get scared away are the timid ones, those unsure about their academic strength, but willing to put in the effort to get to that next level if needed.

Reason Two: Summer reading is important because it helps classes to cover more books in a year, which ultimately helps students on the AP Literature test as they will have more books to choose from when they are writing their free response essays.  I’m pretty sure no teacher can wholeheartedly say this and believe it one hundred percent.  No student in May of their senior year is going to recall a book they read over the summer before freshman year enough to write a fully developed essay on it.  For one, it is highly likely that after reading that book over the summer, they took a test on it and never discussed it again.  Which ultimately won’t help them on the AP test, because on the test one is required to examine the book on a deeper level than just knowing what the book was about.  Class discussion of a book help set those themes in stone in a student’s mind, so that they can, hopefully, recall them when necessary.  Also, speaking solely from my personal experience taking the AP Literature test; you read enough of a variety of books senior year that you can answer just about any prompt and relate it to one of the books read that year quite easily.

There are some many things students can do during the summer that would be way more worthwhile and thought-provoking than summer homework.  I could list them out, but I think you get the picture.  (If you need an idea of what I’m talking about, check out my previous blog post about what I did this summer!)

Just an example of one of the great things students could be doing instead of summer homework-enjoying the sunset!
Just an example of one of the great things students could be doing instead of summer homework-enjoying the sunset!

In conclusion, I am going to echo the wise question of Mr. Theriault; why is summer homework still being assigned?  If you have an answer, or see a reason for keeping it that I haven’t thought of, feel free to comment below!

Advertisements

Gluten Free Culinary Perfection

Ever since day one, my family and I have had almost weekly dinner with our family friends(more like family) that live four houses down the street from us.  The meals are sometimes more elaborate, and sometimes its a “whatever we can make with what’s in both fridges” dinner.  Either way, the food is always great and I always look forward to it.

I can’t even count the times where we have called our family friends or vice versa and said, “Hey! We’re trying a new recipe tonight, would you like to join us for dinner?”  (I’m pretty sure normal people don’t invite people over for dinner when they are cooking a new recipe, just saying.)  The fun thing is that whenever we try a new recipe; there is always the possibility that we will have to call for pizza, and we are all willing to take that risk. In all my years of eating these creations, I can’t remember a night where the dinner has been so terrible that we actually have called for pizza.  That being said, this environment has always encouraged me to try new recipes, and wing it, even if you don’t have all the ingredients and are under a little pressure.

Over the weekend, my grandpa came down to visit and attend my sister’s soccer game.  We all completely forgot that he had recently(within the past two weeks) become officially gluten intolerant, and didn’t remember until he said, “This is amazing! It’s the first bread I have had in two weeks!” when we made him a sandwich.  He ate the sandwich, thinking it would be okay just for that meal, but it didn’t go over so well.  He told us what he had been eating and how much he was missing noodles and toast, and especially cookies.  He LOVES homemade cookies.  He wasn’t even aware that they made gluten-free substitutes for bread and noodles, and was blown away that I could make him some gluten-free cookies.

I, being the extremely resourceful person I am, googled some recipes, found a promising one, went to Sprout’s for the gluten-free ingredients, and embarked on a gluten-free cookie journey.

The reviews I read for this recipe were all very good, and praised it.  My goodness, I followed the recipe to a T and I ended up with gloppy, crinkly, soft, and gooey cookies that wouldn’t even come off the cookie sheet.

It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie.
It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie. The rest was only fit for ice cream toppings and/or immediate sampling.  Needless to say, there were several cookie fatalities that night.

 

I finally got so frustrated with it that I stuck the remainder of one sheet back in the oven to hopefully crisp up and be easier to remove while still maintaining the cookie shape.  Meanwhile, I ranted to my mother about school, checked Facebook, lamented the sad state of my cookie disaster, looked at another recipe-realizing I forgot to pick up half the ingredients, made an entire new batch of cookies after tweaking the recipe, got them all set up on the cookie sheet, turned on the oven, took a picture of my kitchen mishap, and finally looked at the oven to see why it was seemingly taking forever to heat up.  And this is what I found…

My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(
My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(

I have never, ever, burnt ANYTHING this badly. EVER.  It was terrible.  I burnt everything so much that the chocolate chips were crummy.  Boy was I frustrated.  I don’t really like failing at things I normally excel at.  Like I have said in earlier posts, I don’t mind failure, knowing that failure is the only way to learn, but seriously, I have been making cookies since I was old enough to be in the kitchen with my mom.  Thinking back on it, I think I was more frustrated that my cookie pride was hurt, not really that I had “failed”.  It wasn’t a complete failure as the undercooked ones tasted good, but just didn’t hold their shape.

Being my hardworking and stubborn self, I wasn’t going to let these cookies have the best of me, I put the newly altered recipe batch in the oven and watched them like a hawk.  The reward was SWEET REDEMPTION, both literally and figuratively.

Much Better
Much Better

Lesson learned, just like Aunt BethAnn has always said, don’t ever be afraid to make a dish, based on how it will turn out or how it did turn out; you can always order pizza and try again another time.

Professional chefs have had their share of meal mishaps and burnt food, and look where they are now.  Maybe burnt food and mishaps are just a step in the right direction towards culinary perfection.

Anyway, I almost forgot to include the recipe(the one I changed).

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 9-11 minutes

Total Time: 26 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups of your favorite GF all purpose baking/flour substitute
  • 1 teaspoon guar gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for chocolate mint chip cookies, use 1 teaspoon peppermint extract)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) gluten-free chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375° F / 190° C

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Add butter and beat on high until combined. Add extract and beat briefly. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (optional).

For 1 dozen large cookies use a 2 tablespoon (1/8 cup) ice cream scoop or drop heaping tablespoons of dough on prepared baking sheets.

For 2 dozen small cookies use a 1 tablespoon ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon.

Bake in preheated oven for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are crisp on edges and slightly soft in the middle. Cool on baking sheet.

Thank Goodness, We are not God

This blog post is a great way to talk about something that is so prevalent in both Christianity and the world today. I struggle with mentally categorizing people based off of a partial and fleeting view of them, instead of having a conversation with them to learn about who they are. But like many have said, hindsight is always 20/20. I loved Willow’s reply to my comment in which she said, “I need to be reminding myself more that I’m not God, apparently.” Isn’t that so true? How often do we go about judging others like books by their covers, when we have absolutely no right to. She is right, none of us are God, so let’s leave His job to him, as He does a darn good job. I mean it’s not like He created AND saved the world or anything. I think we can trust Him to do his job.

Reblogged from http://thephariseeinme.wordpress.com

Affluenza…You’re Kidding, Right?

This past week in Texas, a 16-year-old boy was sentenced to 10 years probation and a stay in an alcohol rehab center in Newport Beach.  What did he do, you ask?  This past June he and a couple of friends stole beer from a nearby grocery store, went out and got drunk at a party, and then sped off in his truck, only to get in a car accident and kill four people.

CNN Video News Coverage

See the full news article at http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/11/us/texas-teen-dwi-wreck/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

He took four lives and he got ten years probation; no jail time at all.  How does that work?  He was charged with four counts of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.  His defense team did the unexpected.  They argued that it wasn’t the boy’s fault, in fact, it was his parent’s fault because they had not set boundaries and limits for him and he was too accustomed to life as an affluent member of society.  Really?  A psychologist that argued for the defense said he suffered from “affluenza”.  What affluenza is, I can only guess.

 GUESS ONE: the illness of being to affluent

GUESS TWO: like dementia, but for wealthy people when they forget that laws and rules still apply to them

GUESS THREE: a highly contagious disease that infects young, wealthy people, who have grown up with parents who stink at parenting

So what I’m hearing them saying is that because of poor parenting, this boy, who was perfectly capable of making decisions on his own, gets off basically Scot free, because he never “knew” that rules apply to him?   Or is it because he has money and is affluent that he got off so easy, compared to the 20 years that at stake?  Dare I suggest that the case might have turned out different had the boy not been white?

The sad part is that our judicial branch has strayed so far from the way the Founding Fathers wanted it, and has been for so long, that as infuriating as this case is; it doesn’t really surprise me.  We have seen for a long time that, even though it shouldn’t, money can get you out of most anything.  How else do Lindsay Lohan and many of the other celebrities that  are always getting in trouble, stay out of jail?  The bottom answer, under all the courthouse jargon, is money, pure and simple.  Money is power.  And power can keep you protected from a lot of things.

I honestly can’t even suggest a possible solution to this problem, we are so deep into this black hole of corruption that we have dug.  All I can say is, it stinks.  I’m sure all the friends and family of the four people killed in the accident would agree that it is awful when you lose someone close to you because of someone else’s careless mistake.  But it is like a slap in the face and fresh lemon juice on a cut, to have the person who made the mistake not have to take ownership over his mistake, because he has too much money.  I bet that feels pretty darn terrible.

Failure is…Fun?

For the past three and a half years, I have been a cross-country and long distance track runner.  Running is basically all I know how to do well, sport wise.  I can throw a baseball, play soccer, and fumble my way through other sports, but I for sure do not excel at them.  Running, for me, is and was an escape, and it was something I was good at.

Unfortunately, I was too strong-willed and stubborn and made decisions that got me injured both at the end of my sophomore and junior year.  Sophomore year, I ran through a stress fracture and at the end of season had to take two months off.  Junior year, I injured my back before season even started.  I was out for five and a half months.  I learned a ton from these injuries, but that is a long story for another post.

Last Tuesday, I stopped running on cross-country and long distance track.  It was a huge step for me, because my team had become my family and my whole friend base.  Going into high school, I knew three people in the entire 3,650 student body.  Basically, I knew no one.  But once I joined cross-country, I knew and was friends over 200 people.

This post isn’t going to be what you think: a memory filled, sob story.  It’s about what I learned in the week after stopping.  Now, I didn’t stop entirely, I just moved events.  It feels like I am on a whole new team, playing a whole new sport, because I don’t practice with my old teammates anymore, but I’m still on the track team and so are they.  The only difference is now I’m a jumper and not a distance runner.  I choose to change events because my body couldn’t handle the high mileage of distance running any longer and it needed a break, but I wasn’t ready to give up all together.

This past week, I re-learned that one must fail in order for greatness to appear.  I failed on so many levels this week, but its okay because it is part of the curve of learning something new.  I had fun failing! Now, think about it, how many people can say that?

My favorite failure by far has to be weight room.  Distance runners at my school DO NOT lift any weights.  Picture the most scrawny arms you can imagine, got the image?  This week I failed at chin ups, dips, power cleans, and basically anything that we did that involved upper body strength.

We were doing chin ups from a dead hang (straight arms while hanging on to the bar).  We had a bungee to put one leg in and my friend had just flown through her sets, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard right?  Boy, was I wrong.  It took every ounce of concentration I had to pull my body up an inch from where it started.  And I still had at least a foot to go to even be near the bar.  Talk about weak and embarrassing.

Failing was fun this week, because I am challenging myself to do new things and break out of my comfort zone.  I look forward to the days when I have learned enough so I no longer fail everyday, but for now I’m okay and enjoying my failures. What about you?  How are you challenging yourself and enjoying the “failing” that comes with it?

success 2