Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sophmore Year-50% Complete

As we finish up our semester exams and shove our books under our beds until January 6th, undoubtedly everyone is ready for a break from school. These last few weeks have been pandemonium.

It is amazing to think that half of my sophomore year is over. In the last five months I have cheered at my very first high school football game, made it through marching band season without seriously injuring anyone with my flag (sorry Paige!), dealt with three AP biology teachers in the first month of school, and survived all of Mr. Sparks' Algebra II tests! And that doesn't even touch the social aspect of high school.

High School is much more fun than junior high. The freedom, opportunities, and people are all welcome changes. Our school offers so many extracurriculars that it's hard not to be busy. While the workload sometimes reaches ridiculous levels, I have yet to have a psychological breakdown.

I am actually a little sad thinking about how fast my high school experience is expiring. I watch as every day the milestones my friends and I dreamed of back in elementary school pass us by. I do not want to look back at this time in my life with any regrets, so I am going to continue to make the best of my sophomore year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Your Destiny

Do you believe in fate? The characters in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar do. Fate and superstition play integral roles in the development of the plot.

In the time of Caesar, the plebeians, commoners who were neither affluent nor educated, relied heavily on omens and augury to predict their futures. Believing that higher powers controlled every aspect of their lives, they felt that their free will had little effect on the ultimate outcome.

Shakespeare refers to all kinds of portents in his play. A soothsayer warns Caesar to "beware the Ides of March". Calphurnia, Caesar's wife, begs him to stay home from the Senate after dreaming of fountains flowing with Caesar's blood. Brutus is visited by the ghost of Julius. On the night the conspirators met to plan the assassination, nature presaged a catastrophe with its thunder, lightning, unusual animal sightings, and even earthquakes.

While some might argue that the Senators plotted of their own free will, who is to say that the conspiracy was not all a part of a grander scheme that entwined their fates with the tragic fall of the tyrannical Caesar?

Shakespeare might have been on to something. Is anything really of our own free will? Is it possible to truly control one's destiny?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A True Leader?

In Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, most of the characters are men hungry for political power. Caesar welcomed the idea of becoming an absolute dictator. The conspirators, excepting Brutus, envied Caesar's power and murdered him. After Caesar's fall, Mark Antony began plotting for more power.

Some believe that Antony's ability to sway an audience is a characteristic of a good leader. However, this is merely an oratorical skill. Mark Antony took over the podium after Brutus' speech, and took advantage of the people's shock and emotion to lead them to believe that all the conspirators were evil for ridding Rome of its leader.

Antony, sensing an opportunity for domination, knew that in the wake of Caesar's death, if he could persuade the common people that the conspirators were criminals, he could take over Rome. He merely used the citizens to climb the ladder of power.

Walt Disney once said, "Leadership means that a group, large or small, is willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgment, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence."

Antony did not show judgment, wisdom, or competence. He simply manipulated peasants to side with him in order to advance politically.

Many politicians today do the very same thing. Speaking eloquently with upbeat messages, sweeping generalities, and shameless propaganda, they win supporters by the thousands. While these orators have ultimate personal appeal, they are not always the honest, hard-working people we want leading our country.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Say What?

In my further reading of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, Habit 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood stands out in my mind. The gravity of this habit is clear; everyone wants to be understood. Most everyone desires someone to listen to his or her problems. Before you can fix another's problems, you must first listen and understand that person's feelings. Covey says that the problem with listening is that most people do not know how to listen. Common poor listening styles include spacing out when others speak, pretending to listen by commenting at pauses in the conversation, selectively listening to only part of the conversation, listening to words without noticing tone or body language, and listening in a self-centered manner.

Genuine listening requires a bit more effort. The first step is to listen with your eyes, heart, and ears. Only 7% of communication comes from the words spoken. Body language makes up 53%, and the tone in which words delivered account for the remaining 40%. You must listen to what a person is not saying to fully understand what they mean. Second, you should stand in the other person's shoes. People often think conversations are competitions. Since everyone has different backgrounds and points of view, more than one opinion in a situation can be correct. The third step in being a genuine listener is to practice mirroring, or repeating back in your own words what the other person is saying and feeling. The second part of this habit, seeking to be understood is harder. It takes courage to share your feelings with others. Feedback given correctly can also help others understand you and can be a deposit in the RBA, or relationship bank account. This habit made me wonder how much I have been missing in conversations by not taking the time to genuinely listen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Put First Things First

For my English class, I have begun reading the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. It is a sort of self-help book to assist teenagers in getting a hold on their hectic lives. So far, the habit that really hit home was Habit 3: Put First Things First. As most of us well know, the modern teenager is swamped. Between cheerleading, band, schoolwork, family, and friends, there is no down time! In Habit 2, I decided what the most important aspects of my life are. Habit 3 teaches me to prioritize and manage my time. This habit also talks about will-power, your ability to say yes to the important things, and won't power, your ability to refuse less important things and stand up to peer pressure.

In Habit 3 Covey speaks of the four time quadrants in which we spend our time: the procrastinator, the prioritizer, the yes-man, and the slacker. He believes that Quadrant 2: The Prioritizer is the quadrant we should aim for. Important, but not urgent things make up this quadrant. Activities of a prioritizer might include being with friends, relaxing, exercising, planning ahead, and doing homework on time. People who live in this quadrant have it all together; they are in control of their lives. I, an overly busy perfectionist, tend to live in Quadrant 1: The Procrastinator. Characteristics of a procrastinator include addiction to urgency, thriving under pressure, stress and anxiety, burnout, and mediocre performance. I am a prime example of a person living in Quadrant 1, putting off my English assignments until the night before they are due. After reading this habit, I think that Sean Covey's tips for spending more time in Quadrant 2 will really help me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recently, in my English class, we read the book The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. It is about a man who, through years of research and experimentation, actually turns himself invisible! It was an interesting book to say the least.

Science fiction is a unique genre. It is sometimes a person's perception and personal explanation for an unexplainable phenomena. Other times it becomes a fabricated story stemming from the depths of a human imagination. Science fiction authors take earthly knowledge, exaggerate or expand upon it in a futuristic or improbable way, and set a story in a realistic setting.

While works of this genre are entertaining, they are rarely based on any proven scientific fact and are definitely not to be taken seriously. When given serious thought, most ideas in science fiction are ludicrous!

Although I enjoy reading science fiction occasionally, it is not my favorite genre as it frequently contradicts logic and my religious beliefs.

Hail to the Chief!

I support Senator John McCain for the office of presidency of the United States. I have faith that as commander in chief of our nation, he will do whatever it takes to maintain the great standard of our country.
First of all, I admire the fact that McCain wants to finish the job in Iraq before recalling troops. I believe that this is the safest and most effective way to end the war. We started this war as a nation and we should carry it out to completion in demonstration of our strength.

Another issue I am quite concerned about is the recent downfall in our economy. I think that McCain showed true leadership and patriotism by putting his campaign on hold to go to work in Washington to try to solve the economic crisis. He put his country ahead of his personal gain.

I also believe that our education system is in serious need of reform. As Senator McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, mentioned in the vice presidential debate, the No Child Left Behind program needs more flexibility in its policies. Moreover, our nation's schools and educators need additional funding to improve test scores and literacy rates.

I wish Senator McCain the best of luck in the remainder of his campaign. I hope that this November he is the man making a victory speech.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Hero

Isabella is a beautiful, intelligent, strong young lady who battles injustices against her fellow women. Her civilian identity is a cheerleader for the Brown Haired Sweethearts competitive team. There, she is a member of a squad that has won nationals three years in a row and has placed second or third the last three years at worlds. Whenever she hears of a damsel in distress, she becomes Bella, the women's rights warrior. She fights for the equal treatment of women in the workplace and at home. One of Bella's recent battles was against Dr. Macho, who believed that female doctors are inferior. She changed his mind when she, a brain surgeon herself, altered his temporal lobe, reversing his opinion. Bella also fights for ladies in abusive relationships. Abusive husbands don't stand a chance when Bella comes around. She has been known to knock out offending men before carting them off to jail. Bella's most important role is as a spokesperson for the Women in Politics organization. She speaks out against male supremest ideas and promotes women for public office. Rumors fly that Bella might run for President, that is, if she's ready to turn in her pom-poms. I look up to Bella and hope that one day young girls will be as inspired by me as I am by her.