This is the final assignment of this great year in English. I hope that you enjoy it and give use to the information in it.
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Think about it, what small thing happened today, just today, that you didn’t stop to take notice of? What if something happened that you overlooked, that could’ve been a lot more important than you realized?
It’s the small things in life that matter. Sure, we all have big events that are easily memorable. But it’s the series of little things that serve as the glue in between the big events that truly add depth and meaning to our lives.
That’s what my eighth grade experience has been. A series of small things that brought about an evolution from a person that’s dreaded writing since I’ve know my ABCs, to somebody that is thinking about writing professionally, or at least teaching writing.
How exactly did this profound shift of mind happen? Was there some huge “Aha!” moment where I suddenly woke up and realized I wanted to be a writer? Hardly, quite the opposite indeed. It happened slowly, as some people would call “baby steps.” It actually didn’t even start with that first step into 8th Grade English class. It started in my last unit of Integrated Studies – Poetry. But that unit didn’t last too terribly long, not even long enough for our teacher to get into the mechanics of poetry. I suppose poetry is not exactly at the top of the list of fun things to read for the typical middle school boy.
Summer came and I took a long break from writing anything. Looking back, when it came to our first assignments in 8th Grade English, I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than getting the assignments done. I kept going on through the Fall Term, constructing paragraph after paragraph. Broad Theme, Narrow Theme, One/Two Punch, Smoking Gun, Head and Heart, Get Out or Get On! These became household words as I cranked out each rubric. All the while failing to see the small things that were leading me through this writing metamorphosis.
And now, I’m sitting in my kitchen writing my final exam. That’s how fast life goes by and how much you can change in nine months. So much has happened.
This past weekend, I was listening to one of my favorite bands, The Killers. One of their songs, Mr. Brightside, reminded me of how small things can turn into something huge. The song is about a man who thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him, but he also isn’t sure it isn’t just his imagination getting the best of him. The lyrics in one of the song’s refrains are:
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
it was only a kiss
it was only a kiss.
He’s referring to how his relationship started with a small thing, and how it has now taken over his life completely, to the point of obsession. This is similar to how my writing started with that kiss of poetry, and has evolved into a passion.
Later that same day, probably with the song still stuck in my head, I sat down to complete an assignment for English. We were told to write down 20 different memories from our eighth grade year. I struggled at first to remember all the way back to the first day of school, but once I got going, I jotted down a few things pretty quickly. I listed memories of things that I hadn’t even thought about when they happened. I remembered the good and the bad, some of which caused feelings of emotion that almost brought me to the brink of tears. Almost.
But when I counted up my memories I noticed that I only had fifteen. The first thought that came to my mind was that not that much worth remembering happened in my 8th Grade year at Fenn. But then I realized that there were a ton of things I hadn’t remembered at that time as I was rushing through life and just trying to get through the year. I didn’t stop to remember the small things. I should’ve, but I didn’t. That realization helped me to complete the assignment. In the metacognition that was also a part of the assignment, it hit me. I would do my essay on the importance of the small things in life that create memories. As I wrote in my metacognition:
Small things that can easily not even get noticed, and too quickly forgotten. The small things like talking with friends and sharing memories with those friends. Even having a tough time can be fun, when you look back at them, and seeing how stupid you were or how stupid the other person was.
Like Mr. Brightside, I’m also finding that relationships can make you think about the small things. The other day, my girlfriend was able to come to our track meet. She’s a runner, and some of her classmates from Nashoba Brooks were competing too, but she is coming back from an injury and couldn’t run this Spring. So it was special to me that she was able to come to the meet. I’m sure it was hard for her, being an athlete and not being able to run!
I collapsed next to her after running a 400 meter leg in a relay, gasping for air. She and I just sat there for a little bit while I regained my wind, talking about our week. And I notice something. She cared that I had a really rough math test that day. If I were to talk to most of my friends about the test, they’d most likely just tell me “tough luck,” and go on with their day. To her, the small things that we can connect over actually matter. And when she told me about a classmate of hers freaking out in her school, it mattered to me. When someone cares about you, whether it’s a parent, a teacher, a good friend, someone that you’re in a relationship with, or even a family pet, it feels like you have a whole army behind you.
As I think back, I remember many times in my life where I’ve had to appreciate the small things. I remember back in fourth grade, the head of lower school started to call out names of boys who held the door and acted politely. This fueled a passion for holding doors open for my grade. That memory makes me want to have a little contest for all the school’s divisions so that people don’t just go through life not appreciating things to the fullest.
I remember small things about my old school in Connecticut. The cobblestones in the courtyard that could jump up and trip you if you weren’t paying attention. The colors at lunch that we had to choose from to have a complete plate.
But mostly, I remember the different assignments that I’ve had this year in several of my classes that have each played a small role in bringing about this awakening in me about writing. I remember the first hero cycle, which I did on the movie The Karate Kid. I remember the reflections on The Odyssey and the Epic Poem. I remember the endless blog and journal posts. I even remember how I didn’t get as good a grade on an essay on Animal Farm as I had hoped, because I used what the teacher described as a narrative style that was distracting. Maybe I would have fared better with that style in English class. It didn’t fly in Social Studies. And writing reports for Lab Science required a different reflective writing style altogether.
So as I finish 8th Grade and begin 9th Grade, and then high school, I’ll try to pay attention to the small things that continue to contribute to my passion for writing. I’ll try to view them less as individual assignments and more as collective opportunities to express myself and build my portfolio.
Because small things happen often enough in your life. Small things add up. And when they do, it’ll feel like your life is far richer than you probably realize. If you just take the time to notice them.
Here's the song that I had talked about in my last podcast. My group spent some time on it and I really hope that you enjoy!
Here is a podcast of my reflection on creating a song, or really doing any group activity. I give tips and tricks to help when doing a project like these. Hope you find them helpful.
The song itself will follow once Winslow, Adam and I finish it.
You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, “Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!”
--Dave Barry (author)
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a dog. I’ve looked into my dogs eyes and tried to read what he was thinking about. What exactly is going on in that pint-sized brain? Is it chew toys, food, or is it something deeper? I’ve always wondered if we’ve always been wrong and that dogs aren’t all that dumb. I’m not saying that dogs are smarter than humans and are plotting to take over the world. I’m just wondering if dogs are smarter than we assume.
Although I don’t know what dogs are thinking about I know what they’re not thinking about: worries. Dogs might as well have they’re life narrated by Bob Marley because dogs don’t have to worry about a thing. Well, at least not the things humans worry about. They don’t have to worry about tests, homework, or school – this I envy. They just run around for half of the day doing hilarious stuff that you wish you got on camera, and sleep the other half. The fact that most dogs have a loving owner who will do anything for them must be great. They don’t have to worry about food, shelter, a warm place to sleep, or medicine. I know that if my dog Rocco were to all of a sudden become deathly sick I would skip school and give away everything I have to get him better.
The funny thing about dogs is how they’ve affected our culture. In a movie, if one of the supporting characters dies we don’t get all that sad. But if a dog dies you might as well just get to the store and buy all the tissues you can find. And when you’re crying, you’ll most likely feel a little wet nose start to nudge your hand. More than likely this will is your dog who seems to know exactly why you’re crying. This is another thing dogs could be thinking about – you. Because dogs are pack animals, they depend on their ability to sense their pack’s emotions. This means that when you or a family member is happy, your dog will want to play and jump around. When you’re sad they’ll try to love and embrace you. That’s what makes dogs such damn good family members.
As I’m writing this, I do realize that many dogs do have worries: shelter dogs. These dogs are abandoned by their families and found in the streets or places where they seek shelter, near death and starving. They have to worry about more things than most humans do, things like shelter, food, torture, and making it out of fight rings alive. These dogs need loving owners and a warm place to call home. Organizations like the Humane Society try to bring the plight of shelter dogs to the attention of the public, but people just keep torturing these poor animals. It needs to stop.
Anyway, back to the average dog’s happy life. Dogs are lucky to have some of the freedoms that they have, yet unlucky to not have a voice to be able to rid themselves of dogfights and animal cruelty.
I ate fiberglass insulation. It wasn't cotton candy like the guy said... my tummy itches.
Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
I know that this isn’t a very recent movie to be writing about, but last night I watched one of the stupidest, funniest, and dumbest movie ever, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
For those of you who are like me and living under a rock, I feel bad if you haven’t seen this movie or even heard what it’s about. Anchorman actually is a lot like other movies and is about as cliché as it gets. Guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets depressed, etc. But this movie adds in lots of hilarious jokes. Some you’ll find funny, and some you’ll just think are stupid as heck. Which, I guess, is the point of a comedy.
WARNING SPOILER ALERT
The whole plot of Anchorman is about an Anchorman, Ron Burgundy, who is described as the most loved man in San Diego. He works for the number one news team, Channel 4 News who are comprised of three other coworkers. Brian Fantana, Brick Tamland, and Champ Kind. One night, after being declared the number one news station, they all throw a party. That’s when Ron realizes that he’s lonely in life and he needs somebody to love besides his dog Baxter.
At this party he sees a beautiful blonde woman who he decides to go after. After a couple minutes of searching he catches up to her and talks to her. We find out that she is new to San Diego, and that she doesn’t know who Ron is. Ron’s stunned by this, and she rejects him.
After a couple minutes of plain silliness, Ron and friends go back to work and find out that the beautiful woman whose name is Veronica Corningstone, has started to work at the Channel 4 News station. The group of guys all try to ask her out. They all fail accept for Ron. Even though he has the worst plan out of the group, he somehow gets her to go on a “strictly business dinner.”
The dinner goes as Ron had planned it, if you know what I mean, and Ron and Veronica start to date. The outcome of this is that Ron’s friends start to spend less and less time with Ron, which strains their friendship.
Ron then is in his car eating a burrito when a biker drives beside him. Ron throws the burrito out his window and hits the biker, which causes a crash. Ron stops and goes up to the biker, who then asks Ron what he loves most in life. Ron replies that he loves Baxter, his dog. The biker picks up Baxter and punts him over the bridge that they were on. This sends Ron into a state of sadness that results in his missing his news show. Veronica takes his place, which Ron sees as disloyal. He ends up breaking up with Veronica, she says his hair looks stupid, he throws her over a desk, and they begin to fight. The fight is ended by the station manager and they go on with their jobs.
After this happens Ron and his friends decide to go to get some new suits. Brick, played by Fenn’s own Steve Carell, is a mentally challenged adult that leads them into an alley way, where they come across the rival Night Time News team. Then the rest of the local news teams come in, all sporting at least one famous actor. They have an all-out gang war with each other. Once the gang war is ended by the police they all go back to their separate news stations.
To get back at Ron for the fight, Veronica edits what will be put on the teleprompter for Rob. What she makes Ron say makes everybody in San Diego hate Ron. Ron is fired from his job and becomes depressed. His friends aren’t allowed to talk to him. Even a small girl says she is ashamed of him.
Now we fast forward three months, where Veronica is asked to take on the story of the Panda in the San Diego Zoo giving birth. She goes with her cameraman, and while she’s trying to get a good shot of the birth, one of the other Anchorman push her into the Kodiak bear exhibit. Since nobody can find her, Ed, the station manager, asks Ron to do the story and Ron takes it instantly. After cleaning up three months of grunge in 3 seconds, Ron heads to the zoo where he sees Veronica in the bear exhibit. He decides to save her and so do the rest of the friends. They all fight the bears until Baxter jumps in front of Ron, saving his life. Baxter and the bear have a conversation which results in the bears leaving Ron and gang alone.
Ron and Veronica get promoted to Worldwide News and they live happily ever after.
WHY COMEDIES ARE FUN
So, why do we enjoy movies like this? Why spend 90 minutes watching something with an unrealistic and predictable plot, off color humor, bad jokes and terrible acting and special effects?
Because it makes us laugh. And laughing helps us to feel good about the rest of what we do. Most of which is good, but some of which isn’t always fun.
Through low brow comedies, we put everything else aside, turn our brains half off, and just enjoy the moment. We learn catch phrases that we use over and over such as “I love lamp,” which Steve Carell utters in a not particularly funny way that we find funny just the same.
So, the next time you see someone at school that seems to be a little troubled, walk up to them and say “I love lamp.”
“Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.”
― Ben Carson
Today at school a writer by the name of David Yoo gave a “brief” snippet of his life. It was easy to understand what was going on in the stories that he told, but what was the message? He talked to us about how he didn't study, pretended to be something that he wasn't, and trying to break away from stereotypes. OK, I will say that last one was a good message, stereotypes shouldn't label people. But the other two aren't really things someone should be aspiring to do. Honestly the message I was getting as a 14 year old is let school take the back seat and put the social circle and sports as a priority if you want to be successful. But after a little bit of googling I found a NPR segment about him. What I found out was that he was trying to get us to not be like him and try to not go out of our way to disappoint our parents, as he did. This didn't really come through clearly in his presentation, so a lot of you might have felt as I did. It aggravated me quite a bit that I couldn't clearly find his message.
He didn’t even talk about writing until the very very very end. By then, I was not as intrigued as I was at the beginning of the lecture. Most of his stories were just about him gaining and losing friends or about his acting stupidly. His first story wasn’t even remotely relevant to writing, it was about him spying on some older kids, who eventually befriend him. Then, of course, he did something stupid and loses those friends. He didn’t just lose those friends he lost them in the matter of a couple hours.
The second story he told was a little bit interesting to me because it took place in a town near where I grew up, but was still really kind of pointless. In this story he was walking with some friends and one of them asked “Do you know Kung Fu?”
Mr. Yoo replied “Yes, in fact, I’m a master.”
Listening, to his story, I did a mental face palm and kept on listening. Yes, he was the victim of bigotry, and that's sad and wrong. He went on to make up a bunch of fake Kung Fu moves since he doesn’t actually know any, the boys laughed, and he realized that lying and making fun of yourself makes friends. I'm not sure that’s a great lesson to be teaching us, or to think that boys our age are going to really get the deeper meaning in the way he intended.
I’m just going to skip the third story since that was ranting about Asian stereotypes.
The fourth story had a better lesson, but not about writing. He fast-forwarded to high school where he had a respectable goal of putting on some muscle. He said that he had a very high metabolism rate so he stayed thin no matter how much he lifted. Then one day he in study hall he sat down next to the girl that he liked and she asked him “Have you been working out?”
He responded “Yes.”
Actually, he was wearing about five layers of clothing. This gave him an idea and he started wearing five layers every single day to impress other people. But this had some side effects. Whenever he had to take those layers off to play sports he would be paper thin. This earned him the the nickname of "Heartbeat" since people could see his heart beating since he was so thin.
In the ennd, I do get his message, but it wasn't really clear from the presentation itself. I had to do some outside research to actually find his meaning, and to me, that means he was a good speaker, but not effective.