Dear Now

Truth No. 5: Tomorrow is not far away.

Dear Self,

Semester one is almost over, and you’re already dying. Seriously. Not cool. Get yourself together, because in a week and a half you’ll be done with your midterms and you know what? Sure, you have to put up with Ms. Redd for another five and a half months, but you’ve already put up with her for four and a half months. You’ve survived. And sure, she had the nerve to lie to your face two days ago and sure, she’s a creepy stalker and absolutely the worst teacher you have ever met, but look: during the remainder of your life, you’re going to have to deal with much, much worse.

Honestly, you have way more important things to deal with right now. Like the fact that for Latin you need to translate an Engish song into Latin. Or the fact that you need to graph a conic section monster for math. Or the fact that you have a global project due the day after tomorrow, and you’ve done practically nothing. Seriously, all you have right now are three books to read (because you haven’t actually read them yet) and a posterboard on which you spent five hours painting a Cartesian plane. You should really learn how to prioritize.

And yes, I agree. Semester two is going to be awful. Five more months with Ms. Redd when the situation has been slowly deteriorating? Gym twice a week? Science bowl, Biology Olympiad, speech competitions, AMC, FRC, and basically every other competition you’re entering this year? Competitions are fun and all, but they’re really time-consuming. Also, in order to do well, you actually need to work. Hard. Get your act together, and remember:

Midterms come. Midterm go. And after that, there’s always tomorrow.

In preparation for the new semester I’ve gotten myself a fourteen file expandable folder to help organize my stuff. A few days ago I received a package in the mail containing snacks and love and stationary and happiness from an aunt in Korea. I also got an ARC of The Office of Mercy, which seems fairly interesting despite its disastrous cover. I’ll post a review here as soon as I get around to finishing the book.

And really, this semester has gotten to me in a lot of ways. So many of my classmates have dissolved into crying fits these past several months because of grades, teachers, and life. But still, I’m really happy for two of our robotic mentors for getting into Harvard and our science bowl captain for qualifying for the International Mathematics Olympiad. I baked some awesome pasta today, and that made me proud. It’s so easy to forget the good stuff amidst all the troubles and intense emotional exhaustion that comes of being an angsty teen who sleeps less than five hours a day, but hey–that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

I love you, you know that? I love you in the way that one needs to be loved when they’re being smothered by exams and projects and expectations and devastations; I love you in the way that everyone deserves to be loved, just for being who they are.

And maybe, just for a moment, think about your English teacher too. She can’t have had life too easy, and sure she’s an awful teacher, but don’t be too hard on her. Remember that “[a] teacher can change a person’s life. A good teacher or a bad teacher. Each can change a person’ life…. But only if the person is ready to be changed” (Potok, The Promise).

Live another day. Get your work done. Go to bed (it’s already half past twelve!) and try your best–after all, that’s all anyone can ask of you.

Best,

Larky

Categories: Dear Now, Truth | Leave a comment

Truth No. 4: Scholastic is… over?!!!!

Dear Mothy (for lack of an actual recipient),

No, this letter actually has nothing to do with you. However, you were the first person that popped into my head when I thought about this post, so alas: it is dedicated to you and your songs.

It isn’t just that my weekend homework load was the weirdest thing ever (three English assignments, three global assignments, and three language assignments? What?) or that I’m a week behind on everything in general thanks to Scholastic. It’s that new things are happening, and a lot of things are finally ending. As Scholastic deadlines approached for most regions, I found myself flooded by sudden and unexpected last-minute critique requests. I’m so sorry to all non-Scholastic-related editing requests that I should’ve sent back last week but instead sat around while I tried to get through pages of poetry/short stories/memoirs/etc. for Scholastic entrants. Seriously. I owe you all for not sending me hate mail and stalking me. If it makes you feel any better, Scholastic didn’t just put me behind on your stories; it also put me behind in school and classes and whatnot. Whatnot being everything that’s been going on: FRC (robotics) kickoff, proctoring a three-hour test, bracing myself for the upcoming midterms, studying for science bowl and USABO, and practicing flute.

Today I finally edited my first story since Scholastic submissions. It was an interesting narrative about fratricide with some rather elegant writing and lovely characterization. The arc of the story could do with a bit of work, but overall I was most definitely impressed. I’m hoping to finally wrap up pre-scholastic stories that I’m behind on by the end of this week so that I don’t have to worry about editing over midterms week (which would be just awful). The mad rush to submit for Scholastic was… incredibly surprising, to say the least. And yes, I know, I’ve been babbling about this for a while, but seriously. I edited >25 pieces the week and a half before Scholastic. And now I have this huge migraine that may or may not be related to the fact that I’ve been up since 3:30 this morning.

I also have a bunch of post ideas ranging from one about the odd dream I had a few nights ago regarding the relationship between Truth and writing to one pondering whether or not I should bother participating in the NACLO (North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad). Of course, there’s also the TCWT blog chain post that I need to write. I’m super excited about it because I actually managed to choose one book that changed my life. Then there’s the fact that I really need to post about FRC. Robotics is this amazing sport (yes, I consider it a sport) that nobody seems to know much about–but in reality, it is one of the coolest, most exciting/satisfying/challenging/collaborative things that I’ve ever done, so… yeah. You can look forward to posts about that as the season progresses.

This is an awful letter. I’m sorry. It’s just… going twenty hours without sleep is not really my thing, and I’m really exhausted. Tomorrow you can expect a more energetic post from me as I begin reading The Hobbit with Kirsten from Kirsten Writes (or not, if I have to stay in the city past seven for robotics).

Best,

Alouette

Categories: Dear Now, Truth | 11 Comments

Rant No. 1: How do you grade an assignment based on student honesty?

Dear Ms. Redd,*

Sometimes I hate school. And more than anything, I hate English class. I try not to rant online in blog posts, but sometimes somebody oversteps a line and I just have to speak.

Today I got home and found an unpleasant email sullying my inbox: an email from you (to all of your students). It amounted to “send me an email before our next class meeting about how our class has been going so far this year and what has or has not been working. I will be grading you based on your honesty.” I would post the whole thing here, but… I’m not sure whether or not that’s legal.

Now, I will clarify a few points. You plan to grade us on honesty? Yeah. Right. So if I criticize you and say that you were wrong in using the word “picaresque” in responding to the story my friend wrote about her parents’ divorce or that you were wrong in even assigning this letter at all, you won’t take it badly? When students hand in assignments that weren’t exactly what you were expecting, you blame the students. When students are upset by the way you treated them and their work (you absolutely do not tell somebody that they might as well have written about how Holden wants to be a ballerina just because you disagree with their interpretation), you blame the students. If students hand in letters saying they are dissatisfied by their experiences in your class, you will blame them. You told us on the first day of school that you teach because your parents were teachers. You’ve made it clear time and time again that you prioritize your Celtic rock band above your students. And the last time I went to ask you about how I could improve my English grade, you said “I don’t care.” (The first time I went to ask, you said “use better handwriting; yours gives me headaches, so I can’t be bothered to read it.”)

Just this afternoon I heard that you had been spending quality time discussing with some of your students the merits of Sparknotes over Cliffnotes. Of course, I refuse to forget about that day you recommended that we all go use No Fear Shakespeare. I find it disgusting that you even have the nerve to call yourself an English teacher. You indulge in blatant favoritism and are constantly fifteen minutes late to class. You create a hostile class dynamic in which you ridicule and criticize students for not understanding the text. You claim you want absolutely no grade comparison, and yet it is obvious that you yourself have a list of students in your class from FAVORITE to WORST. Not only that, but we all know how that list goes. You never clarify expectations, and yet expect very different essays from last year’s English teachers. Not only that, but your expectations are constantly changing.

You refuse to admit that as a teacher, you have a responsibility to your students; you are absolutely the worst teacher I have had the misfortune of meeting.

If you had really wanted our opinions on your class, this assignment would be anonymously handed in and ungraded. I’m thankful to the school administration for trying to act upon the students’ distress–after all, I have no doubt that it was either the English department head, principal, counselor (or perhaps all three) that asked you to request direct student feedback. However, if you actually want to seem as if you’re making an effort to be a better teacher, you’re going to have to try harder. After all, now all of your students (me included) are going to have to go write a page praising you and your subpar teaching. Congratulations on further frustrating each and every one of your students.

Best,

Al.

*Ms. Redd is a pun on my English teacher’s real name.

Categories: Dear Now, Rant | 3 Comments

Truth No. 2: Truth is infinite, and the infinite is Truth.

Dear Joseph Quinn,

I apologize for my failed attempt at chiasmus. I fear it was about as unShakespearean in its command of language as writing ever gets. However, I do hope it got my point across–Truth is infinite, and the infinite is Truth. It’s based off of something you said during one of your mathematics lectures, when you were explaining how infinity can only ever be defined in a higher dimension. In other words, infinity on a number line (one dimension) can only be defined using a plane (two dimensions), and infinity on a plane can only be defined in three dimensions. The actual explanation behind that was a bit longer, and certainly you remember why. So let’s not get into that.

What I do want to focus on is the part where you said that infinity is like Truth. You drew an analogy there–Truth is like infinity because Truth in one language can only defined using another language, another dimension. I looked up this claim, and it turns out that the guy who said this was Tarski. It also turns out that that claim only applies to formal (not natural) languages.

Regardless, I think it was a brilliant analogy.

The Truth of our world is impossible to define within the confines of our world. After all, Truth encompasses everything; it is infinite. Physicists have already realized that the four dimensions (three spacial and one temporal) that we perceive cannot be explained in only four dimensions. It’s like how in the story of the blind men and the elephant, the Truth would be that they were all feeling an elephant–not a snake, pipe, tree branch, or anything else. In that way, I disagree with anekāntavāda, the Jainist concept of multiple truths. Just because you have a piece of the Truth does not mean that it is Truth. Truth is all-encompassing; it is infinite. But infinity is itself not just a number. It can be treated as one (I got lost partway through your explanation of transfinite numbers), but it is really just an incredibly complicated concept.

So what is Truth? Could I redefine Truth as a single answer? A single value, like 42? Perhaps it would require the defining of transfalsehood (get it? transfinite -> transfalsehood?). Or maybe it’s that Truth is infinitely more complicated than the concept of infinity, because the infinity which exists within our universe would have to be defined by Truth. Perhaps there must be another universe in order for our universe to be defined. Is Truth truly infinite?

Maybe I’ll be able to attend another one of your lectures, and maybe then I’ll be able to ask you these questions. Good luck on getting your PhD!

Alouette Kim

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