Now that the year is over, Mr. Block gave us the task of summarizing our year with our general understandings from the year. It can connect to how we learned or what we learned. I wanted to talk about expression and struggle. The things we did in class involved a lot of both, which made us better people and made our work better in the end. We did a lot of things in class that would help anybody open up and become more comfortable with themselves. Our classroom became more comfortable everyday and as the year went on people participated in the actives more. The quality of our work was able to evolve with the knowledge that we gained in class. The assignments 'weren't do this at home and then we are done', it was more like 'do a couple of more drafts, read and peer edit them'. We would have to read our drafts to classmates and start to listen to other perspectives. We always lingered, in a good way, on an assignment to make sure that we were proud of our final product. We made sure that our final product was something that we would be proud to have published on the internet. We learned to express ourselves better.
Nothing is weirder than doing an art show outside for strangers to see. People develop this idea of school that it is just this certain way to do everything. That everybody learns the exact same way, which causes kids to hate school. Kids need to express themselves because expressions helps a person become more comfortable with themselves and the world around them. This year, in my classes, English and History, that is what we did. We were taught how to express ourselves through different creative things. In class, we were all allowed to write a play for Philly Young Playwrights. The play was allowed to be able anything and everything. We were able to write in whatever we wanted to, about anything we wanted, and for whoever we wanted to. The plays allowed people to express the things that we thought about it. The things in our life that nobody else knew it about, but we were having trouble with. We could write about things that troubled us in the world, but we didn't know what to do about it. My play, 'So Ghey!' was about two girls that are best friends and they are trying to keep their friendships together while one if the friends's parents hate the other family. They go through a lot of ups and downs to get to a good point of the friendship. There is a climax and a wrap up, but sometimes things don't alway wrap up well. The process of writing this play was tedious and strenuous. At first, I thought it was going to be very easy but, then they told us that we were going to need to do a whole bunch of different drafts and edits. I thought this was a one time thing. As we went along, the one or two scenes we had were being molded into plays. Plays that we then acted out with people in our class. Some people didn't want to do it because they were shy, I know I was. I didn't want people to get a part wrong and then I would have to correct them. After a while of doing this, people were excited to have their play acted out. People became more comfortable with picking people for the scenes. Everybody was able to see their play for what it really was and they could tell what they needed to work on.
Near the end of year, we started to invest our time in an event called Art in the Open and we worked with the Leah Stein Dance Company on the project. Dancers from the company and Leah Stein came a had workshops with us on how to open our eyes to our different environments. We had workshops on how to get comfortable with our environment enough that we knew how to make movements that were creative and intriguing. My group 'Hidden Indulgence' wasn't a group of people that would usually hang out together, we had our own different social groups. But, together we were able to express ourselves successfully. As the process went on, we became more comfortable with each other and in our site (our performance place). We had movements that we planned out but, the more we worked together and with the site, it was obvious that we were comfortable and confident about our piece. We learned how to use daily objects like poles or rocks to make noise together that were creative. The day before performance, Sasha (the videographer) interviewed our group together and asked us how was it working together. I said that "It was hard at first because we didn't know what to do with anything around us, but as the process went on, it got better. We were all able to express ourselves and we became closer because of it. We were comfortable around each other, we talked, and laughed about everything."
We didn't only did this with subjects in English, but we did this in History class. It was different though because we did Role play. We would research a major event in history and then, we were assigned roles that we had to act out for the class. Or we would have a discussion as the people from history that we are. Even though, we weren't actually being ourselves and we had to hold back some our creative juices. It was still a good way to express ourselves. We would take a night to look over our person and write an introduction about them. Then, the next day at class we would come and sit in a circle and act our roles. Mr. Block would ask us questions about the events that we had to answer as the person. it was great because we had to think hard and fully understand our person's view on things to make we made sense. But, we got to show our emotion and put our own spin on things. During the year, we did two of theses. It was funny because the first time we did, some people were unsure of themselves and didn't really talk. But when the next one came, everybody was excited because we knew what was going on and what we had to do. We knew the basics that we build off of. It was a way of expressing ourselves, but not really ourselves. In the spiritual role play (a role play where we acted as a person that we thought was very spiritual and inspirational to us), I learned about different religions and how people get connected to the higher power: "People meditate and pray and I think that makes them spiritual. Because you have to open your eyes and realize what is going on in the world around you. Then, for you to become one with the world and yourself." I found out how other people express themselves in spiritual ways and that made me more comfortable with the world around me. In the end, expression helps a person become more comfortable with themselves and the world around them. The ways of expressing themselves can be totally different for each person, like artwork, dance, or singing.
As we went on in the year, I learned another thing: When a person struggles for something they want, the outcomes will be greater and better than expected. We read a lot of stories about people that struggled through their lifetime to get where they wanted to be. Most of the time, the outcome was better than expected. In some cases, it didn't always work out because they are just unlucky. Together, as a class, we struggled through a lot of things. We struggled through projects, days where we just didn't want to anything, days where the work was just overwhelming, but look at us now! We are very versatile 10th graders. We struggled to get our ideas out on paper, but we also read about struggles with people in history or short stories.
Finding Freedom was a topic that we did recently. We learned about how freedom doesn't always mean that you are able to do what you want to, but that you are in a mindset where you feel free. Jarvis Jay Masters is a man that is in prison and is on death row. He was given a life sentence, but he wasn't just drowning himself in his sadness. He let himself be free in his mind. He started to meditate and become one with himself. He was able to deal with his situation, with his past, and with his future. Even though, he was going to die in jail, he could die free. Masters struggled to find himself and couldn't do it. He struggled the wrong way and landed himself in jail. But, after all that struggle he was able to become free in jail. Sometimes, people don't become rehabilitated in jail, but Masters did. We read about his struggle in different portions of his book called Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row. Then, we took our favorite stories and wrote about them. They were called Jarvis Jay Masters Response. I learned about his struggles to be a person that was respected in the jail but, still a person that was watching out for people. I learned about how on death row, everything is put out in the open. He had to confront his problems and be able to deal with them. Masters had to be able to answer questions that he would never answer before. Within itself that was just a struggle.
The Holocaust was an event that we did a lot of work with. We learned about the struggle of everybody in that was involved in the Holocaust. We learned about Jewish people in the concentration that struggled to stay alive. The sons that abandoned their fathers because they wanted to stay alive. The Germans that became evil in a blink of an eye to keep their lives. The book Night by Elie Wiesel was a very powerful book that we read during that unit. It was very straight forward, but it was different. It was already known that the main character survived the Holocaust because he wrote this book about it, but it was just crazy to read about his experience. It was crazy to read about the struggles he went through with his father, but he lived through it. It was crazy to find out that if he just made a different decision that he wouldn't had to stay in the concentration camps. The journey was amazing. He struggled to stay alive but, he also struggled to keep his father alive. He kept his father alive as he could. Elie did anything he could for his father, Elie even let his sick father have his rations. While, other sons just left their fathers for death and didn't even look back. The struggles that he went through made me feel like that he lived the worst things in life. He went through hell and back. In the end, the outcome was amazing. He was able to live and see the world now. He was able to write a book and become famous. He didn't just write one book either, he wrote a collection of books. Books that are very well-known. He let the world know about what was going on in the concentration camps, he was able to share his struggles.
Sweatshops was also a unit that we spent some time on. We learned about modern day sweatshops, who worked in sweatshops, the condition of sweatshops, and their history. We watched a movie called Made in L.A. The movie was about a factory that made clothes for Forever 21. The workers were mostly immigrants that we treated unfairly. The conditions were horrific and so was the pay. The pay was barely even enough to live off of. The ladies in the factories struggles with everyday life, they struggled to keep food on the table for their children. They made a organization that was for the immigrants. They organized protests, spoke around the world, educated children, and told everybody or anybody that would listen to them. The strike lasted them three years to get the Forever 21 Company to even listen to them. In three years, the women changed the world. The struggle was very long and strenuous, but they won in the end. The outcome was great because not only did they get what they came for but, each women got a little bit more out of it. One women was able to get the job that she had always wanted. Another women was able to try and get her children to America, her children who she hadn't seen in 18 years. The organization that they had prospered even more than they thought it would. The organization gained more members before, learnt from their mistakes, and gained even more stability than before. In the end, through out history it is clear that when a person struggles for something they want, the outcomes will be greater and better than expected.
I feel like the year has been an success. I learned about people and myself. I learned that struggle and expression go hand in hand. People struggle to get through life and as they get through they learn about expression. People learn that expression is the key to a better life and that doesn't come without struggling.