Love Thyself

Today I went to a Mexican-Korean-American fusion taco bar by myself to watch the Redskins game in a cute black redskins shirt, black and white rainboosts from Nordstrom, long silver necklace from The Limited (basically I looked adorable), reading my book during the commercials and eating my single chicken taco while drinking a Crispin cider, when I realized I have found myself. Not in the sense that it was in that moment I finally realize this; just that I realized I have finally become the woman I have always wanted to become.

I am a woman that values education. I pride myself in being a role model for my students. I dress conservatively enough to demand respect, but still know how to dress in a stylish manner. I like to believe i have influenced many of my students to change the way they dress. I like to show them that there are other things that you can do in your free time other than smoke drugs and the other poor decisions they make on a daily basis, like pick up an awesome book.

I am a nerd at heart. I love to read anything, write to my hearts content, and create equations with every day life and then solve them. I like to teach my boyfriend math at bars and write him mathematical equation love letters and then teach him how to solve them.

I have an appreciate for fashion. Not the kind of fashion that costs thousands of dollars, but more affordable fashion that I wouldn’t feel guilty about spilling mustard on, because I am the type of woman that does that on a regular basis. I have also finally found my financial independence to afford these luxuries (even though my sweatshirt was stolen from my sister’s closet. I am a woman with no shame!)

I have a great appreciation for football. Not just as a testament for my fondness for the sport, but mostly because I am a woman who takes great pride in where she is from. I have lived in the DMV my entire life which is why I am a die-hard Redskins fan. And I will get into a bar fight with anyone who calls them “dead-skins” or “bloody-skins” as the man did today at my Mexican-Korean-American taco bar. (As I said, I am a woman with no shame).

I am a woman who has a strong devotion to her family and friends. I have some incredible friends and choose to be close to people very selectively. I am, afterall, a Scoprio; trust is everything. Do me wrong once and you are forever dead in my book. But it has taken me a long time to realize that my best friend of all who understands me the best and accepts me for who I am no more no less is myself.

I have reached a point in my life where I have looked around and realized how adorable I must look, but my first thought had always been “I wish (so-and-so) were here to see how cute I look right now! I wonder what they’d think!” But today, I just smiled. Because for the first time I realized I didn’t care about anyone else’s opinion. I love myself and mine is the only opinion that matter.

Every Teacher’s Nightmare

I just finished arguably one of the worst days of my teaching career thus far. Fist fight in front of your classroom? Nope. Get your speakers stolen? Not this time. Cursed out by your students? Although all of those things have happened to me over the past year, this was much worse.

Today was the day of my first standardized test administration.

Before I continue, this is not just another rant by a teacher about how much standardized testing sucks. Believe it or not, I am actually pro-standardized testing. I think it’s important to make sure all students receive the same level of education and baseline rigor across the state so that they are well equipped when they attend universities and are ready for whatever career they peruse. I have always been for standardized testing. Rather, I am pro the idea behind standardized testing. As the way these students are assessed can be highly flawed. One size fits all doesn’t work for curriculum, how can it possibly work for assessments?

At my school, students are tested at least 20 times before the end of the year, not including teacher created formative and summative assessments. These tests then dictate how much money a school gets amongst other things. By the time my students take my end of the year exam, they are exhausted to say the least. But they have no time for a nap, as my school is so heavily focused on passing these exams.

Today started off just as I had expected. My students came in fresh, fed, and ready to take their test. We have been working very hard this whole year and especially over the past month getting ready for our SOL. I have had students who have taken the initiative to come to my classroom every single period in an effort to pass my upcoming exam. These students are here Saturday mornings and even Fridays until 6:30 after school studying for this exam. I have students who have convinced themselves that they’re going to get pass advanced if not a perfect score. I also had students who were convinced they were not going to pass and they were riding on the confidence that I had for them. My students knew the incentives: pass the exam, get a cupcake and an A in the class, or fail it and study for the next month for re-takes at the end of the school year.

So we traveled down to the other side of the school to a freezing cold computer lab with an odd, sticky smell and my students took a seat in front of their designated computer. They were each given a sheet with login information and then proceeded to wait for 15 minutes while the computer software loaded because not only was everyone in the room trying to access the same website at the same time, so was everyone in the state of Virginia.

I proceeded with the instructions for starting the exam. The two sample questions to practice using the software were done with ease and even enthusiasm. My kids were so ready to ace this exam! It was truly a teacher’s dream to administer a test to students like these.

And then they clicked “next” to answer the first question, and I could feel the energy in the room drop 6 levels. The first question was ridiculous. As was the second, third wasn’t so bad, but the fourth, fifth, sixth, and, you get the idea. This test was absolutely nothing like the test from the past 2 years. In fact, it was about as difficult as the test from the past 2 years combined times 2. It was unnecessarily difficult and in no way could test their comprehension of subject material. For legal reasons I cannot discuss the content of the questions, but let’s just say I wasn’t able to figure out how to solve some of these questions. Later I realized that they were probably “field questions.”

Our exam consists of 60 questions and of them are 10 “field questions.” I had always assumed these questions to be ones that were just a tad bit more difficult or tested a couple of topics together in an effort to gather data on our students to see what topics need more coverage. After seeing some of these questions, it’s hard to see what the purpose of these questions is. I can see no usable data that could be gathered from having students do these questions. In fact, the only purpose they served my students was completely destroying their confidence and sucking valuable time concentrating on how to solve a  poorly worded problem only slightly attached to a concept they know very well, one in which they would have no idea how to even begin.

Field questions aside, the actual questions that were asked were asked in such a way that would confuse any one and hardly tested the subject matter, but rather how well they could use their calculator. Other questions were worded so poorly it was hard to decipher what the question was even asking. Sure, my students were ready for an end of course exam, but they were not ready for whatever that exam was. They began their exam at 8am. By 1pm, one hour before school is over, not a single student had finished. By the end of the day out of my 15 students, only 4 passed.

Halfway through the examination, one of the assistant principals walked in. After I told him how ridiculous this exam was and he could see how visibly upset I was, he told me that the first round of exams is always difficult and the re-takes at the end of the year are much easier. 

This really struck a chord with me because it made absolutely no logical sense what so ever. How does the state benefit from giving one extremely difficult test and then one easier test a month later? Why not simply give a fair test both times?

And that’s when I thought back to those 15 minutes my students had to wait for their test to load. That tiny logo in the bottom corner…

When I first saw this logo, I thought back to a video I recently watched by John Oliver about standardized testing. (If you haven’t seen it, it is a great video and can be found here.) When I first saw this video, I thought there’s no way he’s talking about Virginia though. The VDOE is great about making their own curriculum framework, pacing guide, enhanced scope and sequences, sample lesson plans, student performance analysis, etc. Why would they take their time to make resources such as these and then not even create the assessment for it?

But that’s exactly what they do. They create the curriculum for teachers to use in their classrooms, and then send all of this material to a private company to create their final assessment to see how well we’ve done. The inexplicable logic is that a big business can create a comprehensive exam better than they could. But the issue is when you privatize standardized exams, it becomes that much less about the students than it does about building a business.

So what is the advantage for Pearson to provide an extremely difficult exam at first and then an easier one in the end? You guessed it, MONEY! By creating a very challenging exam, school are forced to register more students for a re-take than they would have initially, there by basically doubling how much money Pearson would have made if they simply gave the easier exam first. But by making the second exam easier, they still show their “effectiveness” of making an exam since enough kids will pass.

What’s the big deal though as long as the students pass in the end, you ask?

My student who worked so hard to pass advance has to work twice as hard on this exam. (In case you were wondering, she did not pass advance. In fact, she barely passed.) If only she knew that she shouldn’t have wasted 6 hours on this exam, but to take fail it and take it the second time. That would be the only way she could pass advanced.

My students who have worked day and night studying for this exam, staying after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday mornings have worked towards a basically impossible goal and their spirit is now completely broken. Their “can-do” attitudes will now become “what’s-the-point” attitudes.

Some of my students feel that have failed them, and I can’t help but feel that I have failed them as well. No matter the level of rigor that I have integrated into my lesson plans, it never matched how rigorous those questions were. I should have seen it coming, I should have prepared them more. And even though deep down I know that it’s not actually true, on some level I believe it but worst of all, they do. How am I supposed to help them pass the next exam when they trust me that much less?

Seniors who need to pass this exam in order to graduate have one more thing to worry about instead of simply enjoying their time before graduation.

Not to mention I’m going to get a thorough chewing out for my students “not studying enough” or “not focusing enough” or me “not planning enough,” none of which are true and couldn’t have happened any more. Some of my students that studied extremely hard and focused the entire time did not pass, meanwhile students who slept all year long, hardly studied, and kept dozing in and out of sleep, somehow passed the exam. Needless to say, this was a completely inaccurate assessment.

So I amend my previous opinion of standardized testing. I am still pro-standardized testing but instead of taking short cuts and getting lazy, states should create their own exams and give a fair assessment driven by student success, and not money or building up big businesses. After all, education is about students and building our future, a concept I am afraid this country is getting farther and farther away from… and although it is an entirely different issue on it’s own, is truly the center of this problem and many, many more.

To the B In Apartment 324

“To apt 3225,

I have been VERY nice over the past 7-8 months not to report you to the leasing office. I hear you vacuuming your apartment at least 2-3 times per week after the hours of 9pm and one time even at 2am!! As your neighbor, it has GOT to stop! You need to vacuum your apartment earlier in the day. This is your final warning before I report you to the leasing office.

-Your AGITATED neighbor.

To the B in apartment 324,

If you had handled this like a mature adult, I would apologize and say it will not happen again, as I had no idea the walls across the hall were so thin that you could hear my vacuum. But since that is not what you did, here you go:

I am in shock that you find yourself to be a “nice person” after writing this passivr agreasive note. But, I feel so sorry for you that you feel that all people are so inherently evil as you are that you think someone would turn on their vacuum with the intention of disturbing their neighbors. I would imagine this is what you thought, since you at no point over the past SEVEN OR EIGHT MONTHS you mentioned anything to me about how you can hear my vacuuming.

First of all, that is so sad that you have nothing else better to do than to keep track of when your neighbors are vacuuming. Yes, I probably vacuumed at 2am. Some nights I come home after drinking with friends and realize that I still need to clean my cat’s litter so I need to vacuum as well. You probably have no idea what that feels like since you clearly have no friends, or a life for that matter.

Second of all, if you expect to live somewhere where you can’t hear your neighbors, I suggest you not live in an APARTMENT building. Your dog yapping throughout the day is half of the reason why I’m moving to my house. As a side note, I am in shock that someone with an annoying ass dog such as yours has the audacity to write this note in the first place. Although, it now completely makes sense how your dog came to be so poorly trained in the first place. I actually feel more sorry for your dog than I do you.

Lastly, who are you to give me a “FINAL NOTICE”? If you live in a building with a leasing office, I would have much rather you go through them and “file your complaint.” Why? Because they know how to handle adult situations which is somewhere you clearly lack. This is my apartment and I will do as I please. Who do you think you are to give me warnings or a final warning?

Let this be a lesson to you, you fresh out of college entitled brat. In the future handle your issues like a grown adult and maybe people will hear you out. In the meantime, I’ll just vacuum my place first thing in the morning at 5:30am. I hope that early enough for you. If not, well, I won’t be here 7 months from now which is apparently how long it takes you to handle your aggression.

Your friendly neighbor,
Apt 325

Fresh of the Yact

Has anyone seen the new show “Fresh Off the Boat?” I have to say when I first saw the commercial for this show with my friend Lauren I was so excited. I couldn’t believe they were making a show about my childhood! If you haven’t heard of this show, it’s based on a memoir by chef and food personality Eddie Huang and his life as a first generation Asian-American growing up in the states with traditional Asian parents.

Well, boyfriend and I finally watched it yesterday and I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed.

The beginning of the first episode starts off completely accurate. When Eddie Huang comes home asking for “white people food” after being laughed at in the school cafeteria for “eating worms,” it took my back to my middle school days when my mom packed me Indian food and the kids at school stared at me with a disgusted face and said “EWWWW WHAT IS THAT???” (kids can be so cruel). Every time there after when my mom tried to pack me Indian food I would beg her for anything else. I was subjected to peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the remainder of my middle school career.

And then there was the reference to the difference between how grades are viewed between American and Asian parents. This is a source of so much comedy with any Asian comedian.

So when the white kid next door brings home straight C’s and is rewarded with a basketball hoop and Eddie Huang brings home straight A’s and is rewarded with even more school work, it was nothing I hadn’t expected.

And of course there are tons of hilarious jokes about how cheap Asian mothers are. All funny and true (to some extent).

But it was what followed in the second half of each episode that will probably stop me from watching this show. After Eddie skips out on his mother while she is trying to make him do additional school work, his dad and him have a heart to heart about how he doesn’t get to have any fun. This scene ends with Eddie and his dad playing basketball and his mother sending Eddie’s other two brothers to stop studying and join them.

There are so many things wrong with this scene I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost, every Asian kid knows better than to complain about doing work and that they don’t have fun. Sure, it’s a thought that crossed all of our minds as children; while everyone else was at a boy-girl party we had to be locked in our rooms studying, and if there was no homework to be done, we were trapped with our fathers learning the next topic in math. And you were especially out of luck if you brought home your math book because my dad had no problem making me do the even problems that were never assigned to me. Did I ever once ask my dad if I could hang out with friends instead? Absolutely not. I don’t need an addition 100 problems. Did it ever cross my mind? You bet. Everyday. What would have happened if I ran away the way Eddie did? I wouldn’t want that punishment.

And then there’s Eddie’s little brother who has two girlfriends and his dad says something to the effect of “you go boy, just don’t tell mom.” That would never, ever, happen. Not in a million years. Unless the other two girls were also Korean. If it was Eddie’s sister, she would be dead.

And then there’s Eddie’s mother who tries to fit in with the American neighbors. I have never met an Indian lady trying to fit in with her American neighbors. Immigrants FLOCK, like CRAZY. It’s a little shocking really how they find each other. I grew up in a small part of Maryland where you wouldn’t think a single Indian existed. But they were there. My mom may have had to drive 20 minutes away, but she found people. That’s what they do. They don’t try to “fit in” with the neighbors (unless they are also Indian).

So why does ABC change the stories around so much? The reality is this: the truth wouldn’t make good t.v. In fact, it would depress half of you, and the other half would just be bored. It would be the same ending everyday; Eddie studying. The only episodes that would be entertaining would be when Eddie tried to defy his parents, but there is absolutely nothing funny about those situations. This show is completely Americanized to make good t.v. and to entertain the American populus this show is geared towards. In fact, even when the press were given an opportunity to question the directors and cast members, they hardly asked any questions about the show and instead asked them about fortune cookies and chopsticks. I recently found out that Eddie Huang too has an issue with this portrayal of his memoir; “The network tried to turn my memoir into a cornstarch sitcom and me into a mascot for America. I hated that.” (read the full article HERE).

Sons and daughters of immigrant parents did not leave glamorous lives or funny ones. We had to live our lives up to our parents standards, living by their rules, and face the harsh consequences when we don’t. Most of us were forced to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers and then go on to marrying someone of our own race. Everything must be approved by our parents, and most of our lives are arranged by our parents. We have to go to college, we have to be number 1 in our class, we have to get straight A’s. We hardly had fun outside of school except with our other Asian friends. We weren’t allowed to hang out with anyone of the opposite sex, never the less have a boyfriend, except for the rare situation where said boyfriend/girlfriend was also Asian and extremely smart. Education was our life and there was little we were allowed to do outside of that.

But the thing is, our parents are completely and totally justified in acting like this. They really did come to America to live the American dream. My father came to America in his early 20s and worked as a chicken farmer until he was able to save enough money to bring my mother to America and eventually build a beautiful life for me so that I could have endless opportunities; opportunities that he did not have growing up in India. He left all of his family and friends behind to build a new life here.

That is one thing that really bothers me about this show (among so many other things); this show keeps talking about how his parents “miss their friends in Washington D.C” completely ignoring that his parents came from Korea! That’s where his family and friends are that he truly left behind. Not another part of America! My parents moved around America 4 or 5 times since they first arrived. Each time they made new friends, kept in touch even to this day, but it’s their friends in India that they consistently miss and talk about, not their friends in Alabama!

Now, I’m not denying this show is hilarious. I just finished watching the third episode and I have to admit it is a pretty hilarious show. What bothers me about it is that they try to play off this show as “the struggles the children of immigrants go through” and it’s just not true. So watch the show because Eddie Huang is at hilarious kid with a hilarious family. Just expect the accuracies to be kept to a minimum.

Why I Never Watch the News

The last time I watched the news was when I was in high school. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad and the local reporters were telling us about a cat who got stuck in a tree and the firefighters were struggling to get her out. I remember thinking to myself I cannot believe these people couldn’t come up with anything better to report than this. Don’t get me wrong, I did legitimately feel bad for the poor kitten, but this was clearly a time filler and instead of reporting where we’ve started to make progress in the sciences or poverty, we were forced to sit and watch more negative garbage. It’s as if they knew they had an extra 2 minutes of reporting time and they automatically ruled out all of the positive things going on in the world and found something, anything, negative going on out there.

It as if the news refuses to report anything good going on anywhere so they are forced to find the most dramatic thing possible, even if it’s as frivolous as cats stuck in trees. As a result, we associate “news” with something “negative.” Anytime someone says, “have you been following the news?” we never expect them to say “we’ve made strides with poverty” or “we’ve made progress on finding the cure to cancer,” even when those statements are actually true. It’s usually something along the lines of “some dude somewhere is sick with something that you have as much of a chance of catching as you did as catching the Bird Flu. Be careful out there.”

We never hear about all of the healthy countries, or all of the countries who didn’t have an earthquake shake their population, or how long it’s been since a country has been effected by a Tsunami. We don’t hear about how much money UNICEF has made in an effort to eradicate Iodine deficiency. Or that the March of Dimes has saved so many lives o of premature babies. Your local community has raised thousands of dollars towards fighting breast cancer but instead you are at home watching how Switzerland has made their TSA requirements stronger because of Ebola.

The best example of media manipulation by far is global warming. If you read real science articles, the majority of scientists will tell you that global warming is either 1) a hoax or 2) exists to some degree but is nothing to worry about. Consider who initiated this revolution: Al Gore… a POLITICIAN! He has absolutely no scientific background at all. The earth naturally warms up and cools down on it’s own (hence, Ice Ages). It has nothing to do with our carbon footprint, carbon emissions, or anything that we are doing. But it makes you worry, doesn’t it? That is exactly why the media harps on it so much. However, this blog post is not about Global Warming and I am very anti-using my blog to promote my political beliefs, so moving on.

Every day people are winning the war against cancer, lives are saved because of your local firefighters, doctors, nurses, lives are changed due to strides in education, science, mathematics, our country is being protected by our soldiers. For everyone person that dies two more are born and will impact the world in ways we can’t imagine. But this is not what the media chooses to focus on.

People ask me “how do you have no idea what is going on in the Middle East?” or “you’re not afraid of catching Ebola?” but to them I ask “do you know who just won the Nobel Peace Prize?” By the way, it was a 17 year old Pakistani woman who won for makes strides for the right for all children to have access to education. She has an amazing story, survived a brain injury after being a target from the Taliban, and still went on to being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. Pretty incredible right? Definitely didn’t see that on headline news anywhere and no one I know knew. To the media, she was just another number, another target by the Taliban. They didn’t care about who she was, what she was doing, and when she was healed.

People spend hours on end in front of a box that has taken on the responsibility of telling you what to value and what is important. 9 times out of 10, that’s something depressing, negative, or scary. If you don’t believe me, accept my challenge: go to the homepage of any news website, pick up any local newspaper, or change the channel to NBC and look at the headlines. What you’ll find will never be positive.

CNN: “High school players face sex assault charges”

AOL: “Spain increases quarantine amid Ebola fears”

NBC: “Not Just California: Droughts Extend Across Americas”

News reporters have such an incredible opportunity to impact change that they never take advantage of. They can change this world of hatred and pessimists into optimists and positivity. But, instead they have forced us into a world of negativity so we can spend one more night in fear and wake up the next morning afraid to open our eyes to face the world. And for what? The sad reality is fear sells. And we are just manipulations in their stock market.

I recently came across “A Two-Minute Case for Optimism” by Steven Pinker and in it he tells an interesting perspective.

As it happens, the numbers tell a surprisingly happy story. Violent crime has fallen by half since 1992, and fiftyfold since the Middle Ages. Over the past 60 years the number of wars and number of people killed in wars have plummeted. Worldwide, fewer babies die, more children go to school, more people live in democracies, more can afford simple luxuries, fewer get sick, and more live to old age.

(Full story can be found here, it’s a great read: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/secretlife/blogposts/steven-pinkers-two-minute-case-for-optimism/)

It angers me that regardless of how much good is going on in the world, the media decides to focus on all that is going wrong in the world instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to open up our eyes to good. Instead of purely focusing on all of the negativity going on in the world, why not focus on any positives? It is the duty of the media in our society to provide us with current events. That’s not always stories of the sick, the murderers, and the rapists. Not all “news” is negative. News should also consist of heroes, game changing scientists, Nobel Peace Prize winners.

No, I have my own values and decide what is important to me and follow those stories. I refuse to allow a black box or pieces of paper to tell me what to value today and then use those values to manipulate my emotions tomorrow. No, I don’t need a man in a suit or writers in New York telling me what to care about in my life. I believe in what I believe, value what I value, and emulate positivism; not live in fear, doubt, or pessimism. I refuse to be a pawn of the media, which is why I never watch the news.