By Margaret Zheng
We are shaped by all aspects of time: past, present, and future. We change through our recollections, through our perceptions of ourselves, through our yearnings towards places unknown. We mold ourselves in the moment, mind and brain together; and tomorrow, we are someone new.
Who are we? We reflect our surroundings, yes, and the culture that raised us, but more so do we reflect our choices. Neurons rewire with every small step forwards, backwards, towards anywhere; lives transform by every leap. And when we go farther, we become stronger.
I think North could become stronger if we each strive farther.
It often disappoints me how much academic effort is directed towards a grade or to getting through a class, rather than towards learning. We all have trying days, and we all have subjects in which we have difficulty engaging. For me, they have been economics and politics. But we also have opportunities to shape our learning ourselves, such as during a discussion or while completing a project.
For instance, Señora Macrone, my Spanish teacher, enjoys having students play the role of teachers by writing quizzes for their peers. I praise her effort to help students learn in novel ways, an excellent strategy for brain-training. I do find, however, that the students’ work in such activities is most revealing of their motivation. “You must ___________ in the morning.” Brush your teeth? Put on your clothes? Eat breakfast? Dance the Hokey-Pokey? I do not believe students must write perfect quizzes, but they could make them more interesting. An interesting quiz or presentation not only better engages the receivers, but also is more fun for the creator.
Additionally, by forcing myself to participate in social studies class discussions about the development of capitalism in the U.S., I have expanded my horizon in the social sciences, and besides my performing better in class, I think my choice to challenge myself has changed me for the better.
I speak not just about academic classes. Some people love gym and will play almost any sport. Some people seem to find it a pointless class and participate just at the margin of a participation grade. And I? I have been told I will never be good at most sports, but I like to try. I appreciate when others try as well.
No class needs to be pointless if one chooses a challenge. If it’s too easy, teach yourself beyond the material or create something new with it. If it’s too boring, make it interesting – find a “hook” into the subject, or investigate why you have such antagonism towards it in the first place. If it’s too hard, accept the challenge and just do it, to borrow from Nike. The goal of self-improvement and the pursuit of excellence are never-ending.
And when it comes to choosing our future paths, perhaps through program planning or forging post-secondary endeavors, the question becomes not if we want a challenge, but what kind we seek. The most heavily-weighted class is not necessarily most conducive to one’s learning style or aspirations. Electives need not be chosen to please colleges. Colleges – or college itself – need not be chosen to please parents, friends, or anyone besides your vision of your ideal. Like a tree, we are born to grow, and like bonsai, we are shaped as we please. There is not “the” challenge, only yours.
Council Rock is a community of caring, learning, and support. It is also, inherently, a community of individuals. It is defined by those individuals who mold themselves every moment.
Answer, then, each of you, by action: how will you shape yourself for your better?