Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Class Frenzy pt 2 June 22, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 12:57 PM
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The ordeal is over, and I survived (albeit barely). After a 5 AM to 11 PM day full of constant stimulation and not much sleep… let’s just say it was fun and leave it at that. What’s more – I’m enrolled! Per usual, this could not be completed without drama. Out of five classes and one backup chosen with an advisor, I was able to enroll in two of them without a fuss. One was full and I had to get special permission to enter. The others were either full, not available that semester, for upperclassmen only, or in conflict. After desperately scrolling through class lists, this is my schedule for the first semester of college:

General Anthropology

Classical Mythology (Honors)

Intermediate French Composition and Conversation

The Early Modern World (Honors)

Introduction to Religion (Honors)

No math, no science… it’s going to be a weird semester. I can’t wait to get started!

(Longer posts are forthcoming. I’m still sleepy at the moment, but we should be back on track on Sunday.)


We Survived May 28, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 3:22 PM
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Well, I’m back. Again. I do tend to take long breaks, but I should be good for a while, since I just finished the main culprit.

That’s right. On May 22, I took my last International Baccalaureate test. Let me tell you – it felt good.

For students all over the world, this summer marks the end of a long and crazy journey. Non-IB people probably can’t grasp how much of a relief it is. The last two years were the hardest of my life. I cried, broke down, and worked more than I ever had before. People asked things of me that I didn’t know I could do, but I did it anyway. I took 17 and a half hours of tests this year and six hours last year. In between, I wrote hundreds of essays, gave loads of oral presentations, and shed bucketloads of tears. Now I’m done. For me and many of my classmates, everything feels surreal. We don’t know what to do with our lives. While I remain unsure of where I’m going next, I’ve had time to reflect on what I’ve done. This post serves as a summary of my reflections, and I address it – and dedicate it – to all IB grads, especially the class of 2012. No matter where you live or what language you speak, this is for you.


When the average high school student graduates, he throws his cap in the air and thinks “Yeah! I graduated!” When an IB student graduates, he throws his cap in the air and thinks, “Wow. I survived.” This year, my class proposed a group shirt with a Survivor icon and the words ‘Outwork, Outstudy, Outlast.’ On the back it read ‘I survived’. The shirts never hit the printing shop (partially because it burned down, annoyingly enough) but the sentiment remains. This year, our focus and our greatest triumph was in survival.

Think back to your freshman year. If your school worked at all like mine, there were lots of pre-IB students. Now think about the group that graduated with you. A lot smaller, right? You – we – are the ones who kept going, kept working, and made it to the end. Congratulations.

I could talk about chasing dreams and following stars and all those clichés, but this isn’t a graduation speech. You’ve probably heard that all before. Instead, reflect for a moment on what you’ve done. You’ve colormarked more sheets of paper than the average Harry Potter book. You’ve tried and failed to understand ridiculously ambiguous novels and poetry. You’ve written hundreds of essays, some of them in different languages. You’ve conducted psychology experiments and quite possibly blown things up in chemistry labs. You’ve cried, groaned, and despaired of ever making it past senior year.

But I hope you’ve also laughed. I hope you’ve learned something – not just about complex differential equations or electron configurations – but about yourselves. You’ve argued, talked, and made friends who will last forever. You’re part of a community that stretches across the globe, full of people with some of the best educations public schools can provide. These are the people with the skills, intelligence, and determination to change the world, and you’re one of them.

Some high school students might come back to their twenty year reunions and talk about their kids. I challenge all of you – all of us – to come back and talk about being a CEO of a huge company, or having several best-selling novels published, or finding a cure for cancer. Every singe graduate is capable of accomplishing amazing, impossible things. How do I know?

We already did.

Congratulations, IB class of 2012. We survived.



Yeah, I’m Majoring in English. Got a Problem? March 21, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 9:17 PM
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English majors don’t get much respect.

I knew that when I first wrote ‘English’ as my area of interest on those college info cards so long ago. I even crack a few self-conscious jokes to avoid someone else making fun of me. “I’m studying English in college,” I say, “or something else useless. I’ve already picked out my spot in McDonalds.”

These days, the creme de la creme (forgive me; this computer doesn’t have accents enabled) flock to engineering and pharmaceuticals. Liberal arts are considered useless, fit only for lifelong scholars.

English majors, I say we shouldn’t take this lying down.

We live in a world where communication can take place in the blink of an eye or the click of a cursor. Our words can be circulated across the globe. Writing in the form of newspapers, broadcasts, blogs, tweets, and more keep us informed on what’s going on in distant countries or our own town halls. Language is the machinery that makes our world go.

So why is English – the study of the language most of our country speaks – thrown to the wayside? It’s just as important as biology or mathematics. More, even. I’d like to see anyone complete a major in engineering without ever using the written word. All American college courses are based on the English language.

These days, miscommunications can lead to anything from embarrassment to losing a job. Politicians and journalists manipulate phrasing and facts to sway us to their point of view. A deep understanding of language and the ability to analyze it is priceless. You can’t succeed without it.

So hold your heads up high, English majors. The pen is still mightier than the sword. We’re learning to wield the greatest weapon humans possess.


Oh IB, What Have You Taught Me? Let Me Count the Ways… August 16, 2011

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:03 AM
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The new school year, which was comfortably far away, is now frighteningly close. I will be a senior. I will be facing four IB tests. I will be taking an HL Chemistry test in the first week. (Because it’s not fun if you don’t have a chance to fail by day three.) Some people ask me why I signed up for this thing. I ask myself why I signed up for this thing. So before despair sinks its claws into me and pulls me down into the land of mental breakdowns, I’m going to reflect on what IB has taught me over the last year.

IB students take one test from each side. So far - two down, four to go.

Math Studies SL: Um… not much. Mostly that any math over Algebra II is pretty much useless to the general public. Sure, if you’re a math teacher or an architect or something, trig might come in handy. But however much my math major father snorts at my opinion, in real life your boss isn’t going to say “Hey Kat – find the derivative of this quadriatic function, will you?”

History 20th Century Topics SL: This class was totally useful, even if I’ve had second thoughts about SLing. I can feel like a true member of the 21st century now that I know who Mao Zedong is and what the heck went on in Cuba. I’ve forgotten all the dates, but I have the general gist of it. I also learned why the Cold War was a huge waste of time, and am pretty sure that the US is going along the same road of total collapse as the USSR. Isn’t that great?

English Language HL 1: Spanish… literature… *bangs head against wall*. I have had too much of this. If anyone wants to be severely confused, I suggest reading Pedro Paramo. You’ve got to love a book our teacher introduced by saying, “It’s like a big LSD trip we all take together!” Fun.  This class also cured me of perfectionism. I was happy if the stupid essay was done. There was no way I was going over it five times to make everything ‘perfect’.

French HL1: My school doesn’t even offer this class, so I ended up taking French 4 with non-IB students. This was… fun. Two dropped out, two never showed up, several slept, and one smelled like pot. The only students who were doing well were me, the foreign exchange student, a sophomore from Germany, and a guy who was half French. Nevertheless, I did learn lots of fun French history. I even know why William the Conqueror was so determined to take over England – he needed some way to change his name. ‘Guillame le Bâtard’ isn’t very flattering.

Chemistry HL1: Medicine is bad, PVC pipes will kill you, and the answer to every question on the exam is either margarine or coma, death. Seriously. Oh yeah – I also learned that this is the class most likely to cost me my diploma. Why did I sign up for it? Not sure. I plead temporary insanity.

Looking back, I realize that it doesn’t look like I learned a whole lot. However, I really did, and I’ll argue IB superiority with an AP student any day. This year, I’ll keep the beacon of fat scholarships in my mind’s eye as I struggle through senior year. College is almost here, and the hardest two years of my education are halfway over.



My So-Called Gift February 22, 2011

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 6:43 PM
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Gifted. I’ve grown to hate that word. Especially what it implies. Is there really someone handing out talents wrapped up with ribbons to newborn babies, then withholding some from the next one, saying, “Nuh uh, only some people get this”? Of course not. There’s no gift involved. If giftedness does indeed exist, it’s a product of genetics, environment, and personality, not some heavenly beneficiary.

If I sound like some bitter person railing against the ‘nerds’, I’m not. I’m one of the ‘gifted’ students myself, to my chagrin. At least, a bunch of tests I suffered through when I was little say I am.

Spare me.


Contrary to what people say, being ‘gifted’ isn’t much of a gift. At times it can be more of a curse. Because I was ‘gifted’, I was sent to special classes, separated from other students. I felt different, marked. I had issues socializing with non-‘gifted’ children, although I don’t know how much of that was just my personality, to be honest. Anyway, people built this image of me and other ‘gifted’ kids as geniuses who could do no wrong. At school, we weren’t real people to them. And here’s the thing – I don’t think anyone’s gifted. Or maybe everyone is. I’ve not seen that many signs that I’m any smarter than the average person. At least not very. I think gifted students are placed on this pedestal, made bigger than they really are, when really it’s more a factor of their ambition and how hard they’re willing to work. I spend more time on schoolwork than my peers, so I get better grades. Does this mean I’m any smarter? Not really.

Not long ago, a counselor called me and three others into her office. “Do you know why you’re here?” she asked.

We shook our heads.

“You’re all gifted,” she told us.

“Isn’t everyone in our class?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, seeming surprised at the question.

This startled me. If you’re more than halfway through the junior year of the IB program and still alive, functioning, and turning in homework, you’re pretty special in my book. But here the four of us were. Different, apparently, singled out by test scores that really don’t mean anything.

The fact is, ‘gifted’ is just another label that divides us. Like ‘jock’. Like ‘popular’. Like ‘troubled’. People take one aspect of our personality and magnify it, make it all we are. And what’s worse is this is some of the earliest labeling we encounter. I was probably six when my IQ test said I was ‘special’. Shouldn’t we be trying to instill connections in children at six years instead of dividing them?

Different people like and work harder at different things, it’s true. Maybe there is some natural talent involved. But no-one handed me a box when I was born. Instead, testers tried to shove me into one. It’s time to stop dividing us, labeling us practically before we can talk. We don’t need to tell some kids that they’re more likely to succeed, while basically sending a message to the others that they’re not good enough. Children are under enough pressure these days, all right? Let us find our own ways. Because everyone is capable of doing amazing things, not just some of us. Not just the ones that fill the right bubbles or reach the right number of points on some test chock full of acronyms. Everyone is gifted. Which means no one is.

And that’s a good thing.


Tests, Tests, Tests October 13, 2010

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 10:18 PM
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PSAT. PLAN. ACT. SAT. What do these have in common? They’re all tests that measure our ‘aptitude’ in an academic environment. They all help determine if we’ll get into a good college, and how much money that good college will give us. In other words, they have a significant impact on the rest of our lives. But should they?

Another thing these tests have in common is that they’re taken on one day. So they measure you on one day – they don’t care if you’re tired, or sick, or have a right heel that’s rapidly swelling up for no apparent reason. (I still don’t know why…) All that matters is you, the test, and how fast you can fill in a bunch of bubbles.

So what’s the problem? Well, it may upset some of you to hear this, but real life does not include a bunch of bubble filling. In fact, most of the things covered on these tests are completely useless. Will I need to find the area of a polygon made up of different shapes when I’m 37? Probably not.

I might sound bitter, so let me assure you – I’m right there in the top with the master bubble fillers. It’s practically my profession. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only profession school is preparing us for. How much of your education will you/ have you used in your adult life?

Trust me, I don’t have any grand and sweeping ideas for reform. Maybe I’m just in a sour mood after sitting for three and a half hours answering questions I’ll never need to know. All I’m saying is that we need a change.


A Vision… August 24, 2010

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 9:26 PM
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This was a really neat video on YouTube.

And why am I posting this? Because, no, I have not read Mockingjay yet, for reasons I shall not explain. Hopefully I’ll get it soon, so I can gush or sob to my heart’s content.