Fulfillment Beyond Grades

I personally feel very validated when I get a good grade, but I also have learned through my experiences during the first semester of being in the ib diploma program that grades aren’t everything.

I like grades because I feel they are a relatively honest reflection of my performance, but such was not the case for ToK this year. I got a 100 on everything, and I know for a fact that those grades don’t reflect on my writing or the amount of thought and refining that goes into my assignments. However, I understand where my teacher is coming from with the grades. He wants to see the ib learner profile traits at play and of course some always are.

I think that assessing a student’s performance based on the learner profile won’t necessarily get rid of any stress or feeling of having to “get something done”, because assignments are responsibilities no matter what way performance is being assessed.  For this reason, a drawback might be students being so used to the number game,  that it becomes difficult to see an assignment as much more than something to get over with. However, I definitely see the benefits in this practice, because it could help redirect the mindset of tasks being a burden, to tasks being a personal exploration and opportunity for growth.

This applies more directly to academic classes, and especially to math. I despise learning what to do and how to do it, but not why. When this happens, I become awfully frustrated, but somehow the grade is still good, and of course it’s all because of the focus of the class.   I hate the fact that my grades are good, but that in the effort of getting them to be so, I don’t feel the passion I should about learning. I am in a way forced to leave that behing. That’s why I think a different grading system is ideal for ib classes, because the focus is now not on understanding material at a surface level, but about being invested and fascinated with learning things deeply.

It’s a million times better to focus on becoming a better learner than to focus on accomplishing a task, retrieving information on how things occur, that leaves not fulfillment or meaning in students and will be forgotten as soon as is turned in. I think we, as students, would complete assignments more willingly and devotedly , having that there is a more lasting significance to it. Bonds, family sentiment, and interaction would also grow as we learn that learning isn’t a competition of numbers but one of growing together.


Reflection on my “Plato’s Cave” Essay

The first major writing assignment we were given in ToK was in response to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the role that the ways of knowing play in it. Since the ways of knowing are the same to the men in the cave in the allegory as they are to the readers, who’s to say we aren’t in a cave ourselves? This is the idea I explored in my essay, by directing my attention to sense perception and faith as two ways of knowing that act as caves, or barriers to having a whole understanding of existence in this universe.

I approached this essay with pretty unclear ideas, and when I tried to make sense of them in my paper, the results weren’t so good. The fact that I lacked a concrete example for my idea of sense perception as a cave is what impeded my complete understanding and undermined my ability to convey the fully developed idea comprehensibly.  I see where my mind was headed when I used the red cup example as a way to establish that through observation, which can only be done through our senses, we build our knowledge, but are restricted because we only have 5 senses and we aren’t the creator/giver who understands, but the observer who tries to. I only fully understood what I was trying to do with this example when I applied it to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Law of Continuity, and the process of him unearthing it.

The paragraph following my example of the red cup is a failed attempt at providing the concrete example to better my understanding and that of the reader in the role that sense perception plays as a cave, impediment, to human understanding. For example, I say, “We’ve sent aircraft into space and have been to the moon, things which wouldn’t have been possible had someone not noted that apples fall to the ground from trees,” showing my very, very small understanding. Seeing does not equal understanding, as I imply in that sentence. On the other hand, as I reread my essay, I realized that was constitutes our knowledge is reasoning and observation. In other words, we form conclusions out of our observations through reasoning. Da Vinci sketched the flow of seeds he threw into a river and reasoned that if his drawing were accurate then water would always flow faster at the narrower parts of a river of even depth.

My last body paragraph talked about faith as a cave, and although it was underdeveloped it was still easier to follow in its connection with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

My thoughts on whether knowing that we’re in a cave will allow us to escape it has also changed after understanding my initial ideas better. When applying the cave concept to faith in a religious doctrine, the pastor or minister of the church behaves as the strange beings that decide what the men in the cave see on their wall of shadows. Regardless of the shadows they see only being reflections of reality, the men in the cave, like believers, are still given the substance from which they must form conclusions, deciding what is true or false. Doubt arises in believers of Christ, like in believers of other faiths, and this doubt either leads to confirmation or discarding of the original belief. Either one, in a sense, is like emerging from a cave for the person experiencing the doubt. So, freedom from the cave is relative to each person. Recognizing that you may be in error, will lead to observation and reasoning, which lead to knowledge and freedom.

Like humans are capable of considering the fact that they are in a sort of cave (as we are doing at the moment), the men in the cave must have also been capable of considering this, and only then does the possibility of leaving the cave open up. Plato emphasized just that: intense reasoning through observation (aka philosophy) is the way out of the cave.

A Cultural Link- Tamales

A lot of Hispanics only make tamales on special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. My mom’s friend actually just told her how excited she was for tamales since Christmas is getting closer, so it’s definitely not a food that’s eaten regularly. However, in my family we make them about once a month, and even more often around the holidays, so to us it’s not anything particularly special, but that doesn’t mean we’ve gotten tired of them or don’t enjoy them.

Although they do take a few hours cooking in the steamer, tamales aren’t very difficult to make. The most common kinds that my mom makes are chicken, which can be cooked with Ancho chile pepper to make it red or with green tomatoes and jalapeno peppers to make it green, cheese, and squash. I mainly eat the chicken ones, my dad’s favorite are the cheese kind, which come with a slice of pickled jalapeno pepper, and since my mom doesn’t eat chicken, the squash kind are for her. Tamales can be filled with a variety of things, such as beans, spinach, rice, and even ones with prunes and coconut are made.

As my mom and I were making the tamales, I asked her if they were any harder to make back when she lived in Mexico. Here all we need is corn flour, corn oil, water, and salt to make the dough, and chicken breast, Ancho chile peppers, and seasonings to make the filling. Everything is store bought. For my mom though, it wasn’t as easy, and tamales weren’t something that was eaten often. My mom lived on a farm, so pretty much everything they used for the tamales they grew at home. They grew corn, and to make the flour they would break the base and let the corn dry up. They would then grind the corn, and from this make the tamales.

Now, there are two kinds of tamales. Those wrapped in corn leaves and those wrapped in banana leaves. The banana leaf kind is more work intensive, since the dough is more saucy, the chicken isn’t pulled apart and also more saucy, and you have to make careful folds so no sauce spills out. My brothers prefer these, but my favorite are the corn leaf kind. Every time we make them, we make quite a bit, so they’ll last for a couple of days, and this is why my mom enjoys making them. It means less cooking for her. But further, the best part about tamales is that they mean bringing the family together one way or another. My mom gets a break from the kitchen, so she’s spending more time laughing and conversing with us, I typically help her make the tamales and this results in much joy and understanding between us, we invite the rest of the family over to eat, and we share it with others.

Invisibilia “Future Self” Response

In their “Future Self” podcast, invisibilia explores the idea that one of the major forces that shape our lives is the vision of ourselves in the future. Faith in that vision can lead us to great successes, but could that faith in a bright and positive dream for ourselves go too far? This is the question that the podcast seeks to answer by telling us the stories of several students from North Port Highschool.

North Port, Florida wasn’t exactly a community which produced students who invested serious efforts in their dreams. There were certainly dreams, but this was a working-class town and students weren’t really sure how to obtain them, so the dreams were left untouched. That is until George Kenny became principal. He introduced AP classes, opened an art center, started numerous after school programs, and held job fairs, however he felt the need for something greater to bring the students’ potential to reality. He found out about hypnosis and began using it on the students. He hypnotized teachers who wanted to pass exams, parents who wanted to quit addictions, and students who wanted to get better grades or be better athletes, and all these improvements shone through almost over night. Everything seemed to be going perfect, until it didn’t.

Wesley McKinley was an aspiring musician.  Everything seemed to be heading in the right direction for him, but one day he began acting strange. He counted every parking light he saw from the bus on the ride home, asked his friends repeatedly to punch him and to call him Tyler, not only his middle name, but also the one Kenny used to make sure Wesley was under when hypnotizing him. Later, his girlfriend texted him telling him that she had kissed someone and didn’t want him to call or text her anymore.

Britanny Palumbo wanted to go to UCF, and all she did was with that goal in mind. Her mom would tell her to imagine how terrible her life would become if she didn’t get a college degree as a way to get her to focus more. As a result Brittany developed high, high ideals. However, she got into an argument with the friend she was going to room with, the boyfriend who was waiting for her at UCF broke up with her, and she couldn’t get her SAT scores up.

Wesley and Britanny committed suicide. Life wasn’t worth living anymore after the picture perfect scenes of their futures shattered. Provisions had not been made for this deviation.

What is one to make of this? Should we not aim too high, because we’ll face certain disappointment?  If we don’t reach our ideals, is there no option but to strive for something lower and be regretful forever?

I relate this back to my own dream of becoming a surgeon and an admirable student. As I began this school year I had a vision of all that I wanted to be.  I was determined not to let anything undermine my efforts, even if it meant sacrificing time with my family, part of my happiness, or health. I did sacrifice all of these things for some time, and I got my priorities really mixed up.

The week of Thanksgiving break was tumultuous and it taught me a lot. I had fallen super far behind in History of the Americas and that week was my chance to catch up, but I didn’t at all. I hadn’t planned for my dog getting sick and having to take care of him to the point of no rest. The time I did have free, I certainly did not want to spend reading and studying for history, so I did nothing having to do with school.  I turned three assignments in late, and my grades have certainly paid the price. Even so, I don’t regret it, and I would do it again, because I feel that up to this point I had tried as hard as I could, and honestly, I deserved that break. Of course, persevering will pay off in the future as I head on to college, but I think my well-being was more important at the moment.

Regardless, I can’t help but feel disappointed because I was supposed to be near the very top of my class in my vision and I’m not. I feel stuck, because I feel like I’m not growing, but dwindling. However, I feel happier coming out of that week, and stronger too. Life will keep on going, and it’s not the school workload that makes it so hard, but all the other problems. Some of these are too much sometimes, and it’s okay to take a break. It’s more important, I learned, to put my family, health, God, and happiness first. Being a good student isn’t all about the grades, but about being happy and present while learning and creating good work.

A bright vision for the future is great, so long as you take into account that life will not bend its rules for your own gain. You have to bend your vision and realize that life won’t go exactly the way you want it to, but you’ll be happier in the end if you learn to accept it and improvise when the going gets tough.


My Personal Geography- An embodiment of my experiences and those to come.

My personal geography is an embodiment of my experiences. The plan was to map all the scars on my body to show all the childhood and adolescence experiences that were made perpetually living memories when marked onto my body. However, while developing the idea, my draft extended to factors outside of my individual person which undeniably make me who I am.

At the very top of the image is a city upon my head. This city is that of Aspiration. This of course varies from person to person, but for me it is a city of gold representing the heavenly golden city (or atleast I want to aspire this more than anything else) and  the act of living up to my values. Reaching the peak of these mountains is the most valuable achievement to me.

Moving downward, on the forehead is the Sea of Dreams and Clarity enshrouded in a layer of darkness. This shows that my mind could go on thinking negative, consuming thoughts but my dreams and plans about how to reach them are greater than the darkness. Although, I may feel unmotivated and tired, my aims will propel me to keep on working towards them, learning more about the world and applying my findings to my life.

Further down is my heart connected by veins to factors which build on my individuality. If I’m floating on the sea then the bubbles which are connected externally are the currents that move me. These things are nature, spirituality, family, and art. The drawings include me with one of my dogs under the starry night sky, me reading a book, a sermon I remember distinctly that deeply motivated me to serve God, and my family. If it weren’t for these things I would have no reason to do anything that I’m doing currently to achieve my goals.

At my feet is a multi-colored path. This is because I’m striving for various and numerous things, but most importantly a dynamic and beautiful future. So starting at the top and moving downward, everything that I am and everything that impels me will lead me to that multi-colored road.

Now, this could easily be applied to other people’s lives. Everyone has goals that decide what course their life will take. Beauty, family, and a belief system are the important elements that get most people through life. Sure, its a bit more personalized because it depicts my raccoon attack experience, my receiving the first flower from a boy, my friendship mementos, the markings that my pets have left on me, my wanting to dye my hair crazy colors, and my scarred knees, but the overall idea is very generalized and could apply to anyone.

However, the Miracle Monument reveals that everything that I am I owe to my Savior, and that’s what makes me and this map my own. All the scars and memories might not be living and moving now, if it weren’t for the grace of God. Nothing, none of it, would be alive, so in the lapse of a couple minutes my existence was saved, and I saw that I am unique and special with everything, bad and good, that I carry. personal geography.JPG

Ways of Knowing Post-Lessson Reflection

Upon learning that we were going to organize a lessons and instruct the class for a full 90 minutes ,I was nervous but also looked forward to it. However, when the time came to organize the lesson, it became a little daunting. Although I was excited for the challenge, I wasn’t so sure where to start and how we would spark deep thinking. The first group’s turn came and it was so good I realized how much ours was lacking. However, we still weren’t completely done and had time to improve it. We came together one nights and built on each other’s ideas and structured the presentation so it would be one coherent piece. We added more thought-provoking questions and a very interesting and informative podcast which was sure to prove effective in building the class’s understanding of the way of knowing that is emotion. Ultimately the presentation was good,but not exceptional and not completely what we were aiming for.

In total we had 30 slides, which meant there was too much information packed into a single presentation. We tried to cover everything instead of focusing deeply on a couple of ideas, detracting from the depth of the subject. It was not suited at all for an IB class full of students who want to understand things on a deep level. For this matter, we discussed only our first few ideas on a deep level and weren’t able to get past slide 10.This prevented us from reaching our most informative and engaging section of the lesson which was past slide 10. We very briefly touched on the podcast and for this reason,if I were given the chance I would cut our slides about basic and complex emotions and our unnecessarily long definitional slides which weren’t very enriching. I would focus more on our most insightful knowledge which was about how reason is intimately tied with emotion and how emotion deeply affects the way me know and make decisions.

However,since we did touch extensively on one of our deeper topics, the role emotions plays in visual art and music and how it’s a method of creating and analyzing these pieces , the presentation didn’t completely fail at engaging the class and informing.

One of our strengths was the discussion questions which prompted thinking, For example the question “If you feel no emotional response to a piece of art or music, can you know it?” initiated discussion about personal experiences with art and music and the way emotion allows us to fully appreciate them. It also arose confusion about what it meant to know “art” or music. It showed the conflict we constantly have between reason and emotion and how reason seems to prevent us from understanding things emotionally, or on a personal level.

Although we weren’t able to discuss the podcast , we did give out a note taking guide which should have been effective in helping the class get a deeper understanding of the way of knowing if they were actively thinking and jotting down ideas. Therefore,although we could have done a better job structuring the lesson, I believe we imparted sufficient knowledge and discussion to broaden the class’s understanding of the way of knowing significantly.

The experience was a good one and it taught me a tremendous amount about emotions and their importance for our survival. I also realized I shouldn’t have let the class steer the presentation, but Instead our group should’ve redirected them when drifting away from the topic being discussed. This would have allowed us to move through the presentations at a quicker pace, and address all questions and perspectives. However, our efforts were not in vain, as we learned a great deal and provided the class with enough information to obtain a deep understanding if they actively listened.

This I Believe

I believe in my fathers, my heavenly father and my earthly one. I believe God is real and I believe in His infinite love and grace towards me. I believe in my father and know he is a good man. He inspires me to be a good woman and assures me that I can reach whatever I set my mind on if I work hard. My dad seems rather hard on the surface but I know he’s a generous, hard-working, and wise man.
You could call my dad a mysterious man. He doesn’t let people see his vulnerable self and instead acts tough and some, I’m certain, think him “cold”, but he’s not. Some time ago, my dad and I stayed up late lying on my bed talking about his life in Honduras and about God. He told me some stories but one in particular, in which he told me of the time God saved him from doing something terrible, deeply impressed me. It reminded me of how God had saved my life before and how my entire family had all been witness to it. It also showed me parts of my dad which I had been oblivious to. Before he told me this, I hadn’t completely understood my dad, and I still don’t, but I understand more of him and perhaps why he acts the way he does in regards to some things. I can’t tell the story out of respect for my father, but I will tell the second story he told me that night.
One day he was walking through the streets of his town. It was a bright, relatively normal day with people going about their business, passing one another without acknowledgment, too submerged in their own thoughts to notice anything or anyone else. He was just trying to get home and as he was passing through the crowd he noticed that to  the other end there was commotion and people were gathering. He turned towards the tumult and broke through the gathered observers. He noticed everyone was frightened and observing with great attention but no one would do anything to save the little girl who was on the verge of drowning in the tempest of the river. He threw himself in and saved the little girl that day.
That night he told me, “When you have the chance to help someone, don’t think about it, just do it.” That night I understood my dad more than I ever had before, and something in my heart shifted. The value of that night with my dad and his words of wisdom could never be replaced by all the treasures in the world.
I believe in my God and his grace and mercy, not because I was born into a Christian home, but because my life is proof of His existence. If the God which I hope to serve faithfully were not real I would have been in the passenger seat which was ravaged when my mother and brothers suffered a car accident one morning. I wouldn’t have gotten so sick that I couldn’t possibly go to school, and it takes a whole lot for me to be sick enough to decide to not go to school, because I dread having to miss class and make work up, but I truly felt awful. What was more amazing was that I only got sick the night before and the next morning when I awoke to my brother telling me that they had been in a car crash any illness that had been present in my body had completely vanished.
I believe in my father, because in innumerable instances he has been what I aspire to become one day, and I believe in my Father God, because I’ve lived his grace and love in my life.