Essay Antics

As AP tests and the end of the year close in, preparations for those tests begin to escalate. As part of that, feedback and constructive criticism can be devastating, but the most useful asset a student has to overcome the AP exam.

Today in English class, we wrote essays in response to a reading we did to analyze the style of writing the author took to make the writing more effective. After I had written my essay, I had realized that I made a poor mistake in my choice of analysis in my thesis and my ideas were poorly organized. I had only realized this after I had written, and wondered on how I could fix this problem. The next day, we did peer reviews, and I got immediate feedback on what I needed to do, including better organization and that I was slightly off from the prompt, and some analytical choices. This was what I needed to succeed, and I was extremely grateful of the criticism because I wanted to improve and score higher on the AP Composition exam. While the criticism is useful, I feel that I need more practice to iron out all the mistakes I would have made on the actual test.

Some people take criticism very sharply and translate it as an attack on their character, but what they need to realize that it is not to hurt them, but rather, to help them. Those who give criticism are not out to hurt you (unless they actually are), but rather to help you improve and succeed, as is the job of teachers.

Another time in my APUSH history class, we had presentations to do, and from what I heard, the previous periods had gotten chewed out. My group was giving the presentation, and after I said some of my lines, I could visibly see my teacher cringe a little. At the end of the presentation, he gave us plenty of criticism and asked us questions, hinting us towards the correct answer that we were so slightly off from. In situations like that, most would have been upset with the teacher’s tone, but I had to stand there and take the feedback. After thinking about this for a little bit afterwards and the following day, I realized that my teacher was not out to get us, but to guide us on the right idea. While others gave their presentations and stood in the front for criticism, I perked up at his words like, “You presented that idea very well.” “You didn’t quite hit the mark, but got very close.” “You are on the right track, but keep going.” These key phrases made me realize that he was not being critical to be critical, but to help all of us prepare for the key things we will need to write on for the AP exam for US history.

I have come to realize that some teachers are sometimes rude and grumpy, but while these may be their qualities, they often aren’t doing it on purpose. They want to help us, to guide us on the right path, to see us succeed in class and in life. I’ll now have to be more keen towards my teachers and the things they say, because while it may seem rude, there is always a deeper meaning and feeling to words.


How much Homework?


John Liu

Homework is school (or not school) assigned practice work to help students understand and conceptualize what they are learning. often enough, practice homework, is helpful for understanding an idea or lesson, but if the homework were too long to complete, for example, 6 classes, 1 hour per class’ homework, 6 hours of homework daily, then students would slowly (or quickly) get exhausted and consider homework a chore, busywork, that students will eventually find themselves skimping out on. 

Children in elementary grade level are at time where they are developing themselves, their imagination, and their creativity, a crucial stage in development. From my experiences and from others as well, children despise homework because it takes away from their fun time, which it does. For them, lessons and practice should be done in class, and should have only slight to no homework at home.

“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.” – Harris Cooper, Duke University.

However, at later stages, like middle school, high school, and on, students begin to realize the importance of homework and its influence on their education. This is especially important at this later stage because concepts and lessons learned in school begin to take a more complex form. At the same time, homework shouldn’t be piled on, like 6 hours per day, but to a maximum of two. 

My current calculus teacher does this as well, which benefits all of her students. What she does is she teaches the lesson for the day in class, but short and concise enough that we understand the material, and afterwards, we are given a fair amount of homework to do in class. During that “class work” time, the environment of the classroom becomes moderately quiet, with small pockets of conversations going on. We can ask our teacher or our friends for help on questions we don’t understand and get the appropriate amount of help we need that we usually can’t get from home.. By the time class is over, classwork becomes homework but there is usually so little left, that it can be done in ten to twenty minutes. This is especially benefitted from the fact that by them time we leave class, we understand the material than when we initially took notes and began working.

But unlike my situation,my other friends in calculus with a different teacher work differently. She gives them much more homework and material to learn from, and online quizzes. My friends often come to me for help because they sometimes can’t get it at home, and sometimes stay up late doing the homework or online quizzes, and I know this because they complain every now and then. This is the current system that is often found in classrooms across the nation.

I propose in supporting and implementing Cooper’s idea that elementary students should receive no homework and higher grade students should receive about two hours of homework per day or less (excluding projects/essays). As a student, I don’t support this just because I want less homework, I support this because many do find themselves understanding the material, but also are exhausted from being overworked. We need just the right amount of homework to make learning more efficient and time-wise.

The Journey Continues…

If you are returning back to read my blog post again you may remember the review I did a while back about the book The Alchemyst. If you have not already, I suggest checking out my previous review so you can better understand this current one. Well I am here today to bring you yet another great book from the great series of novels The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. The name of this amazing novel is The Magician by Michael Scott. The sorceress is the second book in a six book series called, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. This book picks up right where the last book left at an exhilarating rate. Josh and Sophie Newman are now in Paris, and now must face Niccoló Machiavelli, and his accomplice Dr. John Dee. In this short amount of time Sophie must start to understand the element she has recently gained control off. The element of wind. It may not seem all that strong but in the hands of the right user, it can be the most powerful of all the elements. As the race for the codex commences throughout all of Paris Josh Newman is captured by the evil but, cunning master Dr. John Dee. Dee convinces Josh to follow him with the hope of finding an elder to awaken Josh’s powers. I will the leave the rest of this amazing novel for you to read. I would rate this book a solid 7 out of ten. I do not think this book is as good as the previous novel in the series because it seems as though Michael Scott was trying to cram so much into as little pages as possible. The main reason why I think this novel was not as great as any of the others in the series is because the plot is not as well put together as some of the others. In some parts of the book you are just sitting there waiting for nothing to happen. All in all this is still a good book and I highly recommend reading it. -Zach

The Adventure of a Lifetime

As a kid you could never get me to read a book even if you forced me to. I was like this until the age of ten. I had to read a book for my fourth grade class. It could be any book we wanted at all. I decided to pick up the book A Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. This was the first time I ever experienced the love of books and the world of imagination it brings you to. The story starts off with a ship named “Vivacia” and we learn that it is a liveship. A liveship is a boat that is made out of wizardwood but, the special thing about these ships are when three owners, from separate generations of the same family, die upon the deck of the ship, the ships will come alive. They retain all memories and experiences of those who lived and died aboard them. The Vestrits area  family who gained wealth through trading and developing monopolies on goods. This family owns the liveship “Vivacia” and we learn that so far two of the three required deaths have already been fulfilled. When Kefferia’s father dies and makes the necessary third death to quicken the Vivacia into a liveship with all the memories of the previous captains. As he is dying he turns over the ownership of the ship to Kefferia and her new husband Kyle. Kyle being the power hungry character he is banishes Keffaria from her beloved liveship. I will leave the rest of the book for you to read. I would rate this book an easy 9/10. Robin Hobb has such a creative mind and it is incredible to read about all the fantasy worlds and different places she makes using her imagination. She comes up with these crazy ideas that you would never even think of. I cannot even begin to comprehend how one person can have all these great ideas. -Zach

An Unexpected Journey

Today the book I will be reviewing is a book that tells us the story of one of the world’s greatest myths of all time. This book is The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. The alchemist is the first book in a six book series called, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Magic is one of the biggest subjects of intrigue in the world of fantasy fiction. I can say with utmost conviction that the magic in The Alchemyst does not disappoint in any way. This novel starts off with a man named Nicholas Flamel. We learn that this man is nearly seven-hundred years old because he is in possession of the most powerful book that has ever existed. The book of Abraham the Mage. This book not only holds the secret to eternal life, but many other secrets best left untold. In the hands of certain people it even contains the power to destroy the world. Dr. John Dee plans to steal the book and do just that. We now learn of the two main protagonists Josh and Sophie Newman. Josh and Sophie are about to partake in one of the most elaborate and unexpected journey we have ever seen. These siblings are said to be the fated siblings of prophecy. The siblings of silver and gold. The prophecies say that the siblings have the power to both save and destroy the world. This book has so many great aspects integrated into the extraordinary plot. But personally I believe the finest attribute is all the characters that the book features are based upon real-life historical characters such as Shakespeare. The descriptions and though that the author puts into these characters still seems to amaze me. There is not a single aspect he seems to leave out. He features characters from all different aspects of culture, from Egyptian gods all the way to the legend of the great sword Excalibur.  Michael Scott uses the knowledge of common myths and stories to make up a novel like no other. I recommend this book to anyone looking to read a well written and intriguing fantasy novel. On this final thought, I will now leave you. -Zach

An Unfortunate Journey

Recently I made the decision to re-read a series I have always loved ever since I was a little kid. The book is the first in a thirteen book long series. The series is known as A series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. This series is focused more towards the younger audiences and may seem childish at times but, if you begin to start looking closer into the books you will find them not as childish as you once thought.  The first book in this wonderful series is The Bad Beginning. It starts out with three siblings that are just about to hear the most devastating news. They learn that their parents died in a fire that destroyed all that they owned. This is the beginning of their journey of unfortunate events. A banker takes custody of them until he can find a relative to give them to. A mysterious man posing as their uncle comes to pick them up from the Banker. This fake uncle of theirs goes by the name of Count Olaf. The only reason why Olaf wants to take in these sad orphaned children is because he is after their family’s vast inheritance. Once the children move in with Olaf he begins to treat them terribly, making them cook, clean the house. The house Olaf is currently living in is completely trashed. He seeks to accomplish his evil plan by marrying himself to one of the orphans. I will stop right here and leave the rest for you to read on your own. Lemony Snicket has one of the most unique writing styles I have ever read. Not only is his writing style incredibly unique, he also finds way to incorporate foreshadowing and unsolvable mysteries into his writing. The book itself is not the best out of the series but, it is necessary if you want to read one of the greatest series to ever have been written. Not to mention Netflix is coming out with a t.v series based of these books, so make sure you go out and read this series. -Zach

A magical Adventure

Today I want to bring to you one of the greatest experiences known to modern day literature. You may ask yourself, “What might that be?” It is one of the greatest books written, read by both children and adults, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling. Originally I was very lenient on reading this book since it was labeled as a child’s book, but I can firmly say that this is not the case. Personally I would rate this book a solid 8/10. It all begins with an Englishman Mr. Dursley. This particular Englishman begins to notice a few strange things happening on his way to work that day. The book shifts to later that night where a wizard named Dumbledore explains that a particular child’s parents where killed by an evil wizard. When he returns to his house later that night, Mr. Dursley finds a small child in a basket, with a note explaining the events that led up to him needing to take care of the child. Ten years pass by and we learn of the horrors this adopted child goes through. This child we learn is named Harry Potter. Harry lives a terrible and sad life, but little does he know, that is all going to change— that very night.  Because he was no ordinary boy. Harry was a wizard. Mr. Dursley starts to panic after seeing both the magical things Harry has unknowingly been doing and the invitations from the magical school Hogwarts.  In his state of panic Mr. Dursley leads Harry and the rest of his family off to a secluded island away from their house. As they are sleeping they hear a loud bang on the door. The door opens slowly. They see a dark bulky giant walk into the room, which promptly walks up and hands Harry his invitation to Hogwarts. I will now leave you with a sense of mystery so that you are intrigued enough to go out and buy this book. This is not the only book in the series. It is actually the first in a seven book series. So without further ado goodbye. – Zach


I have a lot of weird habits that have formed out throughout my life. I like to walk around whenever I start to think for a bit. I use large hand motions in everyday conversations and while thinking to myself. Though if I were to think of one habit that would stand out the most, I would think of this one.

I like to observe humans.

Now the way I phrased this is weird isn’t it? “I like to observe humans.” I could have just said, “I like to look at people” and it would give off the same meaning, but I think otherwise. I think that these two phrases give off different meanings. In the latter one, I think it gives off the connotation that I like to glance at a person, think, “He looks nice” or, “She looks cute” and then move on. In the first one, I think that it gives the feeling of analyzation. Which is exactly what I do.

Now this habit was formed many years ago in the fifth grade like some of my other habits did as well. When I was alone during recess, I would look at the other kids and see what they were doing. I would think to myself, “He’s having fun playing soccer” or “She seems happy talking with her friends.” At first it was just looking at what other people were doing, but then it grew into something bigger.

As I grew older I no long just glanced at a person and then go off on my merry way. I began to take a bit more time with looking at others. I first looked at what they were doing. I looked at people doing their homework, playing games, talking to others, etc. I then began to look at them in more detail. I looked at their face at first. I looked at their eyes for their eye colors. I looked for blemishes or scars. I looked for moles, birthmarks, freckles, etc. I then looked at their clothes: what brand they were, how loose or fitting they were, how clean they were. I began to dive into more and more detail until I hit a wall that I needed to climb over.


Why did they style their hair like that? Why did they wear that today? Why is he doing that to him? Why does she do that? I wanted to know. I wanted to understand others. I wanted to know the “why” of people. I wanted to learn of their motives, beliefs, drives, dreams, and much more. As I started to dive into this, I started using less and less time to stare at people. Now I just need to glance for a couple of seconds to get an overall feel for the person. I came back to where I started.

It’s not like I consider this to be a bad thing to do. I, in fact, consider this to be a great thing to happen to me. I began to learn about others better. I copied others’ actions and behaviors to better understand others. It helped me become who I am. I owe myself to the observation of others. I will continue to observe humans and I will continue to learn from them for the rest of my life.

Different opinions

Are arguments and different opinions healthy for society? Does everyone have the entitlement to their opinion? In many places, opinions seem to usually be a majority, or are near even enough to cause fighting? Possibly, it is good because we all have the right to speak freely.

In my english class, we did a writing workshop where in groups, we review, assess, and provide constructive criticism on each other’s essays, usually all essays have the same topic or structure, but vary from person to person so we can compare easily. This particular time, we got an argument essay where the three other members of my group argued the exact opposite argument from mine. Listening to the same argument three times with more evidence piling, I felt that I had made the clearly wrong choice in opinion and topic, and the repetition drilled into my head their points of why their argument was correct. I assumed that their opposite arguments would result in them being harsher to me, which I thought would be bad for me.

However, I realized that their possible harshness towards my opinion might help me. By being more critical, both myself and the others could improve our arguments by listening to each other and finding flaws and weaknesses to use in our counter arguments, or in my case, to some degree, convert me to their side of the argument with some debate. It was great, because besides improving each other’s structure, we could help each others arguments. At the end of the session, my paper had a good amount of criticism, as did theirs, and all of us could improve.

By arguing and/or debating, we can help to prove a point because it is only natural for there to be multiple points of view, meaning that debates are natural as well. Courts and debates are proof of this, where two or more arguments can butt heads with each other to prove which is right in a more civil discussion. For example, the presidential race is a debate on which idea or argument is most representative of the people through popular votes. Candidates travel from state to state in hopes that they can convince enough people to join their party and earn their vote so that they can win the year’s campaign. The one who wins has the majority support for their idea of how the candidate should run the country for that term, and the public opinion shifts over time so that one argument is not always correct.

Debates are natural in society, and help to improve all people’s beliefs, which occur to enlighten people, and often improve and develop each other’s’ arguments along the way.

A Time With Others

Humans have interacted with other humans for many generations. We have formed civilizations and communities. We are a naturally social species. Though some people, like myself, may find it hard to interact with others. It may be due to nervousness that people can’t fully communicate with others, but for me, it is due to fear.

Being lonely is one of my biggest fears. It is a terrifying experience. To have nobody to talk to, to interact with, is nightmare to me. Being alone is fine, but being lonely is terrible. But perhaps bigger than my fear of being lonely is my fear of losing others. To lose people would lead me to being lonely. I fear for the possibility of that happening. I try my hardest to not lose anyone. I try to be friendly. I imitate others to get along with them. I do anything in my power so that they don’t want to leave me.

To be honest, I don’t want to this. I don’t want to be afraid of being alone. I don’t want to be afraid to lose others. It’s just I have this innate desire to be with others, but due to my fear of possibly losing them, it makes it hard to approach people. When making friends, I am never the one who makes the first move. I constantly rely on others to do it for me. I didn’t choose to be this way.

It makes me feel selfish. The way I act makes me feel like I am a people pleaser. Like I try to fulfill the desires of others for my own personal gain. The gain of comradery. The gain of friendship. This is not what I want to do. I want to show my true self to others, but the fear of losing others by doing this is too great.

My relations with others may be messed up. I may be an introverted, selfish individual, but I am trying to be better. I am trying to better myself so I can be less fearful of being lonely. So I can be less of a people pleaser and more of a man of truth. But as the saying goes, people don’t change. Maybe I can’t change. Maybe I can’t reach this ideal version of myself. That is fine. I just need to accept myself for who I am. If I can do that, then I will be just fine.