Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Summer Reading

Maybe I wouldn't dislike summer reading as much if the books they forced us to read didn't get increasingly horrible as the years go on.

Though I am what some people would call an avid reader (I prefer the term book hoarder), I dislike the concept of summer reading enforced by schools.

"Oh, but you love reading," everyone tends to reply, which really only sends me into a deeper mood as I sit begrudgingly on my couch, reading something that is only managing putting me asleep, instead of exciting me and keeping my brain stimulated over the course of the summer.


I think it's great that libraries are encouraging children to read over the summer. For a lot of kids who do not attend summer camp, or don't do anything over the summer, their creative juices are often impacted, making the adjustment into school harder for them. If children and teenagers choose to not seek out books by themselves, and if their parents do not encourage summer reading, then yes, they may end up very un-stimulated by the end of the roughly two month period. 

Reading is a wonderful thing. It lets the mind enter an alternate reality, sometimes not even following the same rules as our own. I relish in opening a new book, discovering a new world as my own private place. And during the school year, I'm often forced to crack open books that I would rather not be forced to read, and after reading them, we spend months discussing them, squeezing every inch of meaning out of the sentences until each is bone dry. I either end up with a profound appreciation for a book (which has happened once, with Feed), or I end up vaguely remembering the reason I liked it in the first place, having stripped the book of its heart. The books also become plagued with memories of bad grades, embarrassing pronunciations in class, rushing to do homework in the morning because I had forgotten that it was due first period that day. 

That is why in the summer, I like spending extra time with the books that I have gotten the pleasure to read, in the privacy of my own space, alone. Maybe I'm just too introverted for my own good in this case. I get to delve into the mysteries of it in my own time, coming up with greater meaning, but not ruining the book. I do not tire myself of them. My favourite book ever is The Humans written by Matt Haig, and I have enjoyed sharing my emotions only with the book itself. It helped me in ways that I know would be mocked by my classmates (and probably by my teacher too). It was on the list for next year's summer reading, but I had read it this summer because I was too intrigued by it to wait. I'm so glad I read it this summer, because I have another year to let myself process it in solitude, carefully figure out why it means so much to me. 

Anyway, back to the rant bit: When forced to read by schools out of a specific set list of books, children and teenagers are not being encouraged to open themselves up to a brand new world of books. They are not going to discover a newfound love of of reading, because they simply will have a school mindset about it.  They will be forced to take time out of whatever they are doing in the summer, and sit and read, controlling themselves, trying to remember what was taught to them throughout the year. 

In fact, for me, summer reading actually stopped me from reading as much as I had liked (or at least in my twisted way of viewing it). I have been trying to read Moby Dick all summer (and I've sincerely been enjoying it), but every time I picked it up, I would remember the summer reading I'd have to do.

Like my mom, you might argue that I could have just gotten it done within the first two weeks of summer, finished my notes, and forgotten about it (Which would have messed me up for the test we take on the first day of school on the books we read during the summer. That's right, a test on the first day of school:))). But, I don't believe that after ten months of waking up at six a.m. every day, doing tests and projects what also felt like every day, that students should have to regulate their summers according to school rules. I believe in complete and utter freedom from the stress of school during summer. 

And then the notes we are required to write for the first day of school! Almost all english teachers like to have specific preferences for how students write: some prefer cursive, double spaced, single spaced, etc. But students don't know these rules beforehand, and I've even seen points getting deducted just because students weren't able to foresee the future (usually only by teachers of the  Umbridge-like kind). 

If we were allowed to pick the books we read, teachers would be able to get to know our interests at the beginning of the year, and might even learn about how all us students learn best in the process. It would also encourage students to delve into themselves and find what really interests them. 

I know a lot of people, probably much more mature, less stubborn people will disagree with me on this, and this was an extremely long-winded, rambly post. But I've thought a lot about this, and this is the way I feel. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please let me know how you feel about this in the comments. Also, let me know if you'd like to read more of these rambles on different aspects of school. I'm planning on doing one on standardized testing in the future, and tie that in with mental illness. 

-Oakstar

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Dwell on Dreams

But Why do We Dwell on Dreams?

Visions scribbled hastily on spare pieces of paper
Revelations leaving the mouth before fully entering the mind 
Doodles etched in the margins of a notebook
And drunkenness on the whispered promises of the future.

Clouds are the ripples of the sky
And stars are the freckles of the night
But why do we dwell on dreams?

Eyes sparkling before closing for a beat
Satin slipping on a smooth surface
A ray from a stage filling all sight
And a heartbeat quickening with the rise of a crescendo.

Wind is God's melody
And leaves are the tree's children
But why do we dwell on dreams?

Fractured light leaving a frosted lamppost
The echo of adventure in the banging shut of a door
The hatching of an egg, the promise of a full life.
And being alone in a forest, apart from the ghosts.

Dawn is the prayer of the sun
And dusk is the gift wrap of the moon
But why do we dwell on dreams?

A star, light years away, an inch from the iris
Hands molding something there into something new
Matter dispersing but never disappearing
And ideas developed as they fail.

Rainbows are the heart's pride
And raindrops are the angel's tears of joy
But why do we dwell on dreams?

A bead of sweat trickling down an arm
The touch of a hand to grass and then to sky
The cool silver on the lips of a champion
And the swell of pride in a chest of a fighter.

Space is the place of questions for answers
And matter is a clump of non-touching atoms

But why do we dwell on dreams?

Heat conserved in layers of comfortable clothes
Ceramic mugs slipping through cold fingers
The laughter of friends echoed on snowy nights
And a song shared together.

Love is the life of us all
And unity is the stitch of the universe
But why do we dwell on dreams?

O, they ask why we dwell on dreams.

-Oakstar

___________________________

I wasn't sure what this poem would mean when I started writing it. I had a general idea that it would be about writers, but as I began writing about the little things that writers did, I got a strange empty feeling and decided to expand on it to include everyone who had dreams, whether it was about the arts, sports or science... or anything. 

I was also thinking about a quote by Albus Dumbledore- "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." But I think that sometimes dreams remind us to live.

Sometimes, when we're broken or hanging on to life by a single thread, if we're drowning in a whirlpool of darkness and trying to claw our way out, dreams are what we live for. They become the thread we're hanging onto, and with a lot of love, the thread grows into a rope we can use to pull ourselves out for some air. 

Whatever your dream may be, and no matter how practical it is or is not, I beg of you, do not let it go. Hold onto it, give it lots of love and nurture it until it grows strong enough to be your own strength. And do not give up on those who are helping you achieve your dream. And whether it is big or small or in between, it still matters. No dreams are stupid, no dreams are not worth fighting for. So fight for your dreams, and fight for yourself.

love,
Oakstar

(Cough Syrup covered by Blaine Anderson on Glee makes a great to listen to for deeper thoughts)