Dear boys, girls, and those of you who just aren’t quite sure yet (because that is totally cool too),
For many of you, this is a confusing time. Things are growing in places where you aren’t sure if they are supposed to be growing, new places might develop novel smells, and you might start to feel differently. If any of these things apply to you, or if none of these things apply to you, you are still normal. Every body goes through different changes at different speeds and in completely different orders. So if your best friend is growing armpit hair, but you haven’t reached that point yet, don’t worry – we all catch up in the end! I am writing to you, middle-schoolers, because this time can be a bit scary; there are a lot of changes that you can expect in the next couple of years, and a lot of information out there, both true and false, so a quick guide to the next few years seems like a pretty good resource for you right about now. Read on to learn about what makes boys and girls different biologically, some of the changes that you can expect to your body during puberty, how babies are made, and a quick peek at the different categorizations of gender!
Let’s start from the very beginning. How did we get here and what exactly makes girls different from boys?
The space that I pick up is the nook on the third floor of Denbigh, my residential hall. As a common space for students living on the third floor, nook is a part of my life: I do my readings at nook, I skype with my parents at nook, and, the most important, it was nook at that I started to learn how to “social” with other students, in an American way. The nook is like cultural classroom, what happened there taught me how to fit myself in a different culture. As you can see in the picture, the nook was decorated as a space for people gathering together and having some casual chatting. In order to celebrate Halloween, it was decorated by using pumpkins, skeletons and sparking lights. More important, I regard the nook as a space for me to learn more about American culture through intellectual conversations or just some casual conversations I have with different people. I think it is nook that helps me fit myself into the new cultural environment.
For some reason, I had a lot of difficulty writing about this particular subject. I was fascinated by Bryn Mawr's history and the story behind its architecture and students but I felt so disconnected that I didn't know how it applied to my personal space, which was my room. I ended up describing my room and the comfort I feel when I'm in it, and how I'm learning to accept it as a version of my home away from "home". I wrote about the importance of living on campus and how much better a college experience one has in comparison to a student living off-campus. When size and price of the rooms play a huge role in how one interacts with others at college, I could see how isolated a student who had to live off-campus would've felt. I feel spoiled.
I actually got around to investigating who lived in my room before my roommate and I moved in by reading the mini plaques bolted to the walls and it seems that Mildred Durand was the first ever to live in my room in 1905. And then I wondered if she brought along her house maid...
Everything got better and better, or, it was I that tried to make it better and better. I started to say my opinions out without worrying about whether they are the right answer for teacher and other students; I check the talking notes two days earlier before the class to ensure I won’t miss anything that needed to prepare for the class; I make appointments in the writing center in order to improve my writing… I began to enjoy the seminar. Though I still can’t talk as fluently as I hope, everyone listened patiently whenever I was talking; though sometimes I still don’t understand the idioms used by my American classmates, I dare to ask questions without feeling bad about myself; though sometimes I still feel pretty struggling about writing a great paper without small grammatical errors, I know I am on the way of being a better writer.What is more important, I began to understand the essence of critical thinking. I found that education, a word that occurs in my life so often, is actually not as familiar to me as I thought. Every time I read a new reading assignment, every time I wrote a new paper, I gained a new perspective about education. I started to look back my life, to examine my choices, my school performance and people around me along my road of my education. By this kind of reflection, I not only learned more about education itself, but also learned more about how to critically consider a social issue.
While I was writing my paper, I reflected on the changes that I've seen in myself and a lot of those changes resulted from many of the topics that we discussed. I didn't think learning about the different types of education that children receive all over the nation would have some sort of affect on me. For example, after writing my paper about access to education, I spent a lot of time outside of class thinking about my thesis. I've never had that type of experience before. After getting a grade on a paper in high school I would just toss it to the side and that would be the last time I thought about my argument. After discovering the huge impact ESL classes had on my learning, I was eager to come home to relearn my native language and interact with my grandparents (who mainly speak Khmer). I wanted to gain back what my childhood education took away from me. I never thought hard ahout how education extends beyond the classroom.
At the halfway point, In Class/OutClassed has helped me challenge the way in which I think about and approach education as an institution and experience. Before, I had figured that educational experiences were shaped by the backgrounds of the students and the characteristics of the class cultures alone; however, as classroom discussions unraveled, I began to scrutinize the educational system's structure and look into contesting the handling of its power. As a class, I have found that the opposing stances that we have held in participating in activities such as our classroom barometer has helped us formulate such ideas, forced us to take responsibility of what we think and test the credibility of the information we come across. Moreover, our discussions with writing partners has helped me recognize the faults in my communication and gradually propelled me to strengthen my voice and stance in my arguments within class. Overall, what we have learned in class so far has pushed me to become a more active participant in my own education and recognize that the quality of the educational process is more important in developing my perspective than the quantified measures such as grades and GPA that were once valued in high school.
To summarize my reflection, our ESEM has taught me a lot about how to mature into a good writer so that I am more confident in my writing and more comfortable in doing so. It also taught me to not only to be actively aware of how education affects people, but the struggles that education currently faces. I feel that my classmates and I both believe this is the main purpose for our ESEM, and that for the most part, the class has been successful in pushing our thoughts and perceptions about education. Moreover, we use the class as a place to test our ideas which we then open for discussion. On the other hand, I also pointed out some things that could be added to the class, such as looking at education from a more global stand point, and trying to make the class more concrete by trying to come up with viable solutions to the problems we have discussed. By doing this I feel like the class would be even richer in content.
This link is just food for thought, but it points out something I think pertains to the article by Edmundson we read earlier in the semester. Justin Fox, a Harvard Business School professor, talks about the value of a college degree and how the supply of college graduates is much greater than the demand, which ultimately allows for a really horrible job market in the United States. He talks about how the cost of a degree is far more expensive than its worth in most cases today, and the possibility that this will create an education bubble that will eventually burst.
I think this can really help explain Edmundson's point about the mentality of college students today who feel tremendous pressure to perform to perfection rather than taking risks.
-"The Education Bubble, Tenure Envy, and Tuition"
Harvard Business Review
My reflection revolved around my ability to "edit" my ideas and rethink many opinions about our educational system that I once firmly believed in. Prior to being in this class, I had a strong belief that every student should go to college and those who didn't were destined to be failures. Even though I saw students who simply weren't raised to beleive college was even a remote possibility, I felt comfortable telling myself that these students simply weren't ambitious or motivated enough to reach college. Essentially, I was blaming these students for something that, in many aspects, was out of their control. Since being in this seminar, my views on the topic have changed tremendously; and I realize the adversity that disadvantaged students have in our educational system that promotes "fairness." My ability to really grapple with issues like these has been the area where I've seen the most growth in myself over the course of this seminar.