The School of Life – Body of Work

The following 8 articles make up my “body of work” from the “School of Life” website. They are selected from under the category of sociability.

1. How to Say ‘I Love You’ to a Friend

This article explores the structure of a friendship and how it differentiates from sexual attraction. It is a kind of non-standard love that isn’t at all inferior in richness and sensitivity. I feel that this article strongly connected with me as I usually have a very hard time expressing my feelings to others, so I’ve never really told a friend that I love them. However, I recently said it for the first time to one of my best friends, and I feel like this article strongly reflects the nature of our relationship.

2. Why Men Are So Bad at Friendship

This article explores the nature of friendships between men and how the terror of admission of failure or any emotion of weakness prevents them from experiencing mutual compassion and proper trust. This article also connected with me as I think some of my friendships are actually based on this phenomenon. I often put on a facade with people and only select friends whom I really trust know my secrets and I’m able to be vulnerable with them.

3. How Not to Be Boring

This article was very interesting as it teaches the reader that there is no inherently boring person, and how that only seems to be the case when we neglect our true feelings and censor ourselves in an attempt to appear “normal”. This article connected with me as for the longest time I felt like I was a very boring person. I often compare myself to others and felt that everyone else is much more interesting than I am. Luckily, the friends that I have who really know me would be able to say otherwise (or at least I hope so).

4. Why Old Friends Matter

This article emphasizes the importance of old friends who have gone their separate ways because of life. The old friend serves as a reminder of our past selves and what it had been like to not be who we are now, which is vital to our personal growth. I’ve known one of my best friends of all time for about 12 years now, as we’ve known each other since first grade. Though our lives are taking off in completely different directions now and especially next year when we go off to college, we still connect with each other frequently and reminisce about our childhood days.

5. The Teasing of Old Friends

This article explores how the teasing of old friends brings about an affectionate atmosphere, even when talking about our faults. The history and affection between old friends allow for this intersection between the darker corners of who we are and how our old friends see and love us for who we really are. I remember once thinking to myself that a good way to measure my friendship level with someone is how easily we can tease each other without feeling offended. It’s all out of our love for each other.

6. How to Be a Good Listener

This article discusses and lists some of the traits of a good listener. Being a good listener is a very important life skill that few can do well. I think that personally, based on the article and on what some of my friends have told me, I’d say I’m a pretty good listener. My friends can always count on me to be there to listen to them whenever they want to rant about something they’re going through, and I would not only listen but attempt to dig deeper to help them resolve an issue or learn more about their feelings without stealing the narrative away from them.

7. How to Narrate Your Dreams

This article is slightly different from the previous ones as it doesn’t really deal with friendships but rather with communication. This particular article really grabbed my attention in that I always have some of the strangest dreams, yet I can never relive the emotions when telling them to my friends. As a matter of fact, there is a high degree of skill and practice required to be able to narrate our dreams well, and it ultimately comes down to our lack of preparation. The article also lists four rules of storytelling, which I’m going to keep in mind next time.

8. What Can Stop the Loneliness?

This article provides a list of what makes a “genuinely good friend”. A lot of us think we have good friends but still feel lonely deep down because our definition of a “friend” may be too trivial. I think for a rather long period of time in my life, I’ve asked myself this same exact question without really knowing why I felt lonely because I believed I still had friends around me. But now, I’d like to think that I choose my friends better, as I haven’t felt as happy to be around the people I am as I have in a while.

Mandarin Oriental: The Fan Campaign – Frederick Forsyth

Frederick Forsyth, a world-renowned author and journalist, speaks in a pair of promotional videos for Mandarin Oriental. In the first video titled “He’s a Fan”, he talks about a series of things that he likes, or in this case is “a fan of”, which is the symbol of the Mandarin Oriental and its fan campaign. The use of repetition is prevalent in this video as Forsyth repeats “I’m a fan of…”, which draws a parallel structure between all the things he mentions. However, at the very end, he says “I’m also a long-term fan of Mandarin Oriental”, breaking this parallel structure and hence emphasizing his liking of Mandarin Oriental. After saying this, he also smiles for a brief moment, which is a very positive body language to convey his approval and appeal to pathos. There’s also no music playing in the video, the only sound present being Forsyth’s voice, which can be seen as placing more emphasis on what he has to say and reinforcing his connection to the audience.

In the second video titled “In His Own Words”, Forsyth talks more about himself as an author, as if he was being interviewed. Here he appeals to ethos as he’s establishing his own credibility as a world-renowned author by mentioning things like his purpose, working environment, process, etc. Towards the end of the video, Forsyth states that he began writing with typewriters and stuck to it, which is a callback as in the previous video he mentioned being “a fan of writing with traditional typewriters”. This already establishes the importance of using typewriters in Forsyth’s life, which he states to be “familiar, comfortable, and … completely reliable.” After having established his own credibility, he shifts this credibility to the hotel as he says “that is what I find with Mandarin Oriental. I walk in and it’s so reliable. I can count on it.” The use of transfer can be seen here too as Forsyth uses words like familiar, comfortable, and reliable and he connects these attributes to the hotel.

Music is also playing in the second video (specifically piano music), creating a very soothing atmosphere for the audience to enjoy as they listen to Forsyth’s stories. This paired along with a rather elegant background of which I assume to be inside of Mandarin Oriental creates a sense of snob appeal, appealing to the audience as the hotel is portrayed in a very luxurious manner and staying there would make the audience part of an elite group. On that note, Mandarin Oriental does this quite well as it takes numerous famous people and celebrities such as Forsyth himself to participate in this “fan campaign”, people who are already a part of (or at least seen to be) an elite group of people. This appeals to ethos as it establishes the credibility of the hotel, and this may appeal to pathos for some audience members as well by seeing their favorite celebrity promote Mandarin Oriental.

Finally Back to On-Campus Learning (& Start of Senior Year!)

After nearly 8 months of being cooped up at home and an entire semester of online learning, we have finally returned to school on campus! It honestly feels strange to be walking the halls of ISB again, and what’s even stranger is the fact that we’re now seniors! I still remember going into high school thinking that senior year was so far away in the future, and now it’s actually here. It’s especially surprising since we spent most of our junior year at home. Speaking of which, that period of E-learning was probably the most challenging period of time I’ve ever faced in my entire life. Here’s why:

Obviously, the IBDP being a highly academically challenging and rigorous program was one of the main reasons, but like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about my E-learning experience, staying at home presented a whole new level of challenges for me. One of the biggest challenges for me was trying to stay focused on my work in the comfort of my own home. Not physically sitting in the classroom meant that there were more sources of distractions around me, and trying to stay motivated to complete my work became a more and more difficult task. Towards the end of the year, my schedule became more and more disoriented, I began pulling more and more all-nighters, and overall my personal health deteriorated.

And yet here I am, having successfully completed my junior year and ready to kick off my final, and probably busiest, year of high school! With that said, I’m also excited to start a new year of English and learn some more new texts. Last year we learned a variety of different texts, some of which I really enjoyed (such as American Born Chinese, which I felt really resonated with me and was a really fun and unique medium to read), so I can’t wait to learn more about texts like The Odyssey, The School of Life, Frankenstein, etc. Also, I’ve heard of The Onion before (a satirical news site) and I think I’ve actually read one of its articles at one point in time, so I’m excited to do more work with that as it sounds fun.

Finally, a goal I want to set for myself this year is to just be more diligent and focused on my work. Now that we’re finally back on campus, I hope that this will be able to help me get back on track to finish all my work on time, manage my workload better, and work on my time management skills (which is something I’ve always struggled with anyway, but has worsened throughout the last 8 months). Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish my senior year on a stronger note than my junior year and conquer the IB once and for all.

My Updated E-Learning Experience

We have been limited to E-Learning for about two months now because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and personally, many things have changed since E-Learning started. I have been getting used to the new E-Learning system, but at the same time, I feel like I haven’t. Yes, I’m getting more used to how classes function and how work is completed, but over time I’ve been slowly losing control over myself. My schedule has been becoming more disorderly, I’ve lost a lot of motivation to keep working, and I just feel tired most of the time. All of this has left me behind on several assignments, which has me worried because I’m usually very diligent about turning my work in on time.

As I’ve said in my previous E-Learning post, not having to physically go to school and attend multiple classes in a row has meant more freedom. Because of this freedom, I’ve found it to be challenging to stay on track as to how I would in the classroom. I’ve been getting increasingly distracted by non-productive activities, and this has led to unnecessary nights of staying up to finish my work when I could’ve during the day. And, with these late nights staying up comes waking up later in the mornings, losing countless hours of productivity that I’d typically have at school. On top of all this, I sit at my desk in my room for virtually the entire day with nearly zero activity, which only exacerbates the problem of staying focused because having no movement throughout the day really lowers energy.

After going through hours, days, even weeks of this horrible cycle, I’ve finally started to pick myself back up again. Over the past week, I’ve been trying to bring myself back into how things should normally be. I began with sleeping earlier, hour by hour, no matter how much work I still had left to do. Because I know that if I sleep earlier, I would wake up earlier and have much more productivity than I would at night (working while you’re tired is not a good idea). During the day, I would stand up and take breaks away from my computer to go outside into my front yard and enjoy the sun (which I completely forgot how nice it could be after staying in for so long). I’ve tried to encourage myself to finish my work faster, and I feel that I’ve been getting less distracted than before. Overall, I think things are starting to take a turn for the better.

Though I definitely can’t say I’ve entirely reorganized myself, I have been able to catch up on a lot of work, spend some time outside in the sun, and also catch up with my family. This last weekend, I went to my grandparents’ house for the first time in three months! I can tell that they’ve missed me like crazy, and I missed them too. It was really nice having dinner and catching up with them, and it really lifted my spirits (I’ll talk more about this in a later post). I feel like I’m in a better place both physically and mentally than where I was one to two weeks ago, and I look forward to continuing to readjust. At a time like this, it has never been more important to stay happy and healthy.

Paper 1 – 8 Things Men Should Know About What Consent Looks Like

Text (with annotations):

Click here –> Take-Home Practice Paper 1

My Analysis:

In the article “8 Things Men Should Know About What Consent Looks Like”, the author Terri Coles informs her audience on the topic of consent in light of the rapidly growing #MeToo movement at the time (as this article was published on February 22nd, 2018). Coles begins her article by identifying the fact that confusion around consent and what distinguishes it from assault has been rising. So she devotes the rest of her entire article to list eight different ideas about consent to keep in mind with relationships. Coles’s intended audience is men, as revealed by the title. More specifically, though, she is likely targeting men who are in their adult years as they are more exposed to romantic and sexual situations (and probably those who reside in Canada, as this article was published by HuffPost Canada and references Canadian law). Throughout her article, Coles uses strong word choice, imperatives, and an image to deliver her informative piece.

Firstly, Coles’s word choice throughout her article can be seen as very firm and strong, especially when stating a specific fact about consent. For instance, in line 11, Coles states that “consent has always been what it is.” The use of this relatively short sentence with strong language like “always” places much emphasis on the sentence, making the audience more likely to remember this fact. And, almost immediately following afterward, Coles states in line 14 that consent “has always been the right way to proceed in a sexual relationship.” Again, the word “always” is used, and this time to an even more substantial extent because Coles is referring to consent always being the “right” thing to do. This is another choice of strong wording as it informs the audience that this is a discussion of a matter of right vs. wrong with virtually no room to maneuver (as suggested by “always”). This is important since the intended audience is adult men, who have more freedom to act and make decisions on their own. By reminding them of the morality of this issue, they will likely feel more obligated to take consent more seriously. Notice that Coles des this again in lines 42 and 48, where she says “by law” and “clearly laid out in Canadian law.” Here, the use of the word “clearly” also adds even more emphasis to the fact that consent is an issue taken very seriously.

Next, since this article is directly targeted towards the people who should be getting consent, Coles uses imperative sentences numerous times throughout her article that give instructions and commands to the audience. First of all, many of the section headers themselves are in the imperative mood, for example, “understand how consent can be given,” “just ask,” or “know yourself.” These short, imperative sentences give the audience instructions and an initial idea of what they should expect to know and do when dealing with consent. Coles also directly speaks to the audience on multiple occasions when using imperatives by including second-person pronouns (“you” and “your”). For instance, in line 45, Coles states that “you can’t assume consent by simply failing to ask it, or by only hearing the words you want to hear,” which gives instructions directly to the audience, reminding them of their responsibilities. Other instances include in line 51 (“use your words”) and line 68 (“if you know what you are looking for doesn’t align with what the person you’re dating wants, don’t take advantage”). If the audience also goes on a date or is in a relationship, they’ll be able to relate to the given scenarios and directly follow the steps given in these imperative sentences. Therefore, through the use of these imperatives, the audience will be left with a clearer idea of what they need to do (or not do) when it comes to consent.

Finally, Coles also uses an image near the beginning of her article, which depicts a man and a woman in a seemingly loving and healthy relationship. Given the context of the article and its topic, the inclusion of this image is likely to provide as an example or visual aid of what consent may look like. Now, because the initial setup of the article mentions how there is increasing confusion on the topic of consent, the placement of this image at the beginning section of the article is rather apt. The audience already knows from the title of the article that they will be reading about eight things to know about what consent looks like, so seeing the image of a happy couple will likely interest the audience and encourage them to keep reading so that they can also hopefully engage in a happy and healthy relationship like the one shown. The image also reinforces some of the ideas given in the article. For instance, in line 28, Coles states that “consent is about communication, verbal and physical.” The image depicts physical consent as the woman is smiling back at her lover’s gesture, implying that consent has been given. Or, in line 40, Coles states that sexual assault “doesn’t only include sexual intercourse but also unwanted sexual grabbing, kissing, fondling, and other sexualized activities.” In the image, the man is holding and kissing the woman, which can be forms of sexual assault if consent isn’t given. So, by referencing back to the image, the audience will also gain a better understanding of what constitutes consent.

In conclusion, Coles’s use of strong word choice, imperatives, and an image effectively interests and informs the audience about consent and what it should look like. Because of the rise of the #MeToo movement, the line between acceptable behavior and sexual assault becomes hazier. But, Coles’s article should be able to inform and remind her audience of male adults the importance of consent and how it should look. A world where consent is understood well and less sexual assault are carried out is a better place for everyone, especially for those who are vulnerable, and articles like these may just save someone from the horrors of assault.

Original Writing:

My E-Learning Experience (thanks to COVID-19)

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has led to a widespread shutting down of school campuses in order to ensure the safety of as many people as possible. This means that ISB’s campus has also shut down, and we have transitioned to online learning (or “E-Learning”). Naturally, this transition has led to certain advantages, because I’ve found myself being able to actually get enough sleep unlike before, and I also can’t say I don’t like the fact that I no longer have to attend 4 80-minute classes in a row, which can be draining especially after limited sleep the night before. However, it also goes without saying that there are certain disadvantages to E-Learning as well.

In certain of my classes where we would normally have class discussions or group projects, it has become increasingly difficult to continue to do so since everyone is in different places and time zones and not always online at the same time. The same goes for a lot of my teachers, who aren’t always able to respond to questions because of different time zones or the difficulty to navigate DX due to the plethora of posts and comments everywhere. Internet has also started to become more of an issue for me. Many schools in China have also started E-Learning, and I think that may have also affected my already mediocre internet connection. Not having internet during certain periods of time can be frustrating, especially since all of our learning now takes place online. Also, not having to actually sit down in the classroom means that I get more easily distracted by other non-productive activities when I would normally be very focused.

But, as significant as this transition has been, overall I’ve found myself doing okay and managing my work (at least for the most part). I am very grateful for all the hard work that our teachers and staff have put into our new learning system for the past several weeks so that our learning isn’t greatly affected, and we can continue to complete our first year of IB successfully. I’m also grateful for my parents who have been making my life outside of school less worrisome. A few days ago they were literally carrying in package after package of supplies from the supermarket. While I am getting used to this 24/7 indoor life, I also can’t wait to return to campus to see everyone again and return to our regular mode of learning (and also to finally get a haircut, my hair is getting annoyingly long… 💇🏻‍♂️).

My Pastiche of “Valentine”

Below is the poem I wrote based on the style of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Valentine” (which I also wrote on Valentine’s Day, though I’m not sure why that matters):

 

Not a bouquet or a gift basket.

 

I give you a ______.

It is a bearer of the universe’s soul,

trapped within.

It promises infinity

like the power of our destiny.

 

Watch it.

It will deceive your vision

like a lover.

It will fill your heart

with the tale we told ourselves.

 

I am trying to remind you.

 

Not your favorite wine or candy.

 

I give you a ______.

Its steady rhythm clinging to your consciousness

mesmerizing and everlasting

as we are,

no matter where we are.

 

Hold it.

Its core gradually ceases to perform,

alongside you.

 

Destructive.

Its presence driving your mind and body insane,

until it slowly fades away.

 

(I’m not revealing what the object is yet, in case anyone else still wants to guess. No one has gotten it right so far!)

“Originally” Annotations + My Memory of a Move

Onto our third poem by Carol Ann Duffy: “Originally”. I annotated this one completely on my own at home and then brought it to class to discuss it. One thing I should get into the habit of doing when annotating poems in the future is to color code my annotations so I can more easily navigate through them. Below are my annotations:

(Click on the image to view it clearer)

This was also my favorite poem out of the three we analyzed so far because it reminded me of when I moved to Canada when I was only 4 years old. I moved from the safety and comfort of my home in Beijing to live in Vancouver, Canada for 8 years. Initially, this huge move and transition was very hard for me. I left with only my mother from the familiarity of what life was like in Beijing into the unknown. I was leaving all of my most beloved family members (my dad, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins), who I shared so much a part of my early years with. I was leaving the culture I identified with and moving into a completely new and different culture. Not to mention, I was leaving my country into a new one halfway across the world. I remember that at night, as I went to bed, I would always cry because of how much I missed my home, and make up the excuse of having a scary dream to my mother. Initially, going to school didn’t help either. Because I was so new and unused to the environment around me, I always kept to myself in a dim corner of the classroom and spoke to no-one (as I mentioned in my previous post). Not to mention, I came from an entirely different cultural background from most of the kids in the class, which made me feel even more so I didn’t belong. But, over quite some time, I was able to slowly adapt to my new environment. Luckily, I had a fantastic teacher who helped me through so much (again, as I mentioned in my previous post!). And, I had mostly friendly classmates (though there were a few exceptions I, unfortunately, had to deal with). Also, I slowly started to fall in love with Vancouver’s environment. It always had clear blue skies, a comfortable climate, and beautiful scenery everywhere you go that you wouldn’t find in Beijing. As I moved into grade 1, I met Evan from my class who later became my best friend for life (I still keep in touch with him like every other day). As I slowly started to make more friends, I also became more accepting of the different culture in Canada, especially with all the holidays to celebrate. I absolutely loved Halloween, because our class would go to school all dressed up and do Halloween activities. Then, instead of trick-or-treating, I would just invite Evan over to my house to play. I’m really glad I was able to overcome the initial challenges of being in Vancouver, and I have all the wonderful people I met there to thank. I can now definitely consider Canada as my second home. Now, when you ask me where I come from, the response is no longer just Beijing, China. I come from two distinct places and cultures that I hold equally dear to my heart. Well, maybe I have some biases, but these two cultures have really shaped my identity and who I am today. Oh my, am I still talking? Alright, I’ll stop now. 🙂

“In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class” Annotations + My Favorite Teacher

Carol Ann Duffy’s “In Mrs. Tilcher’s Class” was the second poem we analyzed, and for this one we annotated it partly at home and partly as a whole class. Our class was divided into four groups, and each group was responsible for presenting one of the four stanzas in the poem, which kind of explains why there are substantially more annotations on this one than on my “War Photographer” poem.

(Click on the image to view it clearer)

Also, before we annotated this poem, we did a mini-activity in which we wrote a little bit about our favorite teacher. My favorite teacher is Ms. Fogliato, my kindergarten teacher. She was one of my very first teachers in school, and at the time, I was extremely shy and always kept to myself. But she didn’t treat me the same as she did with everyone else. I remember how she would always stick with me after teaching her main lesson, and would patiently and encouragingly talk through her lesson again (in her slight accent) with me. She would always hand out little stickers at the end of the school day that said “Great job!” on them, and I would carry them on the way home, waving them proudly in front of my mother. I don’t think I would’ve made it through kindergarten without a teacher like her.