Tag Archives: Greenwood

Reflections of a Wannabe Dance Teacher

Trinity_Academy_of_Irish_DanceAs long as I can remember, my life has pretty much revolved around dance. I was three when I first watched an Irish dancing performance, was hooked on Riverdance from the time I was four and my neighbor gave me a VCR. I’ve been taking class the past 12 years of my life, and competing for the last 8. But now I’m seventeen, and it’s time to look into the future: college, a career. How can dance fit into the picture? It’s not easy with all the uncertainty.

The answer came (at least sort of) when I turned up to class too early one day in mid-November, and I watched a beginner doing a move wrong. Normally, I would have let it slide—my teacher would fix it later, when the class wasn’t so large—but, honestly, seeing this step done wrong killed me. So I walked over, and I taught the dancer how to do it properly. My teacher saw, and invited me to come assistant teach the following class. And so I did. Turns out, I love it.

One of the most emotional days of teaching was when I taught a beginner jig to a young dancer. This particular dancer, while talented, would have most likely been better off in our first beginner class, but she had moved into the second level because her friends had been moved up and the class was getting quite large. That Saturday morning, the dancer and I spent a good 45 minutes working on the newly-taught steps. I wrote this “note to myself” after this class:

The life I changed today was not really my own. It was my student’s. [My teacher] said that she’d never seen [the student] so involved, so focused. Today, I reminded a little girl that she can dance. Today, I was the teacher I would have wanted. I did work that I can be proud of, and work that I’m good at. Today was pretty great!!!!!

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What If – What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?

What IfTitle: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Author: Randall Munroe

What If? is a book of bizarre hypothetical questions and scientific answers.   But you could learn that just by looking at the cover, so here is my story about it.  I would not have known about this book if I had not gotten if for my birthday from my mom (my mom says I ask a lot of hypothetical questions).  And when I got it found it to be surprisingly intriguing. I have always loved hypothetical questions and have sometimes used them as a way of staying up longer to talk with my dad.

What If? can finally answer some of my more whimsical questions, like what would happen if every person on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time – would it change color?  On the flip side, if my dad ever got his hands on it — it would put an end to our late-night discussions.  But enough with the backstory; let me tell you about the book.

Personally, I adore this book.  I love almost every bit of it.  I enjoy seeing questions other people would ask.  My favorite section is the Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox.  In these sections, hypothetical questions are not answered, questions posed are hilariously weird (and worrying).  For example, page 14 has the question, “How many housese are burned down in the United States every year?  What would be the easiest way to increase that number by a significant amount (say, at least 15%)?”   Another gem  (I really like the weird and worrying questions – I cannot emphasize that enough) is:  “What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?”

This book may be good for fans of Mythbusters because it applies science to the absurd.  It is also for anyone who enjoys illustrations of stick people acting out responses to questions.  Finally, I recommend this book for any fan of science.  The scientific explanations are written in an accessible and humorous way if you are a math genius.  In other words, it is hilarious.

Books of interest:

-Caleb, Greenwood, Teen Advisory Board member

GWD

Flowers for Algernon – thought-provoking and engaging

Flowers-for-Algernon-_book_coverTitle: Flowers for Algernon

Author: Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, is the story of a man named Charlie Gordon. Charlie was born with a brain disorder that caused him to have an IQ of just 68. However, Charlie has just been approved to pilot a radical operation that will turn him into a genius. Well, human pilot. It’s already been tried on a rat named Algernon, and it was an unqualified success. The story is told as a series of “progress reports” written by Charlie after the operation, for the purpose of documenting the effects of the operation for science. The operation is a fast success, and soon Charlie has an IQ of 185 and is an expert in every subject. But can his humanity survive the change?

For me, Flowers for Algernon was an extremely engaging and thought-provoking book. The book starts out with a quote from Plato comparing visual impairment with mental impairment, and admonishing anyone who would laugh at those with either. This seems like a straightforward thing to do. Only a deeply cruel person would laugh at a disabled person. But Flowers shows us that even our most well intentioned acts can carry unconscious cruelty. The scientists who design the operation, the medical community, even his own mother are all trying to “fix” Charlie. But, as Plato said, “the bewilderments of the eyes are two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light.” At the beginning of the story, Charlie was entirely in the dark, the worlds of politics, academics, and religion closed off to him because of his illness. Yet, when he comes into the light, is he not equally blinded?

As he gains intelligence, Charlie very quickly realizes that most of those whom he thought of as friends were actually laughing at him, patronizing him to feel better about themselves. He starts to see people for who they really are, frauds trying to navigate their way through life. As he surpasses everyone in intelligence, people start to resent him, and his social relationships suffer. He finds himself no more a part of the world than he was before. I was absolutely absorbed by Charlie’s transformation, from what was essentially a small child to an adult. The characters in this book are very believable, from the scientists that designed the procedure, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Neimar, to Charlie’s former teacher and current love interest, Miss Alice Kinnian. Everyone had a different, unique reaction to Charlie’s change, and they all teach him something about what it is to be human. This was probably my favorite part of the story, during his transition from “idiot” to genius.

There are too many themes in this story to count: The benefits of innocence, the insecurity of mankind, the limits of intelligence, the allegory of life. Yet what remains most striking is the emotional attachment that we feel for Charlie during the course of the novel. One of the things that makes me personally feel the most emotional is when someone who clearly is in a terrible situation nonetheless maintains a positive attitude. Charlie, and we imagine Algernon as well, don’t want people to feel sorry for them. All they really want is to impress their families and peers. In my opinion, Keyes is telling us that we have no obligation to do so. Charlie so desperately wanted to be smart, he never realized that what he had – his innocence, his kindness, his drive, and his love of people – was worth more than that. Life isn’t a contest like Algernon’s maze, after all. No matter what you do, you’ll reach the end. The value comes from the relationships that you form in the somewhere in the middle. A lot of society’s ills come from people taking themselves too seriously, worrying too much about their own pride. As Charlie puts it, “Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.”

-Jacob, Greenwood, Teen Blogger

GWD

Thirteen Reasons Why – Filled with suspense, good life lessons

Title: Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Summary: No one expected Hannah Baker’s death, but thirteen people would soon find out how their actions and words pushed Hannah off the edge. Clay Jensen is determined to listen to Hannah’s thirteen tapes to figure out her story, and why he is in it. These tapes show a side of Hannah that no one saw, and the truth about who she really was.

Gut Reaction: Filled with suspense, good life lessons.

I would give this book 8/10 stars because it was detailed and had a good plot, but was slow at times.

What I loved: I really liked how the book took the image of a perfect girl in high school and showed the reader that she has feelings and is just like everyone else.

Why: This book always keeps you guessing what will happen next and surprises you with each new tape. The characters are all distinct and have intriguing personalities that draw you in.

Websites of interest:

Thirteen Reasons Why website

-Afsara, Greenwood, Teen Adviser

GWD

Pantomine – a tale of deceit, mystery & magic

PantomimeTitle: Pantomine

Author: Laura Lam

Summary: Micah Grey wants to get away from his life—and the circus seems to be just the right place to do that. He delves into the world of circus arts as a new trapeze artist, but soon learns that the circus may not be quite what it seems. As the story unfolds, more of just who Micah is gets revealed, and between Micah’s past, and Micah’s present, a tale of deceit, mystery, and magic is unveiled.

Quick review: Do you like magic, circuses, and stories where the main character isn’t who they say they are? Then you’ll probably like this book. Told in a flip-flopping style of one chapter in the past, and one in the present, Micah’s story quickly begins to unfold. As the reader, you get caught up immediately, because you can tell that there’s something about Micah that he’s not telling you yet.

I started reading because… I was told that it had good representation of characters who were learning more about their gender and their sexual identity, as well as having an engaging fantasy setting.

I would give this book8/10 stars. It’s engaging and exciting, although the language felt a bit simplistic at times. I found the flip-flopping story technique frustrating at times, when I just wanted to get back to the storyline I had been on, but ultimately it was, in my opinion, the best way to tell this story.

-Sofia, 16, Greenwood Teen Advisory Board

GWD

Grand Budapest Hotel – Won 4 Oscars!

GBH

Who doesn’t love an indie film every once in a while? I sure do. Director Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel recently won 4 Oscars, including Best Achievement in Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, as well as Best Original Score. This movie tells of the adventures of a concierge and his lobby boy living in the fictional country of Zubrowka during the 1930s.

The lovely book The Grand Budapest Hotel by Matt Zoller Seitz was just released as a companion to The Wes Anderson Collection. Both are fantastic reads. Go to your nearest library and pick up a copy today! If you are interested in learning more about Wes Anderson or The Wes Anderson Collection, head on over to the blog post Indie films: Wes Anderson. Thanks for reading!

-Laura, 17, Greenwood 

GWD

Sweep: Book of Shadows – unique plot & clear details

Sweep Book of ShadowsTitle: Sweep: Book of Shadows

Author: Cate Tiernan

Summary: After meeting Cal, a mysterious new student, Morgan is immediately drawn into his personality and his magical Wicca culture and rituals. Wicca soon becomes her passion and she finds out that she is involved with Wicca in more ways than she ever thought possible. She soon starts unraveling the history of her family and her true identity, which will change her life and the way she sees the world forever.

I give Sweep: Book of Shadows 9/10 stars because of the unique plot and clear details.

Why I started reading: The engaging title and design on the cover got my attention. I like books about fantasy and magic in the real world, and this book seemed like it would be a good book to read in that genre.

Gut Reaction: Characters are easy to visualize, this type of magic is very different that what I thought of before.

What I loved: The descriptions of what happens during the Wicca rituals make me want to meet the characters and experience what they do. I found a new perspective of magic, and the setting in the book is hauntingly beautiful.

Websites of Interest:

Sweep series blog

-Afsara, Greenwood, Teen Adviser

GWD