Writing Center

14 October 2014

It has been a while since I have written anything. Well, that is not entirely true. Let me elaborate: It has been a while since I have written anything on this dandy ‘lil ‘ol blog of mine. While I have been away from my desk, so-to-speak, I have been busily trying to maintain my illustrious grade-point average. Last I checked, my cumulative GPA was a whopping 3.96! I have no intention of that becoming any lower. Hence, why I have seemingly abandoned my social haven in favor of weaving together beautiful melodies¬† — ahem — sentences for the various essays of which I have been tasked to write.

While I am taking an English Composition class, in hopes of becoming a more adept writer, I still feel as though I need some extra help. This is why I take advantage of the Writing Center. The Writing Center is a center on campus where some fabulous people help students with their papers. They are not there to correct grammar or to correct any other mistakes which are commonly found in a paper. They are there to help students become better writers. They help students look at their paper in different ways so that the student can identify mistakes on their own. They are there to help students help themselves, but armed with the resources they need to do well.

And, they are good at what they do.

I took, what I felt to be my final rough draft, to the Writing Center one day. I asked the person that I was working with if he could help me identify any problems that I may need to fix. Mostly, my issues were thesis-based. Not a good sign. A poor thesis is a poor start.

While I worked on the final revisions of my essay, I couldn’t help but to wonder how I ended up writing a paper that had little to nothing to do with my original thesis. This, I found, was something that I would have to work hard to avoid in the near future. Fortunately, my final product received a fairly decent grade. My Instructor suggested that, while my thesis was fine, it could be a bit more explicit. If he only knew how bad it originally was. What would’ve happened had I not gone to the Writing Center? Best not to dwell too much on it!

Bernadette Rocha

A Book’s Smell

There’s something comforting about lighting a candle, putting on soft music in the background, kicking your shoes off, getting comfy on the couch, opening a good paperback or hardbound novel and begin reading. Old books and new books alike emit their own odors, yet they elicit that special pleasantness that book-lovers everywhere understand inherently. — Bernadette Rocha

The text which I wrote and posted above was in response to the following article:

Where Does The Smell of Old Books Come From? by Lisa Winter

http://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/where-does-smell-old-books-come

Haven

Bernadette Rocha
11 September 2014

I know that many will probably wonder at my excitement over a certain little show that I enjoy. The show is called, “Haven” and is based off of the story by Stephen King called, “The Colorado Kid”. I have never read the book, but at some point I absolutely intend to.

For those of you who share my excitement, excellent! For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, let me fill you in. In the town of Haven, on the East Coast, there are people who go about their daily business as usual. There are also people who go about their daily business, not as usual. Strange things seem to consistently happen in the town of Haven.

Audrey Parker was sent to Haven to investigate a case, and ended up staying to work there instead. Why? Because it would help her to get clues about her own life as well as to be able to help those that are “troubled”. A “troubled” person is a person who is afflicted by the “Troubles”, which basically means that the person has mysterious abilities that may be a blessing or a curse.

I can’t really give out too many details other than these basics, because the show is very involved. If you would like to start watching, please make sure you start from Season 1, Episode 1. Do not begin your Haven viewing pleasure with this season (Season 5). Trust me, even if you think things make sense, there will be so much going over your head. If you want to skip episodes, that’s up to you, but I promise you that all kinds of twists and turns happened last season which led up to a crazy Season Finale. If you have not been following the storyline, there’s really not any way to simply “jump right in”.

For those of you who are Haven fans, you completely understand where I am coming from with this.

From Audrey to Mara, all kinds of mysterious happenings happen at Haven.

Tune into SyFy on Thursday nights at 8/7c. (I am on the West Coast)

http://syfy.com/haven

http://twitter.com/havenherald http://facebook.com/haven

http://instagram.com/havenherald

http://havenherald.tumblr.com/

Follow the blurbs about Haven on Twitter with the hashtag #Haven5

Tonight, they will be having a live stream via Twitter at http://twitter.com/havenherald

Language and Culture

There’s something about other languages that I find absolutely fascinating.

English: English is my first language, and the only one with which I speak fluently.

Spanish: I have picked up some Spanish along the way since childhood. Though I do not speak Spanish fluently, I can understand it usually enough to “get the gist of things”. I love music in Spanish, most particularly from Selena (Quintanilla-Perez, NOT Gomez), Jennifer Pena and Shakira. Though I don’t speak Spanish fluently, and have no wish to, I would like to build my vocabulary enough to improve my Spanglish – which I use daily as a result of where I live. Plus – it’ll help me when I am purchasing my favorite breads, pastries, drinks (horchata, tamarindo, jamaica), and foods (tamales, chile relleno’s, etc.). Also, I have Hispanic blood running through my veins, so it is only natural that I know at least a little.

French: Took two years of it in High School, but don’t really remember much. Not a language I particularly am fond of.

Hebrew: Learned some of the language, but had to stop as I don’t know anyone who knows Hebrew. I like to pray in Hebrew as I am more of an Old Testament person, though I am not religious and my beliefs are all over the place. Would love to learn Aramaic as well.

Arabic: Know the alphabet, but would like to learn the language. Learned about Islam and gained a more positive perspective as I learned the alphabet.

(Would love to tour Israel and the Middle East someday)

Gaelic: As my blood is part Irish, and I particularly enjoy Irish Music (Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder), I feel as though I should learn this as part of my heritage. So far, the alphabet has been confusing, so I am just going to stick with phonetically sounding out the songs.

Hindi: I love Bollywood, my favorite film ever is Kal Ho Naa Ho. My friend said that she’d help me learn Hindi if I ever get around to it, so I have been (rather slowly as I am pretty busy) learning the Devanagari Script (the alphabet). I tried once before to learn, so I know it will be a bit complicated as the language changes due to gender.

Thai: As much as I love Thai food, I never really had any interest in the language until recently. This is because my friend has a habit of slipping into talking in Thai with her friend when she is around, forgetting I don’t understand. She also said she’d teach me, so I have been (slowly) learning the alphabet to begin with.

Japanese: Tried learning Japanese in middle school, but had to move schools so I forgot what I learned. Recently, I have been watching a lot of Anime and Japanese Horror, so I have picked up some Japanese, but not enough to hold a conversation with. Would love to learn this language fluently as I like the sound of it, and it is part of a culture which I find fascinating.

Korean: Last, but certainly not least. This language hit me hard when I realized how beautiful it is. I wonder if this is why I like Korean music and drama, which I like to watch on Netflix. My favorite band of all time actually is from S. Korea. They are called, “Nell” and have more of an alternative/rock sound than the k-pop sound, and they are an actual band that plays live with instruments – which is refreshing. Currently, I have begun actually trying to learn Korean on my own. I already know how to read and write the alphabet, and some basic words and phrases. Right now, I am working on trying to conjugate verbs, which is freaking hard in this language.

My goal is to transfer to the University of Washington from my current school within the next two years. Since I will be trying to earn a Bachelor in Communications: Journalism, I have to take two years of a foreign language as a requirement to get the degree. I want those classes to go as smoothly as possible (to keep up with my super awesome grades), so I am learning now so that when I start taking the course that they offer there, I will be able to have a slight grasp on it and not fail miserably. Then, I will see about transfering to a University in S. Korea for a semester or two. :-)

One of the reasons that I enjoy language so much, is that it allows me to learn and understand more about their culture. For example, when I tried learning Hebrew and Arabic, there was no way to escape also learning about Judaism and Islam. Since Cultures can also be defined by their religions, I indirectly began to learn about them. Due to this, I was able to set aside preconceived (and what turned out to be prejudiced) notions and beliefs.

Another way I like to learn about different cultures is through their cuisine. A friend of mine (since High School) is from Nigeria, and her mom is from Ghana. Her mom cooks traditional foods all of the time. While I do not recall the names of what she makes, I love eating over at her house. The sauces, or stews as she calls it, tastes so yummy over meat and rice.

At my Internship, there are some Ethiopian family’s. They have cooked for the center a couple of times, and each time it has been so good. This is actually how I found out that my current all-time favorite food is Injera and Wat. The only thing is, I have to use my hands to eat it! I am okay with it now, but at first it was a bit of a culture shock. Plus, I have never really liked using my fingers. But then again, don’t we use fingers for things such as pizza and fries?

In Seattle, next to the Pike Place Market, we have this little (seriously – little) Russian bakery called, “Piroshky Piroshky”. They sell Piroshky’s (duh), and they are so freaking delicious! A Piroshky is this filled pastry. The pastries they sell are filled with meats and veggies, even rice. They even have desert Piroshky’s. Ok, maybe I haven’t learned anything about Russian culture, but I did learn that, even though its a small bakery, they make everything right there, and the line generally is really long, and way out the door during the lunch hour. No wonder. The first time I’d ever been in there, I was walking past, on my way to find a snack. I caught a delicious waft in the air and followed the smell. I couldn’t help but to buy one, and since then, I’ve been hooked.

Whether through language or through food, I find learning about as well as experiencing different cultures to be wonderfully fascinating. As I feel so passionate about this, as well as writing, I have decided that my ideal career would be to travel the world (or at least to countries I want to go to such as: S. Korea, Japan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, Moldova, Ethiopia, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, England, Thailand, Switzerland, Iceland, Philippines, Lebanon and Australia). I really want to immerse myself into their cultures and learn everything I can, and write a detailed account of my experience.

Either that, or I was thinking of Anthropology and Linguistics. :-)

Failing Education System

Bernadette Rocha
28 August 2014

I was trying to take a short nap before my favorite radio program, “Coast to Coast AM” (http://coasttocoastam.com) Kiro 97.3 FM comes on at 10PM (until 2AM). I woke up around 9PM and felt like checking my Twitter account (@bj_rocha). When I logged on, I noticed that I had four notifications in the notification bar. I was curious, and so I clicked on the link to see what mystery I would be in for.

There were three responses from a person who apparently disliked what I had to say regarding a recent article coming out spilling the fact that Washington (WA) State grade schools are the worst in the Country as many children are failing. Having grown up in this state, I can completely see the validity of this problem.

One remark I had made, which sparked this persons apparent irritation, was that fault (in part) lays with teachers who pass students onto the next grade without actually making sure they are ready. This person’s argument was that research (which this person failed to provide) shows that holding a child back is a problem, and is in fact – failing them.

Of course, I can’t leave anything alone, so I answered back. This resulted in an interesting dialogue regarding the school system, testing, poverty vs. wealth and parent intervention.

His assertion was that testing in this state is the biggest problem. That testing doesn’t measure everything. However, I pointed out that testing does, in fact, point out whether or not a child has basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Yes, our state government holds a lot of esteem in testing, however, student’s are not spending 100% of their time in class testing.

Part of the problem lays on how teachers are taught to teach in our state. Also, after a while, teachers become lax on teaching. I am not sure as to whether this is due to them hating their job, or just not caring anymore. Many other factors contribute as well, such as class size, materials, and even encouragement.

When I was in High School (graduated in 2005), I had trouble in an English class. Not because I didn’t understand the content, but because other student’s did not understand the content. Furthermore, my teacher, who was actually trying to teach the class, had to go over basic rules of grammar that these students should have had a basic understanding of before being allowed into 9th grade. By this time, it was 11th grade. She couldn’t teach the course content because she had to spend extra time going back to teach these students something they should’ve had a grasp of years earlier.

This turned out to be a major problem, as I was someone who tried my best, despite my poor socioeconomic upbringing. I grew up in a low-income household, and even spent time in foster care. My parent’s weren’t the one’s who helped me through this, I had no resources, I had nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Through encouragement from my first (of three) elementary school’s Librarian’s, I ended up finding a peaceful joy and hunger in reading and writing.

Since then, I noticed something. Teachers have the power to change lives. Sometimes, all they need is to motivate a child (or children) to do better. Sometimes, all they have to do is hold them to higher standards. Sometimes, all they have to do is pay a little more attention. However, this must begin at an early level, such as between preschool and third grade.

I digress..where was I? Ah, yes. As I had the encouragement at a younger age, I was able to find joy in learning, and so I tried my best, despite the fact that I was a poor child. So, when I came to my new High School, and found that I was being “held back” in a way – not because I wasn’t grasping the work, but because other students weren’t grasping the work leaving me hanging in the balance – I felt helpless.

That English class, was the breaking point for me. I knew that if I didn’t take charge of my education, I wouldn’t get very far. I couldn’t learn the course content as the teacher spent all her time teaching the other student’s basic skills. I took her aside one day and talked to her about this. As I had been doing exceptional on assignments (writing is, after all – a passion of mine), she felt that I would be able to switch to a creative writing class instead.

From there, my new teacher (who would be my English teacher the next year) realized that I wouldn’t get much out of her class as she had the same problem in her English classes with student’s who didn’t grasp basic writing concepts for their grade level. After having talked it over with my Sociology teacher (who also taught AP Composition – which is like English 101) it was decided that I would take AP Composition the next year. I was pleased, finally, a class where I would feel challenged and for once be with other student’s at my level. While I did not ace that class, I did pass with a B and felt very grateful that I had the opportunity.

This brings me to my next point. When teachers pass students onto the next grade level who are not ready to meet those needs, they are not just doing the students who they have passed a disservice. They are ensuring that those students who do possess the necessary skills needed for class end up being dragged down – emotionally and educationally.

Those students who do possess such skills are not able to proceed because the teachers attention is mostly focused on the students who are struggling due to lack of understand basic reading and comprehension skills. This does not translate simply to grade school. I personally encountered this recently in College as well.

College students, be aware. When you are taking a college class, the last thing you are going to think is that student’s who don’t belong in that class will be there. I was recently in a Spreadsheets class, which taught Excel 2013 and many of its confusing functions. This class is a requirement of the degree I am pursuing, and so I did my best. While I received an excellent grade in the end (95.4% with 100% on the Final) it was a little difficult because there were students in that class that were struggling simply because they could not understand the sentence structure in a college level textbook in which they were reading.

Those of us who were trying to pass and get homework done were struggling simply because we did not understand the content. Why? Because the teacher was busy spending his time going over Chapter 5 with students, when we had to have assignments from each chapter in between on up to 9 finished and turned in on time. When you are working with an online tool such as canvas, they are able to see when your assignments are turned in late. This meant that we not only had to read the chapter’s on our own, but we had to interpret it’s meaning and apply logic to the assignments on our own. This meant many hours spent in the Campus library and computer lab.

What is the point of all of this?

The point is, that many factors contribute to a failing school system. Not simply the amount of time spent on testing. The person of whom I was having a twitter debate with asserted that wealthier children did better because they are more advantaged and proceeded to say that was why poor children did poorly. That is not necessarily true. Yes, wealthier children are more privileged, but at the early education level, they still had to learn their ABC’s and 123’s the same way as anyone else’s child.

This is oftentimes in the form of their parents teaching them their most important skills. I work with low-income/homeless parents and their children. I see first hand how the difference in parenting styles vs how prepared education their children are. This is not simply parenting style, but also, the parent’s own ability to teach their children.

I have personally noticed that children of parents (no matter their education level) who have read to them each day from a children’s book, or help them with learning their ABC’s, 123’s, shapes, colors, etc…those are the children who do better than the ones who simply come in to use the facility and basically ignore their kids. Parent’s (despite their educational background) can still and must play a pivotal part in their children’s upbringing and education. They must instill a love of learning themselves.

If the child doesn’t see mom or dad reading or even trying to go back to school (even for a GED), then how are they going to respect their decision for them to receive an education? They think that it’s not a big deal for mom and dad, so why should they do it?

It is my opinion that saying that children from wealthier families do better because they have money and can afford things like music and sports, etc is absurd. Children from wealthier families do better because they are pushed to do better. They see their parents doing good and want to do good themselves. So they push themselves. If a child from a low-income community sees their parents (or any other role model) going to school, working, etc then they are more than likely to follow in that persons footsteps to gain approval.

While music and sports is nice, they have nothing to do with learning basic skills. Besides, many school do offer music and sports. For low-income families, many of these schools offer waivers and scholarships. Many schools also offer tutoring, and if they cannot get tutoring from their schools, then most libraries offer tutoring, yet – how many people actually take advantage of it?

There is so much more I could say about this subject, and perhaps will in the future. However, it is already late and I would like to listen to Coast to Coast AM before going to bed, as I have already missed an hour.

Best,

Bernadette Rocha