Where to Start?

I hate starting essays. I don’t mind writing essays, but I hate starting them. I need to write a 700 word essay on what matters to me, and I have no idea where to start. It’s just such a daunting task! The thought of writing one is just so overwhelming, and it’s the same for any big assignment that I have. I’m not worried because I don’t think I can do it, I’m just overwhelmed because thinking about a 700 word essay when you have zero words- well it’s straight out of a nightmare! But thankfully writing an essay is not like a magic trick, an essay is not some rabbit that you can just pull out of a hat. Writing is a process! So fortunately I know that once I get past one stage of the process I’m on to the next and soon the essay is practically done! But I’m still stuck on stage 1: brainstorming. I either have too many ideas that my brain is swimming all over the place or I don’t have any whatsoever. The former can usually be remedied by the process of elimination, but the latter takes a bit more work. Recently I’ve been given some advice to help me jumpstart my brainstorming process:
Start with a note pad and write down 4 topics.
Then write 4 sentences for each one.
Then put it away until tomorrow.
Next day re-read it and whittle it to 2.
Hopefully these steps will help me sort out what to write about! And once I’ve figured that out, well, then it’s off to the races!
By: Kathleen

Arts Education: Always 2nd

In looking for a topic for this week’s blog post, I returned to something I had written last year, especially with Shaker’s production of Urinetown! quickly approaching. I wrote this in response to the district cutting many theatre classes due to lack of enrollment (15 kids minimum needed and yet my IB Music class has four?). Our school does not support the arts like they claim to, read below:
For the past three years, as a child who was never “gifted” in the core subjects, electives have allowed me to explore my own personal gifts in both music and theater. I am disheartened to hear of the possible cuts of some elective classes without a certain number of sign ups. Although I do understand the administration’s purpose for this proclamation, I want to urge you to see past the quantitative aspects of the dilemma and see the qualitative aspects.
For the past 12 years, I have gone through the Shaker school district and have received a truly special education. My education has been “special” because of not only the passionate teachers and the immense opportunities to find out what I’m passionate about, but also because I have been taught how to be a human being and not just a student (which I find to be the most important thing for modern education). At the end of eighth grade, I was faced with a decision. Would I follow my brothers’ footsteps and go to St. Ignatius, or would I stay in Shaker? In the end, it was not the academics that brought me to choose Shaker, but it was the abundant theatre arts classes, it was the idea that I could take a music theory class, that I could be in an intense and great choir program, it was the idea that I could be in SGORR, that I could take distinguished art and design classes, the idea that I could take journalism.
As someone who knows what they want to do with their life, it has been so helpful that I could have small, focused classes based on the subject I am interested in. A flaw of the modern education system is that when a child is not gifted in any of the core subjects, they are immediately written off as unintelligent (as much as teachers do not like to say so, it is true). When in reality these “unintelligent” kids could be very gifted in other areas, such as art, music, and theatre, but they are lost among the crowd because their talents are not fostered by the education system. The education system has failed these kids. Up until this point, Shaker has not failed these kids.
By cutting these elective options, Shaker loses those kids. Kids like me. I would love to talk to you about this more … I once again urge you to look at the qualitative aspects of the situation, rather than focusing on the quantitative aspects. Please don’t abandon what has made and should continue to make Shaker special.

A Night in Hungary

I spent the summer in a youth program called Szarvas in Hungary. This is a piece I wrote following it. I’d like to encourage students to take time to explore their personal development and education in a peer setting.

The clear view of the big dipper was shocking. There were no clouds, no lights, and suddenly the stars were on show. I didn’t even know I could recognize constellations. Over the next few weeks, there was even a string of three stars that I pretended was Orion’s belt, though I had no way of proving it.
The grass wasn’t dewy, but it was cooler than our tired bodies. It tickled our necks after a full day of walking around Budapest, and I was excited at the prospect of being driven around once Shabbat had been closed. We laid in clusters of two or three, listening to the overlapping chatter of teenagers who had all just met. Looking away from the stars, I could see the Danube, it’s bridge faithfully guarded by stone lions. Limos passed by with bachelorettes screaming out the sunroofs. Bus tours and taxi-bikes followed. In the busy city our bubble remained muffled from the outside world. There were eyebrows raised and laughter rang and 26 teenagers decided they were a family.
I was in the center of the circle, holding a twisted Havdalah candle. Hot, colored wax dripped onto my knuckles. I stood next to a beautiful girl I had only just met, and whose singing voice had been highly anticipated by those who knew her longer. As people locked arms and began to sing loudly, I was the only one who could hear her. Smiles spread across faces as if they were all of one wave. Skirts blew gently in a night breeze. Cinnamon and cloves in the palm of our hands overwhelmed the smells of an antique city. Hungarian beer, in the absence of kosher wine, was poured over the flame of the candle. The scent of an absent fire and yeast followed us as we trailed back to the bus. Smiles stayed, and arms remained locked, as if this moment would last the next two weeks. This new family kissed cheeks and embraced and said “shavua tov” to every person they could find. With their blessing I knew it would be a good week.
You can apply to the Szarvas fellowships at www.szarvas.org. Other resources to find opportunities and scholarships for international programs include www.afsusa.org and www.gooverseas.com
Hadas Marucs

The Shaker Bubble by Anabel McGuan

“We live in the Shaker Bubble.” It’s a commonly used phrase, and many — including myself — are guilty of using it. It’s often accompanied with sarcastic remarks about our perfectly blended salad bowl of ideas, backgrounds, beliefs, and ethnicities, or lack thereof. In light of recent events, I think it’s safe to say that our illusionary bubble has popped.

Shaker has problems, and it’s time for us to face them head-on. Obviously, sweeping things under the bed and pretending we’re all fine and dandy hasn’t been working out too well for us. These past weeks have been tumultuous at our school, from Trump protests to Twitter scandals, finally culminating with yesterday’s bomb threat, lockdown, and emergency evacuation.

I commend school authorities for their calm, organized handling of yesterday’s extremely trying situation. We need more of this. I hope this becomes a pattern of better managing crises, big or small. We need to acknowledge our issues and keep students, staff, and community informed.

As a district, we have our strengths, but confronting difficult situations has presented itself as a weakness. We have potential to be a strong, integrated, diverse community, but we have to first abandon our facade of already being so — we have plenty of kinks to first iron out.

Define Sleep. by Louis Schwartz

Over the past four years of high school the amount of sleep I get has gone down and the amount of stress I am put under has gone up. Why can’t this be the other way? It has been proven by numerous studies that more sleep equals greater concentration and greater focus. So why do teachers give us tests that all fall on the same day or jam us with homework for that one night. Now I guess I put some stress on myself by being involved in theatre and by taking three AP classes this year. But why do we start so much earlier than all the elementary school kids? These young children get up at the crack of dawn, just like us, but don’t start the school day till after 9:00 am. We get up at the crack of dawn and have 30 minutes to an hour to get to school. People are going to the nurse’s office sometimes just to sleep and function throughout the day. I, personally, don’t know what sleep is anymore. I stay up till almost midnight or past midnight every night. Then I am also overly stressed with writing college essays, applications, and picking which college I want to go to. With this long weekend just ending, it’s back to the regular, eight sleepless days, and then we have a whole week to catch up. But there is never enough time to catch up on sleep. We need sleep to function, we don’t need stress to function.

Why I Love Journals by Maria White

Over the years I have accumulated about a thousand journals…ok so maybe more like ten, but the point is that I have a lot. I have a journal with a peacock on the cover, one with a map of the world, many with patterns of flowers, and a few with inspirational quotes. Some of my journals are filled with my younger selves stressing about school and ranting about how mean our twin is. Others are the beginnings of books I never wrote but plan to, and others simply contain all the thoughts I needed to write down. I am constantly asking for more journals, even though I have only ever filled one of my already numerous journals. I ask for more because I love the potential that a book of empty pages can have. I love looking at the different ornate designs on the covers of journals. I love journals.
Now I don’t use my journals as much thanks to school and an inordinate amount of homework and essays, and I miss journaling. Journaling would give me a reprieve from my worries and allowed me time to think. I also had time to write down my latest idea for the next Great American novel. Now I just look at the scattered journals around my room with fond remembrance. 
Yet recently I have started journaling again due to classes that require me to. Now it’s not fun to journal when you’re expected to. When you journal just to have a journal done, it’s painful and is a waste of time. But if you actually take the  time to spend a moment with just your thoughts, a pen, and an empty page, it can actually be cathartic. Also when you journal it doesn’t have to be this great literary piece of work. Journals can be jumbled messes of unfinished thoughts, or there can be clear messages. There is no wrong way to journal, so give it a try and maybe you’ll fall in love with journals.

How to Write a College Essay (Step 2: Write it Cause You Gotta)

College essays part 2. In my last post I talked all about how I am atrocious at writing conclusions. Especially in essays about myself. Like college essays for instance. I decided to apply early decision to Bucknell University, which requires that my application be submitted by no later than November 15th. But me being who I am, I have all of it done already. By far the hardest part of my application was writing the essay. The filling out of boxes was monotonous and fun for me, but the college essay was not. I don’t even remember which prompt I used, but my essay was centered on my desk and how all the things on it show what kind of person I am. I talked about my puppy calendar and volunteering at the county animal shelter, and I talked about my wrenches and rowing. But the one thing I couldn’t nail down was my conclusion. It either made my essay sound super preachy, or end far too abruptly. I eventually found a good way to finish it out though. Towards the end of my essay I started getting away from my desk and focusing more on my activities, so when I asked one of my English teachers for advice, she gave me a fantastic strategy to kill two birds with one stone. She told me to make a book end. So, I restated my opening sentence in different wording and talked about my desk a little bit more. That way I finished my essay with a strong conclusion, and kept the focus on my desk. My conclusion may not have been perfect, but it was a whole lot better than it would have been had I not gotten help. The moral of the story is: be friends with your English teachers because they will help you out a lot. Or something like that. 
by: Charlie Espy