Lightening the Darkness of my Own Creation

Lightening the Darkness of my Own Creation

The love I have known is not kind.

Instead of comfort and support,

it brought pain and anxiety.

The lies and the manipulations

only ever trapped me in darkness.

 

Blinded by self-deprecation

living in the darkness,

but somehow convincing myself that it’s light.

Forgotten by the world that

I forgot about as well.

 

Years passed and yet

I let this love wash over and drown me.

The pain and anxiety never felt

quite like the feeling of comfort and support,

but it somehow didn’t mind.

 

It was lost in

an unreal reality of my own fabrication,

a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.

I was lost inside of myself

and I couldn’t find my way out.

 

When the light slowly glimmered ahead of my very eyes,

it should have been oh so joyous,

but it seemed too good to ever be true.

Seeing it begin to burn brighter was much easier

than believing it could be burning for me.

 

The moments were too fast

when I was enveloped by that

warm, inviting light.

The time without that feeling

passed so slowly that the air couldn’t fill my lungs.

 

I wished so much for that light

to pull me from my darkness.

But I began to believe that

I could never be so lucky

as to have that light for my own.

 

Until that unbelievable night.

The world passing us by through the window,

your singing to the quiet radio.

The light shone so bright that I almost couldn’t see,

but there’s no way I could be so blind as to not see

the stunning beauty in front of me.

 

All I could think was that I was going to leave

and that beautiful light was not going to come with me.

I didn’t know how I was supposed to walk away from that,

how to sick back into my familiar darkness,

without even seeing what that light could truly become.

 

In that exact moment,

I know that you know which moment,

it was like a candle had been lit.

That flame never wavered,

even as I made the journey that would take me so far from you.

 

As my world around me slowly

emerged from the darkness,

your light only became brighter.

If only you could stay the brightest star in my life,

it would be more than I ever dared to dream for.

 

I’ve found a happiness in this life

even through the darkness that I lived in

and that which admittedly still haunts the fringes of my vision.

I have you to thank for that, my love.

because you’ve brought such joy to my life.

 

Further than that, you’ve helped me

to find happiness and light on my own.

This confidence and self-acceptance is new

and I can’t even begin to thank you for that,

or for how you believe in me.

 

When my thoughts turn to you,

it’s as if the colors, the pictures,

the sounds, the smells,

the feelings, every little thing that makes this life;

The volume is turned up higher than ever before.

 

We can’t see the future,

that much is for sure and is a little intimidating.

All I can speak for is for this one moment in time.

This moment is one of the greatest moments

because I have this moment with you.

 

For this one moment in time,

for our small eternity, my love,

I need you to hear me when I say this to you:

Having you in my life has been more than I could’ve hoped for,

and this new love is the kindest I’ve ever known.

 

Happy birthday, beautiful! I hope you have had a wonderful day. I can’t wait to see you and hold you again. I love you, darling.

Today’s song is an oldie, but I feel like it really shows how I feel.

Just a Little Gratitude

Just a Little Gratitude

In this realm of negativity and terrible news, I figured that I would share just a little gratitude with y’all!

I have had a very difficult time readjusting to school after my surgery recovery. However, there have been several wonderful developments lately that I want to share with y’all. I feel so grateful to have so many wonderful opportunities and to have the ability to pursue them. Without further ado, let’s see what I’ve been up to lately!

Internship

If you’ve been following this blog or my Instagram, you’ll know that I am currently interning as a Program Associate with Rural Forward NC (RFNC). I have been interning with them since mid-August, and I absolutely love it. Everyone there has really made me feel included and welcome. It doesn’t feel like going to work, but like going to hang out and work together with friends. I really believe that RFNC is a family, and I am just so excited to be part of that.

Anyways, I could go on for a whole post about the atmosphere of and the work that I am doing with RFNC. For now, though, I will just focus on last Friday for now.

⇾ Last Friday, I traveled to Winston-Salem with the two other interns and most of the RFNC group for a meeting with the Trust that houses the program. I was very nervous at first because it is intimidating as an intern to go into a meeting with people who have been doing this work for years in a professional sense. However, I could never have expected just how great it would end up being!

⇾ The wonderful, wonderful RFNC staff bought Starbucks coffee for me! (If you know me, you know how much I love my venti black coffees!)

⇾ We all got to ride in a minivan! There ended up being 3 interns, including me, and 3 full-time staff members in the van. It felt like a big family road-trip, although someone did correct me saying that it couldn’t be a family road-trip because we weren’t arguing enough! Plus, I love being a passenger and not having to drive!

⇾ The presentations that were given and the conversations that were had around me were easy for me to understand. Walking in with no prior knowledge on the majority of the topics covered, I was worried that I would be really lost or that I would be in the all-too-familiar situation of having people be irritated or condescending with me. However, everyone just automatically included basic background knowledge and spoke at a level that I could understand and follow.

⇾ We were put into small groups for discussions, and I ended up in a group with some pretty influential people to discuss power in the communities. They were all talking together, which was very interesting and helped me develop my understanding of where people in the group were coming from, but I didn’t know if I was supposed to be saying anything. When the conversation lulled, though, I decided to throw out some comments of my own. I figured that either it would go well or I could grab the bowl of chocolate in the hall and hide until it was time to leave. It ended up going very well and people seemed pleasantly surprised with my insights. It made me feel really great to know that my input was valued and respected. I felt very empowered to speak more throughout the meeting after that!

⇾ We got to ride back in the minivan! I felt like I really got to bond with one of the other interns during the trip, and overall that it was just a wonderful trip.

⇾ It was also my supervisor’s birthday, so let’s immortalize it here:

Happy birthday, Jessica! We haven’t been working together for very long, but I think that we have definitely bonded a lot already. I really appreciate your patience and understanding towards me, and your efforts to help me grow, not only as just an intern or a professional, but as a person. Thank you so much for helping me feel welcomed and valued at Rural Forward NC. I look forward to working more with you throughout the rest of my time as a Program Associate, and to hopefully working with you again in the future!

Study Abroad: Ireland

While I was sitting in that meeting with the Trust on Friday, I got an email that I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for: my official acceptance from University College Cork (UCC) as an exchange student for the spring semester!

I recently applied to be an exchange student at UCC in Ireland for the spring, and I was cautiously optimistic about my chances. It’s a very competitive program with only 4 exchange student spots available for the spring semester. I found out on September 19 that I had been nominated by NC State for one of those spots, but I had to wait for the official acceptance from UCC. However, I was told that it probably wouldn’t appear until mid-October, so I was not expecting it only 10 days later!

I feel so amazing about this, and there will definitely be many more updates to come. In fact, I may be working with a blogging program while I am abroad, so make sure that you stay on the lookout for that!

Conference

As if last Friday wasn’t already going well enough, I ended the evening with another email in my inbox.

If you’ve been around for a while, or have just looked through my past posts, you may know that I went to a disability-focused symposium in Seattle, Washington last March. The DO-IT Center with the University of Washington at Seattle was involved in that symposium, and they are hosting another conference in December.

I applied to attend the conference, but did not expect to be invited because it is focused more towards larger groups and education and research centers (ERCs). So, I really didn’t expect to get an email inviting me to book my flights to and from Seattle!

In December, I will be out in Seattle focusing on learning strategies and exchanging ideas for “recruiting and supporting individuals at ERCs and making websites and other products accessible to people with disabilities.” I will also be learning about “disability culture, the history of disability rights, and framing disability as a component of diversity.”

Honestly, I get so surprised every time that I get invited to these events, even when I’ve applied. I don’t know if I’m more surprised that people are inviting me to these events when I am only an undergraduate student, or if I’m more surprised that people keep inviting me back to these conferences after they meet and get to know me!

NC Pride

Moving past Friday now (I know, weird, right?), to Saturday and Sunday!

Last Saturday night, NC Pride took to the streets of downtown Raleigh.

Okay, it really only took to one street.

Okay, it really only took to like 3 blocks of one street.

It was a relatively sad festival, especially when compared to Charlotte Pride that I attended in August. However, it had one redeeming quality: a drag show.

That’s right. I went to a drag show. Even stranger, I left my apartment at night and didn’t get home until 3:00am on Sunday because I went to a drag show at Imurj downtown.

I went with Margaret and we found some people that we knew, especially a lot of people from the campus GLBT Center. It was absolutely wonderful. I’ve never been to a drag show before, and I don’t often leave my apartment to socialize, but I had a super great time!

The drag show was very exciting, and the performers made it such a fun space to be in. I will definitely be attending the next drag show! (Although I will be taking an Uber because I’m not about to pay $7 to park several blocks away and then have to walk back to my car in the wee hours of the morning!)

NC State Diversity Awareness

As a student leader for the Allies for Students with Disabilities (ASD), a diversity organization, I get so many opportunities to join in on amazing projects and awareness opportunities.

⇾ I was recently approached by students from the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) Diversity Digest about an interview for their e-newsletter. They wanted to help raise awareness for the ASD and its goals, so naturally I agreed. I would love to extend my thanks to the writer, the photographer, and the Diversity Digest as a whole for creating and running this piece. I am so happy with how it came out, and I hope that we get some new members from it! I’ll be thrilled, though, if even just one person who didn’t know about us reads it and goes, “Huh, now I know that this resource exists!” If you want to read the piece, check it out here!

⇾ In the past few days, I also was asked to be in a video for an anti-hate initiative. I don’t know how much I can share just yet, but there will definitely be more information to come once that project is complete and public! If you follow my blog Instagram, you’ve seen this photo from during the filming!

State Against Hate
Check back to see what this was for!

Gratitude

I don’t say any of this to brag, but to speak to how grateful I am.

I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement for these opportunities. Even just last year, I definitely wouldn’t have imagined being here and having all of these opportunities present themselves. I feel so lucky that I have been able to be involved with each and every one of these.

I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has been a part in these opportunities and who has been a part of helping me get to a point where I feel confident enough in myself to pursue these opportunities. Between my RFNC family, my apartment family, and my NC State families, I feel so lucky to have people pushing me to be better and to take advantage of new opportunities that come my way!

 

Personal Notes

Thank you so much if you’ve read down this far! Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve written down this far! This is just such a long post. I’m exhausted just looking at the word count!

I’ve been writing this for a few days now, and I’m somehow finishing it now when my wonderful girlfriend is only sitting a few feet away from me. Why didn’t I finish this before she got here so I could focus on spending time with her instead of editing this post? That is an excellent question. I guess it’s because she is one of the parts of my life that I am so very grateful for and she makes me feel like I can be a better person. It wouldn’t feel right putting this whole post together without including her! (Also, I’m a college student so procrastination is one of my number one skills!)

The song for your mind to fixate on today is this! Enjoy!

 

Banana Fiber Pads: Taking it One Period at a Time

Banana Fiber Pads: Taking it One Period at a Time

If you wonder why I am majoring in Natural Resources, even though I am so focused on advocacy work, here is the answer: banana fiber pads. When I went to NC State for the first time to learn about Paper Science and Engineering, I was told a story about how banana fibers were being utilized to improve women’s lives around the globe. It was my first view of the College of Natural Resources and it helped me made the decision to attend NC State.

Chances are, you or someone you know surfs the crimson wave or gets attacked during Shark Week. Perhaps, you blame it on Aunt Flo or Mother Nature. However you like to put it, menstruation is a regular and healthy part of life for most women around the world, starting usually by the age of 13.75 years. Here at North Carolina State University, you can grab a few free sanitary pads or tampons from the Student Health Center bathrooms, or go to the local pharmacy to buy whichever type you prefer. From pantiliners to sanitary pads, tampons to menstrual cups, even period panties: the amount of options that you have to choose from these days is extensive.

All of these resources allow girls to go to school, go to work, and generally be able to go about their everyday lives during their menstrual periods. Invention has allowed menstruation to become simply an inconvenience. However, what about females in developing countries, who do not have access to these same resources?

In stark contrast to conditions in the United States and other developed countries, many women and girls miss days of school and work because they lack access to affordable and available feminine hygiene products and to restroom facilities. In order to try to make do without the appropriate resources, for example, females in India have used rags, pieces of mattresses, and even ashes to stop the flow of menstruation. These materials are unsanitary, can cause infection and disease, and are ineffective at stopping leakage. Many schools do not allow access to hygienic or private restrooms to change or to a clean water source, so girls stay home from school and, subsequently, fall behind in their education. This phenomenon is not unique to India, though.

Women and girls throughout nearly the entire continent of Africa are plagued by menstruation that they lack necessary resources to handle. For example, roughly 18% of girls in Rwanda missed an average of 35 days of school each year because they did not have access to pads or the funds necessary to afford commercial pads.

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is a social enterprise led by young women with the goal of manufacturing and distributing sanitary pads that are affordable, high-quality, and environmentally friendly to developing countries. The founder and CEO of SHE, Elizabeth Scharpf, first became concerned about the issue of women missing out on work and school due to menstruation in 2005 when she was an intern for the World Bank in Mozambique. During this time, Scharpf visited a sewing factory and asked the owner about how the factory’s efficiency could be improved. She was told that the greatest challenge was that female employees would miss work nearly 24 days of the year due to menstruation, given that commercial pads cost more than a day’s wages. To try to avoid missing work, women were known to use rags, tree bark, leaves, and even dried mud.

Researchers here at North Carolina State University, in conjunction with SHE, used their knowledge in the areas of nonwovens, wood and paper science, textile engineering, and medical textiles to work on developing sanitary pads that are made of materials readily available in local areas. Of all of the materials suggested, field tests run by Scharpf proved that fibers from banana stems worked the best, so researchers focused on using those to create sanitary pads that could be used in Rwanda and similar countries. Dr. Lucian Lucia, Dr. Medwick Byrd, and Dr. Hasan Jameel of the Department of Wood and Paper Science ran banana fibers through several chemical treatments and mechanical actions with the purpose of changing the fibers’ composition from coarse and waxy into soft and absorbent materials. The researchers aimed to keep their processes simple in order to allow the average person in a developing country to create these sanitary pads from banana fibers.

With the knowledge that these fibers could be made into affordable and available sanitary pads, Scharpf has begun working with over 600 small-scale banana farmers in Rwanda to supply, create, and sell pads within schools, using funding from private donors and the Ministry of Education in Rwanda.

Banana Fiber Pads
These are things that we take for granted on a daily basis, but that isn’t so easy for girls in developing countries!

The banana-fiber pad from SHE won the 2010 Curry Stone Design Prize, which is awarded each year to innovative projects that use design to address current social justice issues. That being said, many other organizations have begun similar projects, including Huru in Kenya, Jayaashree Industries in India, and Makapad in Uganda. This intersection of natural resources and social activism has allowed many women and girls in developing countries to have the opportunity to pursue work and education at the same rate as the men and boys. As this work serves to inspire others to champion the cause as well, the world begins to take great strides towards social equality. With the only true costs being goodwill and ingenuity in how natural resources are used, what other social issues will soon begin to diminish or be eradicated completely?

This is another post that was originally written for class, but I feel like the message is important for everyone to see.

Today’s mood song is one that has been playing in the back of my mind for some time now. I hope you all enjoy!

Common Core Standards: The First Evil

Common Core Standards: The First Evil

Welcome to the first of the many evils on my laundry list: Common Core Standards. This was originally written for class in early 2016, and now edited for this blog. I’m recovering from surgery right now, so I couldn’t really start on an entirely new topic yet.

Background

The time between the 1970s and the present day has been marked by the direct proportionality of worldwide socio-economic inequalities and the focus on equality, with both rapidly increasing. Contemporary philosophy especially has shown great interest in this phenomenon, which has led many philosophers to question the concept of equality and how it should be defined. One such aspect of this is the principle of equality of opportunity, a concept that has been defined as the idea that people should all have equal opportunities to succeed in life based on their primary social goods, such as wealth, rights, and liberties. Ideally, this would mean that everyone starts off with the same chance to succeed, though the reality of present-day society has shown the disparity in that idealization. Taking that into account, the principle of equality of opportunity has been the philosophical basis of many government programs for public education.

The federal and state governments first began to pass acts to provide funding for various school needs, and then turned attention to the standardization of education in the effort of providing every child with the same knowledge and chance to succeed. However, while these endeavors have been put into place with good intentions, they have also caused a myriad of problems for the present American educational system.

A number of these undertakings have evolved over time into practices currently in place, such as educational standardization through the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the progression from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to the No Child Left Behind Act, and finally to the Every Student Succeeds Act. These legislative acts were passed with the goal of benefiting the population in terms of evening the educational footing of the youth, but each came along with its own hefty set of problems as setbacks to any sort of progress that could have been made.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The foundation of the federal government’s involvement in public education was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The act was proposed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in order to fight against poverty by allocating funds to improve schools in impoverished areas to close the gap between the education levels of the children of poor and wealthy families. These funds gave schools the opportunity to do renovations on school buildings, buy books, and train teachers. The Johnson Administration asked that fiscal year for $1.00 billion of the $1.25 billion allocated for elementary and secondary education to be directly spent to help the children of the poor. However, this proposal was controversial and complicated from the very beginning.

Upon analysis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a war of sorts began brewing between the middle class and the poor. The middle classes had control over the state and local governments due to their socio-economic power, which they were expected to use in order to gain more money for their schools. While the poor were viewed commonly as having no power over the governments, but in actuality they had the ability to bolster their lacking political power with their emotional leverage. Whether or not this war would widen or narrow the disparity between the rich and the poor would be determined by the federal government and if they used federal constitutional and fiscal powers to prevent state and local powers from being abused to benefit a single class, or if these powers would lay dormant in the name of local control.

In addition to this uneven distribution of powers that each side could use to their own advantages, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act aimed to even out the opportunities awarded to the rich and poor by targeting parochial schools to promote cooperation between the Catholic and non-Catholic populations. At the time, the Catholic population resented paying higher property taxes in order to fund public schools that they were in no way affiliated with, which made it very difficult in some communities to improve public education.

Reviewing the legislation did not give many people hope that it would lead to any significant improvement in cooperation between public and parochial schools that mainly served the middle-class and the poor. Revisiting the issues associated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act gave the government the ability to revise their legislation in 2002 when the act was reauthorized with the No Child Left Behind Act, but a number of issues arose all the same.

The No Child Left Behind Act

President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into effect in 2002 to renovate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and refocus the country on improving student achievement while closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. This legislation introduced key changes for governments to impose upon their schools in areas, such as testing and accountability. The core idea behind testing and accountability would be to provide measures of student outcomes in order to establish standards, the failure of which to meet would result in consequences for poor performance.

Given that logic, schools would have incentives to improve, especially in the instructional time between students and teachers. To credit this endeavor, research has shown that No Child Left Behind has led teachers to allocate more time to core subjects and spend more time developing teaching strategies and lesson plans. However, that is where the benefits end and the problems begin to emerge.

In order to measure student performance and outcomes, teachers must prepare students for standardized examinations, the scores of which are then ranked and compared across the nation. The test scores of students are seen as a direct representation of the quality of their teachers and, consequently, their schools. Due to this, teachers have begun “teaching to the test,” or teaching material solely based on what will be on the exam instead of tailoring the curriculum to what students may want to learn about or taking as much time to go over a concept as some students may need in order to go over everything students will be tested on. Alongside this, teachers may focus on certain students or materials over others, which not only places stress and discomfort on students, but also on teachers when these practices conflict with their own professional judgment.

That conflict can cause teachers to experience frustration or burnout, feelings that can be intensified if the exam scores do not measure up to the national average and, therefore, the school is considered a “failure.” The sense of inadequacy or failure that results from that poor ranking of a school can have drastic impacts on the mental health and perceptions of self-worth of both students and teachers. To combat this, teachers may focus on particular students or topics, which is a good practice in theory but not in actuality.

Realistically, focusing solely on one concept in the curriculum will cause some students to be, in a way, “left behind” because they are forced to sit through lectures on information that they already know; effectively, this will cause students to waste time because they are required to go through the same information with nothing to do when they could be being productive elsewhere.

Teachers focusing only on certain students who need a great deal of extra help causes the same issue. Given the amount of stress and problems that come from this approach to meet national accountability standards, it would make sense how teachers and students alike feel so much frustration with No Child Left Behind. In an effort to change this system and correct some of the issues, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015.

The Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 was designed to alleviate the challenges that No Child Left Behind suffered, update and strengthen the laws to expand opportunities to more children, and grant more flexibility to states in regards to specific No Child Left Behind requirements in exchange for well-developed state plans. This act gave states serious leeway in a many areas of education because it included having the U.S. Department of Education take on a considerably smaller role in determining accountability so that the states could create their own plans.

Each state’s accountability system would have to include performance on state tests, English-language competency, an academic factor of their choosing such as growth on state exams, and another factor that the state believes would be important, including access to advanced coursework or school safety. While this ability for each state to make their own plans so long as they adhere to a general set of national standards would seemingly solve many of the issues that both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act caused in terms of disjointed government cooperation and inability to respect a single set of standards, it has been evident that this bill is on track to cause more problems than it is to create solutions.

Giving a great deal of flexibility and leeway to the states with the Every Student Succeeds Act sounds great in theory, as it would allow each state to choose what they believe to be the best course of action for their educational system while still coming together to observe general national standards. However, it remains to be seen how and where this leeway will be taken, and how said decisions will impact the founding of new schools and categories of students and schools that have been historically overlooked, despite these groupings being the very targets that the No Child Left Behind Act attempted to help. In addition to this, when scaling back the role of the U.S. Department of Education, roughly 50 programs have been consolidated into a large block grant, such as elementary and secondary counseling.

When the funding for crucial programs, including those that greatly impact students’ health and wellness, is funneled into a large block grant instead of categorical grants, it can cause issues with how the money is budgeted. Block grants would allow the states to use the money in any way that they want to within their educational system, whereas categorical grants would force states to use the money for tasks that the federal government has deemed important. Because of this discrepancy, many schools could lose funding for valuable programs to other programs that the state considers to be more important, regardless of reasoning. Budgeting and leeway aside, the very wording of this initiative, set to go into full effect for the current 2017-2018 school year, has already been causing confusion.

The Shortcomings and Next Steps

Acts, such as The Every Student Succeeds Act, which serve to continually revise and reauthorize previous initiatives, often contain confusing wording as they seek to remedy past jargon and prepare for the future. One such example of this would be within the language detailing the education secretary’s authority, which will potentially cause more problems, both politically and legally, for the U.S. Department of Education to truly regulate this law. If the wording is unclear, the lines of jurisdiction for which party has the responsibility to oversee which matters become blurred and difficult to prove or justify. While The Every Student Succeeds Act serves to create a balance between giving leeway to the states and providing general standards as guidance, these provisions do cause wording issues throughout the regulatory process.

As the governments try to blindly feel their way through the regulatory process, several key points may be explored or illuminated, such as when states must identify schools in which traditionally underperforming groups of students are struggling. This continual issue with academic standards does lead to problems with student performance and the base of knowledge that students are sent off to other educational systems and the workforce with. In light of the great deal of issues surrounding the establishment of these standards, however, there are more issues that arise within the curriculum that students are taught and how that measures up across the nation.

In the age of intense educational competition and highly selective universities, state governments began to notice that each had different standards for their public schools, which would either make their students more or less prepared to fight their way into higher education or the workforce and succeed there. This national revelation caused both federal and state governments to reevaluate their educational standards in order to create a system that would allow students to each have an equal basis of knowledge so that they would be able to compete not only with other American students and workers, but also with those internationally in this global economy.

In the face of this admission of responsibility, an assembly of governors came together with educational administrators in 2009 to establish a state-wide initiative, which would be used to standardize the academic systems in grades K–12 mathematics and English language arts across the nation, named the Common Core State Standards.

Common Core Standards

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 42 states thus far in an effort to specifically outline a standard set of curriculum goals for what every K-12 student should know at the end of each grade level in the academic system, thereby allowing schools to better compare one another and further progress towards a better education system as a whole. In the six years since the initiative was enacted, a great deal of research has been conducted on how well the standards have been implemented across the states and how the standards have affected student outcomes. This initiative was put in place with high hopes and expectations for the results, but research has not shown this to be true.

Research shows that Common Core has not had enough of an impact on reducing the achievement gap among students to display any consistent evidence and that the implementation of standards has been weak. An example of this is that teachers usually report considerable attempts at instructional improvement, though academic instruction remains poorly structured across grade levels and regions. This poorly structured instruction is, in part, due to curriculum resources available to teachers.

Though Common Core has tried to standardize the curriculum across the states, it has done nothing to standardize the resources available for teachers to teach this new curriculum. One of these resources would be the textbooks that teachers use to guide their lesson plans and that students learn from through guided notes and problem sets daily. In the classroom, textbooks serve as one of the primary influences on the materials that teachers go over, with little to no information being taught on the information left out of the textbook.

The educational system relies on textbook authors to interpret the national standards of Common Core and write their textbooks accordingly, which results in many different implementations across schools due to using different textbooks for the same subjects, or using textbooks that do not have all of the information that students are then expected to know at the end of their grade level. While textbooks play this major role in the classroom and in what students know as a whole, they are simply one part of a disjointed system. To see positive changes resulting from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the educational system must also work on standardizing the rest of the curriculum materials, or try to find a new initiative that will work to prepare students for college and the workforce.

In Conclusion

Throughout the recent history of the educational system of the United States, many laws and initiatives have been enacted to try to pull the country back into the worldwide leaders in education. These efforts are important in order to ensure that students each start out with the same chance to succeed, based on the knowledge gained in their studies, which is known as the principle of equality of opportunity. This principle has led to many of the changes that have been put into place, such as the progression from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to the No Child Left Behind Act, and then to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

While the government’s endeavors to standardize education to provide each child with the same basis of knowledge have shown great attention to detail, these initiatives have caused more harm than good. These issues, such as trying to close the achievement gap in schools and standardizing the curriculum, grow with each new law that passes. This is because each revision to a previous law takes the existing problems into account, but also adds more legislation that then, in turn, causes more problems. The state and federal governments have tried to pass initiatives in order to better the nation’s educational system, but have only had success in both uncovering and creating more problems as time goes on.

 

I hope that this has shown at least a smidgen of why I have a problem with the US educational system. Trust me, there will probably be more to come soon!

I think that this song sums up a good bit of how I felt while writing this, and while going through the US educational system as a whole.

Giving Life to My Advocacy Passions

Giving Life to My Advocacy Passions

It’s time to begin really giving life to my passions.

When I first started this blog, I wanted to make this into a platform for my advocacy work. Obviously, that vision has yet to be realized.

So far, I’ve been working on getting more comfortable with blogging in general before I get into the heavy stuff! I have been posting much more regularly on my Instagram, so definitely follow that if you want to see more of my daily updates!

If you saw my last post, you know that I’ve recently gone through a lot of changes and that has impacted sort of where I’m at in my life.

I’ve had some exciting experiences lately that have really inspired me to redirect this blog to fulfill my original dream! Without further ado, let’s see what I’ve been up to in the past couple months!

Charlotte Pride

Charlotte Pride was August 26-27 this year. If you follow my Instagram, you already know about a lot of the things that I got into!

The first day, I went alone and ended up meeting up with several cool people. I went to Amelie’s with one of my oldest friends (one of my OG friends, if you will. No? Yeah… I’ll just go now…) and her girlfriend before we took to the streets! I had such an amazing time talking with them and walking around. I naturally bought some nifty stickers, an advocacy shirt, and two flags: the demisexual flag and the pansexual flag. Of course, I was wearing a rainbow bowtie and rainbow suspenders, so at the end of the evening when someone asked if I wanted body glitter I obviously accepted. Mistake. There is still glitter in my car.

Anyways, I ended the evening by staying until the very end of the performances on stage. I actually did something that startled even me. I stood up on a bench to tell someone that I really liked how they looked, and I got trapped on a bench by some dancing strangers below! Normally, I would’ve just asked them to move so I could get down, go home, and retreat to my bed. Instead, I just started dancing along with them! I danced on a bench for about an hour, if you can believe it. If you can’t believe it, there’s a video on my Instagram!

Maybe you’re thinking that there’s no way the second day could top the first. I mean, I went to Amelie’s and danced on a bench. You would be wrong, though!

I took my little sister, Ani, to see the parade the second day. It was so amazing to be able to share an experience as wonderful as Pride with my sister. We got some Insomnia Cookies (the best cookies ever known to exist), McDonald’s sweet tea, and a matching bowtie for her. The two of us had a photo taken with a guy holding a sign that said: “There’s probably no God. Now, stop worrying and enjoy your life.” No matter your religious affiliation, I think that taking time to enjoy life is very important. Plus, it was nice to see someone taking such a peaceful, positive stance against the super religious protesters.

It was a lot of social interaction, but Charlotte Pride was such an incredible experience this year. It started the ball rolling on my ideas for what to do next with this blog!

NC State GLBT Center

Something that I wish I had done more during my last two years at NC State would be getting involved with the GLBT Center. As someone who identifies as pansexual (pan), there aren’t a lot of places or communities in which I feel welcome and accepted. As someone who identifies as demisexual (demi)… well, you get the idea.

The GLBT Center has a club called Bi/Pan, which is geared towards individuals who identify as bisexual or pansexual, obviously. There is also a club, AcePack, for people who identify on the asexual scale. I’ve recently started attending the meetings for each of these clubs. It’s nice because, for that hour-long meeting, I’m around people who at least vaguely understand where I stand in society and the experiences that I’ve gone through.

Of course, I still feel out of place in each of those clubs. I feel like I don’t fit in in Bi/Pan because of my demi identity, and like I don’t fit in in AcePack because of my pan identity. Still, it’s a community that I feel closer to than just in my everyday life.

The great discussions that we’ve had in each club, and how the meetings have made me feel, have built upon the feelings that I unearthed after Charlotte Pride. That snowball effect has definitely impacted my LGBT advocacy thoughts!

The Allies for Students with Disabilities (ASD)

As per usual, my work with the Allies for Students with Disabilities has helped me to develop some intense feelings about the population of individuals with disabilities.

My most recent event with the ASD, I provided a student perspective during a presentation about ability for a class. It went pretty well overall, although I didn’t get much of a response from the students. I love being able to talk to students and share my experiences so that they can develop a deeper understanding of ability and accessibility issues. Their feedback allows me to see how people feel and think about individuals with disabilities, which gives me the chance to better tailor my presentations so I can meet the audience where they’re at.

Internship

If  you read my Fall Internship: A Teaser post, you know that I am currently interning with Rural Forward NC as a Program Associate. That position has allowed me to be exposed to a variety of topics that I had no or limited previous experience with, such as behavioral health, mental health, and Food Councils.

All of that work is really giving me a new perspective on… pretty much everything!

Personal Discussions

With all of this just overwhelming my mind, I’ve been taking the opportunity to have deep, tough discussions with people.

My lovely best friend, Margaret, gets the brunt of that because we live together. In my defense, we normally also have snacks and the Food Network so she doesn’t just have to listen to me talk for hours on end. She doesn’t seem to mind, though. Actually, Margaret challenges my thoughts and perceptions, which helps me to develop my stance on issues. With her, I’ve really worked out a lot of things that I care about and why. The discussions are great because they help me to think more critically and to reevaluate my own preconceived ideas and unconscious biases.

I’ve also spoken with a couple faculty members that shall remain nameless. Actually, speaking with them gave me a name for how I feel: righteous fury.

What This Means

Wow, that ended up being a very long post! If you’ve read this whole thing, thank you and congratulations on your achievement! If you’ve scrolled to the bottom to see the main point, don’t worry- I’ll never know that you didn’t read it!

The gist of it is this: get ready for some serious advocacy-focused posts!

I have a huge piece of poster paper covered in concepts that fill me with that righteous fury, and I plan to make each and every one of them into a post someday! Here’s a sneak peak of what is to come:

Advocacy topics that fill me with righteous fury
Once I started writing out things, it was like I just couldn’t stop!

I hope that y’all are as excited about this change as I am! I just can’t wait to really put my advocacy work out there.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel

If you listen to this post’s theme song, be prepared to have it stuck in your head!