Category: GCD

Communications (Multilingualism)- Guess Where I’m From

Guessing my nationality, is something which I’m pretty sure no one has ever done correctly. Being one of the most third-culture kids people have ever met, I have grown quite used to it. To explain my background and the languages I speak is definitely more complicated than one would assume. Being born in Japan and having learnt the language since a very young age, I am now happy to say that I can consider myself a fluent every-day speaker. I am doing very well in my Japanese B SL class, and love the convenience of being able to speak the language of the country I live in. However, when most people see me they guess half Japanese. This makes sense since the majority of “halfies” (a term used to describe someone who is half Asian and half Caucasian) in Japan are American and Japanese. But my mother is actually from Hong Kong. This gets even more confusing when people assume I can speak Cantonese or Mandarin. However due to my upbringing in Japan, my Japanese happens to be a significantly higher level than either of these languages.

When I lived in Australia for three years during high school, my Japanese was appreciated even more. The language level in Australian high schools is significantly lower than in Japanese International Schools, and all my peers regarded me as some sort of linguistic genius in French and Japanese. I took French in ISSH (Japan school) for three years, however the course was so intense that when I went to my school in Sydney I was way above everyones level. My ability to speak every day french and use past and future tense was apparently way ahead of their curriculum, which was still focused on the basics like colours and numbers.

I am very lucky to have been brought up in such a multi-lingual environment. Hearing Japanese, Mandarin, French, English around me from a young age have made my ability to pick up foreign languages much better. I believe that going to an international school opens you up to more languages, as with such a multi-cultural community and environment you learn to accept others cultures and pick up a few phrases from them.

Appreciating different cultures and languages has made me able to take the best parts of each and combine them into myself. The politeness of the Japanese society and language is entrenched in my personality just as the spirit and humour of Australians is. Being able to communicate and pick up foreign languages is a valuable skill for the future, and will allow me to be comfortable no matter what country I go to. 

Community Engagement- ARC

Community Engagement

From last year, I joined the Animal Relief Club at YIS. This club meets once every friday lunchtime. Here we come up with fundraising ideas for local animal shelters, and discuss visits to the shelters to practically assist. I joined this group because my friends were the leaders and gave me good information about it, and because I like animals and thought that it would be a good community service for me to both help others and enjoy myself. I used to have a dog, so this club means a lot to me. Throughout the year, the club visits the shelter several times to help walk dogs. The group last year we helped was SALA, and this year we are helping the shelter Lifeboat.

Being in an animal shelter was an unfamiliar environment. I had never gone to one before this club, and being there i was shocked. Although the conditions of the place were fine, it was still sad to see all the animals kept in cages, and surprising to see how many there were. Although I first felt uncomfortable because of a combination of language barriers, not being familiar with the local area, and lack of experience I feel much more confident now in my ability to help and communicate with the shelter.

When not at the shelter, ARC has helped me develop my fundraising skills. In small subgroups I had to work with other members to develop ideas to help the group. There were many sub committee, and I am on the fundraising ideas group. I believe this is one of the most important groups, as we must raise awareness and funds for ARC. I have developed my skills at communicating with the leaders and younger members, and feel that a common interest in animal welfare has made it easy to become friends with other members. Although I did not know everyone in the group before, the fact that everyone has a shared passion for helping animals makes it easy to bond with others. For fundraising, I also learnt business skills. It was important to come up with ideas that would generate a profit. For example, I assisted in coming up with the idea of a “guess the no. of jelly beans in the jar” game for YIS’s 2015 Food Fair. This is an important fundraising event for the group, and with the new restraint of not being able to sell food, I feel very proud of this creative idea.

I have shown commitment by attending all meetings and regularly volunteering for extra jobs, such as creating the poster with photos for the ARC booth at the 2015 Service Fair. Although the shelter was far, I still committed my time and effort to go and help with transporting donation items and walking the dogs.

This group has made me much more aware about the ethics behind animal shelters. Although the conditions were liveable, they were still very low compared to household pets. The cages were small, and sanitation was not a priority. The noise and smells inside the shelter were quite overwhelming. This experience has made me question how strongly laws for animal rights are implemented, and whether governments are doing anything to fix this problem.

I look forward to continue being a member of this group in my senior year. I hope to visit the Lifeboat shelter soon to assist in the dog walking, and to see how successful our fundraising at Food Fair is.

Adventure/Global Perspectives- Trip to Cambodia

In February, I went with a group of YIS students on the Cambodia Trip. I had never gone to Cambodia before, and I felt that during this trip I learnt a lot about not only the history of the country, but also about the people and culture. The first few days were sightseeing such as going to the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, and orientating ourselves with our new environment. The project at the school was the most rewarding part of the trip.

There were a few challenges to this trip. First was the risk of getting ill. Although this didn’t seem that important before, many of us did get sick. I had food poisoning and combined with the humidity/heat and not having the same access to health facilities as I was used to made it more challenging. There were also risks about safety, as the country’s government is known for being very corrupt. However we were very lucky that our teachers briefed us about health/hygiene and safety before the trip, so we all felt comfortable.

The next two days however, I felt very accomplished at the end when we left the school and was able to see the progress we had done. It was also challenging when I wasn’t physically strong enough to shovel the dirt at the speed needed to be efficient, so I tried my best to contribute to the group by offering to switch when others were tired, or doing other jobs such as returning empty buckets.

Seeing the children at the school made me realise that one of the biggest problems Cambodia has is supply of clean water, which affects all aspects of a child life including their attendance at school. It also made me see that the Pol Pot regime affected pretty much every person in Cambodia, and had such a strong negative impact on the country’s development. The young children were very friendly and eager to play, interested by our language and different physical appearance. Even though there was a language barrier, we were still able to bond with them and saying good bye was very hard.

The trip has made me realise that the world is very diverse, and other countries cultures and living standards can be very different to what we are used to. I am now more aware of the connections between different nations, such as the HOPE group we worked with which has an office in Tokyo. I found this very interesting, as even though Cambodia is a developing nation they’re charity groups are still able to communicate with countries across the world. I also learnt more about global aid, and how vital it is to developing nations.

Another thing I got out of this trip was bonding with others in our year group. Going on this trip I was nervous as none of my extremely close friends were going. However I learnt a lot about each person, and feel that I built many friendships that I otherwise would not have. Working with everyone in our group made me appreciate the commitment everyone had, as no one had a negative attitude or didn’t do their share of the work. I am very happy I decided to go on this trip, and would recommend it to anyone considering going.

The skills I have gained is communication, as I am now able to connect and make friends easier with people I am not close with. I have also gained travelling skills, and feel more confident in my ability to travel to culturally different nations and be able to take care of myself.

 

 

At the school in Cambodia
At the school in Cambodia

Public Speaking- Student Inspire Reflection

In November 2014, I participated in a public speaking event at my school called “Student Inspire”. This event was designed to allow those participating in the GCD to meet their Communications requirements, as well as to offer an opportunity for students to practice their public speaking skills. I decided to join this event as not only did I need to fulfill my GCD requirement, but also because I wanted to practice my speaking skills in front of an audience (which would be valuable for me in the future- e.g. MUN). I hoped that in doing so I would gain confidence in speaking up, as well as improve my abilities to write an engaging speech. The audience/speakers were mostly year 11’s, however there were a few year 10’s and 12’s as well.

I have never volunteered to be part of a public speaking event. In fact in year 9, not too long ago, I was offered an opportunity to be in a public speaking contest and I turned it down, as I was not sure of my abilities. Participating in this event was very stressful for me, and the days leading up to the event had me extremely worried. I only finished my speech on the day of the event, and I even considered pulling out last minute, as I was so nervous. However thanks to encouragement from both my family and friends I went through with it.

The speech went much better than expected. Being given the freedom to choose any topic made a great difference, as I talked about a topic that I was passionate about (Generalised Testing). Being passionate meant I truly believed in what I was saying, and therefore made an extra effort to engage with the audience. This topic also suited the audience, who all understood where I was coming from in regards to the difficulties teenagers face with tests like the SAT.

After the speech friends and other students I weren’t even closed to congratulated me, and my confidence in public speaking has grown significantly since. Knowing that people listened to what I was saying and enjoyed my speech surprised me, and now I know that I can speak in front of an audience and that all I have to do is prepare beforehand, and believe in myself. This has allowed me to become more engaged in Model United Nations, where I am now not afraid to speak up.

If I were to repeat this activity I would focus more on having fun rather than being nervous. I believe that once I get past the point of stage fright I will be able to truly enjoy public speaking. Next, my goal is to speak in front of a larger audience, hopefully for a cause.

 

Cross Country End of Season Reflection

Before joining Cross Country, I was extremely worried about how I would perform. A combination of embarrassment and physical discomfort were my biggest concerns. However, now that the season is over, I am extremely happy I made the choice to join. I pushed myself to join this sport, as I wanted to prove to myself that I am able to do anything I set my mind to,  and to test both my physical and mental boundaries. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the last meet as it was during the holidays, however I am still satisfied with my performance this season. Looking at my times, I can see that I have continuously improved with each meet.

Screen_Shot_2014-11-18_at_12.04.27_PM_original

 

This was also evident to me when I began to find practices easier, as I became more used to running. Although early morning practices were very challenging and tired me out, I found myself getting more and more comfortable with long-distance running, and enjoying the satisfaction it brought me after a run where I knew I performed to my best. I came to realize that I was able to run much further than I thought I could if I mentally changed my thoughts to  be more positive and encouraging. I feel now I have better endurance than before, and am able to be more confident in my running abilities. I now know that my biggest area for growth would be self-motivation, as sometimes I find myself getting lazy with running. However, I am more aware that I am able to grow as a person by increasing my ability to motivate myself. I had never done an independent sport before, and this was a very different experience. In team sports you are able to somewhat “share the disappointment” if you do not perform well, whereas with such an individual sport I found that you only had yourself to blame. This got difficult at times as I would feel bad and constantly feel that I could’ve done better, however now that I reflect on the improvement in my times I realize that I definitely have pushed myself, and am proud for the progress I have made.

I may consider doing cross-country again next year, and I will aim to keep up my endurance before then so that starting again will not be so challenging. I would also aim to be more motivated and set a specific goal to train for, which I feel would inspire me more. Doing this sport has made me much more interested in improving my health and fitness ability, and has shown me all the benefits that regular exercise can bring.

 

Public Speaking- Script and Powerpoint

Below is a link to the powerpoint I made to accompany my speech, as well as a copy of the script of my speech.
Powerpoint accompanying speech 

I did not follow this script exactly, and in order to increase my eye contact and fluidity of my speech I improvised some parts. 
Script

The Abolition of Standardised Testing: What’s wrong with the SAT’s
Most of us have or are planning to take a standardised test sometime in our life, whether it be the SATS or ACTS. However how beneficial actually are these tests?

(Talk about personal experience with PSAT’s, fears etc.)

(Change slide)

Standardised testing has not necessarily improved student achievement, that is, students having to take these test have not done any better academically than they would have without having to take them. On May 26, 2011 the National Research Council’s report found no evidence that test­based incentive programs are working. A quote from the report states “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test­based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.”

So taking standardised tests does not lead to higher academic achievements. But that’s okay, they’re main use is for universities to easily compare students right?

(Change slide)

But heres the thing: standardized tests are an unreliable measure of a students performance. How can students be compared, when the results do not accurately reflect their abilities? Tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful­ they measure isolated skills, content knowledge, specific facts, all of which can be considered the least important aspects of learning. They can not measure your initiative, critical thinking, resourcefulness, or resilience. Are these qualities not important to consider when deciding whether to accept a student into a school? They also evaluate your performance on one particular day, with no account for external factors that could be influencing your marks.
Even focusing on the subjects they are testing, standardised tests fail to capture the full spectrum of a students abilities in English, or mathematics, as there are too few questions to allow meaningful within­subject comparisons of student’s strengths and weaknesses. Multiple choice format is an inadequate assessment tool, as it encourages a simplistic way of thinking where there are only right and wrong answers. Getting the one algebra question on the test incorrect does not mean you are necessarily bad at algebra. Essentially, standardised tests fail to accurately demonstrate the abilities and knowledge of students. There is much more to a good education than is shown on a correct answer of multiple choice.

(Change slide)

The pressure of one test score determining your future, leads to immense stress for all of those in the education system including school officials, teachers, students and parents. That feeling before you have a test is definitely not one that present or future students should have to deal with. It’s not normal for us to face such extreme anxiety and emotional stress from just one exam. In some countries, such as in the U.S, government funding for schools are impacted by the schools average test score. The problem with this is that there are three factors that affect the student’s scores on standardized achievement tests: 1. what’s taught in school 2. a student’s native intellectual ability 3. what a student learns out of school. Schools that are labelled as “failing” are left out in the cold with much less funding that would enable them to Teachers and schools only have control over one of these factors and so standardised tests are an unreliable measure of teacher performance. This makes rewarding or punishing teachers based on their class scores unfair and detrimental.

The pressure of these tests have created a vicious cycle, and lead to teachers “Teaching the test”. This form of “drill n’kill” rote learning leads to a decline in teaching high order thinking, the amount of time and effort spent on complex assignments, and the amount of high cognitive content in school curriculums. Curriculums are being planned around the content in these tests, and therefore teachers spend lessons teaching students the content and format of the test leading to a loss of dynamism and creativity that would make school more effective and enjoyable for students. This excessive testing teaches how to be good at tests, but doesn’t not adequately prepare students for life after school. What is most valuable to us are the lessons we learn that can be applied everyday or in future professions and will help us succeed.

So in conclusion, yes we will most likely still have to take these standardized tests as part of the admissions process into universities. However, if theres one thing I want you to take away from today, it’s that your score on these tests are not an accurate reflection of your academic ability of personal qualities.

(Change slide )

You are more than a number. Thankyou

Cross Country Mid-Season Reflection

This year I decided to join the cross-country team as part of my school sport for semester one. I have never participated in a running sport (e.g. cross country, track and field) before, and wanted to try something out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to improve my aerobic fitness not only for the upcoming basketball season but also for my general health and wellbeing. My goal was to learn how to challenge myself both physically and mentally, as I feel cross-country is a sport that tests your ability to persevere and push through.

It is currently the middle of the season, with 3 meets already done and 2 more to go. I have attended 2 meets so far, as one of them I was unable to go due to illness. My first meet was the best, as I was able to complete the race and felt physically the best. The second one I faced great difficulty, as I was unwell, that weekend and therefore struggled in the middle of the race. Although I had to stop half way during the meet due to an asthma attack, I was proud of myself for still completing the race.

Practices occur 4 times a week, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, and it is compulsory to attend at least 3 of these. So far I have always completed at least 3 a week. The middle school and high school teams run together at routes such as Yamashita Park, Suicide, and Zig Zag (hill sprints)

My Athletic Profile

I feel I am now aware of areas that I could improve in to benefit my cross-country life. I now understand that I need to work on my hill running, which is where I struggle the most. Mentally, I need to work on pushing myself more during practice to keep running even when I feel tired. I also need to work on having a more positive attitude, so I look forward to meets/practices more.

Participating in an unfamiliar sport has tested me in new ways. One challenge for me was that most of the people in my team have ran competitively before, and therefore have had more time to develop their skill/fitness for the sport. The first few meets were tough as my body wasn’t used to that much exercise and I had aches etc. the following days.

Waking up at 6 am on weekdays is challenging, and made me hesitant about committing to this sport. However, I am now used to this routine and do not mind waking up early. One time when I wanted to give up was at the second meet when I felt extremely out of breath in the middle of the race and was forced to stop and recover. I felt that I did not do my best, and thought that perhaps I was not cut out for cross-country. However I managed to fix this situation as this week I went to the doctor and received medication to help me recover from my cold, and now feel much better physically.

I feel that I have improved my fitness as now I am not scared of running long distances and know that I am much more capable that I think. I feel I have also gained a lot of confidence in trying new things as I have realized that I am able to join new activities and get out of my comfort zone.If I were to start the season again, I would train and prepare myself before the season began so that I would be more fit/ready when the competitions started. Also I would not push myself as much when I was sick as I feel this made me sicker rather than resting.Currently I still am unsure as to whether I have improved. I feel that I have however I have yet to properly time myself and see a definite result.

This experience has made me more interested in trying different sports, and definitely made me consider joining a sport like track and field. It has made me more curious about individual sports and a person’s ability to push their self.

This weekend is the last meet before a 2-week break, and I aim to get a better time than I did the first week, and improve my personal time.