Monday, February 10, 2014

Ana Paula Damha - 1st semester reflection

First Semester Reflection 

  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "You don't have to see the whole staircase to take the first step", and profoundly believing in this, last year was the year I chose to change my overall academic performance and become the student I always wanted to be, with the goal of applying to the Stanford University in the future, possibly to major in Biochemical or Industrial Engineering. 

   When I look back to last semester, I consider myself happy and satisfied with my overall achievements and developments, even though I still want to pursue several goals and reach higher achievements. I believe I still have a lot to improve and strengthen about my academic and extra-curricular performance in order to be the ideal student not only for ISC, but also for Stanford. Over the last semester, I was able to improve my GPA, making it 4.0, as well as improving my abilities in Math and my participation in extracurricular activities. Throughout last year, I was the president of the Global Issues Network (GIN) team at my school, for which I went to Ecuador in order to present a project about government corruption in Brazil. I am currently the MUN director at ISC, as well a member of the Green Team and CSIP team at my school. These and other projects make me excited to learn and achieve a high level of knowledge in several distinct areas, but there is still more to achieve: my current goal is to enroll in the National Honor Society (NHS), as well as to be chosen as a Chair in the BRAMUN meeting this year and participating on the STUCO.
I always believed that organization was the key for doing well in ISC, and this year I could prove to myself that by organizing my work and properly managing my time, it was possible to get everything well-done on time. I think I made good use of my time, as I was able to hand in all my work on the proper deadline, but I don't believe the time management I do now is going to be enough for the IB, and therefore I am planning on finding better ways to get organized with my work in order to successfully achieve the IB diploma. Even though my learning and my grades improved greatly, I don't believe I have made full use of all resources that were available to me, so I plan to go deeply into all that ISC offers me in order to be more organized for the next two years of High School that are ahead of me.

In order to improve my general performance at school, I intend not only to plan my time better and get involved in more projects, but also improve myself as a person in order to make High School less stressful. Some changes like working better in groups, since I enjoy working independently, or perhaps looking for help when I need it can provide me great help, and I am willing to go after these changes as well.

Up and above all, I will seek for motivation everyday, and will make my dreams the source of my inspiration to change and become the best student I can possibly be, so that one day I can reach the staircase after taking many small steps.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


     Palestinians and Israelis. Muslims and Jews. People who live twenty minutes away from each other, but in two completely different worlds. Since ancient times, conflict between Israel and Palestine  prevails in the grounds of the Middle East, causing hate, death, xenophobia, misunderstanding and war amongst people who are equal in humanity, but different in religion. Politicians have been trying to solve the issue, the United Nations  has intervened in the conflicts multiple times and people have been protesting for peace and equality, which has only taken Israel and Palestine to urge more wars against each other. Because of that, B.Z Goldberg, a peace activist and film producer, took a small step for the world, but a big step for peace, which changed the life of seven Israeli and Palestinian children. 

     In 2001, Goldberg released a documentary called Promises, which put Yarko and Daniel, two Israelis that live in Jerusalem and are secular Jews, Faraj and Sanabel, who live in a refugee camp in the West Bank, and are Palestinians and Muslims, and three other children, Sholomo, a Jewish rabbi and Moishe and Mahmoud, both Palestinians and Muslims, into contact with each other. Goldberg's goal was for the children to establish a communication with each other in order to become aware of a culture, religion and belief that was different from theirs, and thus learn to accept those differences in order to live in a world of peace, in which both Palestinians and Israelis could indeed share the same land.

     Throughout the documentary, B.Z shows the reality of the seven children, and their views towards the division of the land, religion, war and peace. All the Israeli children claimed that the land was theirs, and that no Palestinian had the right to live there. Some Jewish children, who were more extremist towards their religious views, even read excerpts from the Torah, which they claimed to be the proof that Israel belonged to them. Meanwhile, the Palestinian children claimed that the Israelis had occupied their land, and they wanted it back. Even though all of them considered themselves the owners of the land, they also wanted peace. Four of the seven children, Yarko, Faraj, Daniel and Sanabel agreed to meet each other in order to establish communication and give a step towards peace. 

     When they met, the children played games, danced, ate together, walked around the Palestinian refugee camp, learned about each other's culture and talked about the issue that involved their land. At the end of the day, all of them had realized, just by communicating with each other, that they were indeed twenty minutes away from peace and agreement, if only they could get all the Palestinians and Israelis to talk like they had done. The other three children, who did not agree to meet, kept their minds closed and their beliefs limited, while Yarko, Faraj, Daniel and Sanabel opened their minds to realize that the only thing that was different about them was their religion, and that the only thing that really kept them from living in peace was lack of communication.

     Promises made it possible for the world to see that sometimes, communication is the key to start solving extremely serious and impacting issues. Even though the establishment of communication among the children did not cause a huge change in the world, it did cause a huge change in their lives, making them leave aside their beliefs in order to fight for peace.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Institutionalized Racism and Identity

"What does it take for someone to move from a position of hate and racism to a position of tolerance and respect like the transformation that occurred in Derek?" 

From Jesus to the Justice Maker

    Every action leads to a reaction. Every step will take you to a certain path, and every choice you make, rewards you in a way. The whole concept of "what goes around comes back around" is not that much of a cliché in certain situations, but rather life's response to the wrong, or right questions we make, generally without thinking on the consequences of it. On "American History X", Derek suffers drastic consequences to the wrong choices he made on the past, and he indeed receives tough answers to the wrong questions asked. By facing the consequences and accepting the answers, Derek not only becomes a different, and perhaps better person, but also learns that his concept of perfection was not only unreachable, but unreal. Derek's racism was hugely fed throughout his life, and it all started at home, which made it even more intense. During the 1960's, some facts happened that influenced  Derek's racism to be built up from his father, such as the fact that he mentions how pissed off he is about the fact that Latin Americans and negroes are "stealing" the jobs that were supposed to be reserved for white Americans only, and how the whole "No Racism" campaign is everywhere he looked.  It is important to keep in mind that whether or not Derek was influenced by his father, his school, religion, or Cameron, he did have an enormous sense of hate and racism inside him, which is defined as a racial prejudice or discrimination. 

   By the beginning of the movie, Derek was a Neo-Nazi Skinhead, member of a "White Power" skinhead community from Los Angeles, California, who at several times committed extremely violent acts towards minorities of the U.S, such as Latin American peoples, Asians, and negroes. Derek was highly influenced by Cameron, who was the head of the Neo-Nazi Skinhead group, and had a shameful past. As mentioned several times in the movie, especially by the school's principal, Derek had a huge intelligence and an extremely great potential, which were externalized in the wrong way after his father was killed by a couple of black men, and Cameron saw in Derek a great influenceable figure, who would project Cameron's desires of a "pure race" to the group. As it is a major characteristic of most people who seek for perfection, Derek was very intense in everything he did, and want it big. So much anger, sadness and reprehension over Cameron's pressure added up with the results of his father's death upon his life and his family would eventually had to be externalized, which happened in a sad and drastic way. Towards the middle of the movie, Derek commits the repulsive act of violently killing two negroes who try to steal his car as a way of getting revenge, since Derek's crew won the basketball court. After that, Derek's life changes drastically, and he eventually realizes that "anything he has done, never made his life any better", and that maybe, he waited a little too long to make a move. 
    After Derek goes to trial and receive his sentence, being condemned to go to jail, he starts to see that the world "outside", or in other words, the world inside prison, was not the fair division he expected. Once Derek is in prison, he starts to believe that he will not survive, and having a Nazi symbol tattooed on his left chest does not help. He tries as much as he can to fit in and gather together with the ones who share similar beliefs and ideals as he does, other Neo-Nazis Skinheads, per say. With time, however, Derek starts to see certain things that he considers highly hypocritical. The "boss" of the Skinhead crew in prison starts buying drugs from a Latin American, which goes against all the morals and principles of the Skinheads. When the whole crew realizes that Derek is seeing patterns that were supposed to be kept hidden, they eventually treat Derek in a different way than they treat the other Neo Nazi members of the group. In addition to that, Derek is assigned to work with a negro, who shows him how life really is, and makes Derek realize that madness will not take him any far. Derek eventually finds out they have a lot of things in common despite of their "exorbitant" difference, and starts to gather together with his group of friends to play basketball, which makes the Neo Nazis feel betrayed, leading them to gang rape Derek in order to "teach him a lesson". 

   Sometimes, lessons are better learned through pain. After Derek goes through a kind of suffering and pain equal to the one he had caused to the families of his victims, and the victims themselves, he learns that there is no such a thing as hate. After seeing how hypocritical and biased people are, to the point of betraying their own morals for money and popularity, Derek realizes that life is too short to waste time being mad. He finally understands that hate, unlike comprehension, works like an arrow, which pushes people away from happiness. Like Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear." 

   Lastly, but definitely not least, instead of an obscure imagine, everyone should learn to be absolutely clear like Derek learned. The world as a whole should support the complete and total adoption of equality for everyone without exception, because that is what is right, and it is about time we do the right thing. 

Twitter: @anadamha
aboutme: @anadamha

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seattle Boycott Response

As the world developed, technology became available and easily accessible for students all over the world. With all the information and knowledge available every minute of everyday on the internet, television, apps and online books and websites, the old fashioned way of teaching, which includes patterns, standardized tests, lectures and "copying from the board" became, somehow, incompatible to all the information students have access outside the four walls of a classroom.
As clearly showed by the article and the video, students are not the only one that are not satisfied with the "production system" way of teaching developed during the 20th century that the world still has, which, let's be honest, worked pretty well until a couple years ago. But that is exactly the point in which teachers want to get by performing acts such as what happened in one of the public schools of Seattle. The world changed, people changed along with it, and with that, education has to change too. It is not about being against testing, which they clearly state they aren't, as showed on the following quote said by one of the History teachers of the school, "We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.", but being against a system that keeps students from developing independent learning, critical and creative thinking, and a sort of test that does not shows the real development of a student, when one is being tested on random topics, and not necessarily topics included in the school curriculum.
The critics, however, is not to standardized tests per say, but to a whole system of teaching-and-learning that has turned into a block to students and teachers who wish to go beyond the limits imposed by the walls of a class room, or perhaps, the walls of their minds. Personally speaking, I do believe that teaching-and-learning systems should be somewhat “reformed“, however, that is not something that is going to happen from night to day. As well as believing on the need of a certain change, I also believe that this change should not be put entirely in the hands of the government, but should be applied to everyone, and even students should be part of it, as we are the ones that are the most affected by how we are taught. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Does Obama reelection means to the world and to me?

As I watched the presidential debates before the election, specific details called my attention to things that are highly influential to the elections. The Foreign Policy Debate was the one that made me reflect the most, and even though I am Republican, and a Romney supporter, I have to admit that Obama's thoughts on this surprised me. Overall, being open minded, in the end, is more important than your political position. The main aspect of the Foreign Policy Debate that called me attention was the fact that even though both Obama and Romney were running to be the president of the United States, they were discussing how to rule the world. 

Anyone who watched the news during the campaigns of both candidates, or read the newspaper, or somehow saw graphs and researches that showed numerical data on the public's response and reaction to the candidates' ideas, saw that around the world, the clear majority wanted Obama, the "free-world president", to win again. While in the United States the percentages were extremely close, and the election was one of the tightest of all times. I believe that what made Obama be the favorited around the world is the same aspect that I agreed with among everything about his campaign: his beliefs and ideas regarding foreign policy. Obama never showed any radical position that wasn't what people wanted to hear. Even though this is part of the Democrats' strategies, I believe Obama represented it very well, and never stood in a radical position on issues. He always tried to favor both sides of the situation, exposing his opinion being always respectful, which gained the support of the world population, and automatically, the leaders of other countries. The reasons why people wanted Obama to win are simple: Romney is easily associated with Bush, his foreign policy works, and the world loves the image of the Obama family.

As I mentioned before, I am a Republican supporter, because of various reasons. If I said I am happy about the fact that Romney lost the elections, it would be a lie. I believe the U.S.A needed someone like Romney now, with experience on business drive U.S.A's economy out of the depths again, and bring back the conservative view that the world needs. However, it doesn't mean anything to me personally, only to my beliefs and my political view. The fact that Obama was reelected makes it clear to me that the Democrats are gaining there place more and more every day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time Management

Time Management 
Organization and Goals

Throughout the years in which I have been attending ISC, I have learned that the quality of the work you do at home depends a lot on how well you organize yourself and manage your time in order to prioritize things in the right order and get everything well done on time. As I moved from Middle School to High School, I have learned that prioritizing things in the wrong order, or in another words, procrastinating, is a way of fooling ourselves, but not our superiors, and our teachers will always know, just by reading a certain piece of work done by its student, how much time and effort one has put into it. Organization is not one of my strongest qualities, I have to admit. However, some of the goals I had set to myself and that I've been working on include: getting my materials organized in order to have a clean space to work on at home, annotate everything that has to be done at that day and check it off once I get it done with, always check my schedule in order to prioritize things in the correct order, not to procrastinate (by procrastinate, in this context, I mean finding excuses not to do what I should get done with), and learning to manage my time well.
Generally, I have been accomplishing my goals well enough, however, I recognize that there are still things I need to improve. Some of the things that I have been successful with are managing my time well, and what I did to accomplish it was that before, I would get home around 7pm, sleep until 8pm, take a shower, have dinner, and then I would get started with my homework and studying tasks, which usually would make me get done with everything I had to do after midnight, and I was not having full nights of sleep. What I do now is exactly the same thing I did before, except for the little nap when I get home. Instead, I start my homework earlier so I can get everything done and have a good night sleep as well. 
I believe that technology has a huge responsibility on both helping students get organized with their homework and also taking their attention off the things they should be really doing. I don't really have a problem with getting late with my homework because of social networks, but I have to say, having an Apple mobile device helped me a lot considering organization regarding school. By the beginning of this semester, I found an app called Myhomework, in which you can create folders for all the classes you have, and post reminders for each of the classes, so for example, one day before this post is done, I would received an alert on both my cellphone and my iPad with the assignment, the description of the assignment and the day in which I should turn it in, and this helped me a lot, because now I don't have the problem of forgetting about a certain homework, project, quiz or test.
The main point I have learned throughout the process in which I'm going through, is that I cannot put myself under pressure, because that will get me tired faster and won't help me get done with the things I was supposed to do. Even though I have been accomplishing my goals at the right pace, I believe that there are still things that I need to improve, such as not leaving everything to do at the last minute (such as this blog post which is being written by me at 9h49pm and is supposed to be turned in at midnight), and most important of all, realizing that there is always some things that I can improve, but perfection is not an option.