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Posted on 2018.08.15 at 21:30
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So today was the first day with students at my new position. I also had a former student ask me to stop by as she had just had her first child. On the way home I was pondering these thoughts...

What will be my legacy?

It hit me that I have not just taught students, I have taught families. I have taught them to the point they specifically asked for me or their extended family would proudly join my class as soon as they could. They know that once my orchestra babies, they are always my orchestra babies no matter how old they are.

I have not just taught music, I have cultivated an environment of growth, positive support, and confidence through music. I had a former student text me today asking about auditioning for a more difficult group. Before last year he would have hid in the back but in my class he found out he could lead and he started to believe...and now he seeks for ways to find out just how much he can accomplish.

I have not just taught skills, I have taught compassion and a love of life. My former student today wanted me to see her son. Of all the people she could have contacted, I was one of them. She shared her hopes and dreams for the future and she told me about how she couldn't wait to play her instrument for her son.

And it just hit me. This is my legacy. All of these students and their families...I touched their lives in some profound way that was far more important than any one subject or a benchmark. And I am now starting a new legacy.

It was like everything fell into place. While I hated to leave my students, it was the right decision. This is my legacy and my students will carry it on no matter who their teacher is. And staying required trading this legacy for someone else's version of what was important. I chose to stay true to myself, my students, and their families and continue the legacy that has touched their lives.

Strength, Hope, Compassion, Resilience, Reflection, Critical Thinking...I realize now each student took something slightly different from my class, but something deeply important to their humanity. I am proud of that legacy; I am proud I chose to uphold it; I am proud I will continue it.

What is your legacy?

Allen-D. Gray-Man


Posted on 2017.12.30 at 23:15
So. I played Doki Doki Literature Club last night.

The short spoiler-free version:

I had seen a lot of people commenting on how scarred they were from it, but while disturbing I did not find it any more disturbing than other games/movies I have played and watched. I did not find it as disturbing as I was led to believe it would be. It did have a few graphic images and if you are sensitive--or as they say now, easily triggered--to suggestions/themes of abuse, mental health, and societal pressures skip the game. I am not saying this to in any way minimize the impact of abuse, mental health or peer pressure on a person or to make light of the consequences when they are not recognized. I merely did not find this particular game as unsettling as some others in the horror genre. If anything, I would say the game is a psychological horror game.

For those that do not know, it plays like an otome game where the majority of the game is spent reading/listening to the character's inner and outer dialogue. You are playing a role in the story and developing relationships with the other characters based upon your choices. There is no "action" so to speak, but you can get a game over. Typically these games are meant to be played over and over so that you can see all the possible outcomes with each character. That said, if you decide to play this, you do have a good chunk of exposition before the game actually begins. I don't say that to be a deterrent, but just an FYI. I would strongly suggest playing it blind--do not use a guide or read anything with spoilers the first go around.

Cut for details and spoilersCollapse )

It's actually really well done at the ending and the game itself speaks to some of the tendencies we have as humans and how it impacts those around us. It also illustrates how easily we might be taken in, particularly in a world with constantly evolving technology. This game just kind of gets into your head a bit, and that is the most disturbing part to me.

I don't regret playing it. It's free on Steam currently, but it does leave you with an unsettling feeling that you might want to have something else to do right after.



Posted on 2017.06.25 at 20:31
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So I have nearly completed my work for the first year of graduate school. It was intense, immersive, and fascinating. It has been without a doubt one of the most positive experiences of my life, which is such a nice change after the last two years. I will put all that into a different post though as I want to talk about recent research before I lose my thoughts and questions.

During graduate school, one of the doctoral candidates and I had a few brief conversations and at one point he told me I actually think differently because I can speak other languages. It is not his field of expertise, but he has taught in other countries and has friends who are studying languages and perception. He gave me a list of links to check out when I asked for further information. So I have gone down the proverbial rabbit hole over the weekend instead of finishing my last paper.

One of the things that came up repeatedly was the idea that one language can, and does, interfere with the others. It can be obvious or subtle but it does often impact the language. So I do what comes natural to me and begin analyzing it. I know when I get migraines, I will use the words from one language and the syntax of another. I have also noticed when I write, there are times when I use a syntax that is from a different language than the one I'm writing. Case in point, read through a few entries as it happens frequently in English. Not the extent that you don't understand and it's necessary poor grammar, but to the extent a native English speaker may think it was an unusual way to word something. I also sometimes have spelling issues for a similar reason.

Research goes on to apply this to accents. How sometimes an accent is present, but more often is not. It even went so far as to say the accent could affect the first language in some cases. My first reaction was a memory of competing in a language tournament in high school and my German judges asked me if I was French. When I replied no, they asked if I studied it. I said yes and asked how they knew. They said because I sounded French not German, that my "r's" were very French. My second language accent was transferred to my third, which is still true today. However, it oddly did not translate to Japanese. I also have some issues with words I learned in French first and English second, like Quebec. It sounds wrong to me to pronounce it as "kwah-bek" rather than "kay-bek."

Another topic was that of "thinking" in another language. It started by stating that linguists define thinking differently than society; for a linguist thinking is what parts of the brain are being accessed versus society's idea of the language of their inner voice. For the linguist, they used the example of learning Chinese and how many who start it, view the variations as a variation in pitch thus using their right hemisphere, but once they become more fluent this shifts to the left hemisphere and the variations are considered variations of phonetic sound instead. While interesting, I am still left with a question. Why when I study Japanese do I translate it into French rather than English? There are some similarities, but they are also very different and sound nothing alike.

The idea of fluency was something else brought up in the research. Fluency is a continuum, not a destination. I took it to mean when you began to process the language as a native speaker rather than translating it to your own and back. At that point you begin to enter stages of fluency in that language. If that is the case, I am some stage of fluent in at least three of the languages I have studied with the fourth being nearly at that point. French is fluent, and if I'm honest I have no issues with Japanese...in fact is was startling to me how quickly I transitioned into the stage of not translating with Japanese. German I am hesitant to say is fluent because there are moments I have think of German grammar to say what I want to say. The language itself however is not being translated, just the syntax is not as easily accessible.

Lastly came the idea of metalinguistics being a huge advantage to language learners. That is to say, those who are aware of the rules of language in general and how it is acquired and used across cultures and languages have an easier time assimilating other languages into their learning. To me, this perhaps has the biggest impact on changing how we see the world. For one, we know that there is a deeper meaning behind words at times not just the literal meaning. Two, we know that the meaning is a cognitive thing and does not change depending on the word we use. Thirdly, we understand that language can be manipulated and changed. You can also start to see how having an overarching view of language could change how you perceive any language and go about acquiring it. Perhaps this is one reason I think French when I learn something new in Japanese? I think however, it is more likely true of when I decipher the speech of others. I do not presume to know what they mean because I understand this can vary widely between culture and language even when the same words (or translations) are used. I am highly aware of metalinguistics and in an effort to improve communication I perhaps notice things both in spoken and non-verbal language that others do not. If someone pushes me to make an assumption, I will often opt with the literal one rather than guess at the intent, even if I feel I know what it is (and am often correct).

This has been a source of miscommunication with specific people and I have no doubt I have frustrated them to no end because of it. Often they are frustrated with why I think what I do (and interestingly usually don't argue it's validity), and I am sometimes at a loss for words because it's like trying to describe what blue looks like. "I said ____ how did you get that from it?" Well, because it was the order of the words, the specific word choice, your inflection, your gestures, and how you felt...sometimes it reminds of how someone in another culture acts when they mean ____. I'm going to move to the next point as I feel I'm getting a bit rambling in trying to explain. I have also found I will take on the cultural aspects of the language in communication depending on the situation. I notice the most with Japanese because there are times when I respond in a more "Japanese" way than "American." It could be the type of speech I'm using or it could be an actual reaction, filler word, or interpretation of something. Research has showed that bilingual and multilingual people often will flow from one language to the next and also between cultures. They have learned to live with a blending of them rather than keeping the language in its own isolated folder in the brain. This is so true it isn't even funny for me.

The thing is, I don't even think about it. It's just like when I see a word that looks Japanese or French or German, I will pronounce that way even if it's an English word. Likewise, when presented with a situation that the response feels more natural in one of those culture's that's how I interpret the situation and act. It isn't to be difficult, ambiguous, or arrogant; it's simply what feels natural. I had never really thought about it before researching this but now I'm curious and want to know more about it.

How do we get to that point where we assimilate it all into ourselves?
Why are others, who are aware of other cultures and languages, so closed minded when dealing with this?
Is there a way to prevent one language leaking through into the other? Or to choose how it affects the target language?
What IS fluency?
What impact does it have for a multilingual teacher who teaches bilingual students? Does it make it easier, harder, or have no impact on learning?
Why would someone have a native accent in a second language, but the third results in the accent of the second rather than the first?
Why would someone when learning a language past their third translate the new language into a language other than their native tongue?
Does the method of learning another language need to changes as the person learns more? Does it get easier? Is a different type of study more or less effective?

I look forward to seeing what future research turns up.


Kuroshitsuji Manga

Posted on 2017.06.24 at 03:46
Cutting for Major spoilers for Chapter 129.Collapse )

I guess we will see what happens in the next issue. While excited to possibly have some answers, it also is a little sad as it means the end is probably near.



Posted on 2017.04.28 at 23:20
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I was talking to another teacher today and she was commenting on how a class she is taking is very racially divided and that it makes her sad to see that. I agreed and we started talking about what teachers bring to the classroom and the biases we have that we don't even realize...

I didn't grow up the way most of the people I work with did; I grew up the way most of my students are growing up. With an absent or unreliable parent. Struggling to make ends meet and having to make difficult choices. Feeling like you were walking on eggshells so a parent didn't explode physically or verbally. Hiding your fear and pain so you could function. Being the adult rather than the child.

As an adult, you have an whole different set of struggles. People who didn't grow up the same way don't understand. To them, you should have it all together because you aren't responding to the things they find difficult, but they think you must have something wrong with you when you are sensitive to other things like tone of voice, word choice, etc. Really, we are just coming from two different sides and while I'm not perfect I try not to judge the other side. However, I'm tired of being judged.

In fact, if I had to choose between my struggles I'd pick the harder childhood. People waste so much time and energy worrying about things that aren't important and don't really even impact them that much. When I get really anxious is when my career or someone I care about is threatened. In fact, I've been told I deserved to be happy and the person proceeded to attach that to money. I don't give a flying fuck about money so long as I can support myself. What matters to me is relationships, memories, voices, laughter, sensations...things money cannot purchase. The material possessions that matter to me are limited to books, an electronic form of a communication, and my violin. The rest is merely a means to an end.

Sometimes I do feel lonely, but not because I dislike people...I just have so little in common with them. I hear them complain about having to borrow money from their parents AGAIN or what someone else said about someone else. Spare me. If that is the extent of your conversational material I prefer my own mind. It's not personal; I just don't have anything to discuss. Sometimes I will prod people to see what they tend to discuss or wish to talk about, but once I find it superficial I'll back down. I try not to do it because it feels manipulative, but really I just want to know more about you without directly asking you--since so few people are actually honest when asked.

The rapport I've built with my students are based on who I am. And I've decided that gentle is a better way to go than elitism or threatening consequences. My philosophy is we simply need to believe and help them believe in themselves. Simple, yet so very difficult to achieve. However...

Today I worked with a student after school and he expressed nervousness over singing a solo. I asked him if I had ever asked him to do something he wasn't ready to do and he said no. And I said, "So believe in yourself. I do. You will do well, just believe and relax." When he left shortly after, he thanked me for staying after as always but then he stopped and said, "Thank you. For all this" gesturing to the room. (He's been my student since the 4th grade and is now a sophomore.) I replied, "no problem! That's why I'm here! Thank you for your hard work!" But really, on the heels of so much negativity thrown my way and feeling so defeated like nothing I did mattered I realized something...I'm giving the wrong person's opinion too much weight.

What I do and say matters. Even if not everyone understands why I am picky with words or get frustrated with the nonverbal messages sent by an action, it matters to the kids. They're why I'm there. They matter to me and because of them, I matter. And for that I will be forever grateful.



Posted on 2017.04.23 at 23:50
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One of the hardest things I've had to do in my life is silently mourn the loss of a child I will never have while hiding behind my excitement for all of the recent new mothers around me.

Society allows you to mourn the loss of a child that was born, to an extent the loss of an unborn child, but not the loss of the ability to have a child that was so desperately wanted.

"How can you grieve over something you didn't have?" while at the same time they say, "You don't know love until you are a mother." They say I can't possibly understand the sacrifice...when I would trade everything in my life that I have fought for just to hold my child in my arms or hear a little voice call me "Mom." They tell me I don't know, I can't possibly know, how much a parent loves their child. If that's true, then you can't possibly understand the grief I carry with me every day. Every day, while I listen to you go on about your child; every day while I smile at the pictures you want to show me; every day while you make comments only a parent would understand or how lucky I am to be childfree.

You are so very wrong. I do know the love a parent has for a child...not because of what being a mother has brought me, but because of the void it left inside me when the possibility was taken from me. I don't begrudge you your happiness; I take issue with your lack of compassion and judgement of those whose path diverges from the one your life is on.


New Year

Posted on 2017.01.01 at 23:55
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2016 was a bad year for a lot of people. Someone told me today, in regards to a mutual friend, that she lives in the grief. She commented that she doesn't express it but lets it marinate. I asked what I do and she said it consumes me and will come in a wave and then it's over.

I think she's right. I refuse to hold on to the negative. The problem is when I can't escape it because it overwhelms me, the wave crashes into the shore and then I let go of it again. 2016 was a year filled with grief for me. Every aspect of my life had it profoundly and on many levels. But I really only talked about a few of them.

I also realized, that while I talk a lot at times, I am sharing experiences and not myself. Usually I am trying to establish trust so I can help or comfort the other person, but I am not actually expressing myself. Granted people don't typically know that and assume they have some understanding of me from what I shared. They aren't entirely wrong, but it is an exceptionally small piece of who I am.

It isn't because I don't want people to know me, but that in my experience they are unable to handle the emotional intensity with which I feel every single thing. It isn't a wave, it is a vast tempest at all times raging under the placid surface of an ocean. It isn't a fault either; it is simply who I am. Life has always been a vibrant vivid experience for me.

But even as I had this conversation, I found myself wanting to joke and focus on the positive. Perhaps that is one of the biggest conflicts in some of my current situations...that intent on the positive may appear that I am unable to see the negative. That isn't the case, but I don't see the point in focusing on the negative as it does not change it to positive by dwelling on what was. I am future oriented and I live my life by regretting as few of my decisions as possible; rather I seek to learn from them as I move forward. If that means I piss you off because I'm not beating myself up with regret, I'm really not apologetic. Why would I waste my life and time regretting what I can't change rather than letting it fuel my energy to change the future?

I think the biggest way to sum it up is, I want to bring hope to the world around me and hope is not found by looking into the past. So I will walk forward into 2017 with hope and with the belief that we create what we believe, think, and feel. I am not perfect but I will always strive to create as beautiful a world as the one I see when I look into the night sky or the forest; when I feel the soft warmth of my cats fuzzy purrs; when I hear the innocent laughter of young children; when my students come to the edge and start to take flight towards their potential; and when I speak the truth of someone's strengths at a time when they have forgotten.

2017 is a year of Hope.

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