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Owen Grzywinski


Language Benchmark


I walked up the staircase to the Capoeira academy and my stomach twisted up in knots.

“Relax Lobinho”

I turned to see my teacher walking up from behind me. He flashed me his quick smile that I had grown so used to over the years.

“You’re going to be fine, you know these moves like the back of your hand”

“Yeah I guess…” I said dejectedly.

I was here to take my belt test, something that happened once every couple years. As we reached the top of the stairs, music and a blast a sweaty, hot air hit me and I relaxed slightly. This has been my life since I was eight and the familiar sounds and smells calmed me. Then I saw Mestre Doutor (Master Doctor) get up and walk toward me, dark skin glowing in the half light and I could feel his dark eyes on me from across the room.

“Oi Lobinho! Cómo vai?” (Hey Lobinho, how are you?) He called to me, still standing in the doorway. I tensed my body up, I knew what was going to happen next. He would try to drop me, it was something he had done since I had started Capoeira. Sure enough as he got to me his leg suddenly whipped behind mine throwing me off balance and his elbow came swinging at my head. I ducked the elbow and spun out of the takedown, putting myself at an angle to him and shot a kick at the back of his head. He sidestepped and casually placed his foot at my center of balance and knocked me to the ground.

I got to my feet and said “ Muito bem, obrigado” (very good, thank you) stumbling over the pronunciation as I tried to catch my breath.

Doutor nodded, turned to my teacher and switched to English, a strong accent coloring his words. “Is he ready Lobo Mau?” He addressed my teacher by his Capoeira name. We all get one sooner or later, mine is Lobinho and his Lobo Mau, little wolf and bad wolf.

“Yeah he’s ready”

“Good good” Doutor said grinning down at me. “Lets get started then.”

I walked over to an open space of hard, tiled floor and prepared my self for the test.

“Lobinho!” Doutor called over to me, he hadn’t moved from where he was. “Your test has already started, take this next class and Ill tell you if you have passed.”

 I stood frozen in place, I had spent months preparing for this test and he had just changed everything.

“Ok everyone spread out” the class obediently did as he said. “Meia lua de frente” (Half moon to the front) he called out

The Portuguese names echoed across the room, commanding a power of their own as nearly twenty people preformed the move in unison. After nearly two hours, he called us to the front of the room

 “Form the roda (circle) Lobinho, come up front.”

 I got up and stood next to Doutor.

“Lobinho is testing for his belt, that means he is going to lead the Roda today.”

I stared at him.

“NO!” my brain screamed this is what I had been dreading. Leading the Roda meant I had to play the Berimbau (a Portuguese musical bow) and sing a Ladainha (prayer song) and lead the rest of the roda with different Chulas (songs). It was a huge responsibility everyone was dependent on my rhythm and if I messed up, I brought everyone down with me. I sat down on the bench that had been brought out for me and the rest of the Bataria (where the instruments sit) and sat in its center. 

            “E! Meior é deus, E meior deus pequeno sou eu.”

The unfamiliar words rang out of me and I began to play. As I continued to sing I realized my pronunciation was awful. My voice had the squeaky tone to it that only adolescents have, lacking the strong, deep sound that I had heard so many times before and that I had been trying to replicate. I almost stopped right there, I felt embarrassed for revealing my inexperience in front of everybody and I didn’t want to continue. But I had to and I was able to finish the test and get the belt.

            This truth, the fact that I did and still do hate to sing in front of people and the fact that the only times I do is when I have to sing in Portuguese, strains my relationship to Capoeira, which brings me to my next point. There is an essay that I read by James Baldwin, If Black Isn’t A Language Then Tell Me, What is? that has a quote, which I feel applies to this situation. “This understanding would reveal to him too much about himself, and smash that mirror before which he had been frozen for so long”

I have always been arrogant, I try to hide it but the truth is I think I can do everything right the first time. Singing in Portuguese is not easy, it takes years to be able to do it well, years that I did not have. This made me realize that I have a lot to learn, I’m not the best, not even close. It scared me, scared me in a way that I had never encountered before. This was not something that I could just blow off and ignore. I HAD to learn to sing and lead the Roda.

This happened to me when I was fifteen Capoeira is Brazilian in origin and therefore the names of the moves are all in Portuguese, the masters and high level students are all fluent in Portuguese and the songs and the names of the instruments are also in Portuguese. As a fifteen year old I knew very little, a lot less than I should have of this language and there where many times where I had to get a translator for me to understand what the masters wanted me to do. Portuguese is the language of Capoeira and my lack of knowledge automatically put me even lower level than I had been on before and took away what little control I had over the situation.

In the year since, I have worked hard to over come my fear of singing and by default my fear of Portuguese. I lead the roda with my teacher, Lobo Mau regularly now and even though I still do not have quite the right pronunciation I know that the only way to get better is to practice. The essay that I quoted tells me that there are other people who have been in more or less in the same situation. If they where able to over come their struggle, their weakness and turn it into their strength why cant I?



Ananda Language Autobiography

When starting this project i thought it would be hard to wright. As Mr. Block began explaining to us more the information about the project it begin to make more since. We also watched a documentary on different people and how they feel about others languages and accents. It was cool to hear how outsiders felt about the language i spoke. we also read many stories about different people and the things they went through coping with there languages. to successfully complete this project i had to think about the way i speak to my family, friends, teachers and others. 

From the very moment you were born you began to learn your language. that first voice you hear begins to click in your head. For me when I was brought into this world i was brought into what some would call an standard English family. Of course there is a time when things change for everyone. As i began to meet new people and other family members from different parts of the World, my language would change up. Yes, i speak English and only English but different types of it, therefore i cant describe a specific language for myself.

Some people in my family say i have the personality of an old person sometimes. Now if you happen to be one of my friends reading this you would probably not think this at all. When it comes to my family we are very small and close nite leaving only a small portion of younger kids, me, my cousin and my niece. soon i wont be in that catgorey because of my age. Anyway I spend a lot of time, sometimes with my grandparents. The more i am around them the more there sayings rub off on me. I start to act and talk just like them. The difference with this is that it never last long once im not around them i stop talking that way, its not something i prefer but it happens.

When Im with my mom I try to talk a little proper. Only a little. My mom is a little up to date with slang but when i start to speak with slang a lot she does not always know what i am saying so i stop, and go back to talking proper. Mainly because i dot feel like explainging to her what these different sayings actually mean. Also, since in my home there is only my mom and i living there so the two of us have sayings or words that we make up for fun. When other people come around they may not know what we are talking about. A lot of the things that we say may be something silly but that’s how we make things in this house interesting. Also i talk the same way with my teachers.

When i usually go on vacation down south to visit my family I stay for at least two weeks. As they talk in their southern accents i began to pick up on it as well. I pick up on it even more when im with the kids that are around my age. One day while i was hanging with my cousins we were in the backyard playing on the swing set, my cousin broke it because she was to big. We all got scared thinking we would get in trouble this had only been my third day there we all started to yell at each other there accents began to become stronger and stronger. The more they talked the more i started to sound just like them. There accents had rubbed off on me so much just from that day and we started to sound alike the rest of the time while i was there.

I feel like most of the time when i am talking I talk the way i talk with my friends. Also most of the time i am with my friends and that might be why. When talking to my friends we all use a straight up slang dialect there are times when someone may have to stop us and ask what something we say means. Also in all honesty when talking to my friends we use profanity. When my friends and I talk to each other it may seem like we talk as if we don’t respect each other.

This is called code switching. I think code switching matters because it shows how society changes us with little things like the way we talk. Sometimes we don’t even notice it. I think code switching shows that no one is really comfortable with themselves or feel like they have to change the way they are for certain people, and society should not make people feel like that.

Here is an example of how I would talk to friends compared to my mom.

Friends- Heyyy Gurl.!

Me- ayeee wassup

Friend – nuffin much chillen wat chu bout to get yourself into chick?

Me- I don’t even know child lol bout to get on twitter or somethin and hit up some peoples, imma catch you later tho.

Friend – ard peace

This is how I would talk to my mom in the same convo

Mom- Hi ananda

Me- Hey mom how are you?

Mom – im fine what are you about to do

Me- I might get on the computer not really sure. I might call up some friends. I will see you in a bit

Mom ok bye Ananda

When it comes to me I mostly code switch from how I talk to my mom to how I talk to my friends. You can find out a lot about me also when you hear how I talk to my friends. Everyone uses code switching and may not even know it. I believe code switching can teach you a lot about yourself.

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Who am I Talking To?

Matthew Hamilton


Quarter 2 English Benchmark

Who am I Talking To?

      Recently, I went to dinner with my dad and four of his friends. We ate at a funky, ethnic restaurant. Once we had ordered they started to ask me some questions about school and life in general.

 “Everything is good, school is… well, school.” I said slowly and clearly.

 I went on to discuss in more detail some of my experiences with High School. We started to talk about how schools used to be different when they were growing up. Most of them had gone to Catholic school, due to the fact that the public schools in their neighborhoods were really bad, while regular private schools were unaffordable.

 “My family was middle class. Everyone in my family went to Catholic school. Everyone in my neighborhood went to Catholic school. I wasn’t really aware of other types of schools.” One of my dad’s friend’s, Tim, stated.

 “I went to grade school with kids from all over Philadelphia and then when it was time for High School we are scattered again to different schools” I said. “No one goes to their neighborhood schools anymore, Catholic, public or private.”

     We began to talk about similarities and differences in our schools. For the most part they looked at me as though they were genuinely interested in what I had to offer to the conversation.

 “ The nuns really did not care what we learned, they were more interested in how we looked, and sounded ... and smacking us with rulers.” Dad’s friend Roger said.

 I laughed, and said how I could not imagine learning that way. By the end of the night we were all talking together about many different things.  

     I was observing the way in which I was talking with my father’s friends, and how it was so different from the way I talk with my own friends. With my dad’s friends my sentences are shorter and more succinct. When I talk with my friends I tend to not think as much before speaking. I’m more relaxed when talking with my friends, however unlike my experience talking to my dad’s friends, they never look at me like they think I’m smart or incredibly interesting.

     I can’t remember exactly when I started to be more comfortable conversing with adults, not just answering questions that were asked of me, but really conversing.  I believe that it started sometime around 8th grade. Before that, I didn’t actually think that adults cared about what I had to say. I believed they were just being polite when they asked me questions. I would mumble answers, or just look uncomfortable and hope someone would fill in the blanks for me.

     Similar to the story “Hunger of Memory” by Richard Rodriguez, Rodriguez was afraid to speak in class because he wasn’t confident of his abilities and didn’t want to sound foolish. I think I also didn’t feel confident or capable. But at a certain point I started to believe that adults were taking what I had to say seriously. Applying to High Schools was that turning point. I had many great conversations with teachers and the parents of my friends. They helped me look at my interests and listened to what I had to say and supported me in formulating my ideas for the next 4 years of my life. Writing essays and interviewing also helped me to get a voice into who I was, how I could communicate and what I had to offer. I learned a lot during this process, but mostly I learned how to talk to different people and not be afraid that they would think I was an idiot. This was an exciting time for me and one that gave me some confidence. Rodriguez had a lack of language skills and was afraid of looking stupid. He got better by practicing. I think I’ve also gotten better by practicing.

      I enjoy conversations with people my age, but also with older people that challenge my thinking and my opinions. Adults respond differently to my language abilities, and to me. Some expect a certain level of language and vocabulary from me, while others have no expectations and are pleasantly surprised to be able to talk with a fifteen year old.


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Large Clear Object

11/7 - 18

Large Clear Object

1st quarter we had to do a project, and draw a clear glass with all the shadings. But it was 8x6 paper, and very simple. So now it’s 2nd quarter and Ms. Hull told us to draw a clear object but this time the paper was 22x36. I got really nervous and didn’t know what to do. Then I just relaxed and thought about what she told us. I got my paper and black charcoal pastols. I remembered back in 1st quarter when we watched the artist start the glass. I shaded the background lightly so in the end it can look great. Then I drew a wide circle to start. Not all the way to the edge though. I started to form the rim of my 3-D glass, so it can look like it stick out my paper.

       I drew the rim and made it bend into the circle, which was the format of the bowl. Then I started to blend and shade the color. The outside of my bowl is not solid black; I tried to find light and dark areas. That was difficult because sometimes it was hard to find. So when I got done my vase. I looked at it and made sure I didn’t see anything in the background.

photo (10)
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Art Supplies

Hello SLA:

You will notice a table outside of 301 with all kinds of art supplies. These are for all of SLA to use. Please be sure to return each item after you use them to the correct spot. The managers of these supplies are Emma H., Donna S. and Amber A. Please see them during my class times if you need a special item from the art studio. 

Below is what the table looks like. Please make sure it always looks this way. Help us help you! 

 - The Art Studio, Ms. Hull and the SATs of the Art Studio

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