CASE STUDY

Reviewing & Planning Progress

Henry Chang, Guest of Honor & High School Student
× Abby Weng
, English Coach & Consultant

Stepping into another’s shoes is one of my favorite ways to learn 

Whenever I see people who possess qualities that I appreciate or even admire, I try to see the world through their eyes. This means reading books or articles they’ve written or recommended, listening to talks or interviews they’ve given, and maybe getting into deeper conversations with them if possible.

Being able to get into someone’s head, even for a moment, teaches us a lot about the processes that can bring us the results we so desire.

To give you some background on this particular case study:

Henry Chang is our guest of honor. He is currently a student at a local Taiwanese high school, preparing to study abroad. I’ve been working with him for the past five years as his English coach. We used to meet for hour-long sessions on a weekly basis; as of last year, we switched to a brand new approach.

What you’re about to read are the essays that Henry wrote for our latest project. One is a review of his 2016 and another is about his plans for 2017.

I constantly encourage everyone I coach to reflect on the work they’ve done and to make plans for the future. As we look back on the paths we’ve traveled, we can gain courage from what we’ve accomplished and clarity on what we need to improve. Then, as we take a forward glance into the future, we bring ourselves that much closer to our dreams by mapping out a clear route between where we are now and where we hope to be eventually.

I believe that evaluating and planning are two of the most important elements in the learning process, and you’ll be able to get a close-up look at how our guest approaches these two tasks.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed Henry’s transformation from a smart kid to a deep thinker

It makes me profoundly happy to know that someone his age cares so much about the purpose of his learning, and what’s more, the purpose of his existence. When I read his submissions, I immediately thought about how wonderful it would be if I could share his work with the rest of you. Luckily for us, he generously agreed.

 

Having the privilege of reading someone’s thoughts allows us to experience the world from that individual’s perspective for a moment!

Below, you’ll read two essays by Henry Chang:

I. 2016 Review

II. 2017 Plans

2016
Henry

2016 was a year full of challenges. 

By the end of 2015, I was attempting to find the purpose of my learning because I felt like high school was very similar to junior high school in curricular content and teaching methods. Sometimes, I felt my brain being exploited because the conventional approach to learning requires unnecessary memorization and repetitive practice. As I discovered that few people remember the detailed knowledge in high school textbooks, I decided to develop abilities instead of trying to grasp every detail in books. Hence, I started off homeschooling in 2016 in order to explore something different.

My homeschooling didn’t go as well as I expected.

My school still determined my grades by the results of mid-terms exams on account of fairness, so I still needed to set aside quite an amount of time to finish schoolwork. Even though I’ve returned to school now, arranging homeschooling has compelled me to clarify my goals and their relative positions. My current strategy is to focus on the essential and core parts of school learning while spending more time on outside reading, coding, sports and the activities that intrigue me.

In the early summer, my brother Mark, who had always shared a room with me, went to College in Australia.

Our room has become quieter and a better place for study, but it is not as lively as before. He was the one who played music in our room. Now I need to search and play songs on my own. The vacuum has reminded me to cherish the time spent with my friends, family and classmates more.

During summer vacation, I went to Connecticut, the state where I once lived in, to learn about microcontrollers with my father’s close friend.

There, I completed a small hands-on project of building a timer with LEDs and a microcontroller. I had always been curious about how computers can do a diversity of things with only booleans. After the project, I had a more in-depth understanding of how the operation of a computer is made possible by a super complex circuit designed to do calculations with 0s and 1s. Furthermore, the hands-on experience made me observe the way visualization and application help us understand knowledge with less effort.

My host family’s style of enjoying life also influenced me to contemplate some fundamentals of life — particularly, what makes me happy.

The experience magnified my question about the purpose of learning into a question about the purpose of life, which is significant for everyone. The answer varies, but the more I think about it, the closer I will get. My father’s friend’s daughter decided to take a gap year before going to college because she finally realized that she loves the arts after her chaotic high school and that she needed some time to develop her drawing skills.

Reality continuously pushes us to go forward

Yet I don’t want to waste years doing something I’m not passionate about, so I’m glad I’ve learned to think about the meaning of my life.

As I get closer to the end of 11th grade, more and more decisions have to be made.

Even though the questions I am asking myself are not fully or specifically answered, I am positive about studying abroad, because I crave encountering new things, being challenged and being inspired.

2017
Henry

Next year, I will become a twelfth grader, and so the preparation for applying to college has to be done this year.

My ambition is to study science or engineering-related subjects, so I plan to work on Math and Physics more. I want to start off with Calculus and Statistics, which are fundamental and widely in use. Additionally, since I aim to study abroad, it is important that I improve my English to be ready for situations that are more complicated than daily communication.

One of the things I must do is to select the colleges I wish to attend and understand what they’re looking for in an applicant.

I have done some research on different universities and colleges, but I find it difficult to spot the differences between most of the universities and colleges, so creating a college wishlist is a priority next year. Another must-do is to take the entrance exam, SAT, which I plan to do in March or May, depending on my conditions after practicing during winter vacation.

In the past year, I have completed a small microcontroller project, which inspired me to engage in a more sophisticated project.

I took some classes on Udacity, a website for learning programming. In those classes, I completed some small quizzes, but they were far too small in scope, so I hope in the next year I can push myself further and build an app or a website, which is more complete in structure. Thus, my coding ability can be more mature and diverse.

I’ve been struggling to find the objective for my next project—it is difficult to come up with creative notions out of nothing. I started listening to radios and podcasts while taking the bus to school this semester. Understanding other people’s dreams and accomplishments can sometimes give me ideas about what I can do; reading works the same way. Therefore, I think in the next year, I should read and listen to others’ works more extensively, so I can have a better grasp of what is going on around the world and what I can take part in.

On the personal front, there is a problem with my body.

I used to do sports without warming up beforehand or stretching afterwards. As I grow older, my muscles get tighter, preventing me from doing some specific moves smoothly in games. Therefore, I plan to make stretching a habit as a precaution against injuries.

My main focus of 2017 is the preparation for college.

If I can successfully receive an acceptance letter from my dream college at the end of the year, I will take a trip to Australia to celebrate and relax.

Mapping out our future allows us to know exactly where we’re heading so that we don’t have to waste time on a daily basis to figure out our directions.

The blueprint shows us what needs to be done.

Wasn’t that wonderful, to be able to see the world through Henry’s eyes?

I hope you feel inspired to start reflecting on your progress as well as making plans for your learning. No matter when you find your way to this article, it’s never too late to get started. Contrary to popular belief, evaluation and planning can happen at anytime; they do not necessarily have to take place at the end of December or the beginning of January! 

Start by making a list of what you’ve done for the past year or even the past three months in terms of improving your English. Then make another list of the things you want to do for the next year or just the next three months. Once you’ve made that outline, try to shape those ideas into essays where you can develop the thoughts in greater detail!

Next Step

You can certainly do your review and planning all on your own, but you’ll be amazed by how much more powerful this process can be when you share it with a community of supportive and like-minded English learners in English Ever After!

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