8th Grade Reflection

    I will remember most about this year, is how much I grew as a person, both in my academics and socially. Some of my best friends and memories were from this year at Fenn, and I will never forget that. Throughout this year, I've become more confident in myself and my abilities. I've also gotten much better at time management, and my communitcation with teachers. I learned many valuable skills that i will be able to use for the rest of my life. My classes and teachers this year were also some of the best of my Fenn carreer. Next year I am looking forward to my new school as I transition to a high school experience. I am excited for more independence, and all the extra activities high school has to offer. My Fenn experience was a great one, and i look back on it with fond memories, especially the 8th grade. 

A Walk of Spring

As I walk

Along the path


I see a tree, blowing in the wind

With flowers at its base, blooming showing signs of spring


I see grass: green grass,  freshly cut

An ant, scurrying along carrying a crumb in its mouth


I hear bees, buzzing around 

Spreading from one flower to the next, each on their own path


I cross under a bridge, casting a shadow below

As I am enveloped in darkness


I break into the light, and take a right

One more turn, and I'm back where I started.

The Great Tree

There is a great tree,

Rising high into the sky


A great large tree,

Towering, shadowing the ground below


The leaves of the willow,

Drooping, hanging down, almost like hair


It can be frightening,

Making you want to scramble away in fear


Or it can be beautiful,

Stealing your breath away


This great tree is full of wonder

Full of excitement, mystery, and adventure


You see, the thing about this tree

It is magic, sometimes here, sometimes there


This great tree has travelled the world,

From China, to England, to America, and beyond 


You might be lucky enough to have this tree in your backyard,

But one day you look, it will be gone


Vanished to somewhere else on the globe

Looking for a new place to call home.

Just Outside Your Door

The dark trees with their bright yellowy-green leaves, smiling

The fresh green grass, smiling

The sharp light of the sun, smiling

All bright and happy 


The bees, buzzing around

The fresh new spring flowers, blooming

The birds, chirping, feeding worms to their children

All creating new life for the summer.


The rough bark on the trees

The smooth blades of glass

The overlapping petals of a flower… smooth, bump, smooth, bump

All feel so different though all next to each other


The spring breeze blowing through the air

Blowing away


And farther

Until the spring blows away into summer

A Rubric for a Day at Home (Blog #4)

A Rubric for a Day at Home

I think my rubric would be mostly based on improving my physical and mental skills. I would say physical exercise could be rated based on intensity. The more intense the workout, the more “points” it is worth. A low-intensity workout for 30 minutes could be 5 points, while a high intensity for 90 minutes could be 15. Some other hobbies I have are piano and programming. For every hour I do, it could reward 15 points. Lastly, studying extra academic topics could also reward points. Learning more about the history behind an event, studying a topic in science or math, and learning more advanced grammar could be worth 20 points/hour. Things like reading could be 10/hour. Now for leisurely activities. Sleeping is very important, and so I’ll get 5 points/hour of sleep a day, plus 20 extra points if I sleep more than 10 hours. I get 1.5 hours of free time/video games/tv a day. After that, each half hour is -6 points. Relaxing/laying down is -4/half hour plus 30 minutes of free time (Food breaks are separate from this). Everything else has a loss or gain. That’s my rubric.

What is happening in your community right now related to coronavirus?
Every year the Concord Carlisle Community Chest holds an event to raise money. They are an organization to help the community of Concord and Carlisle. They help low income families, local businesses, and people in need. They also support many nonprofit organizations that offer community services to many people. They were founded in 1947, to help those in need in Concord. They decided on a symbol that would represent them. They eventually decided on the minuteman. Not just the standard fighting minuteman, however. This one was walking, representing the daily work of the citizens. This was to show more peaceful things, associated with charity. This year however, they had to cancel that fundraiser. Now, because they don't have the funds they need, a family in Carlisle is helping to promote donations. For any donation over $50, the mother, who is a photographer, will come to your house to take a family photo in your driveway. My family just did this a few days ago and got our photo taken. They are promoting on social media, and two families from Concord have decided to donate $15,000 each. Right now a lot of this money will be going to families affected by coronavirus.

My name is Luke Greenie, and I am a scientist. For the past 5 years, I’ve been working with NASA in their Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I am currently working on the ‘Dream Chaser’, a new cargo spacecraft that will deliver research and supplies to the ISS (International Space Station) and back. It all started when I was a kid, very interested in science. I always loved physics and one day at home, I was working on a small robot of mine. The robot was supposed to remove tomatoes from my salad, because tomatoes are disgusting. However, while I was setting up the microcontroller, I wasn’t being careful and was electrocuted. I was in the hospital for two days. I was given lots of pain medication. I finished high school and went to Georgia Tech for college. There I got my degree in electrical engineering. It seems ironic, I get electrocuted when I was in high school, and then I get a degree in electrical engineering. But having that happen to me inspired me even more. I thought about how electricity works, and why I got shocked. I learned to be more careful around electrical components. Now, working at NASA, I am the head electrical engineer working on the spacecraft. I am a scientist. Nothing shocks me.

Returning Assignment

The past few weeks I've been keeping myself busy. Usually I practice an hour of piano a day, talk to friends, and play outside with my brother and our neighbor. One of the main problems/frustrations lately has been the weather. For me, an easy thing to do is go outside and play. Being unable to do this has led to a lot more boredom. I think a big benefit of the online school is time management. We're going to have to manage our time well while at home to make sure we get our work done without any study halls or teacher guidance. 

Racing in the Rain - All Writing

     When reading over my writing assignments, I notice that my sentences are usually the same. I need to add more variety to sentence structure, because I usually forget to change them. I think that sometimes I can be repetitive, especially with something like an analysis. I will think about how to respond to a question, and that gets drilled into my head. Then, when I write, I’ll keep using that response. In my editing process I need to check for this and remove those repeat sentences. I use thesaurus.com to find better words a lot of the time for specific vocabulary, as well as thinking of better vocab as I write. I think I should use adverbs and adjectives more often, and I often overlook that. I tend to use it in narrative writing, especially when describing setting, but not always in any anylytical writing. I think thatI use verbs that are vivid, but it’s another thing I usually overlook. For commas, I usually am fine but have a habit of using too many and not checking. 



Colin Balfour

Dave Irwin

English 8

December 20, 2019

Denny’s Dog


Did you ever think that a dog could be intelligent, and even teach lessons about humanity? The narrator of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a dog named Enzo, who’s master, Denny, is a semi-pro race car driver with a wife, Eve, and a daughter, Zoe. When Eve dies from a tumor, Zoe’s grandparents sue for custody of her, with the support of a young girl named Annika, who Denny allegedly raped. Throughout the court cases, Denny loses the ability to see Zoe for months on end, is forced to sell his house, and make huge sacrifices for the hope to win her back. Enzo teaches us not just about traits of humanity, but also about our mindsets, and how humans should approach aspects of life. The voice of Enzo is saying throughout the book to us to always stay resilient and to always stay present, which are both a big part of the human experience.


Enzo teaches us how important it is to not stress and worry about the future, or past, and to focus on finishing the race. Denny recently bought Enzo, our narrator and the dog that helps Denny through all that is to come. They watch racing videos together, and Denny teaches Enzo about racing, and all the important aspects about a good driver. Enzo tells us what Denny always says, “Racing is doing. It is being a part of that moment, and nothing but that moment. Reflection must come at a later time” (14). Focusing about anything other than the present is a distraction. In the moment, the most important thing is paying attention to that moment, not the ones that lead up to it. Reflecting on what has happened is for when the race is over, not during it. Later on, Denny fights for custody of his daughter, Zoe, and he must learn to not worry about the future, but think about the now. What he will get out of this now, and what he cares about right now. Denny gets arrested for rape of a child in the third degree. Mark Fein, his lawyer, bails him out, and tells him he can’t leave the state. This is just after Zoe’s grandparents filed a lawsuit for custody of Zoe, and this could possibly make Denny lose that lawsuit. Denny tells Enzo that he wants, if they’re going to be a cliché, to be a positive one. Enzo thinks, “Yes: The race is long - to finish first, you must first finish” (206). Trying to think about winning, and what needs to be done to win, isn’t important. An important part of the human experience is staying in the moment. Denny can’t be stressing about what could happen, he needs to worry about the next step. Worrying that he might lose his daughter before he’s even gone to court will only make his situation worse. Another idea Enzo teaches that is as important, is that Denny must never give up.


When faced with challenge, or fear, most of us give up. This is not the case for Denny Swift. Denny has been fighting in court for months to keep custody of his daughter, Zoe. Denny can’t leave the state, making it extremely hard to make money. His lawyer, Mark Fein, tells Denny that he needs to pay him. Denny is out of money and is forced to sell his house. After telling Mark about a time he won a race at the last second, Denny says, “It’s never too late, things change” (247). If Denny gave up, tried to pay Mark for what he had done, but lose the lawsuit to save money, he wouldn’t get Zoe in the end. It is a massive risk to sell the house, but Denny is willing to risk everything he has for Zoe. Denny trusts that it will work, and one day in court, something will happen, something will change, so he will not give up, and he will win. Zoe’s grandparents offer a compromise, where Denny gets to see Zoe on some holidays, every other weekend, and on Wednesdays for a short time, but they keep custody of Zoe. Mike tells Denny that for the long run, it’s the smart decision. Right before Denny signs the papers, Enzo notices the pen has a Zebra on it, and realizes that Denny should not sign the papers, so he takes them outside, and pees on them. After Mike tells Denny that the lawyer can just reprint it, Denny tells him, “I don’t care how smart it is for me to sign it. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m not giving up. I’m never giving up” (267). Denny believes that they can win the case, and that the truth will come out. Zoe is the only family Denny has left, because his parents don’t keep in contact with him. Denny knows the importance of never giving up, and he won’t ever let someone take Zoe from him. Denny learns how to be resilient, and how giving up won’t get him anywhere.


Staying in the moment and never giving up allows for a much happier, and successful way of living. Denny learns to stay in the moment, which helps him focus on only getting Zoe, and nothing else. He also knows that there is no in between, and he must keep fighting for her until it’s over. Giving up is failure, and no one likes failure. The biggest secrets to winning, are to stay present in the moment and stay and never give up. No guarantees, but perhaps incorporating this into life more often will be beneficial.

Assignment 3:


  1. “She was my fear. But a racer should not be afraid of rain; a racer should embrace the rain” (44).

Why does Enzo refer to Eve as his ‘rain?’

Throughout the book, the author will refer to “rain” as fear and challenge. For Denny, racing in the rain is his challenge that he has learned to overcome. Enzo is letting Eve get closer to him to overcome the fear of her.


  1. “Did he really believe that, or was he lying to himself?” (60).

What’s the context here? Why might Denny be ‘lying’ to himself about Eve?

After he got home, Denny found out that Eve left Enzo alone in the house. Denny was upset at Eve and was saying that even though she had a virus, she still should have remembered. Denny might be saying that to himself because he wants to think the virus is minor. He wants to have everything in his control, so he might try to believe that the virus isn’t bad.


  1. “But trust me when I tell you the zebra is real. Somewhere, the zebra is dancing” (66).

What do you think the zebra represents for Enzo? 

I think the zebra represents evil for Enzo. Enzo tries to justify his animal instincts by blaming it on the zebra. Enzo blames Eve’s sickness on the zebra. Eve says that “When I’m silent, it finds me” (66). Enzo refers to the zebra as the sickness, and he will continue to reference the zebra as the ‘bad side’ of everything that is happening.


Assignment 9:

Why did Stein include chapter 47? What is its significance? Why have there been so many references to Ayrton Senna throughout the novel?


Stein included this chapter to illustrate that we don’t quit, and we don’t die, until our job is done. Ayrton Senna could have died before, instead of the other racers, but he didn’t. This is because he still had a job to do. Senna needed to create the driver’s safety group. After that, his job was complete, and his soul was left to roam free. Enzo has just been hit by a car, but he’s not done his job yet. He still needs to help Denny, and Zoe, and as he says, “I was not finished. I still had work to do” (257). Stein mentions Ayrton Senna a lot, because he is a person who like Denny, is able to drive comfortably in the rain. Denny and Ayrton have a lot of similarities. They both are racers, able to make adjustments when faced with challenges, and both want what’s best. Ayrton needed to help insure that a death like his, and the other injuries or deaths, would never happen again. Denny needs to support Zoe, and care for her, and raise her as a parent after her mother died. Denny isn’t nearly done yet, and he still has more to learn.

Assignment 10:

"A driver must have faith. In his talent, his judgment, the judgment of those around him, physics. A driver must have faith in his crew, his car, his tires, his breaks, himself" (290).

     If a driver doesn’t trust his crew, and have faith that they will do well, he will not do well. A driver must keep your eyes on the track and focused,having faith in himself, his tires, car,crew. Your car goes where your eyes go. If the faith is lost, the driver will crash. Denny must have faith in his team for the lawsuits as well. He must have faith in himself, his lawyers, the judges, Annika, and Mike. If he doesn’t believe in them, if he believes everyone will fail, then they will. Similar, if you don’t believe you can do something well, you won’t. 

My Paragraphs from The Alchemist

Discussion 1:

4. Santiago reflects, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting..”(13) Do you agree? Can you relate to Santiago?


I agree with Santiago that the possibility of having dreams come true makes life interesting. If you don’t have a dream for your life, then what’s the point? What are you looking forward to? Your life has no real interest, or meaning without dreams and goals. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could simply be to get married and have a family. It could be that you want to become an actor. Those are simple things, but now, with those dreams, you have something to work towards. You now have something interesting in your life that you hope to one day achieve. While some dreams may be near impossible to come true, like hoping to become an astronaut, it’s that small possibility that this can come true. Dreams, no matter how big or small, make your life more interesting, and enjoyable. I can relate to Santiago because in the future I dream of becoming an engineer. It has made my life more interesting because I try to learn extra science and physics outside of school. I try to do well in math because math is a staple of physics, and just this one thing has made my life a lot more interesting, just because of the possibility that I might be able to have this dream come true.


Discussion 3:

  1. How does Santiago's mindset change on pg. 43-45? Why is this shift significant?


Santiago’s mindset changes significantly on pg. 43-45. He trusted his new friend a lot for a few reasons. He greeted him nicely, and the old man told him about omens. He thought that this might be a good omen. Someone to help him in his journey and guide him to the pyramids. He had also helped him with the bar owner. The owner had tried to take Santiago’s money. His new friend had told him that in the port there were many thieves. He had also then told him that he knew how to get to the pyramids. But that they needed camels and they had to cross the Sahara Desert. The new boy was smart, however. He knew he was being trusted, and told Santiago that he would take the money to get camels. But as soon as Santiago was distracted, his new friend disappeared, taking the money with him. Santiago had just lost all his money because he trusted someone with it. After this experience, he is going to start changing his opinion on people and becoming more careful. 

Discussion 7:

  1. The alchemist tells Santiago, “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend.” What does he mean by this?


        The alchemist means that even though Santiago loves Fatima, he needs to trust in their love and not let his dreams get away from him. He is saying that you should always pursue your Personal Legend no matter what, and love shouldn’t get in the way of that. Death, hunger, and war, all could keep a man from pursuing his dreams, but not love. If it is true love, their love will last forever. Fatima is a desert woman, and desert women wait for their husbands to return from their trips. Fatima will continue to wait until Santiago returns, just as her mother waited for her father many years ago. Love only gets stronger as time passes. You might think that time will make them grow apart, but as time goes on, there is a yearning for each other. Spending all that time away will only make them want to be together even more. So when he returns after completing his Personal Legend, their love will only be stronger. If Santiago chooses to stay, he will regret the choice for the rest of his life. Your Personal Legend is a special, and a privilege to be able to pursue it. If he decides to settle now, he will never be able to achieve it, and fulfill his life. He will be just as the baker from Tarifa, he will have money, and he will have a wife, but he will not have fulfilled his destiny, and found the treasure at the pyramids.


Discussion 8:

"The journey is more important than the destination." Discuss this quote as it relates to Coelho's fable, The Alchemist.


        When the alchemist says that “The journey is more important than the destination”, he is saying that although at the end of the journey you might find treasure, the important thing isn’t the treasure, it’s about what you learned along the way. Throughout Santiago’s journey, he learns about omens, first from the king, then the Englishman, and finally from the alchemist. He learns about the soul of the world, how to connect with the animals, and use them to glimpse at the soul of the world. He learns that everyone is one, and are all connected. Santiago learns endless amounts of lessons, and knowledge, from his journey. He meets new people, sees new things, and learns the way of the desert. In the end, the destination was back where he started, but this time he and treasure. At the destination, he was just given riches, that he will eventually lose, or spend, but the time he spent in the desert, with the alchemist. The days he was with Fatima, and when he finally saw the pyramids, will all be worth more than just the treasure.



Crystal Merchant Paragraph:

Colin Balfour

Dave Irwin

English 8

October 2, 2019

Santiago’s Omens


     Through his time with the crystal merchant, Santiago learns how to recognize omens and to execute accordingly and that if he does not, his goals will not be met. Santiago’s first mentor was a king from Salem who told him about omens. After Santiago loses his money, he meets a crystal merchant in Africa. Santiago works for the merchant to make money so he can buy sheep and return to Andalusia. Throughout this time, Santiago gains the ability to read omens, which leads to good business ideas. After observing a tired man from climbing the mountain, Santiago recognizes it’s an omen and says to the merchant “Let’s sell tea to people who climb the hill” (58). The crystal shop is doing better then ever because Santiago learns to act on the omens he finds. If he hadn’t noticed the omen, and then acted on it, the crystal shop would be much less popular.  Just how in life, when a good omen happens, instead of sitting around and watching it unfold, carry it out and meet the luck halfway. It’s important to learn from Santiago’s experience with the crystal merchant and try to use what he learns in the real world.


Final Essay:


Colin Balfour

Dave Irwin

English 8

October 25, 2019

Santiago’s Journey



        People wonder whether spending years of traveling, just to reach a single goal is even worth the effort? Santiago is a shepherd from Spain who has a dream about finding treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way, he meets mentors, who guide and teach him along his way. Opposed to focusing on the attachment to the world, or the places he visits, perchance focusing on the alluring elements that Santiago learns on his journey would likewise be compelling. While Santiago is traveling, in search of the pyramids, he learns about love, what it truly means, and he learns about the Soul of the World, and how he can use it do to incredible actions.


        Santiago learns about love, and that while he might have crushes, he only has one true love. The beginning of the book introduces his crush, the merchant’s daughter. After he ends up at a desert oasis while traveling in the caravan, he discovers his true love, Fatima. After the boy and Fatima part ways, The Alchemist teaches him about love, his heart, and about how he must continues to pursue his Personal Legend. After Santiago exclaims that he wants to settle, The Alchemist tells him that the omens will urge him to pursue his Personal Legend. The Alchemist tells Santiago, “Love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love” (124). True love is wanting best for the other person. If Santiago stayed, it wouldn’t have been because they truly love each other, and he would live knowing he never achieved what he was created to do. When Santiago met the merchant’s daughter, they didn’t speak the Language of the World, and while he loved spending time with her, he didn’t love her. Santiago trusts in his love for Fatima, continuing his journey. Love is heavily based on trust. True love only exists when there is trust that it will work. If sacrifice is needed, or giving something up for that love, it will only make the love stronger. True love is a feeling that cannot be described and can only be understood by a person who understands and feels it themselves. While Santiago knows what true love is, there are other compelling perceptions on what he learned.


        Santiago learns about the Soul of the World, and how everything is a part of it. While Santiago is traveling to Al-Fayoum in the caravan, he meets an Englishman who teaches him about omens, and about the Soul of the World. Later, The Alchemist helps Santiago use the Soul of the World while facing death at a military camp. One night while traveling the desert, the Englishman tells Santiago, “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World” (81). The Englishman tells Santiago that everything is one. The desert is allowing the caravan to safely cross the desert. The entire universe is one, everything can communicate with each other, and that one connection is the Soul of the World. When Santiago is at the military camp, he talks to the wind because of his deep desire to turn into the wind to survive. The wind refers him to the sun, who does not know the answer, so the wind blocks out the sun, and Santiago looks up to the heavens and he speaks to the hand that wrote it all, and they communicate using love, and Santiago realizes that it is all a part of the Soul of God, which he could use himself, and turn into wind. The Soul of the World, and the Soul of God connects all to be one. The Soul of the World strengthens through love, and emotion. Santiago understands this, and his connection to the soul is strengthened when he meets Fatima. The Soul of the World is inside everything. It will talk to the heart to guide it and help make decisions, and communicate and enable whatever becomes close to the soul to accomplish miracles.


        Santiago has learned about how love connects people, and that love is not just an emotion, but a language as well. He also learned how to use the Soul of The World to perform unimaginable feats and talk to God. True love is about trust, and how making a sacrifice to that love, and having that trust can result in an even stronger longing, and love. The Soul of the World connects the living, and unliving in ways that allow the caravan to cross the desert, that allow Santiago to read the omens, that allow him to turn into the wind, or communicate with unliving figures. Santiago learns the amount of experience and knowledge about the world that one might get in a lifetime. Exploring, pursuing dreams, never giving up, will allow to gain wisdom that will guide the heart, and build the future. The journey is more important than the destination.