What makes a good teacher?

In this week’s notes, I decided to observe the behavior of teachers. I wanted to find out what makes a good teacher. I’ve had many amazing teachers and wanted to see why I had this interpretation.

For this project, I observed a teacher who is a favorite among my peers. For context, this teacher teaches an AP class. For privacy issues, I will refer to this teacher as “the teacher” and use the pronoun “their.” Right off the bat, I noticed that this particular teacher is well organized and observant. The teacher effectively plans the day and has all files ready in advance. Not only that, but this teacher can gauge the atmosphere of the students’ feelings. For example, when students feel sleepy on a Friday afternoon, the teacher makes all students take a five-minute stretch break.  

A good teacher will also keep their students slightly on edge. Doing so will mentally challenge students and result in a more productive session. From what I observed, the teacher in question will either raise their voice or violently slam their hand on a wooden podium. A drastic change in dynamic will instantly garner the attention of the students. Another attention-grabbing method that this teacher uses is what I call the “subtle threat.” If a student’s homework or performance is lacking, the teacher will provide a warning. If the student has a second warning, all students will get additional homework. However, because of peer pressure, this usually does not happen.

The final aspect that I noticed while observing this teacher is their ability to sympathize and communicate. This trait, in my opinion, is what truly makes an amazing teacher. It is evident that this teacher cares about their students. An example could be answering emails in a timely manner (this teacher, for some reason, can answer in under 10 minutes!). Teachers, like this one in particular, foster a connection between students by connecting with them on a personal level. They make students laugh and make learning enjoyable (or in some cases, bearable because of the teacher).

Above all, a good teacher is someone who wants their student to succeed. I find that the quality of learning is not only because of the efforts of the students, but also by the efforts of the teacher. To put it from an anthropological standpoint, teachers develop a society in which students learn. How they learn depends on the teacher-created society. It is the teacher that creates the ultimate learning experience. 

These are my observations on this particular teacher, and I hope you enjoy!

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Ethnographic Field Note Topic: High School

Throughout my time in high school, I have developed a passion for anthropology. Anthropology, in my opinion, is how society/outside factors influence human behavior on an individual level. I want to be an anthropologist in the future. Their job is to observe a specific niche and analyze how the individuals within that area behave. I will do the same. I will observe how high schoolers and teachers act within my school community. I will be recording what I notice in my blog.

Some questions to be asking myself:

  • What did I observe (who, what when, where how)?
  • What opinions did I form during my observations? Any assumptions? Did these assumptions continue?
  • If someone is unfamiliar with the area of study (school), what would they notice? What would be their reactions (e.g. surprises/confused/intrigued)?
  • Did I interview anyone? What did they say?
  • How do I fit in to this community? In what context? How do the people in the community interpret me?
  • Any common themes that were noticeable?
  • What conclusions did I make?

Hope you guys stick with me on this journey!

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Perfection: good or bad?

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

Salvador Dali

Why do we seek perfection? Why is there a desire to attain the unattainable? Why do we hold ourselves to such high standards?

Everyone has an urge to reach for perfection. It is a natural reaction. But what is the cost of doing so?

Like all things, there are two sides to a spectrum. The “good” and the “bad.” Take gymnastics for example. In gymnastics, gymnasts strive for perfection: perfect form, perfect execution, and perfect technique. Having all of these makes gymnastics easier as they can swing better, tumble better, etc. Being “perfect” makes the sport 10x easier and prettier. That is why it is sought after. But how realistic is that?

There is always failure before mastery in anything that is achievable. In gymnastics, failure happens every day. Gymnasts fall off the balance beam, face-plant, get injuries, etc. Failure is everywhere. However, this idea of perfection makes it seem like failure is not an option. As a result, many gymnasts develop a fear of failure. Fear of disappointment, fear of the inability to attain a skill, and fear of yourself. Many set this unreachable goal only to have it crashing down on them. Everything is unattainable. By this point, we have reached the “bad” spectrum of perfectionism.

“Perfection is an undesirable and debilitating goal and that striving for nonexistent perfection keeps people in turmoil and is associated with a number of psychological problems”

A.R. Pacht

If we constantly chase perfection, we often lose the fun in things. We forget about the big picture or the goal and focus on the nitty bitty stuff. But is that really the way to live: seeking the small things. After a while, it gets tiring and before you know it you are burnt out. But, this doesn’t mean that trying to achieve a certain quality is bad. Trying to reach perfection can bring motivation, discipline, and more. Therefore, all that’s left is to reach the middle ground.

Only when we reach the middle can we improve ourselves and become our best selves. Not only with determination but also with a smile on our faces.

Homeschooler’s Guide to Entering Public School

Are you thinking about returning back to school? If you are, this is the perfect guide to help you succeed in your transition. I, myself, was was once in this situation. I decided to return to public school after 6 years of homeschool. Not only was I entering as a junior in high school, but I also was a new student at the school. Trust me when I say that I know what you are going through. I’ve been there. I wish someone told me what to expect when I made this transition. That is why I created this post: to share my experience. I hope this post helps you!

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DO’S:

  • First off, make a friend
    • Turn to someone who looks trustable to get you started
    • This might take a while but it will be worth
  • Join clubs
    • This is another way to meet friends who share similar interests
  • Pick courses suitable for you
    • First year back into the school system can be tough. Don’t overload but also seek to challenge yourself.
  • Bring your own lunch
    • This really depends on your school district but I recommend bringing your own lunch as cafeteria food tends to be questionable.
  • Become close with your counselor and teachers
    • They are your greatest assets in the learning process
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is part of their career to help you so use it to your advantage. Attend office hours if needed.
    • Someone who I recommend that you know is your school’s student counselor. This is the person who provides mental and emotional support for students. It is always helpful to be able to talk out your feelings to someone who is non-judge mental (at least they should be). My student counselor really helped me through tough times so I believe that they are a valuable asset.
  • Finish your homework on time
    • As a fellow homeschooler, I believe that you should be fine in this field but just be wary.
    • Homework that piles up can be tiresome and having a teacher on your back is stressful.
  • Get to school early
    • Especially if you are new, come to school early to get to know the building. You do not want to get lost in your school. Be sure to be able to find the bathrooms, the exits, your classrooms, etc. You will want to know where everything is.
  • Memorize your schedule
    • Know the order of your classes. You do not want to accidentally go to the first floor when you need to be on the third floor.
  • Bring school supplies needed for your courses
    • This should be pretty obvious. But always remember to have a laptop, binder with paper, and a pencil.
  • Learn how to take notes
    • It is another ballgame trying to take notes when a teacher is talking. From my experience as a homeschooler, I only knew how to take notes from a textbook and not from a lecture. I had to develop ways to take notes that worked for me.
  • Choose clothing wisely
    • I opt for something comfortable but everyone has their own styles. Clothing is a type of art so wear whatever suits you. Just be weary of your school’s dress code and you should be good.
  • Bring a water bottle and possibly an umbrella
    • These come in handy

DON’TS:

  • Most importantly, don’t go into your high school completely stressed out
    • It takes a while to find your groove. Believe in yourself and before you know it you’ll fit in.
  • Entering high school relaxed
    • Try to maintain your grades the best you can. I’ve met so many people who let their grades slip and regretted it later
  • Change for other people
    • The only person you have to please is you. You are your best self when you are happy so stay that way. Don’t let others bring you down.
  • Drag about your grades of lack thereof
    • Face it. No one likes it when you brag about your grades. On the other hand, people don’t want to hear you whine either. Only share your grades to those who ask.
  • Don’t get into the wrong friend group
    • Just like everyone says, avoid drugs and sexual activity. There are so many negative consequences that are not worth the time and effort. But if you are feeling down, please seek help. Do not find your escape doing these things.
  • Let people copy your homework
    • I know that you are trying to be nice and all but it’s not worth it. There’s too much at stake if you get caught. Be the “bad” guy and say no, ESPECIALLY to those who you know are bad at cheating. If you can’t resist and share your work, make sure that it is with those who you can trust.
  • Be the self-righteous guy
    • Everyone has flaws. You do not want to constantly remind them of it. It will make you seem like a b**** and others will distance themselves from you.
  • Dwell on the past
    • Because you are in a new environment, some of your old habits might not work. Instead of dwelling on them, try to form new habits to adapt to your situation.

Everyone’s high school experience isn’t perfect. It takes some getting used to. In the end, it will all work out so don’t stress about it. Even if you are a new student or are new to the public schools system in general, know that there are always people behind your back, you just need to find them. For me, it took some time to find these people, but after I found them, it made my high school experience 10X more enjoyable. High school is not this big bad place. It will only be if you make it. So, make the best out of it! The only person you need to overcome is yourself. Good luck!

What To Do After You Quit Your Sport

This is not an easy question to answer. What do I do now without my sport? This is something I’ve fought with after quitting gymnastics. The struggle is real. I’ve faced both mental and physical difficulties upon leaving the sport. I became physically unfit and had to rediscover my personal identity. I’ve spent days reflecting on myself in order to restart anew. Leaving a sport is never easy; so, I created a list of things that helped me get over this hurdle. With these tips, I hope it makes your transition to a different life easier too.

  1. First off, take some time to process and acknowledge the departure from your sport
    • Quitting something that you loved is essentially like losing a part of yourself
    • Take the time to reflect on it (and cry when need be)
    • Talk to friends and family
      • Everything is easier once you voice your problems
      • Rant to them and get off that steam
    • You have to FULLY accept your loss before you can move on
  2. Find a new goal
    • What hobbies do you like?
    • Any educational goals such as attending colleges, getting a masters, etc?
    • What is something on your bucket list?
    • How do you envision the new you? How will you become that person?
    • Any career goals?
  3. Write down that goal and put it somewhere noticeable
    • You can write on a post it note and tape it to your door
    • You can have your screensaver as your new goal
    • You just want something that will immediately catch your attention and serve as a reminder
  4. OPTIONAL (write down how you will achieve it)
    • If you write things out, it means that you have developed a plan. You have steps to follow to make that dream come true. It is no longer a blind passion. This makes it easier to motivate you to fulfill that dream.
    • This step is optional since some people like to be spontaneous
      • Sometimes, writing things out can be intimidating. This intimidation can cause one to procrastinate or avoid the task at hand.
      • So, this step is not for everyone
  5. JUST DO IT!!!
    • Of course this one of the last steps! Pursue your dream and don’t let anything hold you back! You can dictate your world so make the best out of it. As corny as it sounds, you only live once so live it to the fullest.
  6. And if all else fails and you really miss your sport/can’t let go, try something that pertains to it.
    • Become a coach
    • Switch gyms/facilities/coaches/teams
    • Become a physical therapist (can treat athletes of your particular sport)
    • Become a psychologist (help athletes get back on their feet)
    • Open your own gym/facility/training center
    • Become a judge/referee for your sport
    • Become a sports announcer

The main goal of this blog post is to be happy! You understand yourself the most so follow what your heart desires. Remember, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Happiness can be right around the corner or it could take years or decades to find. Never stop searching and good luck!!!

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Homeschool vs. Public School

I compiled a list of the differences between homeschool and public school. Because I attended both, I can safety say that I know the ins and outs of each. If you are debating which one to choose, I hope this list helps you out!

Homeschool

  • Positives
    • Able to self pace
    • Can dictate your own schedule
    • Personal freedom
    • Can wake up whenever = nice sleep schedule
    • Textbook heavy = can be considered good and bad
    • Learning is how you make it out to be (how you learn, when you learn, and where you learn depends on you)
    • Can snack or eat food whenever
    • Don’t have to deal with or interact with teachers and students (can also be a negative)
    • More time for extracurriculars = if you are an athlete, you can focus on getting a scholarship or training for something big like the Olympics
    • Can travel without worrying about absences and grades
    • No such thing as “homework” = everything is known as “schoolwork”
  • Negatives
    • Lack of teacher’s support/communication
      • I had to wait 3-5 business days for my online teachers to reply to my emails
    • Harder to connect with peers
    • Easier to cheat/harder to absorb information (cheating can be appealing to some) (BUT cheating occurs everywhere)
    • Have to be highly motivated and dedicated to finish work (because there’s no teacher/pressure to finish assignments, it is all up to you to finish work)
    • Have to self finance experiments = which can also translate to no experiments
    • Have to sit in front of a computer all day
      • Easily bored and tired
    • Less active lifestyle since you sit in front of a computer all day (BUT many people enter homeschool to compensate for sports or for other extracurriculars)
    • It may be harder to find teacher recommendations for colleges
    • No school events
    • Graduation is in front of a screen = not super appealing

Public School/ In Person Learning

  • Positives
    • Able to get clarification/answers to questions right away
    • Engagement and interaction with peers
    • Experiments are performed, especially for science
    • More hands on and aural learning
    • Less computer time needed (most likely only for assignments) BUT a lot of learning on a SMARTBOARD*
    • PE is mandatory (but in some schools able to be waivered) which means a more active lifestyle
    • Can attend school events and school clubs (e.g. Spirit week, prom, field trips, etc) (music club, DECA, Giveback, etc)
    • You learn how to interact with others/become more social
    • You become friends with teachers which can help in the college process
    • School recommendations are easy to come by as long as you have a good relationship with your teachers
    • Learning in a social setting can be fun (less likely to fall asleep and more likely to be engaging)
    • Graduation is very rewarding as there is a big celebration
  • Negatives
    • Has to rely on a teacher’s schedule for homework and quizzes
      • A teacher gives pressure to turn in assignments on time
      • Bad sleep schedule for those who have difficulty with time management
    • Teachers make it or break it (good teachers make learning easier while bad teachers make learning harder) (this is up to luck)
    • Harder to cheat –> more likely to absorb materials –> harder to get a good grade
    • Social problems may be prevalent (bullying, being socially awkward, etc)
    • Only can only eat during lunch block (unless the teacher is lenient)
    • Cannot travel during the school year
    • Absences can lead to detention

Personally, I prefer going to school because of the teacher support and the fun social life. But, the one that is right for you depends on your own personal strengths and weaknesses. Besides that, I hope you like this entry! If there’s anything I can add or if you have any questions please let me know!

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My Time as a Homeschool Student

What is is like to be homeschooled? This is a question many people have asked me. For starters, I am a self taught student from 5th all the way to the 10th grade. It all started at the age of 10 when I entered a rigorous gymnastics program. This program required me to train 30 hours each week. As a result, I entered a homeschool program to compensate for it. This is my homeschool story.

My amazing setup!

In the beginning of my homeschool period, I used an online program called K12. This program offered textbooks and an online program to learn. It also relied on a guardian or a parent to check my work. This is where my gymnastics center came to play. The center offered a teacher whose job was to assist my academic needs. However, the teacher did not meet my expectations. Any of the questions asked would be met with an answer key and not an explanation. Oftentimes, I was told to figure things out myself.

And yes, you may be wondering why I didn’t look up online resources for help. At the time, I was naive to the available online resources such as Youtube. I thought that everything had to be dealt by myself rather than look for help. I also didn’t have friends in which I could turn to. My friends, who were all in school, had a teacher at their disposal. I, on the other hand, did not. Even though this is not an excuse, but I believe that this is the main reason why I struggled. I did not know how to seek help.

Understanding the materials was not my only problem. School was also a nonstop struggle to find the inner motivation to do work. In my opinion, homeschool was horrendous, and it became something I despised. To make matters worse, I had a personal conflict to be a perfectionist. My drive to be a perfectionist caused many disadvantages. For one, I would refuse to turn in an assignment until I was sure I would get a 95 or higher. If I received anything lower, I would beat myself up for it. I still remember the time where I got a 87 on a science midterm and decided to hang myself upside down for 5 hours, making sure I was lightheaded and dizzy. This was not the worse of it. The worst part of being a perfectionist was falling behind in schoolwork. Because I was so focused on nitpicking every single detail of my work, I would easily get behind schedule. Despite spending hours and hours on schoolwork, I would barely manage to finish my work. Often, I had to do school during the summer because of my inability to finish on time. It was not fun. I can assure you that.

Then, I entered high school. In the process, I switched to another program called Laurel Springs which offered an online teacher. I was ecstatic. But with my previous experience of not asking for help, I never used this significant resource. Again, I found myself in a cycle of added on assignments. I was stressed beyond belief because not only did my grades count, but I couldn’t understand what was happening in some of my core subjects, especially the sciences. The lack of experiments and being a hands-on learner made understanding materials a challenging task.

Chemistry was when it all broke down. Periodic tables, pH levels, etc all were incomprehensible to me. Seeing equations like Na + Cl2 = NaCl or salt was mind-blowing. I couldn’t comprehend all the materials given to me. However, this wasn’t the only subject that struggled. My English and math skills greatly deteriorated. For English, my online teachers gave little to no feedback in any of my work. Additionally, I was not required to read anything. I only had to analyze short sections of books. In math, because I wasn’t absorbing the materials from the prior years, the subject became significantly harder as I moved up in difficulty. School was the hardest during the end of my sophomore year in which I received a severe concussion, causing me to miss school for a two month. I ended up getting super behind and had to do school over the summer. When others were relaxing, I was rushing to finish schoolwork. I couldn’t even ask for help because all my online teachers were given 3-5 business days to reply to my emails: a time span in which I didn’t have.

Even though, I experienced great difficulty during homeschool. There were still some positives. For one, it allowed me to fully immerse myself in gymnastics. I could spend all of my time at gym without worrying about missing school. To add on, the homeschool system that I used was self-paced. I could travel to competitions on Fridays and it would not affect my grade or my attendance. Additionally, it taught me the value of self-motivation and time management. Since entering the school system this year, I now know how to manage my time. Overall, homeschool had its up and downs and I believe that it’s something that everyone should experience once in their life.

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Academic based vs. Sport Based Studying

During my first two years of high school, I focused primarily on gymnastics. Gymnastics was always my priority and school became my second. That all changed going into junior year. My decision to quit gymnastics pushed me to focus on my academics. While transitioning, I was fascinated by the different mindset and attitude I had towards my new situation. With this blog, I’m excited to share what I’ve noticed!

Sport Based

  • Energy:
    • All my energy was devoted on my sport. I embodied the “gymnastic life” and I loved it.
  • Scheduling:
    • I spent most of my time in gymnastics (30 hours a week).
    • My schedule was constructed in a way to compensate for it. If I had to stay overtime, I would have to adjust my schedule.
    • If my gymnastics competition fell on a Friday, I would have to miss school for it.
  • School:
    • I would be very lenient whenever I didn’t finish a school assignment.
    • Only needed a 80% or above for each subject.
    • Mostly took CP courses with a few honor courses
    • Taking the SAT and ACT was of little importance as I was hoping to gain a scholarship. Getting a scholarship was the goal and testing was never on my mind.
    • Difficult to manage school with an intense schedule of gymnastics
  • Social life:
    • Sacrificing my social life was needed in order to be as competitive as possible (never attending social gatherings and, in my case, even joining the homeschool program)
    • Limited friends as my social circle only consisted of people in gymnastics
  • Health
    • Physical health
      • Very fit and active
      • Constant injuries and pain = a day without pain is unusual
      • R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) was prominent
      • Physical therapy was needed
      • Many doctors visits and checkups when injured
        • MRI, Cat Scan, etc
    • Mental health:
      • Motivation was strong as I had a goal to work with: scholarship
      • High stress
      • Difficult practice days was a common occurrence = can be depressing
        • However, fellow teammates were encouraging and would help with hard days
      • Coaches can be hard to work with whenever injured or during difficult times
      • Happy days are when I competed in a successful competition or practice
  • College
    • Starting the college process early (we were expected to start looking at schools in the 7th grade)
    • Creating a Youtube account to send videos to colleges.
      • Constantly pushing for new skills and improvements in order to send the videos to colleges.

Academic Based

  • Energy:
    • All my energy was now on studying and finishing homework. Nothing topped getting a good GPA
  • Scheduling:
    • I had to learn how to manage between studying, clubs, community service, friends, and extracurricular activities.
  • School:
    • In order to be competitive with other students, I had to start taking AP courses.
      • Had to work hard to maintain grades with the harder curriculum
    • SAT and ACT: these were of high importance as I was following the traditional academic route
  • Social life:
    • I was able to connect with people outside my gymnastics circle.
    • Clubs: I joined a few school clubs which allowed me to connect with people of similar interests
      • Getting leadership positions to boast the resume and gain experience
    • Community Service: This is a great way to connect with your community and find out more about the outside world.
  • Health
    • Physical health:
      • Healthy but now as active
      • Staring at a computer screen and doing school all day can be tiring for the eyes and back
      • No injuries
    • Mental health:
      • No clear goal: Yes, I want to get into college, but I do not know what I’m going to do in college
      • Moderate stress: Getting good grades + testing is stressful
        • However, not as stressful as gymnastics. In gymnastics, intense focus is needed to have a successful practice and to prevent injuries/falls. One also has to worry about scholarships. When focusing on academics, one does not have to worry about getting a physical injury when studying.
      • Bored: feeling like your life is consumed by homework
      • Happiness can be attained through a healthy social life
  • College
    • The college application process starts in junior year
      • However, it is helpful to start earlier in order to be prepared
    • This means looking at colleges and finding out which major to take
    • Start looking for scholarships senior year
  • Work
    • Even though I do not work, many of my friends work part time jobs to gain experience. It also looks great on the the resume.

This is what I gathered so far during my junior year. As my high school life continues, I hope to add more details onto this list. Thank you for reading and please comment on what you think!

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Quitting Gymnastics

Gymnastics was my thing. I believed that it would carry me through my high school life and into my college life. It was my everything. I devoted my whole life into this sport only to see it crashing down on me. That’s how I felt when I decided to quit the sport. What do I do now? Is everything that I worked for gone? What should I do? I felt utterly lost after quitting this sport. I could no longer follow the path that I originally planned for myself. I watched everything that I worked for crumble. My friends gone. My goal gone. My lifestyle gone. Everything I’ve known to be gone. I was in a dark spot in the summer of 2020.

This was only the beginning of the worse. After I quit the sport, I felt a scary sense of both peace and anxiety. Peace that I no longer had to bear any more injuries and peace that I was no longer in the toxic environment at my gym. But at the same time, I felt impending doom. How am I going to get into college? Am I normal now? My coach always made it seem like being “normal” was something disgraceful. I felt like I was now average and sometimes below average. When I entered the school system, I noticed all the talented people around me and all their achievements. Since I was new to the school, there was no way for me to automatically fit in. For example, I couldn’t be a club president since I just joined, and I didn’t know how any of the clubs worked. People around me were winning competitions in these clubs while I had nothing going for me in the extracurricular department. I was use to always being known as the “over-achiever” and now I was an “underachiever.” Nothing in my life was normal and I fell deeper into despair.

I understood that my decision to ultimately quit gymnastics had consequences, but I never imagined it would affect me this much. By this time, my junior year was starting. This meant preparing for college and testing. I was unaware of how any of that stuff worked. I’ve never studied for the SAT or the ACT nor have I ever taken any AP courses before. Since I was homeschooled, I was only given honor classes and never AP ones. Not only that, but I barely managed to finish a total of 6 honor classes my freshman and sophomore year with my 30-hour schedule of gymnastics schedule. All of my friends who weren’t in gymnastics already had 2 to 4 AP classes already under their belt. I felt inadequate compared to both my gym friends and my outside friends.

When I enrolled my junior year, I opted to complete my first 3 AP courses (U.S. History, Music Theory, and Environmental science). I had to quickly adjust and pretend that everything was okay. I had to trick myself that I was use to a demanding academic life in order to feel somewhat stable. I would find myself saying “this is totally normal. I’m used to this. I’m okay.” In reality, I’ve never felt okay or “normal” since leaving the sport. To add on to my misery, the world was facing a global pandemic. Everyone was in despair and I told myself that I could not push my misery onto anyone. I also lost my grandpa in the same year, so I felt like I couldn’t push my my troubles onto my parents either. I knew that quitting a sport couldn’t compare to losing a parent.

I was in constant despair and developed my own motto, “Sulking doesn’t help but doing does.” Over these past few months, I’ve learned to be stronger. I cannot live my life regretting my decision and being in constant pity. I will move on. Although gymnastics gave me constant frustrations and sadness, it also shaped my character. It made me stronger and I have to thank the sport for doing so. Gymnastics will always be in my heart and this is my goodbye.