Where Are You Now? (In Social Studies)

“New Biebs, not terbs.” ~Mr. Jackson



My social studies experience thus far has really been about perspective.  And I don’t just mean Mr. Jackson’s perspective on Justin Bieber.  Throughout socials, we have taken a look at stories from view points that I had been unfamiliar with beforehand.  Reading and discussing other angles of stories has been quite eye-opening.  It has also helped to develop my own personal perspectives and opinions on these topics.  Another theme I had that I think ties in quite well is influence.  Learning not only about events or people in history, but also their impact on the world has been really interesting.  I have especially enjoyed learning about how these subjects have made different influences on different groups of people.

Big Idea

“Emerging ideas and ideologies profoundly influence society and events.”  To me, this big idea discusses, well, ideas.  More specifically, “new” ideas.  The reason I put quotes around “new” is because it’s like how Columbus


“discovered” the Americas.  The concepts are likely not brand new, but certain people had the ability to make the them more prominent.  The ideas I am talking about are the ones that have the ability to change how we think.  These are the thoughts that influence the world and cause a real movement.

The main example I want to use here is eminent.  All of our eminent people are eminent for a reason.  The reason being that they had the ability to influence something.  “Something” could vary from changing society’s perspective on an issue, advancing and revolutionizing technology for the better, or even drastically changing the field they work in.

However, I also want to point out that even though some people may have a “good” idea, the public may not allow this idea to shine, therefore never allowing it to make an impact.  For example, around the time of the English Civil War, King Charles I wanted to introduce a new prayer book.  The public at the time was furious and did not agree with nor let him go through with this idea.  Though Charles did make a type of impact, a new prayer book was not the reason why.



The above big idea, along with my themes of perspective and influence, work very well with the content area of revolutions.  Like I said before, there are many people in the world who can create new ideas that revolutionize our world.  During eminent we got a chance to see people such as Martin Cooper and Mark Zuckerberg changing technology, and we also learned about people such as my eminent person, Billie Holiday, make an influence on music and society’s perspective.  I found that her example not only used revolution as a content area, but also discrimination and conflict.  When it comes to Billie’s story, she was discriminated for most of her life.  Racism was a big issue at the time and unfortunately, it was a common problem she had to live through.  With any conflict as big as racism, some type of reaction will be provoked from the people.  While some may react sadly or dramatically, others, like Billie, may act proactively.  When Billie released Strange Fruit (yes, I am talking about this again, but it’s because I think it’s pretty cool), the intention was to take on racism and bring it to attention.  Though there were many different perspectives on the song from different groups of people, it clearly got the public thinking.  I see it as a movement.  Strange Fruit made quite an impact at large.  It mad a significant influence on a large group of people.

Curricular Competencies



“Use Social Studies inquiry processes and skills to: ask questions; gather, interpret, and analyze ideas; and communicate findings and decisions.”  I am someone who likes to think about thoughts.  Through my journey in social studies so far, I have spent time analyzing other people’s thinking and ideas and have responded with my own.  I felt like I did a good job questioning and responding to a topic in my execution blog post.  I was interested in expanding on the question of whether or not execution is right.  In this post, I explained why some may think execution is an acceptable response, but also expressed my personal decision on the topic too.



“Assess the significance of people, places, events, and developments, and compare varying perspectives on their historical significance at the particular times and places, and from group to group.”  A common gifted problem is that we just want to know everything (especially if we’re particularly interested in the subject).  Keeping things short and sweet is foreign to us.  When it comes to social studies, there is so much out there to learn and discuss, but sometimes we need to decide which is most important to share.  During eminent, I chose to focus on four key Billie Holiday events in my learning centre.  This way I could spend more time having discussions with people as opposed to trying to cover her whole life story.  Before creating my centre, I had to evaluate the each events’ significance to decide if it was worth highlighting.  The events I ended up choosing were the ones that I felt made the most of an impact on either Billie’s life, or the world as a whole.



“Explain different perspectives on past or present people, places, issues, and events by considering prevailing norms, values, worldviews, and beliefs.”  In the introduction to this blog post, I said that a theme I had this term was perspective.  I feel like perspective was tied in quite well with the English Civil War unit.  The talk around religion had a lot to do with people’s personal values, as well as the leaders at the time.  Who the leaders were and their personal connection with the church had a large influence on people’s opinions.  Now that many powerful people are not as intertwined with the church, we have the ability to express more universal and unique perspectives on topics.




“Assess the justification for completing historical accounts after investigating points of contention, reliability of sources, and adequacy of evidence.”  To improve this area, I plan to spend more time analyzing reading packages we recieve to better understand which points belong to which evidence.  Also, I want to have more conversations with people to practice being able to verbally explain what is happening and justify my thoughts.





“Assess how prevailing conditions and the actions of individuals or groups affect events, decisions, and development.”  Again, I need to spend more time to read and fully understand the material.  In this case, I need to work on finding the connections between events and their surroundings (such as location, economics, or religion). To do this, I can practice using graphic organizers such as webs and lists to show how things connect and how one thing leads to another.





“Recognize implicit and explicit ethical judgments in a variety of sources.”  Not only do I need to better analyze text fully understand what is at the surface level, but I also need to do this so I can improve my understanding of implicit information.  Explicit information is quite straightforward, I just need to spend more time analyzing it.  On the other hand with implicit, I really need to delve deeper into the reading.  I think what will help is taking more notes (as well as leaving my own thoughts) along the margins.  This will help me look for an underlying meaning behind what is being said.  This also applies to English when looking for and expanding upon underlying themes–something I would like to improve on in the class.

What does this say about me?

Overall, I feel that I am very good at coming up with my own opinions and deciding on my own personal conclusions.  However, I still need to work on going more in-depth during the research part.  I need to take more time to analyze what I am reading and find the true meaning behind it all.  Fortunately, I have another few months left to figure this all out.  To figure out a new perspective of social studies.

Find Your Source


Ha, ha, ha …  Get it?  Because it’s Source yogurt?  I’ll stop now.  But before you leave, shaking your head, because of my cringe-worthy joke, check out my biblography below.  You may find some of these resources interesting or useful in the future.

Biography.com was the very first site I used for the eminent study.  This is where I found the most basic and notable information about Billie Holiday.  It was based on the information from this website, that I ultimately decided that she would be my eminent person.  On this site, you can find biographical information such as her original birth name, the day she was born, and where she grew up.  You can also read about key moments in her life that may be important to know.  This includes her troubled childhood, the orchestras she worked with, and some of her most notable songs including Miss Brown To You and God Bless The Child.

BillieHoliday.com was another introductory site I used at the beginning of research.  Here, I looked through her life’s timeline, viewed pictures of her, and again saw some basic biographical information.  One thing to note about this site is that it strongly praises Billie.  There is no information about the negative moments in her life such as her substance abuse.  Because a goal of my project was to put a main focus on Billie’s successful moments in life, this didn’t bother me.  However, I feel it is important for a reader to know that there is more to her story than all sunshine and happiness.

PBS.org was used as a “verification” website.  One of the few ways I use to see if my information seems reliable is by checking it on various sites to see if things match up.  As PBS is generally quite trustworthy, I compared the information from this site with my other two sites to make sure all of the information lined up properly.  Good news: it did!

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Lady Sings the Blues – Billie Holiday with William Dufty and a foreword from David Ritz was the key book I used during my eminent person study.  When I borrowed this book from the Vancouver Library, I found that it particularly helped with my speech.  Reading about the moments when she was on stage made me feel like I was in the venue at the time.  I wanted to convey this same atmosphere and feeling during my own speech.  The book also helped me understand the early-life background of Billie Holiday.  It almost felt as if I had known her personally.

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Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, And An Early Cry For Civil Rights – David Margolick and a foreword from Hilton Als was the second book I used for eminent.  Billie’s song, Strange Fruit, was a topic I was intrigued to talk about in both my speech and learning centre.  Like when I read Lady Sings the Blues, reading about the audience’s reaction to Billie’s performance in Strange Fruit, helped me set a mood for my speech.


And now eminent is complete.  Until next year. . .

Wrapping Up


Via LouisaLulu on Deviantart.

Via LouisaLulu on Deviantart.


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My delicious (yet measly) pizza.

When I got home from NotN, I had a big mix of feelings and emotions.  Predominantly, I was tired, but I also felt a lot of other things.  Pride: For not only myself, but also for my peers and how well their speeches and learning centres worked out.  Happiness: Eminent is over!  Conflicting sadness: Eminent is over. . .  Confusion: Why am I upset that the thing that has caused me the most stress over the past month is ending?  Hunger: “Though they were tasty, those two pieces of pizza barely filled a corner of my stomach.  I mean, the pepperoni had a delicious spice and there was a good amount of cheese, but the lack of crust starved me.  There’s nothing wrong with thin crust pizza but three and a half slices would have better filled the void. . .  I need chocolate.”


The Stage

The Stage.

Moving on, the point of this blog post is not to get overly emotional about the food, but instead to reflect on my learning centre.  Why learning centre in particular?  The biggest goal I had for eminent was to create one that would be very engaging for those at NotN.  Like I said in my intro post,  many of my projects in elementary and middle school consisted of me pasting large paragraphs of text all over a neon poster board.  I wanted to be a little more creative and move away from this.

For my learning centre, I decided to create a space that would resemble a stage Billie Holiday would have performed on.  I used a curtain,  a sign bordered by lights, and 40’s style microphone as key elements to represent the stage.  I also included a timeline of “records”.  Each stated an event in Billie’s life that I found significant.

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Pictures , Text & Mic

Over to the side of this set-up, I had an assortment of pictures of Billie as well as some text to accompany.  I found limiting text the most difficult thing to do because I am usually quite dependent on my writing.  To keep things reasonable, I chose to write something short on each of the four key events I included in my timeline.  I didn’t bother including too many details as I know that people would not stop to read Billie’s biography.  Instead, it would be my job to fill them in on what they needed to know.  The lack of text was probably the scariest thing about eminent for me.  There was no real script for me to read off, and I pretty much had to go with the flow of the conversation.  When I talked to the first person, I sounded very stiff and robotic but throughout the night, I became more and more comfortable speaking with people.  I actually had real, relaxed conversations with the last few people who came to my station and I am really proud of that.



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My Learning Centre


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Setting Up

I truly think I met my goals for this project.  I was really proud of what I did with my learning centre as well as the conversations I had with those who came by.  By the end of the night, I felt much more comfortable having unscripted conversations with people and I hope I can maintain this confidence throughout the rest of the year.

I have to give a very specific thank you to Aileen (as well as my parents) for helping with the very stressful set up and take down of my learning centre.  I also need to thank Brian for saving my life with his wonderful silver Sharpie when mine inconveniently ran out of ink.  And of course, thank you to all of the TALONS for being super supportive of each other and making this process so much easier.

Eminent was a very stressful and challenging, yet exciting experience.  It’s weird to admit, but I’m actually quite excited to do this again in grade 10.  ((Someone is totally going to use this against me next year when I start complaining about the project…))


Interview: COMPLETE!

InterviewThe interview gods have answered my prayers.  Did it go as smoothly and easily as expected?  Nope.  But hey, I actually got an interview and I’m quite proud of myself for that.

About a week before speeches (and two weeks before learning centres), things were going fine until the word “INTERVIEW” frantically made its way back into my memory.  I totally forgot about completing my eminent interview!  I had to get on it right away.

I thought it would be easy.  As my eminent person is Billie Holiday, I wanted to interview a music teacher to understand more about the field.  I sent an email to my middle school music teacher asking him if he would be willing to conduct an interview.  “Of course he would!” I thought.  So I waited patiently for one day… two days… three days.  No response.  Being the impatient teenager I am, I chose to try someone else.

After doing some brainstorming, I decided to send an email to my former choir teacher, Ms. Tia Turner.   Because the deadline was creeping up on me, this time I also sent my questions in the original email to limit unnecessary messages back and forth.  So again, I waited patiently for one day… two days… three days.  Except this time, I actually received a response!

The following are the emails exchanged between myself and Ms. Turner:

Dear Ms. Turner,

I hope you and your family are well.

I am in a gifted program called TALONS at Gleneagle Secondary School, and we are currently working on an Eminent Person research project.  I have decided to conduct my project on the life of jazz musician, Billie Holiday.  An important aspect of this project is to obtain an interview from someone who works in a similar field as your eminent person to better understand their life and career.  As you are a music teacher, I thought you would be a great person to interview.

The following are my questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the most difficult part about working in the music business?
  2. How do you think songs with controversy (such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) influence an artist’s career? 
  3. Who are your musical inspirations and why?

 I would really appreciate if you could answer these few questions to help extend my project.  However, I know you are likely quite busy so if you cannot respond, I understand.

 Thank you for taking the time to read this and considering my request. 

Kendra Seguin
(CSMA Girls Choir 2008-2011) 


Hi Kendra,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’d be happy to do this for you. Is there a deadline you need it by?
I should be able to get to it this weekend.
Hope you are well,
Hi Ms. Turner,
I really appreciate the response.  It would be great if you could get back to me by tomorrow night.
Thank you again,

1 – In your opinion, what is the most difficult part about working in the music business?

     – I think one of the most difficult things about working in the music business is being under appreciated  or recognized. There are very few artists that get proper recognition for their talents and the ones that do usually have a corporate “machine” behind them to help accomplish this. If you want to be in the music business you need to do it because you truly love it & not to get recognized or you will definitely be disappointed. 

2 – How do you think songs with controversy (such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) influence an artist’s career? 

     – When an artist chooses to perform or record a controversial song it can have a great impact on their career. In Holiday’s situation there was fear of retaliation & record companies were very resistant to record it. With todays impact of social media a controversial recording of a song can rocket an artist to great success but then they need to be able to continue to provide substance with their music or they can crash down as quickly as they rose.  Controversial songs can also ruin an artists career if they are scene to be overly disrespectful or degrading.

3 – Who are your musical inspirations and why?

     – My first big musical inspiration was Ella Fitzgerald. I was introduced to her in grade 9 & couldn’t get enough. I still to this day can sing dozens of her songs just as she did. Her amazing feel, clarity & precision of tone and use of her instrument were undeniable. Over the years I was also drawn to Betty Carter, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Elvis Costello among many others. Recently I have been drawn back to K.D. Lang as she has an unbelievable instrument  that she uses to it’s full potential & her ability to truly sing a song as it should be sung and move you through the telling of a story are inspirational. I also so admire her as a human being that has been through a lot of struggles in her life and has come to a place of great compassion. It had always been hard for me to truly enjoy listening to the music of someone I don’t repeat as a person.

I hope this is what you were needing, if you need longer answers or more details just let me know. I hope things are going well for you & please say hi to your mom for me!

Take Care,
Good morning Ms. Turner,

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  Your answers have really given me insight into the music industry.  It was also great reading about your personal inspirations and why you are drawn to them.  I really appreciate all of your help with this component of my project.  You are the best!  


As you can see, my interview worked out pretty well!  One thing I would change for next year is sending out interview requests earlier.  The answers I got from Ms. Turner were very valuable and could have helped improve my speech.  However, I didn’t send out emails until after my speech was written, therefore the answers were not helpful for that aspect of the project.  Though I can’t complain too much.  Having a good interview was one of my original goals for the eminent person project so overall, I am really happy that it was successfully completed!

Image via FreePik.com

Image via FreePik.com

So Far In Eminent…

Ah, eminent.  What a time to be in TALONS.  So far, I feel like my eminent study is going pretty well and I am getting work done.  However, I still have quite a ways to go.  As grade 9 speeches are coming up this week, writing and rehearsing my speech is currently my main focus.  To document my learning, I have decided to post my speech draft here.  Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Particularly, I am looking for feedback in terms of my transitions/ flow as well as on the selected moments I chose to tell.

Billie Holiday – Eminent Speech Draft

     As I lay on the dusty ground in the back of an abandoned club, I think back.  Nobody’s been in here for years.  And it’s been decades since I’ve been used.  Decades since “her”.  She was someone special, she brought me to life.  Her name was Billie Holiday.

     I remember the very first time I heard Billie sing.  It was a late Friday night and people were taking turns up on stage.  Yeah, some of them had pretty good voices, but something about them all felt the same to me.  But then someone new showed up.  A young woman in a black dress which a contrasted the white flower in her hair walked to the front of the stage.  Her hands were visibly shaking and she didn’t bother to conceal the anxiety on her face.  She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and unleashed her voice.  I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t as good as that.  The room went dead silent. You know the expression “you could hear a pin drop?”  If someone dropped a pin in there, it would more resemble a bomb.  That’s the power she had.  Her voice was so unique—nothing like anyone had heard before.  Through the music, she would emit emotions.  When she sang, you could hear the heartbreak, the struggle, and the tragedy she’s known.  But you could also hear the passion and determination she had for the future.  When she finished her song, her focused expression became a bright smile of pride, brighter than her gardenia.

     As time went on, she moved on to bigger and better things than this tiny, broken-down club, but she would come back to perform here every now and then.  The most memorable time Billie returned was when she debuted her song, Strange Fruit.  I expected her to saunter onto the stage with confidence now that she was a well-established performer.  This was not the case.  Her nerves were as evident as the very first time she sang here.  Once she started singing, I knew why.  “Southern trees bear a strange fruit.  Blood on the leaves, blood at the root.”  The song tells of a black man, lynched, hanging from a tree.  No matter who you are, what is visualized, is a disturbing image.  The audience before the stage seemed taken aback by what they were hearing.  I was too.  The song took on a very startling topic, and even though Billie knew it was a risk, she chose to perform the powerful piece anyway.  Once the song ended, only one person showed they were impressed.  But that one single clap quickly turned into a roar of applause. But following this night, I started hearing murmurs from people discussing how the song was doing outside of the club.  The reception in the rest of the country wasn’t as positive.  Billie’s label at the time didn’t let her record the song, leaving her to find a new label to get it out there.  When the public heard it, some found the song unsettling and graphic.  So much so that certain radio stations went to the lengths of banning Strange Fruit from ever airing.  But all of this controversy was what made her song such a hit.  It made people think, like a good song should.

     Fast forward to late 1950s,  when heard that Billie had died.  The reason being that her substance addiction had finally gotten the best of her.  For the next couple of weeks I heard people talking about Billie as they entered and exited the club.  It was a shame to hear that all they talked about were about the drugs she took, and the alcohol she drank because that’s not what she was about.  People should have started celebrating Billie the day she died.  It shouldn’t have taken them years to really celebrate her amazing life.  And I’m not saying that we should gloss over the challenges and difficulties that made her the person she was, but we also shouldn’t be criticizing how her life had to end.  Billie’s life was special.  The legacy she left behind was special.  The way she changed music forever was special.  And that is what she should be remembered for.

     Billie was a talented vocalist not only known in the world of jazz, but also in popular music.  Her voice was something unique that no other could match.  Her music was memorable. And though sometimes the songs were risky, we all remember them.  Billie Holiday was an amazing woman.  I will remember her forever.  


Also, check out this video the Billie Holiday song I talk about in my speech, Strange Fruit!