Closing the Book – Final Reflections

What’s the Story? Vt is an experience I can’t replace and believe me, I’ve tried. The atmosphere of when you first walk into that tiny, hot room at Middlebury Breadloaf is unlike anything else I’ve ever felt. Everyone wants to learn and everyone is ready to interact with each other with levels of maturity without prompt is rare. These attributes carry on throughout the year until strong friendships have been created and incredible work has been done. I have learned so much and doing this course twice was a needed experience for myself.

There are four main skills that the leaders of What’s the Story? Vt really focus on intentionally teach to us. One of those four skills are Self Direction. I am an extremely self motivated person, and I usually excel with this skill and this year was no different. According to my parents, my first phrase was “do it myself” and that mentality has stuck with me throughout the years. Even now, when I come across a problem and someone asks to help, I basically say, “No thank you, I’ll just do it myself”. This is an extremely useful mindset when one is responsible for only themselves, which I eventually will be, but has it’s negative attributes as well. I can be overly stubborn and sometimes get myself into more trouble instead of getting myself out of it. Over the course of this year, I have learned that it’s okay to rely on others. I felt more like I didn’t need to do everything myself and could trust others to contribute in interviews, the editing of the documentary, and the website. The first year I participated in this course, I was obsessed with doing as much as I could and was so absorbed with it that I became burnt out half way through the year. However, this year was different. I let my teammates take more responsibility and I was able to balance my focus between myself and my teammates. I have learned to take responsibility for myself and that is what self direction is all about.

The second main skill is responsible and involved citizenship. I am a very mature person for my age, so responsibility and involvement are qualities that I’ve always possessed. One thing I have improved on over this year was my self awareness. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really understand a lot about who I was and how I learned, and I definitely didn’t know how I interacted with others. But as I continued to work with my team and gave them more responsibilities of their own, I learned that I was more of the advisor. Our mentor was new to the program so I had more knowledge of what we were going to do which I obtained from one prior year of experience. This was really important for me because it taught me how to access me surroundings better and with that heightened awareness, I can help people in my community and family.

The third learning target is informed and integral thinking. I am great at analyzing. Sometimes I’m too good at it that it interrupts my interactions with other people, making me tend to overthink most situations. This has its ups and downs, just like anything. On one hand, I notice almost everything and use the observations to make future decisions. On the other, my habit of overthinking can lead to something close to paranoia. For example, sometimes I overthink about a question or a interviewee, which can make me distracted as well as over processing information. I have gotten so much better at controlling how I think and process information, which has helped with my grades, friendships, and how I see the world around me. This will affect my performance in future jobs and how I process outside of work.

The final planned skill I’ve learn is clear and effective communication. I think in a really straight forward and linear way, which makes me sometimes inconsiderate of how other people think. When I am presented a problem, I only think of one solution, the most efficient solution I can come up with and I run with it. When working with other people, I have the tendency to consider other ideas inefficient, which therefore makes them bad ideas. This affects my communication  of my ideas, because I don’t think of multiple ways to communicate my idea. I’ve cognitively recognized this issue many times this year and have noticed how I used to think lesser of the people who couldn’t follow my train of thought. Through WtS?Vt and going to classes in a bigger school, I now appreciate the difference between thought processes of two different people. Instead of thinking of it as useless, I see it as fascinating, that two people who live in similar environments can have such different ways of thinking. This all relates to communication because thinking is what powers the connection of ideas. You can’t talk about an idea without thinking about said idea and how you’re going to convey it. So I would argue, that over the year, through learning how to think more diversely, I have learned how to communicate more efficiently and accurately.

Teaching is key to learning, but the funny thing about learning is that you learn things that you weren’t taught. What’s the Story? Vermont tries to teach us how to communicate and think about change, but I  learned what change really means. Tim and Bill always show examples of big change that students have made through WtS and this made me think that the only successful change would be grand and big. This mentality was what made me feel like I needed closure after my first year because my change was small. I didn’t rush out and start screaming about my issue because I thought in order to make that big change, some else has to notice it first then they scream about it. Over the course of this year, I learned that change is change. It can be as small as a thought that enters someone’s mind to a change in the laws of our world. I now feel satisfied with what I’ve the work I’ve done and the minds I’ve changed, even though they aren’t large in numbers. I didn’t scream, but I’m okay with not screaming. I don’t think it suits me. I have learned that I like the change that makes someone think, “wow I never thought about that“. That is what change is to me.

I have loved the two years I have participated in this program and the people I have met and friendships that have bonded are truly incredible. To my team, stay true to who you are because I’ve never met anyone as unique as you guys. To all the friends I made, we’ll meet again. To all the teachers, I can’t believe how lucky and spoiled I am to have worked with all of you. To Tim and Bill, you guys have really changed my idea of learning and change. You have given the power to so many students who are subconsciously told they can’t make change, that they are powerless. I am so lucky to have met everyone part of What’s the Story? Vermont and hope to see the names of the screamers of change in the news one day. I am now closing the book and looking for a new experience like What’s the Story? Vermont. For now, farewell everyone and good luck with your personal struggle for change.

Elsa Lindenmeyr

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