#7 – Looking Glass (Part I)

Expected Learning:

Wow! Over the course of this year, I have learned so much more than I would have believed. As expected, I have made progress on all four of our life-long skills. I have really been stretched by my attempts to master these qualities, and I believe it has changed me for the better on the grand scheme of things(49).

For starters, Self-Direction is a place where I have really come a long way, to be sure. At the beginning of the year, I had a lot of trouble putting all my ideas for a pitch into words. Now, I am easily presenting my thoughts, and consistently identifying questions for us to go farther into depth. I am also readily adaptable to whatever environment I may be in, especially blended-learning environments. I have been able to learn and adapt to all of the fantastic tools presented to me, and definitely have become better at using those tools to manage my time. One of the hardest things for me has been managing my time and maximizing efficiency. At the start of the year, it took me a huge press to even think about meeting some of the blog post deadlines. Now, I can write at more of the speed that is expected of me, which has been one of the hardest things for me to learn. One final area is feedback. A challenge for me has been not taking critical feedback as insults to me. I used to have tendencies to get all annoyed when someone gave me feedback that, if you are not looking under the lens that it is feedback, could sound harsh. I have, over the course of What’s the Story?, definitely worked on changing that mindset. As you can see, there definitely have been places in Self-Direction in which I have improved.

Another life-long skill is Responsible and Involved Citizenship. This is made up of five learning goals: proposing change, analyzing points of view, empathy/morals, teamwork, and self-awareness. To start, when it comes to proposing positive change, I am definitely able to hit the point: creating, evaluating, and revising a one-sentence vision statement. This has been something that is almost second nature to me, since I have such a large lexicon that I can easily put my vision into words, and later on, consolidate the sentence. Secondly, analyzing points of view has been an area that I have come a long way in throughout the course of this year. Being a budding playwright, putting all of the points of view together as to see the big picture is fairly easy for me. The bigger challenge has been figuring out motives for these viewpoints. Another area is teamwork, which has not been a major problem for me, seeing as I am working with my twin brother. I have found what it takes to become a productive and successful team, and I think that both of us clearly understood what each of us had done towards that, and what our group as a whole needed to do in order to be the best team that we could. Finally, self-awareness has been a place that has provided both challenges and growth. I have in the past been fairly focused on the actual work part of projects, but I have been challenged by this quality. This has been something that I have focused on, since it could allow me to be better at teamwork. All in all, there have been many challenges and times of growth under the awning of Responsible and Involved Citizenship.

The third of our learning targets is Informed and Integrative Thinking. This focuses on the actual writing and research involved with the program, with the smaller targets of interpret/analyze/evaluate/synthesizing information, systems thinking, and claim & evidence form. For starters, in the topic of claim and evidence writing, I am certainly able to be more than proficient. Also, I have been very successful at analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating the quality of information, but I strove for proficiency in synthesis of the information; the combining all of the ideas into main points. I have struggled with that in past research projects, so it was not easy for me to do. In the end, I was content with what I was able to accomplish in this area, though. Synthesis is closely related to systems thinking, in the sense that they are both using previous knowledge or ideas, and connecting them together. Systems thinking has also been an area that I have shown improvement in. At the beginning of the year, I was unsure about what the concept of systems thinking was, and over the course of this year, I have familiarized myself with it, and I have been able to apply it in the research phase of my work on my blog subject, Abenaki recognition. In conclusion, there definitely is advancement shown in the life-long skill of Informed and Integrative Thinking.

The final life-long skill is Clear and Effective Communication. One of the parts to this is storytelling, in which I have shown great improvement. In the past, I have only been able to get the basic details out of issues, and this program has helped me to flesh out more details and connections in stories in order to have specific outcomes on the audience. I have grown in my capacity to weave enrapturing stories from pieces of information I find. Another category is organization, which in the past has been one of my weaknesses. I have come a long way in this, starting just with simple, non-complex pieces of writing, with it being very hard for me to transition between the different styles of writing. Now, I am able to organize my different pieces of writing into coherent, clear work. A third value connected with this skill is purpose, audience, and context. I have had many successes in this area: my group has created a story of the issue of bullying, told through our documentary, website, and pamphlet. This has been a fairly good structure for me, seeing as I feel fairly confident that our messages will be conveyed in order to tell the story successfully. The final area is active listening, focusing on oral interviews and audio-visual sources, and whether information from those is understood and the interview done well. I feel like this is a strength for me, since I was able to interview people, get the results that I wanted out of those, and reflect on my work doing the aforementioned two things. Overall, I think that Clear and Effective Communication is an area that I have done well in.

In conclusion, I have clearly shown improvement in all of the four life-long skills, and I believe that this program has really benefited me. I have grown in storytelling skills, gotten better at maximizing my efficiency, improved in the subject of analyzing information, and learned much more than I knew about systems thinking. I have also worked on changing my mindset towards the area of critical feedback, and improved my organization in writing in order to maximize clarity, coherence, and creativity in this area. As you can see, this has definitely been a successful year for me, during my experience in What’s the Story?.

(1208 words)

Theo Ellis Novotny

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