March Retreat: “I have never had an experience like this before”

What’s the story is a learning experience like no other, and is a great opportunity for teenagers to get involved with the real world. I often feel like learning inside a classroom you don’t get how important learning is. Sometimes I feel like the things that I am learning in school might not help me in the real world. Just because I have not had the opportunity to use them outside of a classroom. With What’s the Story (WTS) I never feel like that is a problem. Since we are going at and doing things, striving to make a change in our world I can start to see the importance of what I am learning. For example when I am in school, I am not a huge fan of group work, I like to work on my own. Just last night, our group was talking about how much we like working together and how much stuff we can accomplish together. This course is very group driven, and most of the time we are working together to create the change that we want to see. It is very hard to create change all by yourself.

Another part of WTS that set’s it apart from other school classes is that it is student driven. You don’t have a teacher always bugging you about getting that essay in on time. You have your own motivation to get the work done, because you don’t want to let your team down. The work that you have to do is somthing that your group decides on, so you can monitor how much work you are getting yourself into. Something that I remember one of the returning WTS members said in the beginning of the year was that “If you like the work that you are doing, then it is not hard to get it done,”. That is something that I totally agree with. Since you get to choose your topic that you want to peruse (after researching and finding out about a bunch of different possibility’s), it is easy to get motivated. In the beginning of the year, I was a little stressed out with picking the right topic to pursue because I would have to be motivated about it throughout the year. But, if you choose a topic that includes some of you interests, your passion will grow as you research and interview more. Not to mention that if you start researching a topic, and find that you don’t love it as much as you thought you would you can always change.

One of my favorite parts about WTS is that you get to work with all different age students from around the state. You don’t have to work with the kids that you have been with since Kindergarten. You can work with students from the other side of the state. I am one of the youngest kids in this program, and I have loved with working with students who are older than me. For example in my Social Action team there are two 8th graders (including me) and three juniors that I get to work with on a weekly basis (plus an adult mentor). Especially because I am about to go on to high school, I really like to start working with the older kids. When I work with them I start to recognize the area’s I am good at, and the area’s that I am not so good at. I also see the area’s that they are really good at, and figure out a way I can work towards that ability.

WTS has impacted me in many ways as a student. I think the biggest thing that it has helped me with, is being self directed in my learning. I am now trying to be independent and try to get things done by myself, but if I need help I know I can always reach out for it. Without grades I do not feel pressured to fail, but I can understand my mistakes and try to learn from them. Instead of always leaning on the teacher to help me learn, I am finding out ways that I can learn from life experiences. I feel like this course is as close as you can get to working in the real world, without actually working in the real world. This course allows you to learn some skills that a teacher can’t always teach you in a classroom. When we started reaching out and interviewing people, is when I really started to see this in play. I started to realize why we have deadlines for our homework, because if we always worked on our own time we would let people down. For example if we did not respond to the interviewee fast enough it might make us look like we are not committed to this project (which we are). Or if we did not upload the interview onto the computer, are fellow team members would not be able to see it. We would loose a lot of time that we could have used to be productive, and work towards are end goal.

This course has also pushed me to communicate clearly and effectively. This is on of our “learning targets” at school and I am beginning to see why we use it to so much. This is such a critical skill to have in WTS because without it you can not have a voice in your group or explain the work you have done. It is not necessarily the way you talk (though that is very important), but it’s when and how you talk. WTS has defiantly pushed me to work on that skill and I am very grateful for it because I know it will help me in the future.

People who should join this course are people who enjoy doing good and aren’t afraid of a little time commitment. If you like to learn, and experience things without an adult always monitoring what you do JOIN THIS COURSE it is for you.  Even the people who don’t mind teachers always telling you what to learn, but like to learn important life skills this is the way to go. It will challenge you in different directions that you have not been challenged because you are not limited by the boundaries of a classroom.

Petra Kapsalis

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