March Retreat: Medium Gay

At first, I didn’t want to work with freshmen. I’ve always been the person who wants to work in a group with “the smart people” so they can take charge and I don’t have to worry about leading or having the fate of the project rest on our shoulders. So when we formed social action teams and my group included me and two freshmen, I was worried. However, after a short time, I soon came to the realization that I was incredibly lucky to be in the group I was in. My group members are, in short, the absolute best. Not only do we all work well together, but they are smart, motivated, funny, amazing people. They are going to do such important, wonderful things with their lives and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know them.

When so many like-minded people get together and work towards a common goal, there is not limit to what they can achieve. This applies not only to my social action team, but What’s The Story as a whole. This is a course unlike any other I have ever taken, and unlike any other offered in schools throughout the state, if not the entire country. This course allows students to work independently and in groups in order to pursue an interest. We do comprehensive research, write blog posts, and create a documentary to educate people about the issue we have chosen. We are allowed total freedom to choose a topic in which we have interest at the beginning of the year and we eventually refine our focus, collaborating with a few other students with the same interests to form a social action team. Everyone in this course is incredibly passionate about their issue, so the energy is far different from that of a typical classroom, where students are required to learn according to a curriculum that may not interest them at all. Additionally, in a typical classroom, there is a great deal of structure, so students have very little freedom, which is detrimental to those who learn differently. In What’s The Story, students can choose to learn using whatever methods they prefer, allowing everyone to have success. They also do not grade our work or test us on knowledge, which greatly reduces stress.

The freedom that What’s The Story provides their students could appear to be problematic, as a lack of hard deadlines, testing, and structure might lend itself to some students slacking off or putting in minimal effort. However, I haven’t observed this at all. Everyone is so motivated and enthusiastic about their topic that, when given the choice, we will work on our documentaries instead of watching a movie. Even those who entered the course unsure of whether they could properly manage their time have had great success, as the independence teaches them time management skills. In a regular classroom, the teachers often micromanage time so students never learn how to plan their own time efficiently, causing them to crash and burn in the first few weeks of college. What’s The Story provides a safe opportunity for students to learn these life skills, allowing them minor failures so they can learn, but supporting them when they need help.

Anyone can benefit from this course if they apply themselves and put effort into the work they do here. Those who are independent and desire more freedom in the classroom with flourish in this environment, and those who don’t have much experience working without support will build those essential skills. Those who struggle to learn in the classroom will find success, confidence, and their learning style by testing out new methods in a safe place, and those who achieve highly in school will find the lack of educational limits exciting. Those who have solid social skills and enjoy talking to people will love the interview process and thoroughly enjoy themselves while learning, and those who are more reserved or have less experience in social situations will build the confidence they need to succeed in life throughout the interview, discussion, and collaboration processes. I don’t believe this course is off limits to anyone and it provides and excellent learning opportunity to all involved.

What’s The Story has impacted me in many ways. It has built my confidence and renewed my interest in learning. It has showed me that learning can be fun and important. It has made me realize how much I love helping others and working to better my community. It has prepared me for college by helping me develop social skills, time management skills, and perseverance. It has opened my mind to the wonderful things in the world and taught me how to handle the horrible, discouraging things. It has encouraged me, inspired me, changed me.

Anna Buteau

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