#7 End of Year Reflection

Part 1: Challenges and Growth

Throughout this year within What’s the Story, I have grown a lot in many directions. I have faced challenges and high points, and everything in between. Everything that I faced helped me grow in the following four areas – Self-Direction, Responsible and Involved Citizenship, Informed & Integrative Thinker, Clear and Effective Communication. In this blog post I will describe how I have grown and been challenged in each of these areas, and what learning is next for me in these areas.
First is Self Direction. Self Direction is certainly something that I often struggle with, but I think that I definitely grew in this area this year. I think that one example of my growth in this area was within the early process of editing footage. I took it on myself early on to try to edit everything myself. I quickly found myself missing deadlines and having to ask my teammates for help. This taught me in two ways – that I need to better budget my time when working on solo projects, or solo sections of projects, and that sometimes being self-directed means letting others help you so everyone can be at their best. In conjunction with my growth, there were many challenges I faced. Mainly, those of meeting deadlines and sorting out my priorities with schoolwork, work for What’s the Story, dance class, etc etc each night. I found myself many nights arriving home from some rehearsal or another exhausted and not wanting to put any work into anything else, certainly not my documentary. Each time, in retrospect, I know that I could have easily avoided this by attending to the most pressing matters earlier in the day, instead of pushing them to the last minute. As far as what is next for me in the realm of self-direction, I now know that setting a specific schedule for myself with all of my priorities sorted really helps me to stay on top of things. That is what I have learned about Self-Direction, and how I will apply it.
Second is Responsible and Involved Citizenship. I have always liked to think that I have been pretty good at this, but this year yet again was a great learning opportunity for me. I think that often I see problems in my community or area of citizenship, but don’t really know what to do about them. I find myself working on a very small level to improve slight things; which I think is good, but I am never quite sure how to step into the larger issues and make myself heard. I have grown in this area because I was able to choose a topic I personally have a lot of interest in to delve into. This allowed me to find myself reaching out more to those in my community to interview, share my film with, or even just to discuss it with. One challenge I faced with this was adapting to different age groups or levels of understanding when discussing my project with others. In the very beginning of this process, I went to my local elementary school to interview some children in the art classes there. I found some difficulty in explaining the project to them, and also in giving them questions that they could answer while still remaining on topic. I feel like I did an alright job though, and they were very excited about what I had to share. I will apply what I have learned from this in the future by finding topics, or portions of topics, that I am interested in and finding others who have similar interests that I can bounce ideas off of and share with in my community.
Next is the topic of informed and integrative thinking. I think that this is something that I am pretty good at. I often think of things, no matter the topic, in the form of a five paragraph essay. This really helped me to organize and layout the documentary from the beginning. One area of this that I grew in was that of narrowing down tons of ideas into a few meaningful ones. As you can probably identify from this piece of writing, I have many ideas and it can sometimes be difficult for me to hone in on a few and really make sense of them. I remember at the beginning, I was so careful to leave in anything and everything even slightly meaningful that any of our interviewees. By the end however, I was able to easily identify what I thought added to the story, and what could be taken out. One challenge that I faced was that of narrowing down the piles of footage we gathered into something concise and meaningful to the public. I worked through this with my team by picking out things that we thought were repeated a lot, and that worked well together, and then putting them together. As I mentioned, I found myself using knowledge from essays I have written. I applied this knowledge by identifying a claim, a few concise details that we then gathered footage around as support, and then ending with a conclusion which tied everything together and left the viewer with a sort of call to action. I will apply what I have learned here in the future by applying this same method to other projects and papers I have to do when making revisions.
The final area is that of clear and effective communication. This is certainly an area that I have grown in this school year. One example of growth that I saw was when I, along with my group, was trying to find a way to present our documentary in a way that was more than just factual. I learned that incorporating multiple different mediums in a presentation can be very powerful in communicating an idea. We did this by incorporating, music, poetry, and imagery together in the climax of our documentary to associate the more factual pieces with emotions. One challenge in this area that I faced was that of tailoring the documentary to specific audiences. I don’t know that we necessarily resolved this issue very well either. However, we did have a variety of voices in our documentary, from children to professionals, which I think did certainly lend itself to being appropriate to multiple audiences. As I mentioned earlier, when interviewing people, I had to explain my project to them. This helped me to practice tailoring my presentation to a variety of audiences. I will apply what I have learned here by not being afraid to use multiple mediums when putting together presentations for school, or other organizations.

Part 2: Unexpected Learning

I certainly faced some unexpected learning this year. I think that the most important thing I learned is not something that I would have thought I needed to know. I learned that sometimes in group projects, it can be more important to relinquish control and take a step back than to continue trying to do everything perfectly by yourself. I certainly have a tendency to try to take over in group project situations. Not out of malice, or even thinking that I could do a better job than the group as a whole, but simply out of habit. I like to know exactly where everything is in the process at every time. This becomes difficult for me when someone else is spearheading the project. I quickly learned that this could not be the case in such a large project as this documentary. From the beginning, I had said that I would take on the editing; I decided this because my teammates had done the majority of the filming due to scheduling. I was doing alright for a while, but I soon fell behind as other school work and things got in the way and my priorities got muddled. I found myself swamped, and I had to ask for help – a hard thing for me to do, especially after being so confident in my success with this. But I knew that I needed help. I worked for awhile alongside one of my teammates to sort out editing, and finally, we decided it would be easiest for her to just get it done. I grudgingly relinquished the project to her. This is where I faced my learning opportunity, for the project turned out very well in the end. We were able to have multiple voices from all of our teammates on how it should look in the end. I will certainly be able to apply this in my future as I move into more difficult classes. I know these classes will require a level of teamwork that I haven’t really had to exhibit before in a school environment. I also know that this will be very helpful to apply in my career, really in any path I choose. This applies to me specifically, as I have been thinking about going into theater, and whether I am an actor, designer, technician, etc, this principle will certainly apply to me. I know this example ties into my learning in What’s the Story from personal experience. I have been in productions where one person, no matter their department, tries to get everything done themselves, and is afraid to ask for help. While they may sometimes succeed, the times when people really work together and cooperate are when something truly meaningful and beautiful comes out of it. Through this project and program, I know that I cannot put together any sort of group effort by myself – it simply doesn’t work like that. I think that is the main piece of unexpected learning that I faced this year in What’s the Story.

Featured image is by Me!

Mariana Considine

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