A Change in Color

PART ONE

Well, I sure hope I’ve learned the four life long skills, because they also happen to be the graduation standards at CVU! Over the course of this year, I feel like I’ve grown in all of these areas, or at least enough to adequately graduate high school.

The biggest one that I think jumps out not only for me, but for this course as a whole is responsible and involved citizenship. Hands down, the best part of this course is how engaged I become in my community. I love going into the community and making real connections with people who are engaged with this topic. I was especially immersed in my community this year when I was welcomed into the HCS community to work with the GLOW group. Almost every Monday and Thursday since around January, I’ve been spending half of my lunch block reliving the experience of being in middle school. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it was pretty horrifying in the beginning. Walking through a hallway of middle schoolers as the lunch bell rings is similar to how I imagine it would feel walking across a highway during the apocalypse. But, eventually I got used to it and I started to really enjoy my time with the kids. I spent most of my time with Rainbow Spirits, a smaller group of GLOW kids that meet during the Thursday lunch block. We decided in January that we were going to make a small video about using and respecting peoples pronouns, geared towards teachers and more specifically substitute teachers. Throughout this process I’ve grown close with the members of the group, and I feel a part of the group as a whole. I see how they look up to me, as someone who is in some cases 6 years older than them and creating change in my community. They have not only been an inspiration for me to take action but a pushing force, always reminding me why I am doing all challenging work.

This brings us to self-direction, which (I’ll admit) has been a teeny bit rocky this year. I’ve had quite enough obstacles this year, if I do say so myself. Between the concussion in the beginning of the year and the SECOND concussion in the beginning of the year stretching all the way to STILL HAVING A CONCUSSION on top of just plain senioritis, I’m pretty impressed by the work I’ve done.  Having not only the GLOW kids, but the support from my community that work I did last year has generated was so crucial in this process. I am so thankful that I did the amount of work that I did and that Bill and Tim gave me so many incredible opportunities to showcase my work. Whenever my motivation is waning, I always remember being in Atlanta and meeting and talking with so many teachers from all over the country who were all so excited and interested in having conversations with their students and making changes in their classroom. Or the school in Chicago that uses Breaking Binary as a part of their health curriculum! Somehow, we actually managed to create change in communities all over the country last year, which was bigger than anything I ever imagined. I am using that to drive my self direction and I think I’ve done a bang up job.

Informed and Integrated thinking came with editing this year. I didn’t have to reconcile what this issue meant for me or for my community this year. I had a pretty good grasp on what was going on in the schools around me and for my peers.  When I heard Karen’s* story, it was a real push for me to reconsider what direction we were going in this year. I knew that nationally, we had issues but it seemed like our tiny sanctuary state was doing all that she could to best accommodate its trans and gender non-conforming students. It really took a lot of thinking, (which is a lot more difficult with a TBI, believe me) to reconcile how I was going to turn this horrifying story into a point of actionable change.  How was I going to show the immense array of experiences within the Vermont education system in a way that isn’t just overwhelming, but gives educators a direction to start in. Now, I don’t think I’ve done a perfect job of this, and I will never stop critiquing the work I’ve done BUT, I would say we’ve done a pretty good job of being really thoughtful this year. We’ve developed not only a documentary, but a workshop format, a functioning website and the beginning to a miniseries for schools to use! It took a lot of brain power to be thoughtful about these issues but I feel like we put a lot of critical thinking into each small aspect of the entire project.

As evidenced by all that has already been said, we have come together to create a pretty clear and, well, maybe not concise documentary along with a myriad of other learning/teaching tools for educators to use. To me, that says clear and most certainly effective. We have a clear call to action for educators to be more intentional about how they’re behaving in and around the classroom and we have multiple modes of communicating with our audience in order to really ensure that change. We will continue to refine our clarity before we go public, but the best test of that clarity is how well the public accepts our challenge.

PART TWO

Driving through the back hills of Hinesburg on Friday night I pondered the question; What will the Breaking Binary experience mean to me when I am old, I mean really old, like 50. I envisioned myself sitting in a rocking chair (why? I have no idea) reminiscing about the first time I bet on all the horses to change the world (oh, and by this time I’ve changed the WHOLE world). The memory, here in this hypothetical flashback, was quaint and fond, but charged with ambition.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that drive that took over every cell in my body, unlike anything I’ve experienced before. As Emily so poignantly stated in the Midd Mag article, and I don’t remember the quote exactly here, ‘there is a point at which the course changes from being just a course to something more than that, and with Eva I really saw that happen’. WtS existed as a course, a way to get credit. But for me, was the medium for creating something bigger than I was. I can only describe it as a need, a need for change and for justice within my community. After that spark was lit, there was no stopping me. I was going to do this.

Breaking Binary, and my whole WtS journey has changed me immensely as a person. I could not be more thankful for this opportunity in my life. What’s the Story has given me the understanding that I have real agency in my community, and that unless I take charge of that power, I will never create change.  What’s the Story has opened a Pandora’s box of curiosity for me, for better or for worse. Every day, I think of ten stories I want to explore and follow within my community. I’ve been charged with this bizarre electric curiosity that never leaves me, that is always running through my mind in an infinite current of questions. I’ve learned that being passionate about what you care for and preaching it wherever you go can generate change in itself and that there is immense power in letting your voice be heard.  I’ve learned that I have allies in my community that are willing to build a ladder for me to climb above the noise and ensure my voice is heard.  What’s the story has brought me a new sense of what it means to learn and what it means to be a citizen of the world, because they are one in the same! If you’re not constantly learning, what are you living for?

What’s the Story has changed the colors of the world for me and I will never forget that. So as I sign off, this my last WtS retreat and last blog post, there is a quote I’d like to share that perfectly embodies the significance of What’s the Story for me and for the world.

“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”

Margaret Mead

 

Eva Rocheleau

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