December retreat reaction: We’ve come a long way


I forgot to share my blog from the November retreat, but I pasted it below just because it’s interesting to see where I was a month ago with my project, and how I’m moving forwards (if not a bit slowly) in both my knowledge of how to use the online platforms we’ve been using (Slack, google hangout etc.) and in my ideas about the direction I’m going too.


This has been a very exciting weekend because I think that personally, and as a whole Social Action program we left with some uncomfortable loose ends last retreat. I left with a very vague notion that I was in fact part of a social action team (the “art therapy” group), even if I wasn’t sure I was too interested in the subject itself. I had been floating all weekend, and finally decided I just needed to make a choice, and so I did, but when I was driving away from Common Grounds I began to have doubts. Do I really think art therapy could make a difference? What could we possibly do- teach kids how to make art and somehow help them get better through that ability? The way we had finished off the retreat also left an unresolved feeling. There was conflict about what words are acceptable to use, and if it was alright to use derogatory terms if you were trying to give an example. Maybe some of this argument was resolved over the next day, but it popped back up in our final goodbye. The tension hadn’t dissolved, and because of this I was afraid the next retreat would be uncomfortable and that like the problems that get “solved” at Middlebury High School they would be buried under the rest of the curriculum and left behind to “forget” creating an atmosphere where people were afraid to be wrong and held their tongues so they didn’t inadvertently say something controversial. To my surprise Bill addressed last month’s loose ties immediately with an article called “High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create it.” One of the points this article made that I had never thought of before was to be create, to take risks, to move out our comfort zone and do something bold it is important, it is absolutely essential to know that if you make a mistake in your idea you know you won’t be punished for it. If you don’t feel safe to go out on a limb and say something, even if people don’t agree with you, then the things you create will be exponentially less exciting and engaging and there will be little trust between team members. That’s exactly what we began to do. We talked about the mistakes in little break-out groups, but we talked about them through a lens of humility and the understanding we all do things we regret, and sometimes the point is just to learn from them.

Our art therapy group also began to shape up as they gave me a *safe* place to present a new idea I thought could add to what we were doing and create a sharper more interesting focus. It reminds me now of the Tedtalk we finished up with about the moral roots of liberal and conservatism. Human beings are born with this innate feeling of “righteousness.” We think our way is the most correct, moral, and important way, and that others are just plain wrong. But this TedTalk opened up a discussion about how we need to listen to each other, and create this safe space to share that we’ve been talking about all weekend, and try to understand and respect, if not agree with the core truths that other people hold, and value them because they are different, and different is the only way we will learn and grow.

Over the next month I anticipate that because of the safe place we’ve begun to cultivate, at least in my team we will all feel comfortable expressing new creative ideas and directions, and it will be my job, all of our jobs to listen non judgmentally so that we can make informed decisions instead of shutting people down about their ideas. From a very practical perspective I’ll have to do this with my interviews. I want my interviewees to feel comfortable to speak and have an opinions and not be silenced by fear that they will insult me or that they’re on the “wrong” side.

I’m really excited about the next few months, and overall this retreat has been a wonderful closure to the tensions that began to bubble up last month, and a great starting place to address the issues we need to from humble listening positions.




Blogging / Reflective Writing using Learning Scales


“Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.”

-Soren Kierkegaard


A quick look back: On the Identifying and pursuing questions scale I think I’m at the “got it” stage. My ideas aren’t developed enough for me to say where I’m going with what I’ve learned, but I’m at the point where I can articulate why I think my topic’s important, and what I want to and need to learn more about before I can choose where to go. About the second part; learning in a blended-learning classroom I’ve certainly struggled a little with learning how to use the different electronic tools we’re given (I’m kind of technologically incompetent), but with the help of Mr. O’Leary and others have been able to come to a better understanding of how to use these tools, and how instead of being a hassle to use, they can actually simplify and organize my information and make it more readily available to readers or other bloggers, or my group. Over the next month I anticipate maybe a little bit of assistance in learning the technicalities of different technological tools (I can mostly find my way around Slack, but still figuring out other tools and how to best use them to communicate.) because most of my life I’ve avoided computers because I didn’t know how to use them, and then when I did have to use them in High School I learned only what I absolutely needed to know (like how to use google docs etc.) but I realize that I live in a world that will increasingly shift towards technology-based learning, so my goal is not just to learn how programs work, but to learn how they could serve the purposes I need to make my team’s ideas more clear and accessible for feedback and responses. I expect I will get to practice this skill a whole lot over the next few weeks as I start to collaborate with other WTS students all across Vermont who I can only contact and work with through the computer.


Caroline Kimble

Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *