Final Post: Change Is Possible


I already knew my topic since I was continuing it and I used the same emotional and statistical points when pitching it to the cohort as I do when educating people on the importance of the topic. I was able to help group similar topics as well as realize that the two groups discussing gender needed to be two groups (Smashing Sexism & Breaking Binary) instead of one, because although similar sounding on the surface, they are two very different topics.

I can work well & efficiently with the tools we use such as Google Drive, check-ins at retreat, conversations, etc.. Blog posts are where I struggle the most, in terms of the actual writing aspect; however, I can keep track of the deadlines, events, where my group is, and other such things, I just can’t always actually meet said deadlines. I sometimes still struggle to reach out to people when I get too stressed but usually I know who to reach out to and know when I need to reach out. The issue is more one that even though I recognize that I need help completing a task it is hard for me to actually follow through and admit that to the people who can help me.

I really struggle with procrastination. I know how to plan out my time so I should be able to get everything done, but I then avoid one thing then another and it’s suddenly overwhelming. Although this struggle is still a major problem for me I do believe that I have improved over the last year. Last year nearly all of my blog posts were late (up to even a couple of weeks!) but this year the majority of them were on time. Both this year and last I have really struggled to get the end of the year tasks done because after the last retreat we aren’t meeting together anymore and my brain thinks “Okay, it’s over and everything is done”.

My feedback in the past has been broad and with no clear suggestion of how to fix it. It also had a bit of a “all-or-nothing” feel, as in I would just point out what I thought was wrong or just loosely say “Yeah, it was good” or “It’s good but, ____”. Now I can effectively offer feedback and criticism that provides a possible solution which I find helpful and I can give specifics as well as broad compliments and criticism. When you first compliment someone it makes it clear you aren’t just complaining about the work or saying it’s bad. It encourages them to consider your feedback more than if you didn’t. The suggestion gives people a deeper understanding of why you think something didn’t work, as well as giving them a place to start looking for the solution. These two things combined make constructive criticism a little more constructive, and a little less criticism.

Responsible & Involved Citizenship

Part of our goal to educate people and spread awareness was to create workshops. I played a large part in creating the workshop and I adapted it for different audiences and time constraints. We led our first workshop at the Sharon Academy with Fallon and we collected anonymous feedback at the end. I used the feedback we received to understand our audience and determine what they wanted/didn’t want. I used this information as well as my own observations to modify the workshop for the next time. Our next workshop went even better than the first.

With this topic you can’t really afford to have a nice discussion about it. The stakes are people’s lives, and that will always be more valuable than hearing everyone’s opinion. That being said, I’ve grown a lot in realizing why people think what they do. I can talk to people who are not educated on the topic as well as people who are. I try to understand other people’s perspective so I can know where they’re coming from and try to help them grow. I do try to consider their points but it goes back to the fact people often speak over oppressed groups instead of engaging with them.  It’s like asking a janitor to weigh in on how brain surgery should be done. However, I have moved on from just trying to forcefully get my point across and instead I try to actually have a conversation/discussion.

Although I believe some people’s point of view on the subject of trans* people is very harmful, I can still understand where they are coming from and try to educate them instead of force them to alter their beliefs without providing them with the important framework necessary for change.

I improved my communication so even if I didn’t complete something my team wouldn’t be left in the dark. I also initiated check-in emails and similar things to keep us all together and stay on track. Compared to last year where I would fall off the grid for weeks at a time, I now respond to texts and emails even if it’s just to say that I can’t talk at the moment.

I’m incredibly self-aware in terms of knowing my strengths and weaknesses. My biggest issue is that even though I see those strengths and weaknesses I still don’t necessarily have the capacity to self-regulate and change my behavior, yet. I am working on improving in this area and definitely feel that I am doing better than before.

Informed & Integrative Thinking

I utilized data from surveys conducted statewide and throughout the USA from reliable sources to include as statistics in our research and products. I also used first person accounts as source material from varied people and age groups. I combined the information I gathered to create meaningful and finished educational products.

I do not feel confident in how to define what a “system” is and to my knowledge we never got a clear definition or lesson on systems or at least not using the vocabulary used in the learning scales. I think I understand from the context however I would have benefitted from more instruction. I can find the parts of the story and follow what those parts are. I can come up with questions to lead an interview conversation in a way that will tell the story, and I can also identify the characters. For example, it is important to have an expert, an emotional pull on either end of the spectrum, and other related characters to build off of the main story. Even though I didn’t handle the storyboarding or editing of the documentary, there was one particular part of the film that I saw that Eva had taken out and I mentioned that it should be put back in because it had an emotional pull and really showed the stakes and helped to bring our point home. It ended up being added back and made it to the final product.

I know what is a reliable source and what isn’t. I know whether or not we need to dig deeper into an issue or an argument to see if it is real or not or what is just emotion. I know how to look at the data behind an argument/source.

Clear & Effective Communication

Some of the things that have helped me to understand and connect with a presentation is to follow along with the materials provided and also take notes. In addition I am good at processing information on the spot and then connecting that information to other ideas that will further the topic.

As a group, all of our products have a pretty clear target audience which I thinks helps us when figuring out what we should share at what times. In terms of the workshops, I’ve adapted them for different audiences as I mentioned before.

We have a form for feedback on our website which is a very clear way to get feedback. All our products and resources are available on our website organized into “teach”, “learn”, and “support” categories to allow people to find things based on their intention rather than a demographic so it fits all circumstances. I have also registered our website with Google so it’s more likely to show up in searches (which is does now!). Before you could only find it through a direct link. I now have the ability to see detailed analytics through both Google and Weebly to assess views, etc.. Overall our website is much cleaner and user friendly and I was the one who made (most of) it happen.

The storytelling used in our products is both persuasive and educational and varies depending on audience.


Unexpected Learning

Here are two stories that I would like to share that showed me that change is possible.  

The first story: A student in my class who generally had a harmful view towards trans* and similar issues started to have a more open mind after I talked about the issues a lot and also shared a link to the documentaries. I was also able to share my own knowledge on the issues directly to try and make an impact. I believe that my open sharing genuinely helped them to gain a new perspective and therefore I was encouraged that I could make a difference.

The second story:  

It really hit me at the Main Street Landing theater that we had reached many people. First of all, the space had been donated to us – which was incredible! We also had an great turnout and raised over four hundred dollars for Outright Vermont. It was amazing to see that our message had come so far and had reached so many people, and that we could create change in our community. It is my hope that everyone who attended will take the message back and create a ripple-effect.

In conclusion, my unexpected learning has been throughout the year. I’m finally learning that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, everything can be a balanced. When it ended up that I wouldn’t be able to help in the editing process, I accepted it and put my effort into the website and workshops and other helpful things.

While it is not always the case that everyone who hears our message will alter their views, I still believe it is possible to change the world one person at a time. Going into this one would think I would already know that change is possible, as I say it all the time; however it’s easy to get discouraged or not believe it, and only say it for other people’s sake. Through this project though, I have been able to see that change truly is possible, even if it starts small.


Photo courtesy of WTS Vermont.

Fiona Nelson

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