November Retreat: Anomia & Alliteration

With five hours of sleep and too much coffee in my system, I pulled onto the dirt road and into the parking lot, grateful to have finished following the car that was driving like, 35 mph down Route 116 (seriously, what’s that about??). As I stepped into the large room with fairy lights dangling from the ceiling, I had no idea what to expect. Scrolling through the other learners and their blogs, I began seeing interesting topics that I hadn’t previously considered. Mental health. Sexism. Gender identity. Discrimination. Ideas rushed into my head: plans, solutions, conflicts. I was surrounded by 26 stories, all encouraging me to jump on board. Each pitch threw a whirlwind of information at me, until I had become completely confused.

The worst part was waiting for my turn. From the very first pitch, I knew mine was out of place. Most people had memorized their speeches, or simply discussed them casually with the group. They had colorful presentations with detailed outlines of their ideas. I had a black and white slideshow with a word-for-word presentation of what I would say, which I hadn’t even printed out. I spent lunch copying down my speech by hand and doing breathing exercises to calm my nerves. And of course, the pitch didn’t go great. I looked up like, twice, and stood still the entire time. I guess it went better than I thought, because people seemed to like my idea… kind of. But that comes later.

My first thought was “how are we going to do this?” Organizing into groups seemed nearly impossible. However, the day evolved and so did my ideas. Listening to pitches, I became incredibly interested in two topics: Mental Health and Breaking Binary. Through discussion in our room before dinner, during the official meeting, and in a smaller group of people interested in the broad umbrella of gender in schools, I discovered Smashing Sexism, which incorporating gender discrimination, sexism, Breaking Binary, and the dress code into a single problem. And yes, it’s called Smashing Sexism. I came up with the name as a joke. Because you know, alliteration. Honestly, I think it’s going to stick. At least for now.

My group soon became enthusiastic. Like, really enthusiastic. We had so many ideas and plans and it seemed like chaos. It WAS chaos. We talked for a long time, trying to come up with a story that we could tell and how we could get there. After much debate and discussion, we came up with scaffolding for our schedule until the next retreat, with weekly and overall goals. Somehow, we organized our information and ideas, negotiated a method of communication (a lot harder than it sounds) and created a plan.

I’m so excited to get to work on my tasks and share my progress with my team at the end of the week. I see so much room for improvement in this area and so many ways in which we can go about making change. We’ve already made incredible progress and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish at the next retreat. I hope that we’ll be ~slightly~ better at Anomia by that point.



Anna Buteau

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