The Final Retreat: What I’ve Learned

This course has been the unexpected but magical education experience I’ve been looking for. This program is able to take the four transferable skills and combine them with an unimaginable, independent learning adventure. I have learned so much during this course, somethings I was meant to learn and others are unplanned lessons. I can’t imagine going to school and continuing my education without these lessons and experiences I’ve gathered from the What’s the Story?  group.

I have really become a more self-directed learner than I already was. I have learned how to manage my time more efficiently after seeing the consequences that not doing your work on time can have on your team and on you. When one of my teammates didn’t complete his part of our documentary, it left the rest of the group to have to fix his mistake. In life we will be working in groups because we do more together so being able to manage my time individually and within a group is important. I also have learned the importance of giving feedback as well as asking for it.  A second opinion can round out your project and give you an end product that covers all the bases. Giving feedback is also important because it can really help you improve your attention to detail and give you a sense of what other people think and their ideas. During this course I have also felt engaged and have wanted to ask questions and pursue their answers not because I feel I have to in order to get a good grade, but because I want to. Compared to school, where I push myself to be successful, I push myself here because I also was to be successful, but I am interested in what I might find.

Thanks to What’s the Story?, I have also become a more responsible and involved citizen. I have learned how to create change and how to change my approach and my argument due to my audience. I want to go public with these ideas, but my team still haven’t reached the point where we feel comfortable to do so. I know we will shortly, but until then I can only plan on what I want to do with my team’s ideas. I have also learned how to create an effective argument; one that doesn’t offend anyone and convinces everyone that I respect their reasoning and their opinions, but that I think my opinion isn’t exactly right, but that it’s worth listening to.  Then I blow them away with emotional and trustworthy evidence of my opinion that makes their thinking change. I have also learned that some people are stubborn and that you have to be the flexible one and understand that by being flexible, you are helping them as well as yourself. By being able to adapt, you change your point of view and maybe you are the one in the wrong and you learn something from them and the experience. I have realized that I’m making things worse by trying to help other people when really they need to figure things out on their own. I’ve been able to recognize when I’m doing it and sometimes even stop myself before I start. I haven’t only been doing this in What’s the Story?, but also in school. When someone doesn’t understand something, I give them hints that let them figure out the solution on their own. This has made me a better citizen, friend, and team mate.

Besides becoming more self-directed and more responsible, I have also become a more informed and integrative thinker. I have learned how to take multiple sources and find the connections between their claims, facts, and opinions. I use this in school and at home when I’m writing something or making art. This is a good skill to have because in life you will always have to make connections between different things. I have also learned how different people interact different with a given issue and how they affect the outcome and situation. This is a lot like the previous skill. I use it all the time and will continue to need to use it throughout life. I am still learning how to tell if a source is reliable if I’ve never used it before, but I have learned how to use the reliable sources that I already know of to research evidence when creating and argument. In Social Studies, we just learned how to tell if a source is fake, but I haven’t put that new skill to use yet so I don’t know if I’m proficient at it yet.

The final thing that What’s the Story?  meant to teach me was clear and effective communication. When I’m trying to solve a problem between two people, I use active listening to ask questions about the issue and then use that information to try to find a solution. I used this skill during the course a ton, mostly during interviews. I also use it during school when I’m listening to other ideas and want to know more about the idea or topic. But I also use this ability outside of education. When people have a problem or are fighting, I listens to both side of the story and then try to find a compromise that satisfies both arguments. I have also learned to identify which arguments are appropriate for different audiences. You wouldn’t want to talk to kindergarteners about terrorist attacks, but you wouldn’t want to talk to high schoolers about playground rules. Knowing what message groups are trying to send and who they’re sending it to is important because you want to know who this conflict effects and who should care about it.

I have also learned things that I and the What’s the Story?  team didn’t expect. I have learned that this is the future of education. I have experienced what true learning is. I have never felt this empowered that I can do something and that feeling is what inspires me to work and learn. In schools you are given a task to do without any say in the matter. Here I can choose what I want to do and then go into the real word and talk to real people. At school, there is nothing like that. This has really opened my eyes to what I can accomplish and I have learned that this is what true motivation is like. I have also learned what successful collaboration is. At school you are put in a group randomly, with people that don’t all share the same interests and levels of motivation. It then forces the people that are motivated to pull the weight of the entire team on their shoulders. At What’s the Story?, you get into groups on your own based on your own level of interest. Everyone here is also very motivated and committed, which means they will continue to work and won’t slack off. This is such a relief compared to school group work.


What’s the Story?  has provided me with the education that I want, need, and have enjoyed. I think I will return next year to continue to work on the same topic because I feel like I can do more with this topic. I want to reach out to more people and maybe narrow my focus on just one issue surrounding migrant workers in Vermont.  I can’t wait to continue with this program and once I’ve outgrown it or am too busy, to look for other learning opportunities like it.




Elsa Lindenmeyr

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