What to expect with What’s the Story, and what not to

Whats the story is about change making and young social action. We learn what they teach us, but the learning that goes on in this classroom is nothing like a traditional learning environment. Aside from learning what they want us to learn, we are also learning valuable life skills that are now available to us in a way that other programs cannot offer. We try to learn the transferable skills in regular classrooms, but it has no application or connection to the real world. This program is giving us a chance to connect learning in the classroom to a real environment and learn these skills in more of a hands-on manner.

Self direction This is the only scale that I think the classroom teaches just as well as this program. Self direction was much more relevant in the beginning of the year when we were still completing I-Search blogs, and now the learning has shifted much more towards group work and peer communication. The program has gotten much more independently focused as the year has gone on, but it has been mostly focused on group independence instead of personal independence. Here are the 4 scales of self direction:

1.1 Identify & Pursue questions I believe that this scale is covered extensively and I have grown exponentially throughout my time in What’s the Story. I was never very good at asking specific questions for feedback, but this program has created the need for meaningful feedback, and it has offered it in a way that middle school cannot offer. I would assume that is because of the more mature high-school environment, and it has opened my eyes to intelligent feedback and its importance.
1.2 Manage learning I think that I have not grown very much on this scale, but that is not because of its lack in this program, but because I believe that I am already proficient with it. I think that Whats the Story has provided a need for students to grow and choose their own path, and it forces them to come up with plans and manage their learning in a way that makes them grow. I believe that I have learned a lot about how this scale can improve learning on a widespread basis, but I think I was already pretty proficient at this from my time at public school.
1.3 Initiative / Responsibility I have grown a huge amount on this and I would like to dedicate the credit to my team. Every time there are things to be done we decide on a solution that forces everyone to not only give but also work and give their opinion. It makes it so everyone needs to take initiative for their work and learning, with very little overseeing from other people other than their teammates.

1.4 Feedback- I am much better at giving feedback, and I once again have to attribute that to the more mature learning environment that comes with having high-school students learning in the same space as middle school students. Having the deeper change making projects that we are creating here makes for a deeper level of feedback that we are unaccustomed to in middle school, and I think that I have greatly improved when it comes to that.

Responsible and Involved citizenship  We have an arts and citizenship program at our school, but it is very structured and I don’t think that it has a huge benefit to out towns and communities. When you have a group of students doing the same thing every trimester every year, it gets old. You are not creating any change. That is why I was so blown away with What’s the Story, it created a real impact to Vermont, and we are being treated like adults who have a say in current events and change making. I think I have improved a huge amount in this skill. Like I said, the arts and citizenship program at our school is sub-par, but I have done citizenship our of school in the past. When you think of citizenship, you think of picking up trash, or volunteering, or doing small tasks that people need to do. Whats the Story has put a different definition on that. I think I have created a real difference in a topic I care about, and I will never look at citizenship the same way again. That is so important in life, and I think that I have grown a huge amount on this scale.

Informed & Integrative thinker I don’t think this scale is as clear in Whats the Story as the others, but it still plays a huge role in the program. I think that we do this the most importantly when we are editing and story making. I know that we probably use systems thinking much more in other projects throughout What’s the Story, but we when it comes to interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information, editing is time where those skills are used the most. Claim & evidence is also so clear in the story making and editing process that it is where we see it the most. I don’t actually think I have grown a huge amount on this. I have grown, but I was already pretty good at evaluating information already. I think that I spent much more work on the interviewing and teamwork components then I did the editing, and I think that while informed and integrative thinking is important with those, it is not as clear as in the editing process. I do believe I am proficient however.

Clear and Effective Communication Perhaps the most relevant skill in this whole program, Whats the Story would not exist the same way without communication. The whole idea of group communication becomes so clear after we form groups after the first retreat that you really have to be a communicator; especially in an environment full of such strong and passionate learners. I would say that I am not only proficient at this skill but I exceed, mostly because I have such strong opinions. Active listening is not always one of my strong suites, but in small groups it forces me to listen closely, and that has really improved my communication skills. I think that I am good at identifying audience and centering project around that fact, and I also have learned more about storytelling here than I have any other time in my education. I believe I have improved more on this scale than any other.

Now we get into the unexpected learning. The learning that no one planned, and that I believe is personal and unique. Much of my unexpected learning comes from the fact that I am a middle school student in a high-school learning environment. Even if you don’t talk about social action, or change, or even standard education, socially I have had my eyes opened to the maturity and intellect of high-school. I believe that I have made vast improvements on the way I act and socialize with other students, and that is one very important aspect that I think this program has a unique way of teaching; because of its selective process when choosing students it is able to school students that are kind and inclusive and make everyone feel great. I think that is some involuntary learning that is very important for high school and life.

Talking more about educational learning, I think this has gotten me much more interested and engaged in pretty much everything. Since I have started this program I have started reading the news and leaning about current events for more, and I am interested/participating in more extracurricular opportunity then I used to. This program, as I have written in my other reflections, has opened my eyes to a new level of education that I did not know existed, and under it I have flourished.

I think if I were to come back in a few years and talk about what I learned this year, I would tell about the stark difference between Whats the Story and Public education, and how that blew me away. A quote from my last post “What kind of person would I recommend this too? Someone who wants to learn. Someone who wants to get away from the normal education, that wants more independence. Someone who is interested in inspiring change in their community, who is open-minded and accepting of everyone. Someone who is sick of people who distract and who ridicule and who wants to be around people who love learning, that are as interested and creative as you.” I hate the social borders/constructs of middle school and I really don’t like how immature everyone is, and Whats the Story has shown me that high-school is different and that interested and engaged learners offer a unique opportunity for me. I think the most important traits I have learned from this program goes as follows:

  • Independent
  • Conscientious
  • Realist
  • Practical/Analytical/Logical
  • Innovative
  • Insight
  • Involved
  • Genuine
  • Honest
  • Diplomatic
  • Communicative

Whats the story has been one of the most amazing experience of my life and defiantly the best educational experience I have ever had. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I urge any passionate learner to do this program- it will change your life.

Nigel Wormser

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