What’s the Story? – December 2017 Newsletter

The What’s the Story? cohort met this past weekend for our second overnight retreat; here’s our agenda. When we met in November, learners pitched ideas for social action and formed collaborative teams. Here are current Vision Statements from our teams, which share current directions and who is in what team. These statements will be revised every time we meet to become increasingly focused and nuanced and reflect current direction.

After passing out WTS t-shirts and welcoming everyone into the comfy confines of the Common Ground Center, we opened the retreat focused on the dynamics of effective teams: psychological safety, dependability, structure & clarity, meaning, and impact. To help this conversation we unpacked these resources: NYT article, related graphics, team-diagnosis sheet, and this Harvard Business Review article.

After lunch, we focused on building skills to record compelling interviews of stakeholders in the coming two months. To do this, we unpacked and explored media kits with our learners (each team has a kit of their own for the next several months), worked to understand the mechanics of the equipment, discussed how to make choices when filming, and discussed strategies to conduct engaging interviews. While thinking about interviews, we also thought about the compelling components of a story. To help us think about this, we watched a short video from a producer of This American Life, where Brian Reed focused on finding action, reflection, stakes, and connecting to something larger in every compelling story.

This work teed up a phenomenal presentation from Jason Mittell, Middlebury College professor of Film and Media Culture. Jason presented last year, when one of his daughters was a WTS participant and graciously returned this year, which was a real highlight of our time together.

By Sunday morning, we took a look again at our rhythm of the year that brought into focus that groups were looking at 54 days to film interviews and b-roll shots between that weekend and our February work session.

Before allowing teams some time to create their own version of a new action plan, we paused to consider the difficulty of changing others’ minds and how to strategically move between humility and righteousness, cautious that we can actually create a ‘backfire effect’ in our efforts to change others’ minds. We took a look at The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives as a means to explore this topic as well as discussed brain-based learning: the power of the reptilian brain (social/emotional) with the more analytical prefrontal cortex. We looked at two very different and very compelling video documentaries that were created last year: Got Guilt? looks at the intersection of the dairy and veal industries in Vermont, the ways those animals are sometimes treated, and was created by Lena Ashooh; Hair is an artistic look at identity and community connection and was created by a WTS: Louisville, KY student last year.

After lunch, we took some personal reflection time for our cohort to write about the story of their learning from the past weekend and predict the their learning story of the next month and their responsibilities in it. You can see many of those recent blog posts here. These learning reflections will be a central part of a learning report that will be sent to schools in January to update them on progress of our cohort members as all our high school students are earning credit from their schools. We meet again on January 6th for a work session from 10am-2pm at Champlain Valley Union High School.


Photo Credits: Bob Uhl and Moira Donovan (both are current WTS mentors)

Tim O'Leary

Leave a Reply Text

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