Welcome

Thank you for checking out this little blog! The posts found here serve to document my experiences in project based learning. Posts from 2017 relate to my first project, titled Art, Emotion & Autism. All posts from 2018 will describe the events within the current semester, in which I will be focusing on writing a children’s book illustrating the importance of asking for help when they are struggling with their mental health.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.

-Hannah

 

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Expectations vs. Reality

It took J.K Rowling six years to write Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote Le Petit Prince in a year and a half, and Frank L. Baum gave The Wonderful wizard of Oz a full year, but for some reason I thought I could write my book in under a month. “It’s just a children’s book.” I said, stupidly, “How hard could it be?” Well, past Hannah, very.

I am currently in the seventh revision of my script, and running late by two weeks. When I first realized this, I was crushed. I felt that my project was failing already, and not due to laziness, but to sheer lack of skill. This is a prime example of first reactions being a poor reflection of the situation. My project hasn’t failed, and I haven’t either. As a novice in this field I had no idea of how long it would realistically take to write something I could be proud of. This problem is only exacerbated when you consider the target audience’s reading level, and the complex nature of my theme. Of course it took more than two weeks to write this book! What matters now is how I approach this problem.

We use a wide selection of organizational tools in Propel, and one of the most important is the Gantt Chart, or project Timeline. This gives a visual indicator of where you should be in your project at any given time. The original timeline indicates that not only is the script way overdue, but I should be done the vast majority of my artwork. Obviously, something had to change.

OG timeline

Original Timeline

timeline

Updated Timeline

I’ve now given myself until the Monday the 23rd to finish the script. At that point I’ll have 20 days to make 32 full page illustrations, with very few distractions. While I had very little concept for how long it would take to complete the written element of the story, I am a somewhat experienced artist and while this goal is ambitious, it is not unreasonable. While writing was hard and I found it mentally draining, art has the opposite effect. I am perfectly happy to disappear into paint and ink for hours at a time. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing, but I feel ready to move back into a more familiar field. 1.6 drawings a day doesn’t leave room for much of anything else, which means I get to spend most of each school day doing the thing I love most. To most people doing one thing all day, every day might seem monotonous, but I have grown to care about these characters and I’m so very excited to bring them (and their story) to life.

I started this semester with unrealistic expectations for myself, and it’s become clear that I’m not quite over that yet. I can’t write a book in two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write a book. It also doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer, student, or artist. I’m trying to be more compassionate to myself when setting goals. I’m not setting these sky-high goals because I honestly think they’re obtainable. I do it because I don’t see value in my work unless I do something to make it exceptional, like cutting my time in quarters. That has to change, and I can’t think of a better time to do it than now.

Not a Writer.

I started this week hunched over a desk, surrounded by my favourite children’s books. Writing a book is pretty ambitious for someone who’s never considered themselves a writer, and I was trying to isolate what made them my favourites. It became clear that each of these stories was just a tool to convey one greater message, which came as a relief as that is exactly my intention. The purpose of the book is to help young people develop healthy mental health habits early in life, particularly the importance of talking to someone about what you’re experiencing. I also knew that my book had to be conveyed through story, mirroring my old favourites, as opposed to being structured as a lesson.

With that information in mind I started the first draft of my storyboard. It was messy, illegible to anyone but me, and objectively bad. But it was a start, and with each subsequent draft it got better. By the fourth round of feedback the characters had become people with motivations and feelings, the message behind the story integrated more naturally, and the distracting elements were removed to showcase the more important components. It’s starting to feel like a real book, but I’m still not feeling much like a writer. That’s not to say I’m not a storyteller, but the written word is not my friend. While I can tell that aspects of my writing are of poor quality I’m struggling to see why, or how to fix it. I’m getting feedback from talented writers, but I worry that their advice is lost on me. This is likely the last time I’ll have this many resources and so much time available, and I while I’m confident this project is a worthwhile I can’t help thinking that I’ll walk away with a book of poor quality; an example of good intentions and nothing more.

My outlook is much more positive when it comes to creating the art to complement that writing. I am an artist, I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, and it comes naturally. While drawing out a visual version of the storyboard I felt much more confident in my ability to tell this story, and I suspect that by merging words and art some of that confidence will bleed into the writing. It is important that the story can be understood regardless of the child’s reading level, so communicating through images is crucial. I’ll be using a running metaphor to achieve this. When the main character falls into a period of depression he and his surroundings lose colour and become deconstructed. I’ll be using colour, or the lack thereof, to show this but I’ll also use adding texture with charcoal and pencil crayons. The result is almost off-putting, especially when shown on a child.

gloria-e1523476493553.jpg

While I’m always happy to receive constructive criticism I’m quite happy with this, which is a rarity when it comes to art. As impatient as I am to whip out my brush and pens there’s one step left before I get to start producing art: graphic design. Elevating the book to a professional quality by myself would be impossible, but I happen to know the most talented graphic designer who ever lived. He also happens to be my dad. Together we’ll format the book, and that way I’ll know what he needs from each piece of art before I make it.

It won’t be long until I do get to sit down with some paint, and my primary concern in this stage is not my ability, but time. I’ve got a few strategies for how to make this process as quick as possible while maintaining quality. First, I’ll be working in the medium I am most familiar with. I’ve been using watercolour paints and India Ink for four years, so I’m quite comfortable with it. I’ll also be working in stages. I’ll start by sketching every page, move onto inking, and then paint them by colour pallet. By working on multiple pieces at once I avoid wasting time while things dry, and consistency is almost guaranteed.

I’m starting to adopt a more positive mindset with regard to my writing, and I can’t wait to get started painting. I know this story needs to be told. I’m starting to think I can be the one to tell it.

Re-Calibrating

Every Propel semester comes with new challenges, but I didn’t expect to be facing them quite so soon. Before this semester had even started, Mr. Patrician suggested I write a children’s book. His reason for suggesting this was obvious; I love kids, reading, and art. Perfect combination. But I dismissed this idea immediately. I had already planned an entire project. I was going to organize a music event in support of Milly’s recovery. Bands were offering to participate, I had a few vendors thinking about it, and I had already determined the best venue. I was confident I could pull this off, but that turned out to be the biggest problem. I had already organized an event, and while I could certainly refine my skills in that area new learning opportunities would be scarce. So, I compromised. A children’s book seemed under-ambitious, and I didn’t see the value in adding my work to an already well-saturated market, especially since the nature of that audience would force me to limit the scope of themes I could address. I would not be able to talk openly about mental illness, a topic I care about deeply. A graphic novel seemed to suit my needs most closely. In this format I would be able to explore themes of mental illness, suicide, and disability openly, exposing the difficult aspects while still showing moments of joy. While I still see value in that idea, it is not something I could complete in a single semester. This became apparent during the Proof of Concept phase, in which students are asked to create a mini version of their final project over the course of two weeks. I used this time to design and assemble this short comic:

Creating all the art, merging it in InDesign, and perfecting the layout took the entire two weeks, meaning that my final project could be no more than 20 pages. This was a major problem; there was no way I could properly convey the complex nature of this experience in such little time. I’ll admit I was quite demotivated at this point, convinced I was bound for failure and unsettled by the lack of a plan. I shared these anxieties with Mr. Hansen while we were going over one of my initial story arc proposals. That conversation quickly morphed into a discussion about what “Reigns Supreme”, what matters most. In this instance, that is discouraging young people from making attempts, and presenting recovery as a realistic option. Having known me for over a year, Mr. Hansen knows that mental illness plays a huge in my life and has been for a long time. He suggested that rather than being reactive and targeting people who are already experiencing illness we could be proactive and start teaching about how to keep their minds healthy, using my personal timeline as an indication for when those lessons would be most needed. Instead of teaching teens about the terrifying reality of suicide, we cut off the desire at its root.

With our audience and medium determined I can finally dive into this project. My first step was to find a selection of children’s books that teach important lessons in a manner that is engaging and easy for children 10 and under to comprehend. The stars in this category are Janelle Cannon’s Stellaluna, Miss Rumphius by Barbra Cooney, and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse from Leo Lionni. These stories convey the importance of rejoicing in our differences, how helping others will so often help you in the end, and the value of good friends. They use metaphor effectively, and never sacrifice fun in order to communicate their core messages. Additionally, they all have distinct art styles that add to the plot without ever distracting from it. Incorporating those traits into my initial plot outline was difficult, but it became doable once I adjusted my thinking from “how does this story convey my central idea” to “How do a convey my central idea through my story?” This helped to eliminate extraneous noise and draw focus to the most valuable elements.

It’s those elements I will be focusing on during story boarding. While the quality of art holds little importance during this stage, this will help identify what needs to be at the center of each drawing- what needs to be emphasized. Once I’m pleased with the content of each drawing I’ll move to pencil sketches. It takes me roughly 3 revisions before I’m satisfied with any given drawing. At that point I’ll move to watercolours and ink, the medium in which I am most competent. Once the drawings are formatted using InDesign, I’ll contact elementary schools and arrange reading sessions with the students. This stage will start shortly after elementary report cards are due, so as not to derail the more academically charged portion of their semester. Each school will receive a copy as thanks for loaning me their time and attention. Those books will be supplied by an independent printing company, despite my initial reluctance. I had wanted to publish through an established company, but that had to be sacrificed if I wanted to visit classrooms, which holds significantly more value.

My idea of what makes a project important or worthwhile has been certainly been challenged this semester. I’m slowly learning how to construct story lines that communicate a clear message without preaching, all within my time and word count limitations. I’m seeing progress in my character designs, they look less and less like the unimaginative doodles I started with and more like people with stories to share. The more I understand this project the more difficult, and exciting, it appears. It’s become clear that projects are not valuable because of the medium in which they are presented, but because of the work and care put into their creation.

Art, Emotion, & Autism concluded

It has come to my realization that I left last semester abruptly, without providing much of a conclusion. The last few weeks were packed with assignments and deadlines, and I didn’t have the chance to write an update. A lot happened in that short period, so this update will take list form in an effort to stay within a reasonable length.

June 5th

The art show finally became a reality! We opened at 11am and packed up around 10pm. Soon after opening the doors people started wandering through, contemplating each piece and asking insightful questions. By the end of the day roughly 450 people had taken time out of their day to enjoy the show, each bringing a new perspective to the conversation. I want to say a special Thank You to all the artists who joined me at the show, it was a pleasure to work alongside you and I’m so glad you could see the whole collection.

art show

I also had the chance to speak with CBC radio’s Sabrina Carnevale, which was aired live. As a life-long CBC lover this was pretty much a dream come true.

June 19th

Earlier in the semester I had done a phone interview with Simon Fuller of the Free Press, and the article was published for all to see! You can read the full article here: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/lance/Using-art-to-talk-about-autism-429437883.html

Later that evening I spoke at the PROPEL final presentations, which give the community a chance to hear all about our projects. This was recorded, and can be found on the PROPEL YouTube channel, along with many from my peers.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx7_bYREQdY&t=609s

Not too long after this we were featured in the Jewish Post, who spoke primarily with artists Steven and Adam Goetze, who are both members of the community. This article provides insight into why art is so important to each of them, and their experience with autism.

Article link: http://www.jewishpostandnews.ca/features/2341-understanding-autism-through-art

June 20th

After all this activity it was decided we were due for a break, so after all our school responsibilities were attended to, a group of us piled into a car and drove out to the red river X. The main attraction was live music, but once they finished their set we enjoyed the carnival. Giant deep-fried pickles, funny hats, and un-winnable games were some of the highlights. Spending this time together re-affirmed that PROPEL friendships don’t end with the school day.

ex

June 23rd

Last day of PROPEL. This was not a day I had been looking forward to. My project had been at the center of my life for months, and that was gone. We spent the morning cleaning up our classroom space, and after a game of Mario Cart, some joke “awards” from the teachers, and pizza we said our goodbyes. We had plans to see each other during the summer, but that’s very different from daily contact and it would be missed.

last day

December 6th

PechaKucha Winnipeg (Chit Chat in Japanese) is an event organized by the Graphic Designers of Canada which invites individuals to share their creative pursuits with their community, and I was lucky enough to be part of their crew. Each presenter shows 20 slides, each for 20 seconds and speaks for the 6ish minutes it takes for them to cycle through. You can find my presentation here: https://www.pechakucha.org/cities/winnipeg/presentations/art-emotion-and-autism and I recommend you explore some other talks too, there are some very interesting people featured!

pk

With Art, Emotion, & Autism wrapped up we can really dive into this new project. I hope this answered any questions you may have had, and I appreciate your having read all this, especially those of you who’re still reading a whole year later.

Challenges and Opportunities

One long semester at my home school over, and we’re finally back. I am, once again, a PROPEL student. We’re back in business! I have the great privilege of throwing myself into a project of my own design for five months, and I intend to make the most of it.

Some of you may remember that my last PROPEL project placed a heavy focus on teaching people with diverse abilities, specifically low-spectrum autism, and giving them a platform through which they could express themselves. While this is still an area I’m passionate about, this time around my project is significantly different. I will not be teaching this semester- instead I will be exploring the effects of brain damage, and the resulting disability, on both the injured individual and their community in book form. I am no stranger to this subject, some of you may know that my close friend Molly (also known as Milly) sustained serious damage to their brain from lack of oxygen for a prolonged period of time. You can learn more about them here: https://www.gofundme.com/mollyrecovery.

The book- or more specifically, graphic novel- is not about Milly. This is not Milly’s story (That is not mine to tell). That said, it would not exist if they weren’t such an important part of my life. I’m so very excited to get to work, and to share it with you lovely people, but I will admit that I am feeling a little intimidated. This is not a small project by any means. There will be no room for slacking off, sick days, or goofing around. That was true last semester as well, but I had a lot less on my plate then. Between work and sign language classes I have exactly one day off per week, which means my 8:30am -6:00pm workdays won’t be an option. I have to learn how to work better, not longer. While that is the exact opposite of my traditional approach, I am excited to experiment with new learning styles. Our class has been discussing how limitations will often help us produce some of our best work, and I think we can expect to see that realized over the course of this semester.

Project work wasn’t the only reason I was so anxious to get back to PROPEL though. Our classroom community last semester was absolutely essential to my experience. We were a team, but we were also friends. It was wonderful to spend every day with people whose company I enjoyed, which something I hadn’t experienced previously. We’ve managed to stay in touch since the end of last year, but not seeing them every day was not a welcome change. I will admit that I was skeptical at the beginning of this semester. I am not exceptionally good at making friends, and I find myself quite nervous around new people. It took some time to get a vibe for everyone, but now that we’ve had a few weeks to settle in I am confident that we will once again have a happy PROPEL family. This feeling was reinforced when we were challenged to outwit an escape room together. While we didn’t get out (0.5 puzzles left!) I saw a promising quality of teamwork and some very innovative young people. I’m already looking forward to seeing what our collaborations will yield!

A new semester means a new set of challenges, within our projects and our social circle equally, and I’m choosing to see that as a good thing. I’m dealing with difficult subject matter this year, and I’ll have to be very cautious about how I address it. I have to learn how to use brand new tech, like InDesign, which is not my strong suit. And I’ll need to balance school, work, and taking care of myself. None of this will be easy, and that’s wonderful. I have so much to learn! There’s so much room for growth! And there’s no better time to start. Let’s get to work!

L’éducation fondée sur l’expérience, et son importance pour la future de notre systèm scolaire

Ça fait longs temps qu’on sait que notre système d’éducation n’est pas parfait, mais c’est difficile d’imaginer rien autre que le système qu’on sait aujourd’hui. Difficile, mais pas impossible.

Pendent les dernières quelques années, des programmes qui encouragent l’apprentissage basé sur des projets devient de plus en plus populaire. Ces programmes transforment la salle de classe d’un environnement qui traite toutes élèves de la même façon, et qui leur empêche de réussir leur plein potentiel, à une qui leur encourage d’utilité leurs différences comme avantages. Ces programmes ont des résultats incroyables en termes de leurs compétences professionnelles, santé mentale, comment ils travaillent, et les avoir comme élément de base de notre système d’éducation serait un grand avantage pour les élèves de la future.

La différence plus évidente est l’amélioration et développement des compétences professionnelles. Ces programmes force les jeunes d’explorer des stratégies de communication qui ne seront pas presque à chaque jour. Ces opportunités se présent en forme de courriels, rapport d’avancement, des conférences avec vos profs et les professionnels dans la communauté, et plus. Au commencement du semestre les élèves, en plus par, ne se sent pas à laisse d’envoyer des courriels à leurs profs, et juste quelques semaines plus tard, ils communiquant avec des professionnels du vrai vie. Ce progrès est remarqué par les élèves comme Adam Smallwood, un jeune créateur de mode. « J’ai appris comment négocier avec des clients et des fabriquant. Ça m’a aidé à promouvoir mon entreprise et augmenter mes contacts. ». Adam n’est pas la seul. Les élèves de PROPEL et leurs projets sont souvent présentés aux radio (CBC, CJOB), télé (CTV, Global), et au journal (Free Press, Lance, Globe and Mail, Metro, Jewish Post, et La Liberté). Tous ces groupes était contacté par les élèves eux même, et ces opportunités ne seront pas possible sans les conseils des profs et la pratique constante.

Seulement mentionner communication ne serait pas juste aux programmes, ni les élèves. Plusieurs élèves se concentre sur les talents nécessaires pour leurs emplois futurs. Ceci peut inclure comment crée une jeu vidéo (Comme Alex Kitt, Shae-Lyn Tuomi, et Nick Candaele de Propel) ou tout une variété de métiers, comme tout élèves inscrit à ATC. En plusieurs cas, les compétences gagnées à ATC vous préparent pour entre au travaille directement. « Après ceci ils pourraient transférer au niveau sois résidentiel ou commercial, application ou travaille de service. Ils pourraient faire tout sort de choses. » dit un des profs de plomberie.

Le prochain facteur ne semble pas d’avoir autant d’importance, mais c’est un des facteurs plus important et spécial de ces programmes. La santé mentale est souvent une grande défit pour les jeunes de secondaire. Comment vous avez l’aire, les vêtements que vous portez, vous notes en classe, les opinions de vos profs et pair… ça peut vous submerger facilement. Les programmes tels que PROPEL et ATC ont plusieurs qualités qui aide d’éviter le stress inutile. La première de ces qualités est que travailler les choses qui vous intéresse et qui t’affect d’une façon directe vous aide à développer une identité fort. Il y a plusieurs raisons pour laquelle ceci est importante. Pour vous-même, savoir qui tu est en termes de valeurs, intérêts, et compétences enlève plusieurs des inquiétudes souvent senti par des ados. Avoir l’option de vivre d’une manière qui s’aligne avec votre identité est une guarani de meilleure estime de soi. De plus, s’aide à combattre quelques-uns des problèmes sociaux trouve en écoles secondaires. Les relations sociales en secondaire sont très compliquées, en parti parce-que les façons en laquelle vous pouvez t’exprime sont limite par votre horaire en plus par déterminer par la division scolaire. Pour ceux et celles qui ne vous connais pas en détail qui vous êtes est en grand par détermine par comment vous t’habille et vos marques. En situations tel que PROPEL et ATC vos valeurs se voit en tout que vous faits. Vos projets, les cours a laquelle vous vous inscrite, et comment vous travaillez. Ses avantages de base mene a des individues et des groupes forts, qui pouvant travailler seul et ensemble pour réussir en plusieurs sujets. L’importance de ceci est noté par Lexi Howika de PROPEL, qui dit « Je ne peux pas remercier mes profs assez, pour me pousser plus que aucun autre prof que j’ai eu, ma famille PROPEL pour encourager mon côté rigolo, pour me démontrer qu’être fort vous amènera du succès, et pour me donner une expérience d’amitié comme je n’ai jamais eu. »

Il faut aussi mentionner que la structure de classe laisse beaucoup plus de place pour les besoins individuels des élèves. Les profs ont du temps pour parler avec les élèves qui ont de la difficulté avec leur bien-être mental et ensemble ils pouvant crée des stratégies longue-terme et pour des moments du crise. Simplement avoir une communauté forte et gentil avec qui vous pouvez travailler fait énorme de différence pour ceux et celles qui combatte les maladies mentales.

Le dernier facteur qu’on discutera est la différence en comment les élèves dans ces programmes apprennent. Dans ces programmes spéciaux il est très commun que les élèves passent une grande majorité de leur journée en travaillant des projets d’une façon très indépendant. Bien sûr il y à leçons au sujet de style d’écriture et autre sujets plutôt académique, mais la plus par de vos travaux se font seul, et ceci vous aide énormément. Quand vous apprenez indépendantes vous avez plus de chance d’apprendre que sont vos styles d’apprentissages, et aussi de reconnaitre et adressé des problèmes. Étudient de PROEPL, Victoria Turko exprime ceci parfaitement, en disant « Je n’ai pas seulement appris comment produire de la musique, j’ai appris comment apprendre! ». Les résultats immédiats de ceci se voit dans les notes des élèves qui participent, et dans la montant de travail ils peuvent faire. Pour certaines élèves, une note peut augmenter de 34%, et ce n’est pas rare que les élèves restent à l’école pour des heures après la dernière cloche sonne. Comme élève de PROPEL Drey Warde avait dit, « Même comme j’étais totalement épuisé, j’avais adoré chaque minute. » Être capable de travailler forte pour des longues heures est une compétence essentiale pour tout la vie, et serrait un avantage énorme pour ceux et celles qui vont continuer leurs études à l’université.

Les avantages mentionnés dans ces documents sont seulement une petite portion des avantages innumérables qui sont présenter pour des élèves passionnés, et même comme ces programmes ne seront pas idéal pour toutes élèves, les compétences gagnés en termes du monde professionnelle, comment prendre soins de vous-même, et apprendre des nouveaux sujets d’une manière indépendant pourrait servir un grand nombre d’élèves pour toutes leurs vies. Il vaut la peine de changer notre system scolaire pour l’amélioré, et j’espère que vous serrez prêts pour aider faire une différence quand l’opportunité se présente.

 

Merci à tous ces ressources:

Hansen, Patrick et Patrician, Matt. PROPEL LRSD Media, 2015-2017. (Page consulter le 1 novembre 2017) <http://www.propellrsd.com/media/>

Hansen, Patrick, Propel Project Based Learning [Trailer] (YouTube). Hansen, Patrick, le 2 mars 2017. 1 YouTube-Vidéo 1 :21 minutes

Kitt, Alex. Long Time No See…, le 1 mai 2017. (Page consulter le 1 novembre, 2017) <https://drkittblog.wordpress.com/>

Inconnue, Louis Riel Arts and Technology Centre – Plumbing Program (YouTube). LRSDTV, le 7 février 2017. 1 YouTube-Vidéo 3 :14 minutes

Traduction de documents compléter par Hannah Lyttle.

Time Management

Time management is something most people struggle with at one point or another, and I am no exception. Whether it’s getting downstairs to teach on time, to publishing blog entries on time, being on time is vital to professional and effective work. To make this easier, I have started using a number of new strategies. Firstly, I have set up an online calendar through Outlook. Here I can list when I’m working and where, family events, and other social responsibilities. I will also be using this to note long-term project deadlines. I like this program because it gives clear visuals, is intuitive, and you can easily adjust when you receive event reminders. While this is very useful for tasks more than a week in advance, but for more urgent tasks I intend to use a trifecta of tools. First of these is my all-encompassing Excel checklist. Just today I put together a colour-coded list of everything I will complete in the foreseeable future. This list has a progress bar, as well as a column for deadlines. This will be the first home of any responsibilities. Next it will move to our classroom whiteboards. Each student has a book-sized white board, on which they write goals for the day ahead. On the day I plan on completing the assigned task, I will write down the goal and all its steps. As they are completed, I will receive oh-so-satisfying check marks. The final destination for an assignment is my mobile phone. I can set reminders within a week, and if I have to submit something first thing in the morning, having my phone yell at me is going to be a good motivator. These methods are sure to grow and change, but I’m looking forward to a cleaner, more organized school life.

Project Challenges

This semester, I have had the opportunity to work alongside students at Nelson McIntyre who have ASD. These students are part of a class which is specialized to their individual needs called IPSA. We have spent a few weeks getting to know each other, and I have recently started leading lessons in emotion themed art. Today I’ll be reflecting on my first lesson. Strap in folks, this is going to be a wild ride.

I have learned a lot from the IPSA students, and thought I was prepared to lead them in a lesson. I was wrong. Being wrong isn’t always a bad thing, though. As long as you take mistakes as an opportunity to learn, they are just as valuable as successes, if not more. On that note, let’s talk about some of the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned.

When preparing to teach, I was told that flexibility would be key. Unfortunately, my anxious brain didn’t remember this, so, when it came time to teach, I had every motion planned without ever realizing it. As anyone with even a passing relationship with reality might guess, the day did not go according to plan. Right off the bat, I was late. With -4 minutes to spare, I bolted into the classroom, grabbed my example piece and sprinted off to the classroom in which I was teaching.

I skidded into the art room, apologizing profusely, and took a second to catch my breath and scan the room. I noticed immediately that two of the six students were absent. This alone wouldn’t be an issue, but I also noticed that the students in attendance were more agitated than they usually were. This meant that while I was explaining the activity, most of the students were not able to concentrate. The EAs encouraged me to continue the explanation, and somewhat nervously, I did. With the EAs in the loop, I was able to approach each student individually and explain the task in ways tailored to their individual needs. Despite one student having to leave the class mid-explanation, this went over relatively well. Two of the students were fairly engaged, and I took some time to speak with one of them about what they might theme their work around. The first student I spoke with loves movies, and at the moment Frozen is a favourite. He decided to draw Olaf, the beloved snowman, and did a fantastic job. His success gave me a bit of a boost, and I started speaking with some of the less engaged students about the project. Not everyone was in the mood for talking, and while I knew it wasn’t personal, I couldn’t help but blame myself. At this point my anxiety started to grow again, about instead of addressing it I chose to totally ignore it. I started jumping from student to student, explaining the project to new-comers, talking strategy with EAs, and discussing with students.  My heightened levels of anxiety were making my explanations flawed, and I was having more and more trouble processing information. I was later told that switching my attention like that is a sure-fire way to emotionally drain myself, and am learning how to avoid it. The class began to dissipate after a few more minutes, and I shakily made my way up to my homeroom, where a verbally restrictive panic attack started. This was brought on by built up stress from the lesson, and had I dealt with these stresses earlier or prepared myself better, it would not have been nearly as intense.

Difficult as it was, I am glad to have had this experience. I learned more from my mistakes than I would have from a total success. As one of my favourite teachers says, “Fail often to succeed faster”. In later lessons, I have come earlier and more prepared, made use of more in-class tools, and learned how to collaborate with EAs. I have taught a few lessons now, and while I’m by no means a pro, I’m getting better every round.

Tigers’ Den

Yesterday the Propel team, along with a few other school groups, met at the LRSD board office to participate in an event called Tigers’ Den. Tigers’ Den gives students a chance to create a product/service and compete with other groups for the title of Best Product (or service).

I was first in my group to arrive, which gave me time to get used to the environment and settle my nerves before making my way back to my group table. It wasn’t long until the rest of my crew arrived, and we started discussing whose idea would be used. This task was taken care of quickly, as only two of our five had ideas prepared. My idea for a customize-able headrest that supports from the forehead, chin, and back of the head was chosen, making me CEO. We spent the vast majority of the day identifying our customer base (people who have disabilities that make it difficult for them to support their own heads), determining price points (539.99$ per unit), who to distribute through (clinics, rehab centers, specialized care homes), and making a prototype. By 1:45 we had our big poster, a prototype, and a diagram done.

We made our way over to our presenting station and set up. We only had time for one run through before our first judges (or Tigers) arrived. The run through went okay, I corrected a few speech patterns and reminded everyone to speak loudly. While the team was mostly good to go, I felt some of those nerves from earlier making themselves known to me.

I am usually quite comfortable with public speaking, but I learned yesterday that that only applies to when I am presenting alone. I don’t like losing control over how other judge me, and I could feel that control slipping away as I introduced my partner. When it was my turn again I was even less composed, and the quality of my presentations was deteriorating as the day went on. Halfway through I knew this wasn’t going to pass, and if I didn’t do something soon my nerves would turn into a full blown anxiety attack, ruining any chance of success we still had. I ran across the room to get some water, maybe being alone for a minute would help. Just as I was about to fill up my glass, a man carrying a water jug came to replace the near-empty one. As he fiddled with the dispenser I felt my time ticking away, and just as he fitted the bottle in I saw the next two Tigers approaching our station. Abandoning my cup I sprinted back to our station, arriving only a few seconds late. I rushed through the intro, but I honestly thought that was my best presentation of the day. This told me that the issue was in my head, and if I could focus on the information instead of my delivery I would be more confident and successful. I tried to do this for the remaining few judges, and felt much better about my role in the project.

We ended up placing third, within 5 points from the gold, but that’s not important. What is important is that I learned how to work and present in a group, how to fail, and how to use those failures as learning opportunities.

Dress mess

Two and a half years ago, my cousin Shauna got engaged to her now wife, Catrina. They knew very early on that they wanted to be married outside of Canada, as they both love travelling. Together they searched for locations, made arrangements, and got their respective bridal parties together. When the day finally came they were perfectly prepared. I, on the other hand, was not.

The previous November I had decided that I would not purchase any clothing from retail stores for a minimum of one year. This meant I would have to find a dress at a thrift store, or make one. It seemed much more possible to make one, and it was something I thought would be interesting if nothing else. So Ida and I went down to Fabric Land and picked out a suitable dark blue fabric, as well as the lining. We had already found a pattern online for a good price and it was in the mail. Rather, it should have been in the mail. Three weeks later, and just more than a week until we left for the wedding, the pattern was still undelivered. We called the company, but there was no answer and all evidence suggested that they had stopped operations completely. We started our somewhat frantic search for a new pattern. Finally we settled on one we could find in the city, even though it was pricier and required more changes.

We quickly set to work, cutting out our fabric and, at finally, stitching everything together. We had only completed the first few steps when we realized that we didn’t quite have enough fabric to complete the next step. It was a few more days until we were able to get everything together and resume construction. From this point things when pretty smoothly, but we were still short on time. Knowing this, we moved into high gear and did as much work on the dress as we could. Despite our speedy working, this was only my second dress, and I’m not the speediest seamstress. We got on the plane with everything but the hem and lining finished. With a packed schedule we had no time to finish it, until the wedding day itself. At this point all we had left to do was the hem, which wouldn’t be a problem if circle skirts didn’t have enormously long hems. This lead to me sitting in my grandma’s room, 2 hours before the wedding, franticly hemming. With about 30 minutes left I had sewn the final stitch, and snipped the last thread, leaving me with just enough time to get ready for the wedding. The wedding was beautiful, as were the brides. In the end I was grateful for the circle skirt, despite the stress it gave me. There are few things I like more than dramatic spins.