For the Reflections, our goal was to create a piece that looked back on our experiences in Freestyle. This unit was very introspective, and involved creating a short film for Film, a personal essay in English, and a perspective piece and animation in Digital Media. After creating these pieces, I felt I had a stronger sense of who I am and what I want to accomplish here at Freestyle. Through writing my personal essay I found I value a job well done, through my film I learned about my independent nature, and in my perspective piece I learned more about how to communicate what I feel. After finishing this unit, I look forward to my last year at Freestyle and continuing to learn more about myself.
The first projected I started was a personal essay in English. We spent almost a month planning, drafting, and perfecting essays that many (including me) were planning on sending to colleges. After trying to plan what I would write about, I figured the best way to show my personal traits were by describing my interactions with others. I chose to focus on my time as a Special Needs buddy at my church because I feel it was a time of large personal growth. The process of constant editing and rewriting was hard, but I believe I ended the unit with a piece I can be proud of.
A low roar emanated from the heavy door in front of me. I turned the handle and pulled to release a wave of sound. To my left a battle raged between two medieval armies while on my right, dinosaurs fell from the sky only to be faced with a vanguard of Barbies. The first grade class seemed to be exploding with energy. I stood in the middle of the chaos, feeling out of place on my first day volunteering as a Special Needs buddy.
As a freshman, I was approached to be a Special Needs buddy as part of my church’s Inclusion Program. I’ve been attending church since I was young and had found a tight-knit and passionate community. Wanting to help give back to the church that had helped me so much, I’ve always readily agreed to volunteer, whether that was setting up or cleaning up for events, participating in services, or shooting videos for promotions. Helping with kids always made me nervous, though, and seeing the hectic class made me start to question my decision.
My job with Chance, my assigned student, was to help include him in the class. Although the policy was to avoid giving the buddies specific diagnoses, I had been told that Chance’s anxiety around others often triggered hyperactive behavior, or sometimes, violence. Despite my tendency to want to solve problems on my own, the prospect of having sole responsibility for this child was terrifying.
My first weeks with Chance overwhelmed me. One day he silently climbed precariously high in a utility closet for no apparent reason. At the time, I misinterpreted this lack of communication, thinking Chance was simply being difficult, which led to him trying to fulfill his own needs. Having known some people with autism and and seeing his difficulty in communication helped me to guess that he might have this condition, so to remedy the situation I did some research so I could try and interact more effectively. I wanted to do what I could to try and help him feel safe in the class.
Then one day Chance became violent. I was trying to calm him down after telling him he couldn’t climb on the roof, but the more I tried, the more upset he became until finally reaching out and hitting me.
In the chaos of Chance’s flailing hands, I remembered the disorder of my first day. I remembered how some kids pitted dinosaurs against Barbies while others calmly drew. I wouldn’t try to classify each individual child in the room, so why was I trying to put Chance in the box of an autism diagnosis? I finally understood why I had not been given his medical information: children had needs beyond general diagnoses. I needed to empathize with Chance before I could be an effective buddy. I remembered when he was in the closet and wouldn’t tell me what he needed, and so instead of telling him what to do I had to read him and communicate visually. After seeing how much pent-up energy Sam had during his outburst, I decided to take a walk with him around the building before returning to the classroom, and he came back much happier and even talked with other kids in the class.
Now, as a senior, I have a new buddy named Sam. He loves LEGO and giving giant, jumping hugs, but he has a habit of acting out a lot in class. Sometimes Sam needs to run around the building before starting class, so we run. Like Chance, Sam has taught me to think on my feet.
While my experience tells me has something like ADHD, I look at him as a person, not a diagnosis. It’s difficult, but I look forward to another year volunteering with the special needs ministry, working hard to include everyone, no matter their need.
The Perspective Piece was an audio visual project that combined an essay we wrote with a motion graphic made in After Effects. In this project we had to analyze one problem or topic we noticed in our lives and write something giving our “perspective” on it. This taught me how to translate what I was thinking not only into writing, but also into visuals that enhanced the idea I was trying to convey.
Video Essay Reflection
This video essay was made as part of my elective class, Film. We wrote and recorded our own pieces before making a film that would visually enhance what we were saying. This project was interesting because it blended writing (other than dialogue) and film in a way I had never done or seen done before.
While it was fun filming this piece, the most interesting part of this project for me was writing in a way that stood on its own yet needed visuals to really shine. It explored both visual and auditory storytelling, and to do this project successfully you had to explore both. I struggled at first to create a written piece that sounded natural, but learned through this exercise how to write and speak to make the film sound natural. After completing this project, I have been more able to introspect and know my own motivations.