Use this page to reflect on the semester. In order to develop a holistic analysis of the course, it'd be helpful to provide any ups and downs you may have experienced and/or you feel we, as a group, experienced.

You folks ALWAYS use the forums, which can't be edited. i'm posting this here. Where i can.

i also felt i owed it to you to post something i wrote while the feelings are still raw; i've edited it, but only for clarity.

i certainly appreciate all of these reflections thus far. What i don't understand, however, is why you all continue to pass the buck on grading. You acknowledge how different this has been, then you fall back to being traditional students. Why?

Because it is hard? Holy $&#^! So what you have learned in activism is to avoid the really hard stuff?

“. . . a grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite amount of material.” – Paul Dressel

That's how hard it is, even in a traditional class. And how meaningless. But you create a paradox when, in a class about taking initiative and doing the hard work, you refuse to do the hard work. How can we give you an A, for example, if you refuse to work with us to build a case for your grade?

You also caught yourselves in a double-bind: Many of you have mentioned how you know you could have done so much more. That means you didn't measure up to your own standards. That means giving yourselves a lower grade which goes against ALL of your programming. Perhaps you need to reflect on that, on how deep into the system (you say you hate because we make you see what it has done to humans) you really are. This could be a very important moment in your development if you really dig into why you can't do this and what that means.

It means you have created the land of the absurd. You believe SO much in grades, but you realize how meaningless they are. You believe SO strongly (because it rules your behavior) in something meaningless. THAT is absurd.

The only alternative to getting out of this absurdity is MAKE IT MEANINGFUL! This is why, in every class i teach, students are involved in assessment. In the best classes, students take the initiative to be involved with me in everything. It is a co-creation among us; an attempt to create something that is authentic for this group of people who have gone through this experience. You say you love how we have created this experience together. Something you should have learned in this class is that the only way to create something meaningful is through co-creation. And now, when things get tough, you leave it to us. You walk away.

Can you understand just how hurt and insulted i feel because you folks simply want to walk away, treating us like traditional teachers, refusing to work with us--the way you have all semester--to create something meaningful?

Get your heads out of your. . .umm, out of the sand. Stare reality in its face. Understand what you have become and the incredible opportunity your GST classes offer you to become something different. Something that can change the world.

Instead of walking away from it.

But how do you decide on a grade when it has no meaning? It's difficult to put any label on this semester with something as insignificant as a letter. tom, you always give grades in every one of your classes. Even in those classes, you have a method of grading. Your classes are not conventional by any means, but I think it is safe to say this class has completely defied any other class. How can we apply even your methods of grading to this class? It just doesn't make sense. I think that is what we are all struggling with. The only thing we have to compare any method of grading to is our traditional classes. That is not exactly an easy thing to get away with. Every time I go down the path of deciding what grade we deserve, I immediately start thinking about this class in comparison to ours. To keep myself from doing this, I'm going to create some super abstract criteria that is completely my opinion and my judgement. This is what I think our criteria should be:

1. Personal growth
- Did we see a change in ourselves?
- Did classmates see a change in ourselves?

2. Growth as a community
- Did we come together to support each other?
- Did we make this class a priority?
- Did we put the necessary time into this class?

3. Growth as activists
- Did we understand what it means to be an activist?
- Did we create a project that accurately reflects activism?

Finally, did we create a class that others can look at as a model? Did we create a model for activism that others can use to apply as their own?

Based on this criteria, I honestly think we deserve an A. I don't care if this is right or wrong. Even if some people maybe did not deserve an A, others picked up the slack. Whether or not you can measure it, we spent quite a bit of time outside of class working on our activism project. We spent around 6 hours a week together, working. I have never done that for any other class. I feel like I have developed relationships with people to a level I have never achieved in any normal class. We met outside of class to hang out and get to know each other. I have seen the transformations not only in myself, but in my classmates. Looking back to that first day, each one of us has grown so much. We understand what activism is in such a different way. So if I have to apply a simple letter to what we have accomplished this semester and how we have grown as a group, I give us a freaking A.

You answered your own question ("How do you decide on a grade?") in the rest of the post. You have done a good job of giving us criteria with which to start. Others can challenge yours, build on yours, add other criteria. Once we have criteria we have an honest discussion answering questions like the ones you posted. This is how a group makes it meaningful to them. i have done this many times and, if the discussion is rich, the letter grade we all deserve becomes obvious to everyone because it is, at that point, a reflection of the conversation--the assessment--as opposed to someone's opinion detached from what the group has created.

Your grade above is your opinion, If we substituted your opinion for Jenn's, for example, we're in the same boat. The grade is detached from the collaborative work of the group.

When I said I didn't feel comfortable posting a letter grade, I didn't mean that I don't want to because I think it's too hard or just to run away from the question.

All semester we tried to unlearn our past of being traditionally educated. While many of us have a long way to go, we (as a class) constantly tried to look past tradition and create something new. In the process, I stopped thinking about grades and instead focused on the learning experience.

In this class, I finally stopped caring. I know a grade needs to be submitted, but I haven't wanted to suggest a grade because I'm insisting there's no way to measure this class using a letter. What did we have to accomplish to deserve an A? Or an A-? How about a B? I haven't answered that question, not because it's hard, but because I don't want to, because I don’t think any of us should.

Since we’ve never taken a class like this before, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a grade because we don’t have anything to compare it against. We have our knowledge of how committed we were to other classes, so then maybe we can come up with a way to decide how we did in this class. There were times we probably collectively deserved a C- for our lack of effort. There were times we deserved a B+ for really getting into discussion in class, but not being too present on the wiki. Then there were times we deserved an A because of our commitment and passion to what we're doing. Ultimately, we came up with a great "product". Does that mean we get an A? So what are we supposed to do? Come up with an average?

We all say we could have done more. But honestly, even if we had completed everything in our workplan, we (or at least I) STILL would have said we could have done more. That's what we do. We know there's always more to do, so we think there's always more we can do. But in taking a step back and looking at this semester from a balcony perspective, we did A LOT. I'm not going to say we did all we could do, but I'm also not going to say our grade should be brought down significantly because we didn't think we did enough.

Kristin, Grace, Esteban, and I have tried to provide an assessment. tom and Jenn, you keep asking us what our opinions are, but I want to know what YOU think. I don’t want this perspective as teachers; I want it as fellow members of the class who shared this experience with us.


You both are confusing assessment, a process, with a grade, a symbolic outcome of that process. We have asked you to assess, not come up with a grade.

For example, at the end of our last class, after the misunderstanding about your collaborative communication outside of Jenn and i, i said that you all--when you meet to plan the final presentation--should reflect deeply about what it is you really learned this semester and post those. i further said that, if you do that well, the grade--as a symbol of your process of assessment--would be obvious. The same thing i said in my initial reflection above.

Magali, you are the one that prompted me to say that because, after Grace left and i explained the importance of your collaborative communication outside of the class, you said that you had never thought of that before. You further recommended that i say this to all of my classes, at the beginning, in the future. i learned from your challenge and will, indeed, do so. That prompted me to suggest you all discuss what else you hadn't thought of before. Now, note that the fact that you then saw its importance means that your learning just deepened. That means that the grade that reflects that learning might now be higher.

You only came to that awareness from a process, a discussion. You never would have had that insight unless i said what i originally said, Grace misinterpreted it, and then Jenn and i explained its importance. This is what i mean by assessment being a collaborative process and the grade ONLY being a symbol of the depth of that process. We didn't want a grade. First. We wanted the reflection / discussion / assessment.

I went into the class, as everyone probably did, nervous and intimidated. Vulnerable. Isn't this how every class should start, though? We were open to change and looking at my personal, and the communal growth, from the first class, to the final meeting with the GST meeting, is astonishing. I think in order to assess what we feel we deserve we earned as a grade, we should step outside of our bodies and look at our class from the perspective of the GST faculty. Were they impressed? Were they pleased to know their trust in us was worth it? To be able to grow as an individual, with understanding autonomy in a classroom, to growing as a classroom in terms of trusting each other, and then to share that with a group of professors and mentors, and have them feel that connection instantly---that's an amazing thing. And it seldom exists within a classroom setting.

For my summer reflection/member profile essay I wrote that my biggest expectation for this class was that it would remind me that "to educate is to inspire". In a million and one ways, that was accomplished. I was inspired. WE were inspired. There was a free space created to think and act without judgment and we, vulnerably, took on a really big and intimidating task, together. If that isn't what education should be--I don't know what is. I have received a lot of As in college but they were easy to get and merely required passive learning. I am nervous to demand an A because I forgot that hard work goes into getting them; I have been molded to think the harder I work, the more I must be struggling, doing something wrong, or not understanding the material. This is a falsehood and demanding this A is the first step in combating this paradoxical mental struggle. We deserve an A. We earned an A.

I really like being able to think about our grade as a "symbol of the depth of that process". And Grace, you just beautifully articulated what I've been wanting to say. I've got to quote you again, because this nailed it for me: "I am nervous to demand an A because I forgot that hard work goes into getting them; I have been molded to think the harder I work, the more I must be struggling, doing something wrong, or not understanding the material. This is a falsehood and demanding this A is the first step in combating this paradoxical mental struggle. We deserve an A. We earned an A."

Good, even though we can't seem to help ourselves in mentioning the symbol, at least we are discussing what was learned.

What about this: Throughout the semester we had people who were disconnected from the process. A few people dominated the work done outside of class meeting (Kristin, Magali, Grace), some folks had very little presence for extended periods of time (the rest). Sig continued to come late, almost every class. Now, this seemed to be just fine with most of you but then she was 20 minutes late to the final presentation. Additionally, she was supposed to share the slides with you so that you could prepare your final presentation. But it was obvious, she didn't. Now, is that her fault? After all, her behavior had been consistent all semester. Sig was being Sig. But then why was she in charge of the only piece that you had to rely on for the presentation? So, should someone have recognized the pattern and ensured that this didn't happen in the final presentation? By the way, the presentation was very disjointed; you left out all of the part of the journey that led up to the trip and how the trip was tied into what happens beyond. When you were done Jim asked questions that, at that point, allowed you to discuss it. i know that you say above that the faculty were impressed but they had quite a few questions for me, afterwards, that they wouldn't ask you.

This does not detract from all that you did but there is something you have to understand, a key difference between the way education works and the rest of the organizational world: Outside of the classroom people are FAR more interested in what went wrong than what went right. It's because that is what leads to improvement. One of the key reasons organizations do not like to hire college grads is how well you all learn how to BS and how to spin. That is what works in here. NEVER admit your shortcomings because you do not want to influence the prof that you aren't incredible. BUT that attitude is death in performance-based systems. Think about the difference between a good athletic coach and a prof and you'll see the difference.

So all i am hearing here is how great you were. What wasn't so great? How could you have improved?

Please also note that there is no way i can put a grade on what i just said. A C? Well i am only talking about a part of our process. We are in the process of discussing, not arguing which symbol is most appropriate. No way you can do that meaningfully until you assess. It all.

One of the most obvious ways we could have improved was by holding each other more accountable. We all have different strengths, and those of us who were more present (on the wiki, doing outside research, etc.) should have put more effort into reaching out to our classmates, instead of consistently carrying the bulk of the work load. Granted, Kristin sent out texts quite frequently (especially during the last week), trying to get everyone to get stuff done, but not only should that have started earlier in the semester (by all of us), but it also ended up not being enough. There were definitely times when I personally felt overwhelmed and discouraged to continue putting effort into this class because the majority of my peers were not putting in a similar amount of effort. At times, my presence on the wiki and outside of class probably reflected those sentiments.

While the strong bonds we formed with each other obviously proved to be beneficial in many aspects of the class, holding each other accountable may have been one way these relationships proved to be a little detrimental. At least from my standpoint, I didn't feel comfortable getting on your asses because I think we're all friends and that's not how I operate with my friends. Again, this is where I could have (and should have) stretched my comfort zone more than I did. Also, since we know each other so well now, we did chalk up each others' shortcomings to just being personality traits that shouldn't/couldn't be messed with. And just maybe, someone might have not completed a task because they thought, "oh its okay, _ will do it".

Another way we could have improved was by leaving our comfort zones more than we did. There were definitely moments scattered throughout the semester that we, individually and as a class, got out of our boxes, but we could have done so more. For example, after visiting Occupy Providence, I insisted that I would go back down to Burnside Park a few more times to learn more and be a more active part of the movement. But I never went back. I "liked" the movement of facebook, regularly reading the updates...but that was about it.

Well, rather than explain why y'all deserve an A, this demonstrates learning! So, where's everyone else? What are some ideas of how, even friends, could have challenged and supported others resulting in stronger commitment from everyone?

Why is it that we can compete against people our own age, for appearances, grades, jobs, relationships, but we don't know how to challenge each other? Well, maybe that's not always true, but there's a definite hesitation. But, in many cases this semester, we have challenged each other. Kristin constantly challenged me analyze the components of organizing, Christina challenged me to have confidence because I knew together, we could find it. Maria challenged me to be sensitive.

But, at the end of the day, I think we share a common hesitation to put ourselves in a place that may make another peer feel belittled. So, we hold back. One person (peer) assuming a position of authority often ruins the communal feel of a group; it's the same in sports teams, group projects, etc. But can we all actually "ever be in something together?" Is it just a natural human tendency to form hierarchies of power? Or is this just how we've been socially conditioned?

I could analyze and interpret this class for months, but I think brevity is a thing of beauty. I grew in this class because I was able to accept I can't always be the best. I can't always be the organizer, I can't always be enthusiastic, I can't always be completely informed on the topic. What DID it teach me? I'm human. And I don't think we should look back on the class and critique what could have been better or stronger--I think, as a 20 year old college student trapped in an oppressive system of conformity and homogeneity-- I think it was pretty liberating. That liberation came from the free space that was created through exercises, brainstorming, wiki links, and outside of class meetings, reminding me that to become educated doesn't have to be synonymous with to become standardized--but in fact, the opposite.

I'm not going to harp on this anymore because my room is in boxes and my VISA is not done and I feel like I am re-iterating the same point. I enjoyed the honesty, the effort, and the passion that was shared in this class-whether tangibly evident or not--everyone contributed something and it's something to be proud of. That type of honesty, effort, and passion is what earns an A.

Grades are a difficult subject for me, mostly because I hate them so much. I feel as if giving out grades for this semester is such a paradox because were participating in a structure that we completely disagree with. During a meeting with our 201 class, we were discussing with Tom the best way to implement change in which I argued it was to be and outsider on the inside. I now see this as a paradox because this forces you to work within a system that you disagree with. As hypocritical as this may be, it is necessary to do so in order to avoid getting “expelled” from the system you are participating in. I think it’s important to assess why most of us are so caught up on grades- society and the education system forces us to in order to stay in the system.

On one side, I want to say F the system, don’t give us a grade. But on the other side, I know that giving us a good grade is important in allowing us to stay within the system. In terms of giving us a grade based on the amount of work or learning that occurred, I don’t think you can (or should) define it by a simple letter. How can a few strokes of a pencil sum up everything that was accomplished this semester?!

(On a side rant, I simply don’t understand how I’m paying an institution to regulate my learning- I’m the one paying the tuition, shouldn’t I be able to learn at my own pace and take the classes that I want? When did this adolescent period stretch so far that 20 year olds aren’t even able to make decisions like this for themselves? In the olden days, 20 year olds already had kids and were making decisions for their entire household!)

Grace says: "I don't think we should look back on the class and critique what could have been better or stronger-. . ."

Copied here is a different understanding, one from a student in my management class this semester:

"I came into this class ready for a challenge and boy did I get one. I think the biggest thing I learned from this whole experience was that it is ok to fail. Failing teaches you the most important lessons in working with an organization, being a teammate, and meeting a goal. The typical “system” discourages failure, it is a negative thing to fail at something but Tom taught us that we do nothing but learn from our failures. After weeks and weeks of “failing” class assignments I became upset, mad, and then motivated. When I look back on my failures I see how much stronger they made me and everyone of my teammates and classmates. We all worked to improve. Improvement is the key to success. My group went into this whole experience with high hopes. We got shot down a lot, told we couldn’t reach our goal but we never got discouraged by our failures. Failing at a small event made us realize we need to work hard and keep pushing and thinking and creating new events that will help us reach our goal." - Ryann Nolan, '12

This team organized an event to make money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of MA & RI. They held their event at Ri-Ra and made $2,555.00 from it. That was all they needed to do to fulfill the course requirement. To get the "grade." But they saw their event as a failure since they had wanted to make $6,500.00. That amount would allow them to be involved in a specific child's wish. But $6,666.00 is the record for a group in my OrgTheory class, it seemed pretty unlikely. But despite the fact there was only a couple of weeks left in the semester, they saw how they had failed, how they could improve, and pushed each other to make their goal. All of a sudden they were working for something greater than themselves, more important than their own grade. They held other events, sought sponsorships, and came up with creative fundraising opportunities (they created "Whiskers for Wishes," a beard-growing fundraiser that Make-A-Wish wants to continue in their own fundraising). Their passion for their cause meant that they received support from many. One of the other groups in the class was so inspired they donated a bit of money from their own fundraiser in order to make this happen. The Dean, Staff, and Faculty of the Business School contributed $400.

In their final presentation on Thursday, they reported their final total: $7,016.00. Make-A-Wish was astounded; there seems to be no precedent for such a small group of students raising enough money to sponsor a wish in such a short period of time. After the holiday break they will be involved with a child's wish, with the child and his or her family. After all, that is what this was all about.

The story you just shared is extremely moving and speaks to the very nature of education (or what it should be, at least): getting students to think beyond the grade. I don't want what I said earlier to be taken out of context-I think it's of utmost importance to reflect on a class and analyze ways to improve-how else would a class or program develop? Maybe I spoke (typed) too soon; I just felt the criticism was becoming somewhat redundant. In the past, especially with group projects, I have comprised my "likeability" in order to assume a position of authority because I felt it was the only way to get things done. I don't want to speak for everyone, but I think, early on, everyone realized the intelligence and capability every person possessed but no one wanted to be deemed the bad guy for "taking control". Trust me-I realize how silly this sounds. I understand that it is possible to delegate power and maintain a horizontal structure within a classroom, but we weren't able to do so. Why? I don't know. Yes, it was frustrating at times when the same few names appeared on the wiki over and over again. But, it was also equally annoying for some people when I disappeared for weeks at a time. How do we assess who contributed the most to the class? It's impossible. Tangible evidence and wiki statistics are just pieces of it.

At times it was the most obvious that Magali and Kristin were the leaders, but, they both were the original proponents for coffee. Therefore, was it my fault for not speaking up sooner? I did become interested and excited about coffee but it was a harder transition for me than for them-yes, it was my responsibility to voice that, and I didn't. I also felt a disconnect with the project because I knew, in the back of my head, I wouldn't be here to see it come to fruition. Again, I should have voiced that concern.

All I want to say is that despite those moments of disconnect, I still fell in love with the class. Do I wish we read more on structural activism? Sure- but nothing stopped me from going out and researching it myself. And many days, I did. Do I wish we heard more personal stories from Tom and Jenn about their experiences with activism? Sure- but again, nothing stopped me from asking.

I think in a lot of ways we (people) crave subservience more than we desire power. We're socially conditioned to hate the one in power but instead of defying that power we gravitate towards submission. Therefore, the biggest critique I have for the class is the lack of distributed power--how to fix that without seeming like the 'bad guy'? I really don't know.

What does everyone else think?

Thanks, Grace, very open and honest reflection. Just please, please, understand something (because this follows us into Capstone next year): When we were as open and honest and giving in the first two weeks of the semester, there could have never been control, never been a "bad guy," never been an authority. The river of life made that impossible, we could have worked this out together. We just either needed to have faith in each other, or have the courage to test it. We lost the opportunity, but is it ever too late?

Hi everyone,

Jenn here. First, please know that my non-presence on this discussion page until now is not a reflection of my lack of interest, but rather a result of my having been in Brooklyn for a wedding all weekend (my FIRST NIGHT AWAY with Dave and without kids since 2008!). I'm just now reading this, while Marlon and Cora nap....

well shit, as soon as I typed that, Marlon woke up. And he's hungry. So I'm gonna type fast and hope this below makes sense...

Here's a lil' piece of MY learning: continue to schedule babysitting time AFTER the last class is over so that there's time for weighing into the assessment process. If I'm back at PC in the future, this learning will be incorporated to my future classes. :)

I am appreciating a lot of what's been written here, but most of all the admissions of shortcomings and the reflections on failures. One of the hardest things in the activist world is how to hold each other to account honestly and with love, so that we get shit done and meanwhile don't cave in on ourselves.

Personally, I'm against niceness. I think niceness kills activism. It's fake. It is what we women are bred to be -- nice, sugar and spice and everything nice -- and it's bullshit. It gets in the way. I am certainly about holding each other to account honestly and with much love; but to be clear that's different from being nice.

In reflecting on the semester, I wonder if we (myself included) weren't sometimes too nice? That is, we left things on the surface because we were afraid of making waves. Sure, we were happy to make waves in the "system," but reluctant to make them in our class and in our newly-found friendships with each other.

I've been married for more than 6 years now and I can say that the best relationships aren't afraid of going deep, or getting wavy, because when relationships become "nice" that's when they fail. And some of our failures in this class, I think, were niceness.

okay...c rying baby... more later.

Ryann’s story made me realize something about myself that I am yet to come to terms with. When I am faced with hardships, tough decisions, or failures, I shut down. I say “F it, I give up.” Doesn’t seem very characteristic of someone with such strong opinions and criticisms right? But that is exactly what I do. In other classes, I have been able to give up on my work and the grade reflects poorly on me and me only. However, in a class like this by not following through with my responsibilities I have not only hurt the entire group, but the project at large. I am aware that I have severe problems with organization, time management, punctuality, and task completion, yet I do little to nothing to improve in these areas. Seeing as I have had trouble with these things for so long, I can understand how they may be viewed as “personality traits.” I think this is an unfair assessment. Often times a character trait is something we can’t necessarily control, all of the things I have listed above are controllable. Although the areas that I have trouble with may come easier to others, this is NO excuse for me not to address and correct them.

I agree with everything that Tom said about my tardiness and my responsibilities as far as the presentation was concerned. As far as I’m concerned, I fucked up. I said I’d do the slideshow, I didn’t ask for help. It should’ve been finished earlier; I should’ve been at the meeting an hour and a half before hand to run through the slides with you guys and make sure my computer was up and running. But I didn’t and instead kept everyone waiting for a half hour and screwed up the, would have been “flow” of our presentation. I was not present on the wiki, I was late for class, it took great amounts of cajoling from fellow group mates to get me to do anything, and for both the slideshows I was responsible for I was late and had not gone through them with the group prior to presenting.

I want an A. Not for me, heck I barely deserve a C-, but for those in who did everything they could to motivate the group and move this project along to where it is now. Although it’s gotten a bad rap over the semester, I feel as though an apology is necessary. So, to Kristen, Magali, Grace, Christina, Esteban, Maria, Tom, and Jenn, I’m sorry. At the same time THANK YOU, for the constant support you have given me throughout the semester, especially when I needed it most. I need to start making some serious changes in order to become a better team member and team leader.

Sig--if you are looking at wiki statistics and tardiness as the sole criteria for what constitutes a "team leader" you are more narrow-minded than I thought. Yes, this is cliche, but one definition of a leader is: "A person followed by others". You are a leader because you have the ability to connect with people on an emotional level, and inevitably, people follow your lead. You said it yourself one of the first days of class, that you have an ability to talk to any person you meet. THAT is rare and something to be proud of. I try to emulate your confidence every where I go. I appreciate your sincerity but you are human. You had a difficult semester and you were more present in our lives than you think. Maybe I'm too forgiving? If so, screw it. I won't apologize for that.

That being said, a balance between forgiveness and confrontation should have been established. I do agree with Jenn---we (especially females) are often too nice and not confrontational enough. This is something I've been struggling with my entire life. Why? I don't know. Sig, I should have approached you and told you to be more present on the wiki, to not be late to class. But who am I to say that, when I myself disappeared at times? I also found it difficult because I knew Tom, Sig and Maria going into this class but had never met Kirstin, Magali, Esteban, Jenn, and Cristina. I compromised confrontation in order to build friendships and to be liked. Selfish? Yes. And, looking back on the class, I realize confrontation and relationships are one in the same.

I am too afraid to critique others when I, myself, am deserving of criticism. And somewhere in this neutral Switzerland, accountability went out the window. THAT is my biggest regret/criticism for this class. In so many ways we stepped out of our comfort zones and embraced vulnerability but at the same time ran from the idea of uncomfortably having to confront a peer about doing more. But, we can harp on accountability all day, and every person is at fault for that. It's completely inaccurate to pinpoint one person, or have one person (as you just did, Sig) feel responsible for the entire class' setbacks and failures.

i have a different take (SURPRISE!). i honor Sig's self-reflection. That had to be difficult to do and i think you are right, Sig. You are a creative, caring human being. You have great abilities, i particularly love your ability to laugh at yourself and disarm pretty much everyone in the room. You can charm the socks off of most people and not once have i ever known you to do so in order to get something from others. These are really important abilities to have when working with anyone. As a leader (in the typical sense you use in your post) you are a train wreck. But you realize it and that is what's important at this point in your life. If leading is something important to you, you'll work hard to get there.

Grace, there isn't one of us that isn't deserving of criticism so, using your logic, none of us have the right to "throw stones." OK, i see your point. But if that is the case, none of us are goin' anywhere fast. There are at least two ways around it: be self-critical, especially publicly. Let people know your self-assessment, tell them what you are working to improve. That will tell them a lot about your character, your standards for yourself. In that way, they can help you be more of what YOU want to be, as opposed to using external criteria to judge you. Honor their self-assessment: who are we to tell them they are wrong about their self-assessment, using their own criteria?

The second way is to do what we did in the first few weeks: open ourselves up and make profound connections. Create a web of support. That web gives us the ability to challenge others, and challenge ourselves. That was my point to you last night when i said that, given the web we created, no one would have been seen as a bad guy, trying to control the situation. Challenge AND support.

If you know anything about military basic training you know that nothing is "nice" there. The commanding officer rides the recruits to the point of breaking them. The recruits learn to ride each other just as hard. The question is, why? It seems brutal, violent, a way to take humans to the breaking point. Or, you can look at it like a friend of mine who went through it did: "I learned that my life was going to depend on the people sitting at that table with me. The only way i was going to survive was to make sure these folks were strong, as tough, as invincible as they could be." It is extreme because the conditions they face are extreme.

This is the way i see life on this planet now. Extreme. If we are to survive, if our kids and grandkids are to survive, we need everyone around us to be invincible. And they will expect that from us, as well.

Well, I'm so sorry for not being a part of this. I needed a break after Capstone... I truly am not sure even where to start, but I want to address a few things. First of all, it's super weird that I know who is typing even though names are not signed. Weird. Magali, you're right that we don't like criticizing our peers and we tried hard not to do that even when we at times were frustrated with the amount of work we were putting in while others were not putting in the same amount. (By the way though, I never resented anyone for that.) I know in almost any situation, I will take a leadership role. You all helped me appreciate that characteristic. Someone mentioned earlier that sometimes someone who takes on too strong of a leadership role will make a group feel less communal. If that's the case, that person is not really a leader. Maintaining morale and still getting work done is no easy task and it is certainly something everyone will struggle with. My lack of giving a shit whether or not someone likes me definitely helps with that leadership personality, but I have seen it in each person in this class and regardless of whether or not this was apparent all the time, it was there for each of us.

Someone mentioned above how terrified we are of failing. This is true, but at the end of the day the only person you can fail is yourself. If you live your life by that, not much else matters. We are our own worst critics. If I aim to meet my own standards, there is no way I can let anyone else down because no one will have higher standards for me than myself. I hope this makes sense. I can't say it quite as eloquently as you all did, but I think I'm reiterating some points.

What I can honestly say at the end of the day is, this class would not have been possible without each one of us. Like we have all said on numerous occasions, each one of us brought a different perspective to the class. Even if you think you "fucked" up, Sig, in some ways, that brought us closer, so we each had our own things to offer the class and it's clear we all learned something new and profound about ourselves and our class as a community. -- kp

I have really appreciated the honest self-assessments and group-assessments from those of you who have posted. However, I am feeling frustrated by the fact that not everyone in our class has posted a self-assessment or reflection. That's right: Maria is MIA. This is certainly Maria's fault but it's also all of our faults, unless you all are reaching out to her and motivating her to do some reflecting and post something and tom and I are just unaware of this happening.

I sent an email to everyone asking for your thoughts about the grade. Everyone but one person has shown up here. Now it's down to the wire for us to get the grades turned in... and I would hate for the group grade to suffer because one person has not taken the time to offer an honest and very real self- and group-assessment, when everyone else has done so. I don't mean this to sound like a threat of a lower grade (ugh), but the reality is that if we are all going to receive the same grade, we're only as strong as our weakest link. Which right now is Maria.

So, who is going to make it her/his business that Maria gives us some honest assessing before midnight tonight on the wiki? We're turning in grades tomorrow first thing.

Maria: thanks in advance for showing up. I hope that you do. And I hope that you take a nod from some of your classmates who have laid out some real honest thoughts about our work together, their individual contributions (or "failures"), and our collective responsibilities. A huge part of our learning--together and individually--is in this reflecting. And right now you're missing this learning opportunity and also withholding the most learning possible from the others who would like to hear what you have to say.

I also hope you understand the loving intention in our calling you out this way.

I'm on it!- g

I just talked to Maria and she will be posting soon! I'm leaving and won't be near a computer (and lord knows I don't have a smart phone) so if she hasn't posted by 9pm, could someone else contact her to remind her? Thanks!

Okay, so here's the deal. It's 9:45pm on Tuesday: I called Maria and eventually got in touch with her via texting and she said she'd post something...but unfortunately, that was 4 hours ago. I've also been in contact with Magali and Kristin who also texted her. Chances are she's not by a computer or at her house, which is inevitable and somewhat understandable since its vacation. Is there anything else we can do?

What do you guys think?

HOOOOOOOOOOLY SMOKES. UM. Okay, well, I'd like to start by saying that you guys are the best. And I'll quickly follow that with the statement that I haven't felt quite this uncomfortable in awhile. And I definitely have my awkward moments. Frequently. Thank you to Jenn for calling me out (ouuuuuch), and thank you to everyone who texted me this afternoon. I thought I'd be able to do this a few hours ago, but I didn't have the computer access at work that I usually do. There's nothing else anyone could've done to get hold of me after Jenn's e-mail days ago and the texts today. So I'm entirely at fault. Ugh. All I can say is that I'm very, deeply sorry. And I know it just hurt(s) us as a group when I was (am) inactive. But I question the level of sincerity with which I must come across to you guys, because I've apologized before. I'm not sure I'd trust me after this.

So, my self-assessment. I was talking with Tom a few days before break, and told him I was embarrassed with my performance in the class. Though I knew somewhere in the back of my head that through my own passivity (which feels weird because I feel as though I was so active this semester, but just certainly not in this class), I was undermining the rest of the class's work, it stung a little to hear that self-evaluation firmly confirmed by him. And I really appreciated Tom's honesty. I should've done loads better. And I've really come to care for the people in this class (those of you I didn't already love simply because I didn't know you!), and (my words, not Tom's), I think it was incredibly disrespectful to you all that I didn't put forth more effort. Magali and Kristin were tireless. And also some of the busiest people I know. But they did it. Tom and Jenn (real people with lives outside of the PC bubble) came in each week with fresh ideas and invigorating, inspiring guidance. Everyone contributed in his or her own way. So why didn't I take better advantage of that momentum?

I could say I was super busy, but that's a little pathetic. A lot, actually. Because everyone in our class was. And I think that ties into an evaluation of the class as a whole. It was comprised of students who by nature are passionate and possess a variety of interests and commitments. In other words, some of the busiest through their involvement in classes and activities. These were the people who felt drawn to this class. But I think such a class could really benefit from students who have more time and energy to dedicate to the themes, research, communication, and projects that a successful edition of this class entails. Bringing it back to me, I don't think I have a good excuse for my poor performance. My mom has this line she says when I don't do something I really should have done: If it were important enough to me, I would have made time for it. Which breaks my heart to say, because the implication this argument has on my participation in the class is awful. You all were important enough to me. You were! But why didn't I do this class better and treat it, and you all, with more respect?! Could it be that it wasn't that important to me?! I'm just not going to think that, because there's no way that's true. But my actions speak otherwise. So I'm stuck.

So, in conclusion, I think my performance deserves a D. Ick. But then, Tom's evaluation, and many peoples' suggestion: perhaps performance isn't what we should be basing the grade on. Maybe instead, it should be what we learned. And I learned from all of you. From those of you who put in a gargantuan amount of effort, and then never lost your cool with those of us who didn't. And I learned from myself - actions speak louder than words: If I care, it'll show. And I didn't show you guys anywhere NEAR enough. Kind of a painful lesson to learn amongst peers and facilitators whom I so highly esteem. But a valuable lesson, perhaps in part because of the discomfort. So ultimately, if putting a letter grade on the value of the lesson I learned is a credible approach, then A it is.

Thank you, guys. For your patience, for your concern, for your higher standards because you know I'm capable of doing better. I learned from each of you, and I'm grateful for all that I learned through our project, our discussions, and our time spent together. Have a great break!

Thanks for this last push, everyone. The grades are in. I want to share some reflecting on that with you, but need to write that up here when I have some child-free moments to think and type. So, it might be a few days.

In the meantime, enjoy Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, and the Christmas season! Here in Casa Ciplet, we celebrate all three... it's a big week!


Hi again everyone,

I hope you are all having a nice holiday break. I wanted to check in again briefly about the class grade.

After much shredding of garments and gnashing of teeth, you are all going to get an "A" for Global Activism this semester. Let me be clear that I am surprised with myself: I do not fancy myself a "let's give everyone A's!" kind of teacher. My favorite professor when I was in college had only given 3 "A's" in his 13 years of teaching. For him, an A was the mark of something truly extraordinary and exceptional, not what you get for minimally fulfilling requirements. I took 4 classes from him. The best I ever did was an A-.

Also, tom asked that I make it clear that giving an A grade was my idea, not his. But he agreed to go along with me on it (thanks, tom).

I was inspired this semester by your willingness to open up to the strangers in the class, to take leaps outside of your comfort zones with the personal material we asked you to grapple with (such as articulating your "political selves" and examining white privilege), the risks many of you took with the "invisible person" assignment, and with creating an authentic learning and activist community amongst yourselves. I think you learned how to work as a team, how to challenge each other and push each other to think of things more creatively and bigger and more structural than you might have done in a more traditional class. I noticed some of you really showed up for each other when it mattered. I noticed some of you allowing for the vulnerability that comes with speaking passionately, and from the heart, about issues you really care about in the world. Having heard your reflections, I think most of you learned some valuable things during our time together that will stick with you; that is, I think some of you--most of you, in fact--achieved some *real* learning. And for that I congratulate you and feel honored to have been part of it.

However, it wasn't all rosy. Some of you drafted off your classmates all semester, and, frankly, you have them to thank for your "A." At different times, we collectively fell short of holding each other accountable, of checking in about where things were *really* at with one another and our responsibilities to the group, of speaking up when someone wasn't pulling her or his weight, of respecting our project and ourselves more than "being nice" in a surface "don't make waves" kind of way. Sometimes we didn't show up for each other. Or sometimes (okay, many times) we showed up late. Or ill-prepared. Or too tired to stay awake during a presentation. And we took advantage of the structure of the class and of the niceness of our classmates to the benefit of our own laziness and indulgence. For these reasons I agonized about whether to give the class an "A".

At the end of the day, I felt that some of you had done an A's worth of work this semester, judging by our own criteria that we've discussed on this wiki and in person. I believe (and expect) these same folks will be doing an A's worth of work going forward, next semester and beyond, as volunteers who care about our project and want it to succeed.

I would love to see some of you who fell short of solidly earning your "A" this semester step up for the project in the future. If you feel like you got an A and didn't earn it, there's still time to earn it. As with most things in life, there's no use in feeling "guilty" or "bad" about the coulda-shoulda-wouldas; rather, there *is* usefulness in changing behaviors starting right now that don't serve us in being who we wish to be.

I know that you are capable of this: everyone in this class is 100% capable of doing the routine, thoughtful, collective work that needs to be done for our project to bear fruit. For me, the "A" grade is as much about giving a vote of confidence for our work together going forward as it is a reflection of what we've done together this past semester. We've chosen to do a 3-year project. All of us are owners of that decision. At the beginning of this endeavor, when the work is still hard and cloudy-seeming and the reward of achieving something concrete feels far away, I want us to have this vote of support and acknowledgement, to give us some momentum to lay the groundwork that is still needed to get our Equal Trade ideas to take real flight.

I know we can do it.

See you in 2012!