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Self Evaluation and Reflection

meerajay's picture

I came into my final meeting with three full pages of notes. It started off as an effort to gather my thoughts and use keywords to spark ideas that I had already ruminated on, but then ended up being extremely detailed and stream-of-consciousness. When I finished, Anne quipped, “Did you even draw breath?”

I may have over-prepared for this meeting. I came in envisioning it as more of an “exit interview” which sounds far more intense and demanding than it was meant to be. Parts of what I said felt performative because of the copious notes that I had prepared. But the entire thing was completely from the heart, totally true; I only rushed through it so quickly because I wanted to be sure that we covered everything. I wanted my thoughts to be absolutely clear in every way. Something that came out in the meeting was the fact that I have a fear of being misinterpreted, and that is something something I’ve been able to let go in some ways with this 360. It came through in the way that I prepped for and acted in this meeting. The fact that I prepped a lot also gave me the opportunity to contemplate, on my own time, how this entire semester has changed me, so I will not say that it was pointless, and that I should have gone in without any of that deep contemplation. My preparation allowed us to cover a vast expanse of topics, almost cover the questions completely.

Thoughout the meeting, I focused on the positives and the ways that I have improved throughout my courses and in terms of contributions to the group, rather than the negatives that affected me in daily classroom spaces. I realized that I did not go into depth about the fact that I do not have the longest attention span and that when conversations go over my head or get too personal, I shut down. I also did not go into depth with how academic anxiety has affected my work. I have tried to maintain my own awareness of these issues, though, and also keep the professors informed when this happens, and when I make other mistakes.

 One of the things that came from our meeting was the fact that I tend to sense vibrations in the room and that they affect me and can weigh on me when we get to more heavy topics, especially as I have gotten to know people better. I think that is intrinsic to my personality and not something that I would easily be able to change about myself, despite the other larger changes that I have slowly been able to make in my learning styles. My transition from a more structured to a more creative learning style has been powerful. When we first began brainstorming for the final project. I told Jody that I would rather write a twenty-page research paper on the topic; by the end of the semester, I had done a 180 on that count, deciding to incorporate poetry into my project. Stretching myself into the realm of art toward the end was a conscious decision, one I realized would not be easy. It required a different kind of thinking, required me to embrace the gaps, embrace the silence. I had always shied away from writing poetry or doing art in that sense because of my fear of being misinterpreted; I have always needed to convey to the audience exactly what I am thinking. I was also, in many ways, terrified of the silence, that creativity was not “perfect” enough because it is harder to attach numbers to academic work. If an outside party could not judge my work, was it even worth it? It was all part of the performative lifestyle that I have been living. Slowly, as I began to change my thought process, I realized that there was value in my emotionality, just as much as there was in my supposedly “rational” thought. With the poetry and work that I did for the final project, I aimed to bring up raw emotions for my audience rather than stun them with bare facts, and now realize that both can be attached to power. Over time, this also emerged in my changing learning style. My self-worth is no longer attached to whether I had said something in my classes, and I began to understand the power of silent contemplation.

As I have said in many instances, the classes in this 360 have been so different from other classes that I have taken at Bryn Mawr because the professors and the group as a whole was engaged in a constant, active, adaptation to changing learning processes. While I have had many classes at Bryn Mawr that brought sparks of epiphanies every class, which blew my mind at every moment, these classes worked differently. They were like a slow-moving magma beneath the surface, inevitably making monumental strides and changing the very essence of my thoughts and learning process. I now hold strong beliefs which I did not before; an example of this is my newfound belief in prison aboltion.

While I asserted that I felt like my postings and contributions were more focused on learning rather than teaching others, Jody refuted that, saying that as time went on and I began to see things as more nuanced, I brought a lot of my own experiences and opinions into this work and this has been beneficial to others. I appreciated hearing that since a part of me felt like I have taken more than I have given to this entire 360. I have always considered myself overly hopeful, too idealistic and somewhere, deep inside, believed it to be a symptom of my youth. I bring enthusiasm and optimism to every group that I am a part of, and have always wondered if this is a weakness, that I have been overlooking painful realities. Joy asserted, though, that hope can be an active, powerful thing that can still be cognizant of shifting realities and adapt to different situations; that is what I bring to the table, and that is what I should keep bringing.

This group of people has inspired me endlessly with their dedication to bring about change in the world; these are not mere idealistic dreams anymore, but a possibility because of the tireless work of organizers. The talk with Mia Mingus was a turning point for me, in which I finally began to marry theory and practice, especially when she talked about resisting current systems of power while building alternatives for the long haul. Overall, the preparation for this meeting felt especially beneficial, giving me a chance to reflect on how I have progressed in the semester. I am so incredibly grateful this game-changing 360, for the connections that I have been privileged to make with this group. I hope to attempt to bring this kind of nuanced, active, and idealistic way of thought into every teaching and learning space in my future.