Wednesday, 10 October 2012

the bodies in the winter are coming for you

Just watch.

Hats off to you.


  1. Dear Miss Michelle, you get me.
    It may not seem like it all the time, because in my close group of friends I can be far too loud and extroverted, but social interaction terrifies me.

    If I see someone I only know moderately at a party, I would rather be alone. If I see a group of my acquaintances in a circle, my first impression is that they will judge me. I would rather stand in a corner, alone with my thoughts than ever face rejection or have to impress someone. I would rather hide.

    I will force myself to break out of my 'bubble' occasionally, but it's just the scariest thing. Little things can destroy my motivation and self esteem and a change of facial expression or turn of phrase can have me going "Aditi! GO away, they don't want to talk to you!". Nothing I write or draw is ever good enough, because comparatively, it's not better than most.

    If I get to know someone, they will see my true colours, but until then, I fear I come across as sarcastic and antisocial. Even some of my close friends have mentioned it to me. "You can talk to them you know! I don't understand. Why are you so scared? Just go, it's so easy. Why don't you even try? It's not like you're shy.", and it's terribly hard to explain. I really do want to change that, but it's something I have to overcome. Thanks for making this and reading my extremely long comment. :)

  2. Let me start by saying you are an amazing, beautiful and courageous person. I first saw your video this morning and it has been with me all day. I heard your voice as I waited for the light to change driving my kids around town. I heard your voice as I watched the sun set over the ocean, and now here I am alone in my house with a quiet song playing on my speakers listening to it again.

    I wasn't sure how to respond--in text, with a video, perhaps a scribbled confession or a series of predictable promises. Maybe some tattered hints at hope or perhaps a few see-through lies that would leave you empty. I wanted my response to resonate, to be authentic, at least sound real, but how can we communicate authentically with so much space between us? Besides what can I tell you, you do not already know?

    I became a teacher because I made a promise to myself at the age of 8 that I would help other kids not feel as alone as I did when I grew up. I was an eighth grader once too, and I wanted "to erase myself too." It also filled me with rage. (Actually still does sometimes) I was(am) self-conscious. I was(am) convinced that I was not attractive and I live(d) to be loved by others. It was myself I knew I should be and care for. I promised that someday I would help other young people not feel so alone. I am here, not sure how much help I am, but….

    You mentioned your admiration for people who can just be themselves without worrying, well let me tell you--there are very few of them. Life has taught me that most people are small and scared and alone and afraid. The bigger they act, the more scared they feel. It is okay to be vulnerable and quiet. It is okay not to have it figured it out. It is okay to create and erase and create and erase and experiment. it is okay to be loud when you are alone and quiet in class. It is okay to take your time in your shell. Build a self and let her grow into herself.

    I am sorry if I push you too hard in class to be someone you are not. I see who you are in these clips, in your text, in your videos, in your art ----and that is enough. You do not need to pretend to be someone you are not, just to appear more social, more normal, more adjusted. Your ability to reflect so openly and expose your vulnerability is one of the bravest things I have seen in a while. Thank you. Thank you. You give me strength.

    We will be discussing these issues of normalcy, shells and bubbles and more in the next unit, so stay tuned. My respect for you at this time knows no bounds. I have a lot to share with you, but we have all year… here is a place to start:

  3. There is something about you Michelle, that gets under people's skin. And I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean in a hauntingly good way.

    I adore this post because it is so authentic. Authentically you. While pouring your heart out, you can't help but have awesome transitions and well-edited cuts on your video! Brilliant.

    I think this is one of those videos that is going to make a difference to people, because when you're grade 8 you think most everyone else has got it together and you are the one that doesn't. This video is going to show the others that they are not alone.

    In my (increasingly) advanced years, I have the benefit of being able to tell you what it's like on the other side of high school (at least, what it was like for me). It may seem that in Middle School you're somewhere on a social hierarchy, but that is only a mirage. The very popular, socially confident teenagers I admired back then aren't any better looking, any happier, any better off in their adult lives than I am. Indeed many, less so, which is sad.

    I think sometimes we try to portray things in our lives as always wonderful and amazing. I had a friend say, "I see what you post on Facebook and your family looks so perfect! Your kids say funny things, you travel all sorts of places and you have such a great life!" I was so surprised she thought that, but now, it makes so much sense.

    People like sharing the good stuff, the happy stuff, the stuff that makes them proud. That part is easy. But it's the other stuff - the gritty, raw, hard stuff - that we need to make sure we share too, because otherwise we are filtering so much that people might think perfect is normal. And it's not. Not in my life!

    I am so pleased and proud that you felt courageous enough to share this with the world. I know how hard it must have been. I hope this self-conscious phase is a brief one - because I for one think you are beautiful, creative, talented and brave. And I can't wait to see what else you have inside you.

  4. I am curious, why did you choose a video on your blog to reveal yourself like this? What is there about a webcam that allows you to tell who you are, knowing that people you don't know will see it?

    BTW Mr. Raisdana gave me the link, I tend to lurk but not stalk :)

  5. Oh my god, I really felt that. Thank you so much. I feel the EXACT same way. I sometimes have problems breaking the ice and envy the people who can act weird and get a hundred fans for it. I also have this strange habit of re-arranging my hair but WORSE: I sometimes carry a small girl's brush which folds out with a mirror when I go to social places in fear that I may not look great. But that changed when I went to this friend's house. She was wearing the UWC sports shorts ON THE WEEKEND, a red football shirt, had her hair in knots and wrote on her cupboards. And I thought that I could NEVER do anything like that in front of someone else because I'm too self conscious. But the WORSE is that sometimes, I'm so conscious that people actually come up to me and say that I'm giving out a negative energy, which is why I'm self conscious in the first place! This post was amazing, inspirational and managed to make me skip 2 mins of math class just watching it. Tell me if you mind your video being on my facebook page.

  6. Mr. Chamberlain has a key question and point. This is an example of the "new" generation of media-savvy youngsters feeling the need to share their deepest, darkest secrets with complete strangers. It's concerning to me as an administrator of a K-8 school. It's even more concerning to me that teachers respond to such posts online, good intentions or otherwise.
    Sorry, it's just a bit much for me. Is it a free-for-all in New Zealand with students/staff posting anything online? I have what I believe to be a very progressive policy at my school, allowing students to use their devices during their breaks without consequence. Also, teachers are allowed usage of devices in class for educational purposes. The protocol has limits in terms of taking photos and videos due to privacy rules. My kids have stuck to the plan quite nicely.
    This type of post would likely not find its way on a school-based blog. Nor the teacher comments. The young lady has a right as anyone to speak her mind to the world without censure. In school? At school? Not so sure.

  7. Hello M. Mitchell,

    I am doing everything I can not to respond in full to your comment, because I want to give Michelle and other students a chance to respond to you first.

    I will, however, make a few observations:

    1. Your profile is private and limited and so we cannot really check your digital foot print to ensure who you are. Makes seeing you as a real person and so trusting you difficult to do.

    2. I found it interesting that although this is Michelle's space, you chose not to address her directly. Seems to be that when leaving a comment on a blog one would validate the voice of the author by acknowledging them and their thoughts.

    I will leave it to Michelle to speak to your concerns about the "free-for-all environment we have created.

    Hope that this conversations ends up bearing fruit for all of us.

  8. You are entitled to your own opinions, Mr M. Mitchell, and this is mine.

    Complete strangers or not, we always feel a sense of belonging when putting forward our thoughts online. It is interesting that you mention that your school limits students from doing certain things with the technology they are given access to. Why is it that our voice is limited this way? Shouldn't "the new generation of media-savvy youngsters" be allowed to feel as comfortable and free as they would in the free world, online? Shouldn't we be able to speak our mind in the place we are learning, in order to grow?

    By molding our online personas at school, we have guidance. We are not held back. Online expression doesn't become something foreign and scandalous. Online expression is normal, and we, as a full-scale community, should respect it. And "youngsters", along with many full-grown adults, believe this.

    School is a place where teachers can support us in these endeavors. Posting media is an invitation for teachers and peers to submit feedback, thoughts, ideas and comments. Most of all, it is an invitation for others to share knowledge, to contribute to a conversation that may very well carry on for a long time. That is how we should learn, and that is how we do learn.

    What difference does it make if you post these videos privately, or put them on a 'school' blog? Should there be much of a difference? They are all, in the end, invitations and messages, and as a generation that is largely online, we should learn to extend the etiquette we use in real life, online. What better way is there to do this, than have our schools help us?

    In the end, I would still like to thank you for leaving your comment. You have given me something to think about, and in return I do hope that my words are words you will think about.

    - Michelle.

  9. I'm also curious as to how you assumed that my school is situated in New Zealand.

  10. Very compelling post, very nice to hear and I enjoyed the video as it brings a new element to this idea of blogging. Also the commenting back and forth on these ideas is very interesting and had me hooked! Good Job!

  11. I don't think I can phrase my response quite as eloquently as Michelle has, but I'll attempt to put my thoughts to paper.

    The internet is an entirely new medium for expression in the world, the likes of which has never been seen before. What you post online can reach the world.

    And this doesn't always work, it's true. It's always good to have some caution in how you express yourself, no matter what medium you use.

    The thing is - many people feel far more comfortable expressing themselves online - and often to complete strangers. The online world is fascinating in the way that you can build friendships with people you may never see.

    The way we express ourselves in this online world will shape our generation for years to come. We embrace this, and foster our online lives at school.

    Take this away, and we lose this freedom. Solal's reflection on being a 'social outcast', Michelle's thoughts on how we trap ourselves inside our own shells. Voices silenced; thoughts lost to the wind.

    We should strive to embrace this new culture we have created. One where almost anyone can share their stories. A world connected.

    Is not the internet yet another part of our free speech? We are able to express ourselves in full elsewhere, so why not here, in this new frontier?

    Something to mull over, at the very least.

  12. M. Mitchell I am saddened and puzzled by your response to Michelle's post.

    You expressed your concern a number of times, however I remain unclear as to exactly what you are concerned about.

    Is it that Michelle expressed her feelings online?

    If it were in a school writing book, would that be better? Where noone but her teacher can see it? Where none of her peers would be able to make connections? Where none could realize that they are not alone? Where people on the other side of the world would be oblivious to the incredible insights of a teenager brave enough to share?

    Is it that she is talking to "complete strangers"?

    You appear caught up in the vastly over-hyped myth of 'stranger danger' online.
    [refer to articles such as this from the NY Times, or The Myth of Online Predators, or this on 'Juvenoia' Part 1 Why Internet fear is overrated.]

    It implies both that strangers are of no possible value (more likely, probable danger), and that only people who know you can have anything useful to offer.

    Is knowing someone beforehand any guarantee of security? Safety? Support?

    At some point, most of your friends were strangers to you - do you see where I'm going with this? To quote the great William Butler Yeats, "There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."

    Back to your concerns, is it that her teachers responded?

    If we didn't take the opportunity to interact with our students online, then think how much we would miss! We wouldn't know these feelings of great significance that happen in the lives of the students we care about.

    The more we know our students, the better we are able to judge when the right time is to give them a nudge ahead, or when to ease up on them. When they need a kind word, or when they need someone to make them laugh.

    School needs to be a place that is relevant to students, with real-world interchanges and experiences. We are helping prepare them for life, not an alternate reality that is delineated into the offline and the online.

    I invite you to clarify your concerns, so that I may have a better understanding of where you are coming from.

    I am grateful I work at a school that lets me interact with students like Michelle, and work with teachers like Jabiz. In the real world. All of it.

  13. I just wanted to say the following to M. Mitchell:

    You may not understand a few things as you are older than us but as students and adolescents in this crazy world, we tend to get lost and confused about ourselves, others and our friends. Now, you may have a different point of view but as I write this, quite confused that a principal in a school of all people in the world to write that comment does not understand what I can guarantee is going through the minds of his students and also tries to protest students or people they don't even know from getting their feelings out and expressing themselves. I know exactly how Michelle feels. I have felt this myself. But when a person demonstrates concern over a person having an outlet for their emotions and feelings instead of locking it up in their brain like a fully packed suitcase thats just waiting to burst. This is something that as a principal of K-8, it is your job to understand, whether you lead your school in this way or not, it is your job to understand that over here, because of these blogs and feelings being shown, students have a better time a school, teachers plan their classes to fit the students and we turn out to be generally more happy and interesting people. Do not take this as an insult to you or your school but understand this as a way of teaching much more powerful than writing something onto a blackboard or say... typing an essay. You are welcome to have your opinion but you are also welcome to having an open-mind.

  14. I can assume that by referring Michelle as "The girl", you didn't take the time to read other peoples perspectives before you posted.
    I agree with what the others have said, that you should have the right to speak online as to speak in real life. If we are to speak to others about life in real life, we would have to show our face to the audience, else the message isn't strong. If we are to spread our message online through video, there wouldn't be any major differences, other than a larger audience.

    "Stranger danger" isn't exactly a threat on this kind of blog post. All the students in my class have the same kind of blog, with an average of at least 2 views a day (guess work but accurate.) Therefore, there isn't exactly a large audience; it isn't a major threat. News broadcasters have written about bloggers who have suffered consequences of what they do online. Sure, a couple bloggers that weren’t thinking have put themselves at risk. What isn't broadcasted is the millions of other bloggers who aren't harmed because of what they post. I know of almost a dozen youtubers in my school, of which none have ever been threatened online. I wouldn't say that the internet is 100% safe, but it's pretty close to being so.

  15. Mr. Mitchell,

    Your comment was shocking to me as we know the internet is a free space to learn, share ideas, and to do many more things. Posting videos or exposing yourself, sharing your thoughts, and posting on the blog is a more personal way of expressing yourself but it makes it way more special than just writing. Of course you need to be careful when posting things online but the security or privacy of that is in Michelle's hands. She chose to post this online to share it with everyone so enjoy it. As we know, technology is huge nowadays and why not take advantage of it. The blog is our own personal space to write and share what we want so I think that Michelle posting videos on her blog is a fantastic way of sharing her voice. We are smart enough to know the dangers of the internet and I do not see any dangers with this.

    Hats off to you too Michelle

  16. Hello Michelle,

    I want to thank you for your video blog. You have expressed serious issues in a poetic manner, deeply touching those of us listening to you message.

    Just a bit about myself, and how I arrived at your blog... I am Bill_world on twitter, and have been inspired by Mr. Raisdana's methods of learning methods integrated with technology. It was his tweets on Saturday night (in Canada) that brought me here. I am probably as young as Mr. Raisdana =) yet not as technologically / social media savvy.

    Your post brought back a flood of memories of when I was in junior and senior high school - the feelings of isolation, being alone, hiding behind a facade. Those days were a struggle - and I hear that struggle with you. It is this expression of your inner voice in a public manner (this v-blog) that also highlights the strength, courage, and beauty of life that will guide you to the fulfilment of being you.

    Earlier this year, I was asked to take on a new career role, one more advanced than I gave myself credit for being able to handle. I have had those moment when I ask myself if my boss will think I am an impostor or if I have gone beyond my skill levels - yes after all these years, I still have a few of these thoughts. Yet these moments disappear more readily these days as I realize that I love learning, and those thoughts highlight that I have a lot more to learn in life. My moments of being uncomfortable around others and unsure about myself or my roles help highlight new (social) lessons for me to learn. Many of these lessons do take time.

    Thank you for being so courageous to share with us Michelle. You have made an impact.

    I also applaud your response to Mr. Mitchell. You have created a strong foundation for your digital footprint, and one that highlights the benefits of using technology in the classroom to enable students to create a positive digital identity.

  17. Michelle, It seems as if this post has gone viral. First of all, your videos are great, you are a person with a lot of open truths. If I were to have a problem, I'd probably come and talk to you. You seem to be aware of so much that happens in middle school. I honestly think we don't know each other that much. And you are a bit more reserved in class. I feel this blog is a great way to think a loud. You just spend so much of time, effort, and dedication to your videos...Well Hats off :)

    Mr. Mitchell,
    I am rather shocked at the comment you've left for Michelle. Just like what many other students have said above, I feel that people should share what they want on their blogs. And even though, in this video, she is a bit more personal, and makes more personal more personal connection. I feel that it is anyone's right, to chose want they want the world to see. But, also, more than being personal, she also said "we" occasionally. Her ideal audience is the middle school. And middle school is time we start to get insecure, and worried about our appearances (as Michelle's video mentions). So basically this isn't exactly personal, but a bit more generic. The reason she made this video in the first place is so she could target a good audience like us. What she mentions in her video isn't personal, its just the ugly truth. I also saw that you said "This is an example of the "new" generation of media-savvy youngsters feeling the need to share their deepest, darkest secrets with complete strangers."

    Again relating back to my earlier point, I am very shocked you think this. We are not sharing this with strangers, it isn't personal anyways. So I don't completely understand what you meant by this. I feel that technology is used so we can express what ever we want, where ever we want, of course, this depends on the "posters" sensitivity levels. They would never post something if they are uncomfortable with it.

    Sorry If I sounded a little harsh, I am just a little over-whemled.