Get to work
I watch my feet as they clack against the hallway floor. Afraid to make eye contact, I check my reflection in the window pane. My chest feels tight as the clock ticks. I enter the class, bump into the cramped desks that surround mine. Unable to adjust my seat I sigh in discomfort. Glancing my way they give a good chuckle. My chest tightens. I sigh and sink into my seat, I try to focus, but the increasing fear and pressure hurt my head. I’d love to draw, to express how I understood the material. Instead, I stare at an empty page of lines, then the teacher says “get to work”.
I hear my feet hit the hallway floor as I walk with my head held high. My lunch bag sways in my rush of a walk. I give a glance at the clock and smile, early as usual. I open the door, the faces in the room light up and welcome me. In the morning we all gather and share about a certain topic. We laugh and talk, we are given some directions and then left to work. I cheerfully adjust my seat and select my favourite song. With my pencil in hand, I create a story, to someday be read by my fellow classmates. Once I get stuck, I take a little stroll outside. I take a deep breath of fresh air and tell myself “time to get back to work”.
This is Propel, a program that puts regular school to shame. Project based learning is what Propel is all about. We have the freedom to pursue our passions with the guidance of our teachers. We all select a project unique to us and our passion. I decided on creating an original video game with two of my peers, as well as creating a short one-shot manga of my own.
I remember the day before we finally began project work. I ran home from my bus stop in the snow with a huge smile. I have never been more excited over something school related. I did learn a lot in this program both academically and socially. I learned that even total strangers can work to solve a problem in adversity. I have never been able to properly convey my thoughts to a crowd till now. I now know putting yourself out there and making connections is important, something I would have avoided had it not been for Propel. The confidence I have gained from this program is immense. I am learning skills I will use for the rest of my life. I am succeeding in more than school. The confidence I have been lacking for so long is finally with me. I am proud of my work, I know it’s good because I have worked so hard. Ask anyone in this program. More than anything I’m happy, I love what I do and I value that more than anything. I believe being happy is the greatest success, more than a 100% on any test.
I struggled to start my project, no web page could tell you how to create a manga of your own. I did days worth of research, looking for guidance. I found the cultural difference between where mangas’ originate from (Japan) and where I live (Canada) as a huge roadblock. Here the more common name is graphic novel, but that wasn’t what I wanted. The style and mediums between the two are very much different. As for the story itself I struggled deeply. I did have many ideas and inspirations but I had the task of fitting it all in one book. I wrote many different stories however they were all too long, as I had underestimated the workload that went into making a manga. What I was attempting to do alone usually takes teams of six to seven people a few months. Sketching, inking, backgrounds, text, shading, screen toning, all these things rested on my shoulders alone. Eventually I came up with a short story that was part narrated to ease the amount of pages needed. The story became short and sweet. However I still managed to fit in some plot twists.
As for the video game I had similar difficulties, the original story seemed too long and had too many characters. We also had some program trouble. The program we’d bought for the maps and overall layout of the game would not allow us to implement our original characters. We’d have to use pre set characters to use that program which we didn’t like. The character making program I was given had its ups and downs. We had difficulty saving maps and characters, and we have lost some along the way. The program was out dated and didn’t supply much information to the user. However, nowadays we have YouTube and Google. I eventually taught myself the ins and outs of the program.
It was quite a challenge to begin my book, however I pushed forward and did plenty of research. I had to find a publisher and calculate the price of print and shipping. Why do this when you don’t have a book yet you may ask? Well, you need to know your publisher before hand so you use the right formats and size. If you make your pages a random size not many places will be able to print it, you may lose lots of your work. Format plays a roll as well, certain printing houses only accept certain formats or PDF files. Instead of attempting to convert things later, it’s best to begin with the right file format in the beginning. Once I had calculated everything in that respective area I could finally begin the thumbnails. Thumbnails are little poorly drawn doodles meant to give a sense of page flow and idea. Once you’ve written your story, thumbnails help you envision it before you begin your story board and sketching. Without thumbnails you may feel lost as to how you want to convey the story on a page. With thumbnails finished as the backbone you may begin sketching. I had sketched, inked and screen toned about 5 pages when I realized I didn’t have enough time to finish this piece. That was when I changed from my original story to a whole new one.
I chose a more simplistic story which revolved around two main characters. I was also struggling with the program I was using to draw digitally. As a result I returned to what I knew. I decided to draw it traditionally (pencil and paper) and watercolour was going to replace the screen tone. The novel would be more costly to print but I feel as if I would be cheating my readers if I gave them such a short book. The colour creates life within the pages which makes up for the short storyline. I found this story so clear in my mind that drawing the pages was a breeze. Inking and colouring went even faster. It was like a one huge colouring book.
After many how-to videos, the video game really began to look how I imagined it. Kage became the maps master, while Nick coded everything in and created all the puzzles to stump the players. I enlisted my brother as the music developer because he loves to make it anyway. He really loved to be part of the process. Friends and family helped as well, giving us advice and testing the game for us. I myself was busy creating the characters in what we call sprite. No, Not the soda. Our game is pixel art so I had to create the characters in a sprite format. Now this isn’t just drawing a still image. I had to redraw the same character about sixteen times just to create a walking sprite.
This semester really went by way too fast. I am sad to see it end. I have made some good friends here and I love the environment. In our classroom it isn’t teacher over student. They are more like our coaches there to guide us and help when we are in need. We are more like equals, this makes it so much easier to connect with them and be open. I remember one day when I was hard at work sketching I realized I had run out of paper. I had been using my sketchbook for paper. I told Mme Albrecht and she said “well let’s just go get some, you need it right?”. On that note we walked to her house about a block or two away, hopped in her truck, and drove to the nearest Michaels. I find that our teachers are more like family than anything, that’s what Propel is to me. We’re one big disorganized family. I believe that’s one of the best schooling environments possible. It’s an amazing feeling to know your classmates have your back, I don’t have that at my home school. We work together even if we don’t all get along, we have mutual respect. Even when we were creating our work environment, there was debating over colours, furniture and space but we all came together and communicated our ideas. In different ways we all pitched in, some explained with words, I even brought in colour templates for the visual people. In the end, we compromised and created a home we all love. I am so proud of that. We are all different characters with different creative ideas that collaborated and communicated our ideas while the rest listened. I am so proud to say I am part of this group. I love these people, I think they are all amazing.
This experience is unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life. I have grown more here than I have my entire high school career. The things I’ve accomplished and learned will stay with me. I am genuinely proud of myself, I worked really hard and the test score can say otherwise. Not everything one learns can be graded. I have gained so much within these few months. I am not afraid anymore. I am not afraid to speak my mind, even if it is in front of a crowd. I am not afraid to try my best and fail. I am not afraid to go out seek others guidance. I am not afraid to go out and give back. I have pushed myself far, I have left my comfort zone, and I have tried new things. I have confidence in my skills and talents. I created an original video game among friends, I wrote and illustrated my own original story. I have tried and failed, and gotten back up. A class room should be more than desks and a white board. True growth happens when you support your students to push boundaries and learn freely.
This is my last post sadly. Thank you to all my readers and supporters. If you manage to read all that I congratulate you. Clap* Clap* Clap*