Am I: Suspended --- Expelled --- Kicked-out? I hear a version of this question more often than you can possibly imagine, and, if you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that my answer is always, unequivocally, “no”, because (1) they usually haven’t done anything to warrant it, and, (2) if they had done something “bad” we would talk about it together to come to an understanding about respect and our mutual expectations.
I am the first to acknowledge that many of the teens who have chosen to become members of Deep Root Center are frequently conditioned to “be in trouble”. These incredibly bright, intuitive, and unique young people acted out because they were bored, disenfranchised, and were absolutely unwilling to conform to the stultifying, inflexible, intimidating, and compulsory establishment of traditional school.
As evidenced over millennia, authoritarianism simply does not work on account of the fierce human instinct to rebel against anything that represents external control. (I’ll save the extensive history lessons for those better equipped to pontificate.)
These nonconformist, resistant, and, yes, defiant DRC student members fall into two very distinct categories: the self-motivated who take to self-directed learning like proverbial ducks to water, who seek out knowledge and opportunities no matter what, and, the kids who appear apathetic and anxious, who seem to be in a state of complete shock. I am endlessly curious and completed frustrated, not to mention flummoxed, by this ever-present dichotomy.
Why? Why are some kids, by all appearances, “unharmed” and, if possible, more intrinsically driven while others are seemingly traumatized after progressing through the same exact system? I doubt that I will ever come to a clear, satisfactory answer to these questions. I can, however, dedicate myself to solving the inherently detrimental effects of coercion by: engaging the disengaged, de-schooling the schooled, respecting the disrespected, calming the apprehensive, as well as advising, mentoring, listening and talking in our comfortable, safe space, all the while waiting patiently for those little sparks of self-preservation to light the embers of ambition and curiosity from within.
I’ve observed this magic happen again and again; we remove the power struggle and then sit back and watch these kids break free from the chains of control and preconceived notions to set the world on fire with their enthusiasm and ideas. Heartbreaking (truly tear inducing) tales become triumphant stories with a little persistence, trust, kindness, love, and encouragement, with a few positive expectations thrown in for good measure.
DRC will be back in session on Monday morning, after this much-needed Spring Break, to finish out the academic year. We have plenty of adventures planned for this last month before warm, relaxing summer energy takes over our minds and bodies.
We have begun accepting applications for next September. If your child (ages 5-18) is seeking a safe and dynamic new educational home, which is relevant to their unique interests and passions, please get in touch.
Thank you to all of our volunteers from SLU, SUNY C, and Clarkson who spend at least one hour each week teaching classes, cooking us breakfast, and hanging out with our kids. You are all awesome! We look forward to spending time with you again next year, and, if you are graduating --- congratulations and best wishes! Please keep in touch!