Plan on joining us this coming Thursday, December 6th from 4-7 for DRC’s House Warming Party to celebrate everyone who has helped us make this dream a reality. We will provide the snacks and tours. You will also have the opportunity to meet our staff, some of our students and their families as well as our Board of Directors.
by Maria Corse
Self-Direction, when applied as a pedagogical philosophy, is often severely misunderstood and (let’s be honest) completely baffling for those deeply inured in the system. They simply cannot begin to conceive that kids (especially the students they know) are capable of taking charge of their lives and education.
These misconceptions run the gamut from: (1) If it doesn’t “look” (or come labeled) educational, then it isn’t. (2) If the activity isn’t part of a lesson plan devised by an educational professional, then it is not valid. (3) The curriculum determined by the State is all there is to learn and will produce educated, well-rounded citizens. (4) Playing is, well, just playing – it has zero educational value. (5) Seat-time equals learning time. (6) Kids are lazy and will not self-determine if they are not coerced and told what to do. (7) Punishment and reward systems actually work. And, inciting competition is a rational motivational device. (8) Test results determine what a child understands (how smart they are) and will impel them to do better. (9) The more time a child spends in school (detention, longer school days, and longer school years) the more they will learn. (10) And finally, there are smart kids, and, then, there are the low achieving, learning disabled (L.D.) kids (who have been labeled so they know who they are and so they can be recognized, as such, by everyone they encounter throughout their lifetime).
When spelled out – some will recognize how absolutely ridiculous the above statements are. We can obliterate all of these myths with this easy to understand self-directed education philosophical counter punch. All humans are brilliant --- our individual genius is completely unique to each of us. We were all born natural learners, and, as such, are all innately motivated to develop new skills and acquire new knowledge (unless, of course, we have learned to hate learning). Learning, quite literally, happens everywhere --- through boisterous play, experimentation (making mistakes), unrestricted exploration, quiet contemplation, a supportive community, respectful collaboration, and even during sleep. Every single life experience is an individual moment of valid, authentic, and deeply personal enlightenment.
The key to all this is passion, which is one of those words that is often conceived as pretentious --- one which engenders the impression of over the top expectations and rigidity. Some would go so far as to claim it is a bit ridiculous to allow a young person to follow and investigate their passions now instead of waiting until they are finished with high school. When in fact, it opens the doors of possibility by allowing each child to explore their burning obsessions right now --- to use them to discover everything they will ever need to thrive in this world. And, the cool part --- once they are tired of, or, have outgrown one interest, it, without doubt, leads to the next, and the next, and so on. This, folks, is what self-driven education looks and feels like.
Now here’s the kicker, the one all those doubters and naysayers latch on to – what if a student doesn’t have a grand passion or interest? What if they have no aspirations or goals? What if they are just plain old lazy?
Ah, yes, the lazy card! This is the question I will be responding to till the end of my days - the one I hear in my sleep. The one I always want to answer in my snarkiest tone --- Hello! Have you ever considered that their behavior and abject outlook is a product of their environment and experiences? Inertia, disenfranchisement, ambivalence, defiance, and overpowering sadness are all direct and logical responses to the systemic coercion, intimidation, and competitive conditions they have been dealing with for years. Yes, indeed, hello!
What I actually say is --- well mostly that --- only without the attitude, which, I freely admit, is usually simmering just below the surface. Every single time, I can only hope it doesn’t begin to boil over and show in my expression.
Most students come to Deep Root Center profoundly wounded (three in this past week, a total of eight since September). These are kids, who could mistakenly be described as unmotivated, lethargic, and shiftless, are in the process of sloughing off the pain-filled negative influences and are growing scar tissue, all the while soaking up the kindness, and the affirmative optimistic energy that surrounds them. This process is painful, frustrating, and at times disheartening. It usually involves one step forward and ½ a step back. Progressive motion, whether physical, emotional, or both, is never easy, and we recognize that.
We, quite simply, believe in each of them. We trust that they will all discover a passion --- a calling that pulls them out of their ambivalent state --- one that leads them to the next interest and blossoms into aspirations and goals, and, yes, even hope.