These are three words I struggle with and try to determine if, where, or how they have a place within the non-coercive, student centered, self-directed learning environment of Deep Root Center. The following thoughts and questions are seriously just a few that run through my head everyday. If we expect a student to complete a task, will he view it as an obligation and compulsory? If the staff encourages someone to take on a project before she feels ready, is that coercive? Is there a distinct line between independent learning and supportive education or are the borders really fuzzy and blurry?
These particular concepts had, until recently, always appeared black and white to me with no gray area surrounding them at all. The more I interact with students and their parents in this setting, however, that murky area becomes painfully obvious. Sometimes kids are just stuck in a position of inertia. They have had time to de-school and feel ready to move on, but honestly don't know how to engage with this new world of independence and freedom. They are literally entangled in the residual muck from years of anxiety and of being told what to do. The question then becomes: How do we support and encourage students to climb out of the constraining quagmire without making them feel obligated, coerced, anxious, bullied, or overwhelmed?
In Betcha Can't, a recent post, I suggested that offering a challenge is a good way to draw out the intrinsic learner in all of us. Most of us will respond to the excitement of something new and different, when a new concept is offered as an opportunity for exploration. If this is the case, how do we know which specific challenge to offer each individually unique student? And, how do we know when they are ready to hear and respond positively to that challenge?
The answer to those questions may lay within last week's post about intuition.
Maybe once you spend enough time with a child (as a teacher, parent or friend) and have listened (I mean really listen with your heart wide-open) to her tell her story and then interpret what makes her heart sing, you are better able to respond with an empathetic challenge that she will be accept fully and joyfully. Often times she won't even realize a challenge has been issued because you have simply offered an option from within her own narrative that excites and delights her. She may even be able to escape the doubts and fears and experience the myriad of possibilities open to her.
Trusting ourselves as facilitators or parents and trusting the kids we spend our days with is at the very heart of all these questions. When everyone respects and acknowledges their own talents, and humanness, we are all able to interact on a deeper level. No one feels coerced or obligated because we are all equals learning and growing together.
Deep Root Center is looking for a new home! Our lease expires at the end of June. We have a few ideas about collaborating with other like-minded organizations, businesses, and individuals who are seeking facilities. If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions, please pass them on.
Opportunities to learn more about becoming a self-directed, life-long learner:
Third Thursday Info Session - April 16.
Join us to explore the possibilities for any child at Deep Root Center. We will answer questions and discuss the logistics of becoming a DRC member. If you are not able to attend this session, please contact Maria to make an appointment.
Class Dismissed Screening – Tuesday April 28th at 7pm.
DRC is hosting the screening of this important new film about learning outside the classroom at the UU Church in Canton. Don't miss this opportunity to view the film with other members of the community who probably have many of the same questions about educating children in today's world.