Thank you for indulging my storytelling compulsion as I relate the following tales, from this past week, that demonstrate the basic component of our philosophy beautifully.
On Monday morning, a student who was enrolled to audit a college class came to me and said, “I want to withdraw from the class.” My heart sank, to be quite honest, because I saw her as DRC's pioneer at SUNY Canton, paving the way for future DRC kids --- blah, blah, blah …..
She continued the conversation, after that jaw dropping exclamation, by explaining that she believes at this point, after honestly and painstakingly evaluating all the components, including possibly disappointing me and her family, that she most benefits from being at the Center interacting with all of the kids and working on her hands-on projects. She also loves working at the horse farm with the horses and her mentor.
As a Sophomore, she has already researched colleges that offer Equine Programs and has poured over their catalogs and websites. However, even with all that, she is allowing for the possibility that she won't go to college, immediately, and may focus on the hands on experience she so craves.
How could I possibly be upset or dismayed by her carefully thought-out decision, when she is doing exactly what I have encouraged her to do? The process she followed to arrive at this personal conclusion is self-directed learning in a nutshell.
DRC goes on an excursion every Thursday. This past week we were invited to the very same horse farm the above student apprentices with. Eight kids, with mud boots and winter gear (well most of them), packed into two vehicles for the short trip outside of Canton. I should mention that a few of those kids are completely enthralled (addicted) with horses and the world they represent. There are others who could really care less about horses, but always appreciate any opportunity to get outside to breathe fresh air and to RUN!
This particular story highlights one kid from the latter group. The owner graciously escorted us to the paddock area and barn were several horse were standing outside. She retrieved Blackberry, a very cute, sometimes rude, black pony with mischievous eyes, from the stall and attached the cross ties to his halter, inside the central area of the barn.
The kids shuffled impatiently, petting Blackberry's nose, while she spoke about safety around the horses and explained the myths and misconceptions some people have about them. Then she grabbed a curry comb and handed it to the boy, who stood closest to her, and showed him how to use it on Blackberry's dusty, winter worn coat.
Pure and unadulterated love is the only way I can come close to describing the immediate connection between that boy and pony. He was not interested in any of the other horses she brought out; he only wanted to spend time with Blackberry. When the feisty little pony was returned to his stall and paddock, this kid followed to the outside fence to continue their earlier silent conversation.
Many people, including potential students, don't completely understand that DRC members participate on their own volition. They each choose when to be there and what they will do while in the space. And, many do not believe that DRC kids are at the Center as early as they can get there and are often asked to leave (kicked out) at the end of the day when a certain staff person needs to go home, until it happens with their own child on the very first day. Each kid understands that they are truly responsible for building this welcoming, safe, and inspiring community.
This phenomenon, I would like to believe, is in response to our unwavering support, encouragement, and honor we hold for each them and for their personal choices, as long as they adhere to our one guideline. Respect yourself, everyone here, and this space.
I often say that my main task (despite the long list of other responsibilities) is to shut up (really) and listen closely to every kid who walks through our doors, whether they are already a student, a potential member, a workshop participant, or a visitor. That listening extends past the words being spoken, to the body language, the words that have gone unspoken, the energy that surrounds them, and sometimes even the cynicism shining brightly from their eyes.
These individual interactions occur during an initial meeting, a mentoring session, on the fly, or a quick check-in while I sit with them for a few minutes, throughout every single day and provide information about what they require at that time, whether the need be physical, inspirational, or emotional.
Trust is the fundamental principle that inhabits every singe one of those personal connections. I inherently and steadfastly believe that each of “my kids” has a good heart and an open mind and that they are all naturally curious with talents and interests, which may be deeply hidden at the moment, but none the less, reside inside an intrinsically motivated human being.
DRC students completely understand that the proposals we offer are, in reality, nothing more than suggestions, no coercive devices or guilt trips are employed. They participate in every mentoring session, class, project, excursion, and social interaction purely by choice.
Those opportunities, sometimes, are the key to unlocking a powerful hidden treasure within and in other circumstances become the means for discovering the reason for staying true to the original plan.
Open House and Fun-Day – This Saturday – 11-2!
Everyone is welcome to join our staff, board, student members, and their families for games, as well as art and craft activities. You will also have the opportunity to talk to our Executive Director and other parents about our programs.
Mid Winter Break Workshops – February 15 -19 - 8:30- 3:30
Don't worry parents, DRC has you covered with a full week of fun activities for your children. Register now.
DRC is partnering with the Tri-Delta Sorority. They are developing some awesome ideas that will involve the whole community. Stay Tuned!