What do you like? What makes you happy? What are you excited about? What are you curious about? What are you good at? What do you want to do today, next week, or ten years from now? How would you like to use your talents to help others? How can we (DRC) help you get to where you want to be? Whoa? What? Slow down! Over the years, after encountering that particular look of, “what the hell have I gotten myself into?”, more times than I would like to admit, I have learned to pace myself and let our new students settle in for a few weeks before I bombard them with the thousands of questions I would like to ask, during our very first conversation.
Because, I know, without fail, after a few weeks or even months, they will begin to have questions of their own, like: “So, what am I supposed to do?” “Is it really OK if I spend my days drawing, cooking, playing guitar, writing a story, talking and socializing, taking long walks, pounding on clay, messing around in the shop, playing outside, etc.?” Or, the big one, “What if I get behind?” And then, I watch their expressions of pure astonishment during a mentoring session, when I tell them first off, there is no such thing as “being behind” and that, yes, this is hard, but I will always trust them to make good choices. Then it abruptly changes to utter terror, when I also explain that I will always be available to support and guide them - nevertheless, I expect they will always ask for help when they feel themselves struggling, tell me what support they need to move forward, and how (what) they are feeling. That is the instant when they fully comprehend what it truly means to be totally in control of their education, as well as their life.
And, that is the critical moment when they either pick up the gauntlet and accept the challenge, or mentally (and/or literally) pack their bag (backpack) and head back to the comfy place (because self-direction is not what they assumed) where they will always know what is required and where someone (an authority figure) will always tell them what to do next.
The kids who give themselves permission to flounder, relentlessly and bravely, through that period of self-doubt and indecision come out the other side stronger, more self-sufficient, and happier, because they have faced down the fears and discover that they really are excited about exploring the world on their own terms.
Oftentimes this process is protracted and painfully obvious to anyone watching from the sidelines, but occasionally it isn’t. We don’t even know that the student is going through the intense self-questioning period, until they have already decided that the effort is too scary, and, simply, not worth it to them. They never told us they had doubts; they never asked for support; they never gave us the slightest, little clue that they were thinking this was too difficult and that they were not up to the task. Then they go back, with very little warning, and leave a gaping hole in our community. These are the moments that break my heart - when I begin to question myself: Why didn’t I see this coming? What hints did I miss? How could I have prevented this outcome?
Then, after I take some time to castigate myself, I come to the realization that they, actually, have learned something from us. They are taking charge of their education, just not in the way I thought they would (should). They are using their free will to do what they think is best for them. Yes, indeed, this (self-directed education) is hard and it is not for everyone. There are some people who are not up for the task and that is okay - as long as they find what makes them happy and are able to move forward positively. That is all I wish for anyone.
A shout of thanks to the Clarkson students who came out to DRC, yesterday, for their MLK Day of Service. The space is super shiny clean (even the windows), our computers are updated, our wii systems are connected to the network, and all of our books are now alphabetized! You guys are awesome!
Shiver Me Timbers, the 3rd Annual Silent Auction will be held at the Buccaneer Lounge in Canton, Tuesday, February 12th, from 6 - 10PM. Please plan on joining us for a fun evening of competition and camaraderie for a good cause. Admission tickets are available on our website or at the door.
The board is seeking donations of goods and services for the auction. If you have something you would like to contribute, please get in touch.
All contributors will be recognized and thanked publicly on Social Media, the DRC website, as well as the local media.