You have probably heard the axiom that growth and change require discomfort. I don't know about you, but I am not often willing to feel uncomfortable - no matter the potential positive result. For me, the word "discomfort" sounds painful, coercive, and frankly reminiscent of sitting in a dentist's chair.
I prefer to use the word "challenging" instead. A challenge, foremost, represents freedom and the opportunity to explore all the available options - not as something to fight against, but something to fight for.
Highlighting this distinction in language brings me directly to the vitally important conversations that are occurring around the country right now. I believe that the ultimate goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the widespread call for systemic change for black and brown people, the 98%, LGBTQIA+ folks, refugees, and those suffering from mental illness, can only happen by providing a set of circumstances that allow for the freedom to choose to have personal fundamental belief systems challenged.
We know that we can not force someone to change their mind - we cannot argue or ridicule them into seeing a non-racist, non-xenophobic, non-misogynistic, non-homophobic, compassionately, empathetic point of view. When people feel like they are strong-armed or guilted into change, it instigates defensive postures, resentment, and ultimately hatred against those that they perceive forced the adaptation. Which often breeds violence, accomplishing the exact opposite of the initial intention.
I believe our best way forward is to shine a very bright light on all of the cultural barriers that prevent everyone from living a life free from systemic injustice, prejudice, and bigotry. Then present it as a challenge for all of us to problem solve and work on, together - freely. I will argue that at the end of the day, almost everyone wants to feel like they are an important part of a community and that they had a hand in creating something valuable and worthwhile.
And, then comes the most important piece of this entire process, we absolutely need to recognize and normalize the efforts and value of changing one's mind. After all, change begets growth and learning - the two things that humans are perfectly designed to do.
In a bit over a week, we will open the doors to both, DRC-Canton and DRC-East in Lawrenceville, for a new year sure to be filled with adventures and challenges. If you are still conflicted about what you and your family are doing, or are unhappy with the choice you made, get in touch. We are here to help you navigate all your options.
Each of the Deep Root Center Social Media graphics this week has begun with the words, "Dare to" followed by actions that, unfortunately, in today's culture, need to lead with that verbal challenge. Dare to - color outside the lines, use your imagination, dream, make mistakes, fail, be disappointed, and the one that has not posted yet, "Dare to embrace and celebrate your flawed, yet amazingly, awesome authentic self."
Most of us are afraid to imagine contemplating doing any of those things - let alone, actually, do them. We have all learned that fitting in is the standard to which we will be judged - every damn time. And as a result, creativity has been the collateral paid to achieve our collective insipidness.
We have developed a culture, tethered by the fear of failure, where very few are willing to take the deep plunge into the boundless world of innovative problem-solving - because, instead of honoring mistakes and framing them as an opportunity for real learning, we chastise and punish.
The inspiring Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away this weekend, framed this modern educational (and now cultural) shortcoming, beautifully, in his now, infamous, 2006 TED Talk entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"
One of his main points, in both his speech and his book of the same title, is that "children have an extraordinary capacity for innovation - that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly." R.I.P. - Sir Ken. Your gentle humor and unconventional ideas about the future of education will be greatly missed.
In case you have not noticed, the only way the human species is going to survive is if the dare-devils, the ingenious problem-solvers, generate innovative ideas to solve the mess we have created. These are the folks who are unafraid to step outside the box, challenge the status quo, and ignore the naysayers. No! Not to produce more conspiracy theories, by actively seeking out conclusions that match their notions. But, to diligently work through experimentation and analysis of their ideas, within the scientific method, with openness and willingness to share their process and results (both positive and negative) with their scientific peers and the broader community, with the understanding that they may, very well, be wrong. The vital piece, within this entire scenario, is their enthusiasm for re-framing the original question to accommodate the knowledge gained from their "failed" attempt(s).
An enormous thank you to Dave Schryver for donating the time (design), materials, skills, and labor to build this lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will keep us (and our projects) sheltered this fall.
We are extremely grateful for all the folks who came out, yesterday, to help build it, clean-up the yard (cut some tree branches), and sort out and clean the garage. Thanks to Zoe Schryver and fam, Branden and Brayden F., Derek S., Mike C., Bill H., and Liberty S.
Race To Nowhere - Film
This is an amazing opportunity to watch this acclaimed film from ten years ago that seems more relevant than ever, and to hear from the director. Follow this link to register (by donation) - watch the film at your leisure, and then join us on Thursday, August 27th, at 7 pm for a virtual panel that includes the film's director.
One day, six years ago, I was standing at the Deep Root Center table at the Canton Farmers' Market in the Canton Village Park, talking to people about DRC, as they passed by. I was feeling more than a little intimidated by the entire process, mainly because a) I am an introvert, and b) I was still in the process of developing the language to describe why DRC exists, how we provide services, and what we are.
I will always remember the one guy who walked up while I was talking to another family and asked, "so what is your agenda?" To say that I was startled by the question would be putting it mildly. I looked at him and said, "I (we) don't have one." He looked back at me with what I can only describe as contempt, and said, "everyone has an agenda," and walked away. That one, seemly, inconsequential encounter has stuck with me - it felt like he was accusing me of being there with, nefarious, intent - for "drumming up business" and hawking DRC for other reasons besides what was clearly visible to anyone who passed by.
Today, after six years of being completely immersed in doing what we do (working with more than 100 young people), and talking about it, I would be able to say that, "yes, we do have an agenda." Although, it doesn't have the negative connotation that he was implying.
Deep Root Center exists solely because all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel trusted and heard - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Because, learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are safe, heard, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
In the simplest possible terms, we are here to help any child, along with their family, opt-out of traditional schools to dive deeply into the subjects and themes they are curious about, seek out opportunities that excite them, and build their future. It is, indeed, an agenda - one that we can be, profoundly, proud to explain to anyone who asks.
Join us this coming Saturday, August 22nd, to build a lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will provide shelter this Fall for the majority of our activities and projects this Fall - during this age of COVID. All skill levels welcome!
The answer is, almost always, “yes.” When the question begins, “Can I …,” the response will be, “absolutely, yes.” And, when the person sitting in front of me (or, on the other end of the phone) says, “I wish DRC were able to offer …”, the reply, as long as it fits within our non-coercive, philosophy of self-directed education, will always be, “we can.”
When someone asks these questions, I know they have already begun the process. They have given the project, activity, or program a ton of thought. They are committed to their idea and are willing to try, make mistakes, fail, and try again. At this point, they are only seeking approval to continue because they need the resources, or, maybe, they simply need validation.
In saying, “yes,” I am acknowledging that we may have to work together, to explore the possibilities, to figure it out. And, I understand that by offering affirmation, I am providing the permission they feel they need before they open their own floodgates to creativity and curiosity – both of which can only lead to real and authentic learning.
We are creating a culture of ingenuity here. “Yes,” is the opening – an indication of flexibility – and an absolute gift.
Amidst all of the challenges that COVID has thrown at us, we are preparing for the coming year. As you may have seen, most of our programming will move to our outdoor spaces for as long as the weather holds. We currently have picnic tables to work on and a market tent for protection from the elements.
One of our families has offered to donate the materials and the guidance to build us a lean-to in the backyard for additional coverage. We are looking for some folks to help with the project on Saturday, August 22nd. It should only take a couple of hours. DRC will provide snacks and lunch. This project is the perfect opportunity for those kids who would like to learn how to build something. Please let us know if you can help out. Thanks!!!
Procrastination has a bad rap. Have you noticed that we constantly shame ourselves and others for putting things off? It is a major piece of our collective culture. I am proposing that, instead, we think of procrastination as an asset - a mechanism that helps us produce our best work. Then use it as you would any other tool, without guilt or apology.
I have come to recognize the symptoms of trying to force an idea before it's time. I am antsy and distracted, and the feelings of frustration build. If I don't listen to those intuitive signals and try to push through anyway - the results are utter crap. It doesn't matter what it is or when it is technically due - whether it is planning a presentation or meeting, generating lesson plans for a class, producing an artistic or creative project, writing a blog post, designing a piece for social media, or developing the language around a new program or service for DRC. I find that these things are often "ready" to come out, seconds (OK - maybe minutes or hours) before I absolutely need them.
The notion of viewing my "put it off till tomorrow attitude" as a positive trait coalesced a couple of weeks ago when I had a phone call scheduled to discuss some details for volunteers at the Center this Fall. A week before the call, I tried to write down a list of things to talk about - my mind was completely blank, and so was the sheet of paper. I put it aside (with the usual self-condemnation popping up throughout the week) and, then, fifteen minutes before the actual call, I sat down and generated a comprehensive list of ideas. The week-long angst I felt was, as usual, all for naught. The conversation went smoothly. I didn't sound unprepared (stupid) or harried - and we hashed out a practical plan.
Funny enough, the idea about writing this piece hit at the same time. But, once again, even though I pulled it up, out of the depths, every now and again - it was not quite ready to be born until today. Yup, I procrastinated a post about procrastination!
I never know what will trigger the readiness of any idea to see the light of day. I do know that they are constantly churning away, just beneath the surface. If my dreams, of late, are any indication, there are a ton of them bumping into one another down there and creating total chaos.
What it all comes down to is that ingenuity (and learning, for that matter) cannot be forced. The energy (juice) has to flow uninhibited (without internal guilt or external shame), the vibes and conditions have to be just right, and, most importantly, any idea has to be allowed time to develop, fully, without conscious effort, before it deigns to make an appearance.
When you give yourself and others the gift of procrastination without guilt, judgment, or condemnation, the resulting freedom will allow you (and them) to generate your (their) best work ever.
A New DRC Program
As COVID-19 alters everything we previously accepted as normal, families are scrambling to find a viable alternative to the options presented by their local school districts. Many parents are frustrated by the rigidity of these plans and are looking for something more flexible - that fits within their own schedules, and allows them to keep their kids home.
While I was speaking to one such Mom yesterday, I offered our two existing options: in-person membership or consultation. In the midst of the conversation she said, "I wish there was a third option that included the consultation services, allowed us to stay at home, and had the option for my kids to interact with other kids and meet with a mentor virtually so they are accountable to someone besides me." That was the moment that I remembered that I had developed that exact program when DRC first opened (The Deep Root Center Distance Learning Program was originally created because St Lawrence County is so large and I knew that everyone who wanted to use DRC would not be able to get to Canton). It never took flight - it simply wasn't the right time.
Now, six years later, is the perfect moment for that exact program! If you are seeking an alternative that is flexible and customizable, with opportunities for engagement with other kids and a mentor, but are not yet comfortable leaving home - this program is exactly what you are looking for. Learn more here, including the membership levels, and then contact us to get started on designing your family's Distance Learning Plan.
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