As I negotiate through the labyrinth of daily interactions, I am constantly aware of the age-old axiom that actions will always speak louder than words. This was brought even closer to the forefront of my consciousness, recently, when I read the daily blog from Seth Godin entitled: Saying vs. Doing.
“The problem with words is that they easily lose their meaning,
say something often enough and it becomes a tic, not an expression
of how you really feel. Not only that but words rarely change things.
Actions do.” (Seth Godin - November 18th, 2015)
In other words, actions are the “proof in the pudding” (to quote another old proverb) because it is your (your organizations/companies) behavior that tells the real story.
I have learned over time to celebrate my authentic self - the real me - by speaking my truth. Now I am realizing that acting my truth is just as essential in communicating the genuine me.
Which for a writer who literally spends hours formulating, revising, playing with words in her head, before actually getting anything written, is, at the very best, a conundrum of fairly large proportions.
I can only hope that my carefully crafted words in these blog posts reflect my thoughtful, everyday actions.
Please remember #Giving Tuesday is tomorrow. DRC would greatly appreciate your charitable contribution, which will go directly towards our innovative programs for young people, throughout St. Lawrence County, who are seeking to take charge of their education.
If you would like to read about our accomplishments over these past few months, you can find our funding appeal letter on our website.
There are several ways you can donate: The PayPal button on the website, where you can use your credit card and choose a one-time donation or become a sustaining donor by setting up a monthly contribution. Or, you can send a check to Deep Root Center, PO Box 424, Canton, NY 13617.
Please let us know if you are offering this donation as a gift in honor or memoriam of a friend or family member. We will be sure to recognize them in our thank you letters.
Deep Root Center (Whole Learners, Inc.) is a NYS Not-for-Profit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.
You can also contribute to DRC indirectly through Amazon Smile or iGive as you shop for holiday gifts. Just click the above links and choose Whole Learners, Inc as your charitable organization. Thank you!
In case you missed last weeks profile of Paul Hetzler, you can find it here. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s profile of Karen Gagne, the “Prez.”
Every Tuesday, during this season of thankfulness and giving, we will be profiling the fabulous people who are part of the DRC Team.
Paul Hetzler has been a member of our Board from the very beginning and graces us with his profound wisdom, razor sharp humor, not to mention his eagle eyed editing skills.
Name: Paul Hetzler
How long on the DRC Board and responsibilities? Two years on the board, general responsibilities.
Why do you serve on the DRC Board? Because I support the principle of self-directed learning and want north country youth to have that option, and am impressed with Maria's vision and dedication.
What do you do for a living? I serve as the Horticulture and Natural Resources Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.
What are you the most proud of? My two children, even though I can only take some of the credit.
If you could spend one day with someone you admire (living or dead), who would it be and why? I'd like to hang out with Jesus, and not for the wine. I want to know how it feels to be present with him.
Where did you grow up and why did you move to St Lawrence County? I “grew up” south of Rochester, NY. I got to know St. Lawrence County while doing tree work here after the 1998 ice storm, and moved here in 2000.
Name the last three books you have read. Weeds of the Northeast, The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Sugarbush Management. Page-turners, all of them.
If someone was going to give you a compliment, what would they say? Thank you for listening.
If you would like to join Paul, and the other members of the team, in supporting Deep Root Center, please give get in touch.
During this week of Thanksgiving, I would like to reflect on the importance --- no ---absolute necessity of giving thanks, not only on this National Holiday, but everyday --- every moment. Expressing gratitude, not only communicates our love and appreciation for our fellow humans, it also informs the Universe that we accept and acknowledge the responsibility of serving others.
Simplifying our lives to accommodate this culture shift is much easier than one may think: Be grateful for the abundance of love and kindness in your life, instead of focusing on the pettiness of some. Be thankful for what you have, instead of wishing for the latest fad. Focus on the good and beautiful, instead of wallowing in your own disappointments. Celebrate the positive and ignore the negative. Embrace the blessings and release the fear.
In short, live your life in peace with gratitude, dignity, empathy, honesty, and good intentions. The Universe can only reward you with kindness, compassion, and an abundance of love.
I am eternally grateful for:
I have come to understand that living in a state of gratitude is transforming, because I now realize it is the small, mundane, and unadorned bits and pieces of everyday that are the important delights that make me truly happy.
Gracias and Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Michelle!
Stay tuned every Tuesday to read about the other amazing folks who have become part of the DRC team.
Name: Michelle Martin White
How long on the DRC Board and responsibilities?
18 days and counting! I represent a parental perspective.
Why do you serve on the DRC Board?
I was invited to serve, but there seemed to be a genuine need and I thought I might have some useful skills and insights from my current place of employment and prior board service with another organization. While that part of my answer sounds rather boring, the reason I accepted the offer was because I have seen the changes in my daughter and another family member since attending DRC, and I firmly believe in the mission. Most people who know me know I'm not a fan of traditional public education, and the last decade and a half of increased focus on testing and “teacher evaluations” have done nothing to raise its esteem. I'm fond of saying that the only thing high school taught me was how to scan text and regurgitate my teachers' thoughts, and I was disappointed that an impersonal system decided my fate as a “college-tracked” student who was not allowed (yes, you read that correctly) to explore vocational education or engage my interests in carpentry and auto mechanics. I want better for my daughter, and DRC has proven an ideal mechanism for her personal passions and pursuits.
What do you do for a living?
My union title is Office Assistant 1 (Keyboarding), but in reality I serve as the office manager, website and database administrator for CLEAR, a division of GrACE at SUNY Potsdam. I recently redesigned our non-credit program catalog and have done sporadic graphic design for my office on an as-needed basis. Through my current position I have experience in payroll, procurement and accounts receivable, financial tracking and reporting, manual writing, and staff training, but I have also worked in shipping, receiving, inventory control, and chiropractic office management.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
I've always had a love affair with Ireland, although I think it stems from growing up with the romantic idea that my family is of Irish descent – a perception that is only marginally true: we are predominantly French Canadian with a dash of German and a single Irish ancestor thrown in for kicks and giggles. Regardless, Ireland has always commanded a special place in my daydreams. However, I am not one for tourism; ideally I would spend a month or two rambling through the countryside and getting acquainted with the colorful locals of a quaint little village (which might or might not be located near the sea).
What are your hobbies and interests?
Anything creative; I tend to be more of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none because I enjoy learning new art and craft techniques, but usually implement them once and then move on. I enjoy using InDesign and Corel Suite to do basic graphic design work, and I also enjoy the “nit picky” technical aspects of creating web pages. I've always been what one of my professors called a cereal box reader, in that if there's text I'm reading it – even if it's just the “Maximum Occupancy” sign in the room. I enjoy nature and animals, and have a particular soft spot for horses.
What are you the most proud of?
Helping my daughter to become an independent, thoughtful young woman who has the courage to set her anxieties aside and experience new things and people in unfamiliar environments (something it took me decades to accomplish myself!).
Name the last three books you have read.
As any parent of a horse lover will tell you, all money goes to horse-related things, so there's not a lot left over for books (and I am a terrible library patron, with perpetually overdue books, so for the sake of other patrons I rarely check anything out anymore). Therefore, I usually resort to downloading free books to my tablet. Since I am a cereal box reader (see reference above), I can usually find something passable (if not memorable) to read; the last two books I read were one about an infant kidnapping and the aftermath during the years until the child was recovered (alive), and one that I thought was a mystery but turned out to be a non-typical romance. They sufficed until I can get my hands on tomes by my current favorites, Michelle (Sagara) West and Charles de Lint.
I am also a long-running subscriber to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, and I adore short stories because I can read them over and over again (something I have only done with three novels, ever: Watership Down, The Talisman [which I generally only read because dear Wolf is tugging at my heart strings], and A Prayer for Owen Meany).
Name the last three movies you have watched.
Again, “free streaming” internet is my friend and Netflix and I have spent many a cozy evening together. The last three full-length movies I've watched were 300, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and a documentary about unusual shark attacks on humans in southern Africa. I tend to watch “tv” only at night before bed, so most often I opt for series episodes. My favorites are true crime documentaries and the rare actually-good-and-not-sensationalized paranormal series.
One year ago, on my 50th birthday, I decided to do something totally radical and completely out of character --- dye a purple (hot pink) stripe into my hair. As I reflect on the past 12 months, I realize it may be one of the best personal decisions I have ever made.
I am just now beginning to recognize the power of that purple stripe. At first I was a bit self-conscious, but I got over that fairly quickly. That splash of color in the otherwise drab, gray hair soon became my badge, my symbol, my super hero cape --- it quite literally transformed me from a meek, shy, unassuming, middle age momma into a confident, proud, and kick-ass, no holds barred, just getting started woman.
Yes, I realize it isn’t the actual stripe that changed my behavior and attitude, but without that shot of color, I would not be as poised, or willing to step outside my comfort zone.
I continue to be baffled by the phenomenon of costumes, make-up, and other physical alterations that allow people to do things they otherwise would not do. On the inside we all understand that we are the same person, but somehow that change of appearance makes it possible to step outside of ourselves, to go beyond our own personal barriers and limitations.
I don’t, however, want to believe that I have become a character or that I am playing a role. I would, in fact, like to trust that the stripe has allowed the real me, that was hidden behind reserve and quiet for 50 years, to shine through.
Let me be perfectly clear, I am still that ultra-sensitive, introverted soul who despises and will always try to avoid loud, brash, suspenseful, high-octane environments (ex. parties, bars, concerts, movies) and who chooses to spend her down time alone to recharge. I have found, however, that I am more honest about those preferences. I simply don’t (usually) make excuses anymore.
There is one question that begs to be asked; is this newly found self-assurance really about the purple stripe or is it just another benefit of aging?
I am not quite ready to answer that question, to be quite candid, hence the appointment (thanks, Candace), to get a refreshed and reinvigorated purple stripe, two days after my 51st birthday!
On Tuesday mornings, for the next several weeks, I will be highlighting some of the board members, parents, student members, and volunteers who are deeply committed to our mission. If you find these stories inspiring and would like to learn how to become a member of this phenomenal team, please contact Maria today.
iGive is another way to shop for loved ones, this holiday season, and help DRC at the same time.
Giving Tuesday is Dec 1st this year. Please consider giving to DRC.
Third Thursday Info Session – This Thursday the 19th from 1-2, we welcome anyone who is interested in learning more about our programs to stop in for a visit. The student members are eager to share their stories and experiences of leaving school to take charge of their education. If you are not able to be at the Info Session, but still want info, please contact Maria to make an appointment.
Volunteer Help Wanted (Desperately Needed):
IT Support – we would like to get all of our computers, printer, and software functioning and networking properly. If you can assist us with this task, please contact Maria.
Admin Support – To be completely honest, we need to hire an office manager. Until that becomes possible, however, we would like to invite a volunteer to save Maria and the Center from her inadequate organizational skills.
Trust, as you have probably guessed by the themes of the last two posts, is at the very core of the Deep Root Center philosophy. In previous pieces, trust was explained as a theoretical concept; this, the third post of the trilogy, will attempt to define trust as we practice it in our everyday world.
The concept of trust at DRC is probably most visible and easily explained through our mentoring process, which is always happening on multiple levels – both casual and formal.
I routinely tell every DRC member, “I will never tell you what or what not to do!” My relationship with each student is built on unwavering trust and based on listening, supporting, nurturing, and fostering each of them to achieve intrinsic motivation, along with whatever he/she desires.
Most of that mentoring occurs organically as we negotiate our way through each day. We are feeding our individual creativity, interests, and passions through each interaction, conversation, or interchange while conveying our mutual respect for each other. Every class, game, project, and social exchange provides the opportunity for a continued dialogue that is relevant to every single person in the room.
I also meet with each student member once a week for a formal, regularly scheduled (or at least that is the plan) conversation. These can last anywhere from two minutes to a full half hour depending on the specific needs of each individual that particular week. I play several roles during these formal meetings: a sounding board – I listen very carefully, to the words and the body language; I brainstorm suggestions and ideas, based on my observations; I offer feedback on their progress, I provide a conduit to the broader community to find resources for their projects or classes; I keep their plan documented in a mentoring form; I act as their personal cheerleader, and most importantly, I am learning when to stay quiet (see: “Have a Popover Froggy”) and step out of the way to follow the student's lead.
This past week our mentoring sessions, once again, nearly got lost in the shuffle of our chaotic schedule. On Thursday one of our thirteen year olds reminded me that we needed to meet. I think he was feeling like he really needed that one-on-one time to work some concerns out. When we finally sat down that afternoon, he told me that he was feeling a bit worried because he has all these fantastic ideas, creates amazing plans, starts the projects, and then does not follow them through to culmination.
During this particular session, he was requesting guidance and concrete suggestions,because he was feeling frustrated and was not able to figure this out on his own.
First I wanted to reassure him, so I offered this analogy: he is like a little hamster who has been stuck in a cage, doing what he was told, and running on his little wheel, without getting anywhere, for seven years. Now, that cute little hamster is frantically racing around because there are so many possibilities to explore, and he is just so dang happy to be free of the confines of that cage. He laughingly agreed and we proceeded to look at all the projects (there were a lot) that he has started, chose two that he wants to complete, defined where they fit in terms of subject matter in his academic plan, outlined the steps he needs to take, and set a realistic schedule for completion of both.
This simple course of action alleviated his feelings of frustration and defeat, while allowing him to still be fully in charge of his education.
The first weeks (or months) that kids are freed from the structure of school is always interesting for them, as well as the adults in their lives. They suddenly have all this freedom and are waiting for an adult to step in and say, “ha, fooled you!” or “OK, you are feeling lost, you should do X, X, and Y.”
This phenomenon happens at varying levels (often depending on how long they were in the traditional system), and plays out in a multitude of ways with each individual kid exhibiting different behaviors. For some it looks like the conduct of that delighted little hamster, others feel completely overwhelmed which often shows up in their demeanor as ambivalence, boredom, or outright complacency, and a few have no visible reaction at all. These are all legitimate and reasonable responses after being initiated into this “revolutionary” concept of self-directed learning.
One of our fifteen year olds is a classic example of one of a student who completely understands the concept of independent learning (and has from the very beginning). When she and I meet, my job is to listen, transcribe her ideas and plans into her mentoring form, offer suggestions for tutors or internship sponsors, provide the resources for projects, and then stand back to cheer her on. She has already been involved in two internships, studies osteology at the SUNY Potsdam Physical Anthro. Lab with a student intern, and is designing our After-School Program, along with the other group classes she is involved in at DRC.
Another 12 year old is still feeling completely stunned after being with us for just a few weeks; he happily hangs out with the other kids, participates in group classes, has completed some art projects, and is just taking time to breath. I have not heard him express any specific interests or passions, yet. In time, he will let me know how I can assist him and then we will watch him take off.
These are just a few examples of how our everyday interactions offer me new opportunities to observe, listen, nurture, play, get messy, and learn, because I am not concerned about controlling the outcome of any student's project, class, game, or internship. We are all trusting and encouraging each other to be our best selves, because together we have created a place where all thoughts, ideas, emotions, and suggestions are considered unequivocally important and valid.
Here are three ways you can financially support Deep Root Center!
Check out the DRC Dessert at the Blackbird Cafe! One dollar of every dessert sold goes toward the Deep Root Center fee reduction program. Go to Blackbird have a delicious meal and save room for the DRC dessert!
'Tis the season for giving, choose Whole Learners, Inc. as your charitable organization on Amazon Smile when you are purchasing gifts or supplies for the holidays and Deep Root Center will receive 0.5% of your purchase.
Many families choose to donate to their favorite charity in lieu of giving and receiving gifts during holiday time. Please consider a gift donation to Deep Root Center in honor or memoriam of a friend or family member.
Spread the word --- Deep Root Center is booming! If you know of a student who would benefit from our programs, please let them know we welcome visitors who would like to explore the possibilities of a different kind of education.
I have a Bachelor's degree in anthropology, an Associates in fashion design and merchandising, and nearly thirteen years of teaching experience, none of which give me any authority, what so ever, to speak about economics. However, that has never stopped me from expounding on a subject that is current and relates directly to topics that I am very passionate about and familiar with.
In my personal and admittedly simplistic view, economics is about giving and taking, selling and buying, supply and demand; if you have something I want or need, we figure out what it is worth to each of us and finalize the transaction. Economics is about the job market, as well, where similar negotiations occur. What are my time, talent, skills, ideas, and energy worth to each of us? Personal worth, for many, however, is often traded or lost in the immediate necessity of providing for a family, because basic survival trumps enjoyment, passion, unique individual interests, or even dignity.
This is just one of many reasons I am saddened to hear and read suggestions, in our world of gross inequity, that people should have to earn basic emotional needs, such as trust, as well as the multitude of other primal necessities.
Elementary trust from our fellow human beings, in other words, has become just another commodity that now has to be worked and bargained for in this dysfunctional, vulgar economy.
Last week, I wrote about trusting each of my students (current and future) and understanding on a profound level that they each know, instinctively, exactly what they need to learn and that they will all work together as a team to respect each other and the space that offers them opportunities for expressing their creativity and ideas.
The basic definition of trust resides within that statement. Trust is a fundamental part of every minute of every day; it is an inherent faith in humanity; it is the central essence of every successful relationship; it is the integral understanding that each of us is human and that we all make mistakes, but we all want to strive to be our best selves.
I will argue that personal feelings and emotions should not be withheld as just one more bargaining chip in exchange for good behavior, or relinquished control of personal essence. Trust is a basic human need that should be just as crucial as love, nourishment, or shelter.
Research has shown over and over again that people who are economically (fiscally and emotionally) deprived, will first lose hope and self-confidence and then will resort to whatever means they need to achieve rudimentary survival.
When we consistently and consciously offer trust, respect, kindness, as well as our true essence to everyone (adults and children) we encounter, it allows for real authentic moments, where defenses are lowered, and where we are all equals sharing the gifts of compassion that everyone deserves.
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