Many wonder what exactly my job entails considering I do not claim the title of teacher in this non-compulsory, non-coercive, educational environment, where I don't tell kids what to do or when and how to do it.
Beyond the administrative duties that honestly take up more than the equivalent of a full-time position, as someone who naturally thinks outside the box to problem-solve, my day-to-day responsibilities revolve around mentoring, listening, and seeking out opportunities, resources, and materials. Then I step back (get the hell out of the way) to observe the implementation of the ideas generated from those conversations.
I don't ever turn off that piece of my essential self. Every conversation is fodder for my brain to begin working on possibilities. I often have to stop mid-stream and consciously remember to ask the person I am speaking with if they actually want my help or are simply venting.
Sometimes I see the results of my work, but often, I don't. Yesterday, I did. I received a text from someone I spoke with back in May who expressed concern about their 20-something child - he didn't seem to have direction and was floundering. But, the one thing he was fascinated with was medicine. He had considered going to college and majoring in pre-med.; however, that entire process seemed daunting (and expensive). I suggested they look into the process of becoming an EMT. It would offer the opportunity to jump into the medical field - feet first to discover if it is something they want to pursue to the next level.
Well, he did just that. He is enrolled in a program while working for the ambulance service that offers it. Eventually, they will also train him to become a paramedic if that is what he wants to do. He is super excited to begin this journey, and his parent is happy and relieved that he is no longer floundering.
I see myself as a sounding board - someone with a different perspective and experience to bounce ideas off. I don't solve problems so much as guide folks to think about a situation differently - in ways that had not occurred before because they were too deeply entrenched in the puzzle. As the old axiom suggests - "you can't see the forest - for the trees."
But, also "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." Within the culture of trust and respect that DRC is built upon, I can only ever listen and offer suggestions. What folks do with those ideas - is totally up to them.
A few photos from this week at Canton & East
Weekly Creative Meditation
We just finished our first week. DRC-Canton is humming with 23 participants. They created a list of classes, projects, and activities - now organized into a schedule that can be found in a Google Calendar on the website.
DRC-East continues to evolve. We met for the first day last Wednesday and will get together a second time this Wednesday.
We will sign the lease for our new space in Massena this coming week and can move in on October 1st.
Additionally, I am delighted to introduce Karen Gagne, our new DRC-East Lead Staff and Mentor, who will start on September 21st.
Karen first joined the DRC board in 2014, and from that moment, she has been our most vocal and passionate supporter. In 2017, she left academia after over twenty-five of teaching, mentoring, and advising young people to move home to Vermont. Nonetheless, even after moving out of state, Karen maintained her head cheer-leading role from a distance.
Karen comes to us with a BA in Social Science (from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA - the school both of my children attended), a MA, and a PhD in Sociology (from SUNY Binghamton), along with a plethora of experience working with youth of all ages.
However, when I asked her personal reference to tell me why Karen is the right choice to lead DRC-East, she immediately began to list Karen's nonacademic attributes leading with her extraordinary levels of compassion and empathy.
Karen is super happy to move back to the NoCo with her dog, Trader (who came from the Potsdam Humane Society), after being away for five years. She is looking forward to meeting all the East Peeps and taking a deep dive into everything they are excited about exploring.
In her words, "I spent my life in school, either as a student or teacher. One day I said it is time for a change."
Welcome back to DRC, Karen! Where school is absolutely optional!
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