There is irrefutable scientific evidence that being under stress and feeling fearful make it harder to do just about everything. It becomes nearly impossible to think, be creative, and problem-solve - your brain feels like it is short-circuiting. You can't remember anything (for shit). You become uncoordinated (for some of us, that spells disaster because we are exceedingly clumsy on a good day). Everything seems to take ten times longer than it should.
But yet, as a society, we insist on using coercion, along with punishment and reward, to force people to do what we want them to. The disconnect is astonishing.
Therefore, most kids I meet have (at the very least) an anxiety diagnosis and are so tightly wound they are convinced that they are screwing up something - everything - all the time. They are deathly afraid to try anything new for fear of not understanding it or messing it up.
As a result, I present an (over the top - exaggerated) open, receptive, calm (easy-breezy) demeanor in every interaction. Along with our laid-back, homey, comfortable environment, where most requests are met with "yes, of course," it is their first clue that DRC is different - a place where they can relax, let their guard down, and be their authentic selves.
We try to provide opportunities that are easily accessible and fit within that child's interests - that are always optional. We give them space to sit by themselves, work on something independently (checking in every once in a while to see if they need anything), or join a group activity - with no external expectations.
Kids feel the difference almost immediately. Visually, you can see their shoulders come down, their facial muscles loosen, their eyes widen with a bit of confusion (and curiosity). You can see the thoughts racing through their brain - Is this (she) for real? What is the catch? Wait, I can literally do anything - with no judgment?
I watch kids get totally involved in tasks they may have never tried - losing themselves in the joy of free choice. And (as I have said many times before), when a kid looks at me and asks, "can I ...?," and I answer, "yes, go for it" - it is the precise moment I know that they understand, deeply, they are in charge of their education and life.
It really is that simple. Trusting kids to take a deep dive into their interests and curiosities is how education is supposed to work. There is no coercion and no sticks and carrots. Only a space filled with resources, creative energy, and kind, fully supportive mentors and guides where kids are given free rein to relax, take it easy, explore all the possibilities they can possibly imagine, and develop aspirations for their future.
Weekly Creative Meditation
I think we often forget that anything we want to learn is readily accessible to any of us. We no longer need an expert who holds all the information to disseminate it and interpret it for us. The Resource page on the DRC website is a good place to find a few resources to start exploring the things that interest you (whether you are a kid - or not).
The DRC- East crew is starting a gaming club. They are looking for a used X-Box. If you have an old one you would be willing to donate, please get in touch.
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