Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Failures, Mistakes, And Poor Judgement

In our cooperative school, there are days, like one right after the holiday break when a bunch of kids were still out sick or traveling, when there are as many adults in the room as kids. Even on regular days our classes have adult ratios of anywhere from 1:2 to 1:5, depending on the ages of the kids. When folks who are unfamiliar with our model hear this, they typically ask some version of, "Don't the parents get in the way?" 

My standard reply is that they don't get in the way any more than the children do. Now, if the question is, "Do our parent-teachers always do everything the way I want them too?" then the answer is, of course not. Nor do the kids. Nor does anyone for that matter. But just as so much of children's learning comes through what are commonly called "failures," "mistakes," or "poor judgement," the same is true for adult learning.

We are not here to just to educate young children, but rather entire families, which is one of the great strengths of the cooperative model. We call them parent-teachers, but in reality, they are students right alongside their kids, learning through the experience of living with the other people. And I would assert that a family that develops the habit of learning together is one that will be better prepared for the social, intellectual and emotional roller coaster ahead.  

My mother once said about being a parent, "You want them to be independent, but then you're terrified when they are." It's a piece of wisdom I reflect on daily as I watch parents struggle with their end of "letting go," of learning to trust their children. It's hard to watch any child struggle through their necessary failures, mistakes and poor judgement, and especially when it's your own "baby." It's heartbreaking when their hearts are broken and mortifying when they break someone else's heart. It's terrifying when they try to climb higher or run faster or step up in front of an audience of peers to perform. 

Most of our families are with us for three years and what they mostly learn during their time with us is to step back, to loiter with intent, and when and when not to step in. But we also learn how to play with our children, how to join them where they are, how to serve not as a leader but a follower of our own children, a role that teaches us perhaps the most of all. But mostly what we learn is that our children have to experience the consequences of their failures, mistakes and poor judgement, just as we did and continue to do.

So no, all those adults don't get in the way. Indeed, they are, as much as the kids, the reason we are here.

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