Re: DSM: Encouragement

Bruce Smith (
Sun, 17 Dec 2000 12:46:20 -0700

<<I know that the adults are to give the students room to discover on their
own. But is it a conscious effort not to encourage too much? Is that part
of the model? I believe in encouragement. Once my kids show an interest
in something, I try to encourage them to follow that interest as long as it
remains an interest. I tell them they can do anything that they are
interested in. I think that if I instead pointed out all the difficulties,
they may not even embark on the journey. My kids are still young yet and
maybe I am wrong.>>


It's telling that you set your question in the context of your relationship
with your kids, because the relationship is the answer. Joe mentioned a
common rule of thumb in staff-student interactions, which is whether you
would do the same thing if it were an adult, and not a child. Another take
on that rule is to ask whether you'd treat a respected adult friend of
yours the same way.

But the easiest way to answer your question is with reality, not theory. As
a staff member at a Sudbury school, I relate to the students and my fellow
staff as if they and I were persons -- full-fledged, well-rounded
individuals. We take an interest in how and what each other is doing,
because that's what friends do (though I try to stop short of anything that
smacks of evaluating, rather than respecting, others' choices). Our school
is a rather close-knit community: we know each other quite well, and we
share each other's joys and concerns. So when someone does something for
the first time, when someone succeeds at a task which they've been tackling
for some time, of _course_ I encourage them -- if that's the right word.
I'm excited when these people thrive, and saddened when they struggle. In
other words, whether or not I encourage people at my school depends on
whether that's what my friendship with a given person calls for at a
particular moment.

As others have indicated, that's a degree of closeness you're not likely to
find on a listserve. Personally, I couldn't encourage you in your efforts
to start a school without making sure you were as aware as you could
possibly be of the difficulties involved. To me, that's a level of concern
that goes beyond mere encouragement.

Good luck,


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