Re: DSM: Encouragement

Bruce Smith (
Mon, 18 Dec 2000 12:19:43 -0700

Jeanne Pickering said:

<<Wouldn't the Sudbury model be just as bad if approaches (such as:
students should be given the encouragement that would be given to an adult)
were also uniformly applied to each student?>>

Obviously, this rule of thumb doesn't work if you wouldn't be respectful to
the _adult_, either. What it really means is that you treat all people, of
all ages, with equal respect, and avoid being condescending or shallow when
you do encourage. The guideline Joe and I described is, in effect, a set of
training wheels for those of us adults who need/needed a refresher course
in how to treat kids with full respect.

Cindy said:

<<Several of you said that you would encourage students as you would other
adults in your life. My next question is: Do children of different ages
need different levels of encouragement?...Does not a 5 year old
maybe need a little more encouragement than an 18 year old who has had years
of self esteem building? In other words, are the younger ones not a little
more vulnerable, maybe needing a little more 'yes, you can' than older kids?>>

Actually, it's the other way around: older students, if they've been in
more traditional settings for any length of time, tend to be less
willing/able to stand up for themselves and to follow through on their
desires. Their world is, almost by definition, in far more turmoil.

In contrast, the little ones seldom need much encouragement to say "I want
this; will you help me?" Sure, the youngest students ask staff for help
more often than the older ones; but is that what you meant by

Case in point: we had a suspension debate at School Meeting recently where
the 7-(I think)-year-old facing suspension spoke up quite eloquently, and
proposed an alternate sentence that, in its substance, passed. Contrast
that with an earlier suspension debate, where the 14-year-old in question
had extreme difficultly saying anything in his own defense.

I think the more important variable is how new the student is to the
school. Once any student's had sufficient time to learn that they are
empowered, and how to get what they want, her/his need for external
encouragement dwindles drastically (not that we don't all appreciate
support; it's just that our veteran students seem to need comparatively

Again, and always, it depends on the individual in question, and one's
respectful relationship with them.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu Mar 29 2001 - 11:15:15 EST