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HI Kathy, Debbie,
There is great health in diversity. In India, there is enough to fill a continent! But the xenophobic tendencies are here too.
You would have known about the caste situation here if papers do report about our country.
Chauvinism of all forms exist and the struggle to move from that location has to become the main struggle in education.
Two things guide us: You are the World and to belong to a group is violent(J. Krishnamurti, but not quoted).
In my school, the struggle is that of inclusion or exclusion on the basis of what is "hip" and what isn't. You don't like my kind of music, or my brand of shoes or sportswear... you are out. We have been recently in the throes of a struggle to individualise students and break the "herd mentality" In my school, the graph would veer towards an average that more affluent students are in school. Though, we do try our best to keep a mixed and varied gene pool. I just wanted to say that poverty is not the only state that breeds ignorance, affluence too.
The stance is often one of: I choose to live in my ivory tower and I don't know what exists outside my circle of friends, affluence, lifestyle... everything that offers me security.
We had been talking of the impact of globalisation on the third world countries, specially India. It doesn't touch them so easily. Being affluent, secure, the struggle is not real to them. Schools have to take more and more responsibility in ensuring that the students are exposed to more than their tiny hemisphere. They need to see people struggling and working for justice. (Not in a manner that is preachy or derisive, but really educative... like a bearing witness kind of trip.).
My school is urban and so the struggles that you, Debbie, encounter is probably the reverse. Children here haven't seen a village at close quarters. People on the road, in villages, wearing their traditional dress are often a blur in their minds and often viewed with suspicion and fear...
There is a kind of apartheid like mindset in India too. colour of skin is so important... If one were to analyse which of the cosmetics that flood the market are most often purchased, the one that will take the top is any cream that claims to make you fair. Many children get teased about their dark skin.
I have seen adults group together on the basis of the language they speak, on the basis of caste and now on the basis of wealth.
Society is offering poor role-models to our children and they mimic these helplessly.
So, schools have to provide alternate rolemodels, alternate approaches to life that are sane.
I think as educators we have to find ways of adressing societal problems up front.
For instance, teenage pregancies, as you have mentioned. Today, so far, we haven't had one teenage parent in school. That says something about the morality of the country so far. BUT that is only so far. Now more and more children are wanting to explore, experiment, search before making a commitment. This is quite worrying. Not that we don't feel equipped or are proud that we haven't had a single teen parent. But that these children would face harrowing times and in situations like this teachers would have to find newer roles.
Counselling is almost unkknown in India. Very few schools even have such a post. We do what, Debbie, you do:- listen, sometimes helplessly, sometimes with some wisdom. The act of listening is so very important.
Reading over, I see that my thoughts are random and probably incoherent. But it seems to make some sense too. I hope you will clarify if necessary.
PS. There is school/ educational institution in your country where many of these teen parents can enrol. I am pasting this web page. I searched for relational education: Do read. We have been inspired by this. Infact paste this on any notice board, if school allows you to...
Home | News and Publications | Admissions | Programs | Contact Us | About Us | Relational Ed | Give
Relational Education: An Antidote to School-Induced Despair
Over the past 26 years the staff and students at the Community School, Camden, Maine, have crafted an approach to teaching and learning we call "Relational Education". This form of education places a primary focus on the development of trusting, supportive, and resilient relationships between all members of the learning community.
The Community School has been our "laboratory" for the development of this approach. Until five years ago when we began our second program - "Passages", for teen parents - the form of the Cschool (as we most often refer to it) remained constant. Every six months we accept eight students from throughout Maine, and occasionally beyond, who are 16 to 20 years old. Having chosen to leave conventional education for a wide variety of reasons, these young men and women have decided that completing their education is important. They come to us looking for a different kind of learning experience - one which makes sense to them and will help them achieve their goal of completion.
What the CSchool offers is unique and attractive - a six month residence that combines work, community living, and academics and results in a high school diploma regardless of previous success or failure in traditional schooling. For students who have been told, as some of ours have, that they'll "never get out of ninth grade", this model offers a very different kind of learning opportunity. (See addendum A for a typical day at the School).
For students who have attended the School for two months or more, the results have been noteworthy: 80% have gotten their diplomas, 40% have continued on to post secondary education, and 75% who were previously incarcerated or under some form of legal jurisdiction have remained free of serious legal difficulties. In five years of operation, twenty three teen parents who had been forced to leave conventional school due to their pregnancies and the lack of resources available to them have graduated from Passages with their high school diplomas.
Why is there a need for Relational Education?
With all the discussion on a national level of educational"standards" and "accountability", of "outcome based curricula" and maintaining a competitive economic edge, one would think that the primary problems facing educators and students in the United States today are ones of content mastery, and assessment. The assumption being that if we just hold our students and teachers to high cognitive standards we will be able to develop a literate and effective workforce.
What these discussions do not take into account, and what most conventional schooling has been extraordinarily slow to adapt to are massive changes in the social landscape since the contemporary model of schooling was perfected in the early 1900's. Since most of you reading this newsletter are probably all too familiar with these changes I will be brief in my reiteration of them.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly, since the 1960's the nuclear family has been disintegrating. More than 50% of the children in schools now have experienced the divorce of their parents. A large percentage of students have always lived with a single parent. Many students now live in blended or mixed families, where each member of the family can have a different last name, and no two children may have the same biological parents. The extended family has also weakened: in 1900 96% of us lived in walking distance of a relative; in 1999 4% of us do. There are few aunts, uncles or grandparents to fill in when relationships at home get strained or stop working.
Economic and social forces have ripped apart traditional communities, so that most of us do not know our neighbors well, commute to work, and live in families where both parents work full time (if we are lucky enough not to be the victims of massive layoffs in industry due to corporate downsizing and shifting of work to cheaper labor forces in other countries). For many teenagers, informal time with adults is almost non existent - in school they are in classes only with age mates, and teachers have no time; at home, both parents work, are tired, or absent, and in the community most opportunities, like work, put students in a highly defined unskilled role (hamburger flipper, cashier, etc.). Finally with the full onset of a media fashioned world spanning from TV to the internet, students come to school as one educator put it "information rich, and responsibility poor" when they used to come to school, "information poor and responsibility rich."
At its most devastating, not changing our model of education to reflect critical changes, can result in the Littleton Colorado scenario, where easy access to firearms, a huge impersonal school, combined with alienated, harassed, furious kids led to trauma and loss of life. But disasters like Littleton are not the reason to change our ways because solutions based on extreme cases are likely to be narrow and extreme themselves, ultimately resulting in more rather than less suffering.
We need to look at how education is not working for the majority of students who, unsettled from a home life in flux, without serious responsibilities in any of their living environments (school, home, community) are drifting through life under a barrage of "identity creating" advertising which tells them that to be a real human being, they have to own a fancy car, wear clothes with the right names on them, and to be truly known is to be seen on TV.
The Heart of the Relational Approach
As this is to be a rather brief article I cannot go into depth on our model - but would like to sketch the broad outlines for you .
First, as a disclaimer, let me say that Schools, no matter how good they are, cannot remedy the cultural dysfunction we are currently experiencing. Education is generally a reflection of society rather than a force for changing it. On the other hand, by employing a relationally based approach we have the chance to have an enormous impact on the lives of the children we have in our care. They in turn may help our society move step by step towards more cohesive and nurturing communities where we can all experience our humanness more fully.
At our May conference on relational education, "Terry", a graduate of the School commented that as a teenager she felt that her life had no meaning. Given that perception what was the sense in trying to do anything? What could possibly come of it? Why not find pleasure whenever available, and avoid discomfort for as long as possible, before the whole miserable meaningless thing was ended anyhow? Fortunately, she also had a sense that there was something worth doing and that perhaps if she finished school she would find it.
As Terry reflected on her experience at the School, she said that she began to take herself seriously, because other people were listening to her. For the first time she experienced adults who took her seriously, who wanted to know what she thought and felt, and also expected her to manage a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Her life began to have meaning to her because she saw that it had meaning to others.
Teachers as Listeners
So, one aspect of our approach is that teachers must become listeners. We actually call our faculty teacher/counselors because teaching has become so connected with information output as opposed to receptivity and reflection which we usually associate with counseling. To formalize this listening process, each student is assigned a "one to one" or advisor, who they meet with regularly, on one level , to go over their progress in the program, on a more fundamental level to develop a trusting and supportive relationship in which the student can begin to experience her life as having meaning.
Informal Time and the Experience of Each other as Human Beings
We have created spaces and times in our program to allow community members to go beyond our roles as teacher and student and experience each other as human beings. Teacher/counselors live-in at the Community School - most spend at least one overnight, enabling them to be with students in a more full and natural context. Human interactions occur over a breakfast bowl of cereal, on a ride to work, in a late night discussion in the living room, during "informal" times when our "official roles" in the community are not as sharply defined. It is here that we find out that we are more alike than different, that our experiences as human beings, despite the differences in our histories, age, experience, are remarkably similar - at our core we all wish to love and be loved, and to find meaning in what we do.
The Development of Trust
Due to the cataclysmic betrayals and dysfunctions which our students have experienced from the adult world - abuse, neglect, disinterest, - they have good cause to be distrustful of adults. They have good cause to expect that the future will bring nothing worth working for because "things never work out." At the most fundamental level for learning to occur, students must be able to trust their teachers as well as themselves. The key elements in the development of trust at the Cschool are : choice - students have chosen to come to us of their own free will, they have applied to the School, gone through an extensive interview process, completed a set of "challenges" that take from one to two months to complete, and have chosen to stay after completing the two and a half week trial period at the beginning of the term; sensible structure - day to day life at the Cschool makes "sense" - students work at jobs in the community during the day, are responsible for ! daily household chores, and study at night; academi
c engagement - students are involved in the structuring of their own courses; whenever possible curricular subject matter is relevant to the student's interests and skill levels; democratic decision making - students are involved with faculty in making decisions regarding programmatic issues as well as codes and consequences for individual behaviors.
A Sense of Belonging:
As described above, contemporary culture lacks places for people to belong to and has substituted material wealth for interpersonal richness. Because of its small scale (eight students, six faculty), residential nature, and focussed goal, the School creates a learning community which invites a sense of belonging from the participants. And, the experience is a short one - six months, so, the actual experience of belonging is enriched by the School's Outreach program which works with graduates and families to help them with their post-graduate lives. Students find that the School has become something very important to them, particularly after they have left: over 600 times each year, former students contact the Cschool, looking for resources, connection, help with college applications, and to give or get advice. Former students also play a role with current students through volunteering as tutors, panelists, special class presenters, and working in the program.
Responsibilities and the "Real World"
The relational approach understands that adolescents have been forced to "grow up absurd" in Paul Goodman's words. Our society has extended childhood by increasing the amount of time kids spend as recipients of our educational system, without giving them truly meaningful roles in their families, communities or economy. Students at the Cschool hold jobs in the community and owe room and board. They do not graduate if they are not paid up. They have to find and hold these jobs in order to complete the program. This happens in the "Real World" outside the four walls of our building. Similarly, students are held accountable by the community for their chores and their behaviors in the School. We are continually trying to break down the barriers between the "Real World" and the School, because as one student put it so well, "what's the point of taking us out of the Real World, if the idea of school is to prepare us for it."
The Co-Creation of Knowledge and Resistance to Authority
In the relational model, teacher/counselor and student have reciprocal roles. The student teaches how best s/he can be taught through discussion of her "learning autobiography" - an oral history of her schooling that addresses learning preferences, anxieties, strengths, and weaknesses. The teacher/counselor facilitates the student's progress towards completion of his competency exams and self-designed projects.
As much as possible, the criteria for success in any academic endeavor are established together by the teacher/student dyad; and the hoped for outcome is that in tackling academic problems together teacher and student will co-create relevant, integratable knowledge.
In her summary speech for our May 8th conference, Brenda Wentworth - a Cschool graduate from 1979 who is currently working as an MSW substance abuse counselor with addicted HIV+ clients - made it clear that she experienced her resistance to traditional school as deriving from the structural power which teachers seemed to have over her and the weight which this seemed to put on the teacher's "truth" as opposed to the student's "truth". She explained," Power over is the nemesis of the traditional educational process. When a student feels less than and a teacher feels more than, there can be no real helpful educational exchange...when a student realizes that a teacher's beliefs are just that, beliefs, the student often begins to challenge the teacher....the teacher fearing exposure, often perceives this as a personal attack, and attempts to hide behind his armor of adult status and authority...the teacher then imposes punitive measures to shut down the student's assault...stud! ents often retreat into despair..
depression, and sometimes rage."
It is our job as relational educators to keep a vigilant eye on this dynamic, and always challenge ourselves to work from a co-creative rather than "power-over" position with our students.
Passages - A New Program for Teen Parents
Inspired by Arnold Langberg, founder of the Jefferson County Open School in Colorado, and based on the Walkabout model of education, our Passages program for teen parents is non-residential. Teacher/counselors work with teen moms and dads in the comfort and chaos of their own homes. The program is founded upon the essential one to one relationship established between a teacher/counselor and a student. Although there are group requirements, most of the work is done through this dyad, and a primary goal of the program is to develop these young men and women as self-directed learners. Our task is to support and enrich the already responsibility laden lives of these young parents by guiding them through a curriculum focused on their current life-situation as parents, and help them achieve a high school diploma in the process. Since 1994 we have had 23 graduates.
Relational education works. Over 350 students have arrived at the Cschool since 1973. They have been demoralized, angry, resistant, yet hopeful and willing to give this new form of schooling a chance. 80% of these students have completed high school; 40% have gone on to post-secondary programs; 75% who had previously been incarcerated have not recidivated; 70% have been in contact after leaving the program; and a majority have created families that have been more successful than their families of origin. They have broken through cycles of despair, rage and abuse to create meaningful lives in a culture which all too frequently values goods over goodness, and which all too frequently scapegoats our young people as the problem instead of looking to them for their "truths" and their solutions.
To learn more about this form of education or its practice at the Community School, please contact me at 207-236-3000, or by email, email@example.com.
Home | News and Publications | Admissions | Programs | Contact Us | About Us | Relational Ed | Give
©2001 Eli Pariser, Steve Lindsay, and the Community School. All rights reserved. Many thanks to Prexar Internet for generously hosting this site.
> Hi Kathy:
> I agree with what you are saying about multicultural education.
> in my situation, I have a reverse problem. My school is all white,
> and low-income. Most of these kids have never interacted with anyone
> another culture. We only have three African-American students in our
> school. Many of our students are afraid of people from other cultures.
> One student told me that she would never attend one particular
> in a neighboring town because there were black people there and she was
> afraid of them. It is so sad that we have no diversity here. Many
> students here are pregnant. A few of them are having their second
> Many of their mothers were 16 years old when they had their children.
> there is a cycle here of ignorance that runs very deep. So many of our
> children live in homes with alcoholic or drug addicted parents too.
> is such a breakdown in the culture in this community that I see
> as having a very small effect. Even if the school brought in students
> other cultures, I think it would be very hard to influence the family
> structures which are deeply ingrained with prejudice. I'm not sure what
> the answer is to these types of problems. Ignorance and poverty usually
> co-exist. However, many people who live in this area have a desire to
> remain ignorant. It's hard to understand. I do have students who
> in me about their troubled home situations. At least I try to be
> they can talk to even though I feel helpless most of the time.
> Debbie Cogan
> --On Wednesday, November 19, 2003 8:21 PM -0500 estes
> <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > Response to Session 6
> > Culture and Learning
> > Kathy Estes
> > I feel after reading the conference paper and viewing the video on
> > the differences may be in learning; we have a long road ahead. There
> > enough blame to go around in this gray area of education. I think if
> > have a multiple classroom of cultures, first find what they have in
> > common. There are several ways to teach these students: one is to
> > resources on their Country and rituals they may practice. Two seek
> > through the District for someone who may speak their language. Third
> > can plan a multi-cultural week. Fourth set aside time for one on one.
> > think we are more multi-cultural today than ten years ago, this
> > more work and effort on the teachers. The student will help fill in
> > missing parts if they are comfortable with their surroundings. The
> > classroom is to be explored and should have flexibility. The
> > place should be like a rainbow, with every color. I do not think we
> > educators should drop the ball with teaching only the elite. In a
> > classroom with multi-cultural you will be able to teach the basics.
> > will be no getting away from the three R's. You can turn on minds
> > computers. The students will be learning the core knowledge of
> > not the machines of education. I feel bad for American students for
> > having the experiences of what make the earth turn. There is more to
> > earth than oxygen, water, and people, but if the students never do
> > their own brains, how will they know? The student sitting beside
> > will open the book and dig for information. Our Nation has become so
> > dependant on technology that we do not know how to think out side of
> > box. The classroom with foreigners will be more productive in
> > These students do not want to be shown as lame.If there were no
> > in education I feel we would have more Edison and Graham Bells, Eli
> > Whitney's and Leaders with the back ground of knowledge. The modern
> > student never has need of a book nor Library, just flip a switch.
> > student without prior knowledge of America will put our students to
> > on the information or History of the United States.Yes cultures do
> play a
> > role in all education. It may be sad to see a foreigner know more
> > our world than our own students. The Forefathers of our Country cut
> > their teeth on History, who dropped the ball? I know if Washington,
> > Lincoln, and Hoover and all the later Presidents would fall out over
> > what our children are doing to education. We need to teach them how
> > read, add, and write complete sentences. I shiver at the thought this
> > going to be my retirement fund. I hope to live as long as Strom
> > maybe then I can survive the mess of Educators. I wonder if anyone
> > given thought too how the Country will be run in ten years from now.
> > have and its not a pretty picture. We have more juveniles and drop
> > than any Country in the world. If the politics were out of schools
> > could have learning still today. The classroom educators were good
> > to teach the politicians. The modern technology is super if the
> > come first. Teachers need to be able to teach, not be robots for the
> > politicians. There may never have been any politicians if there were
> > one race, culture, and color. I think we need the basics back and
> > politicians out of the classroom. The multi-cultural classroom will
> > our only hope at teaching core knowledge. The new modern classroom has
> > button pusher and no brain to enforce learning. I have been given
> > opportunity to learn and attain hands on, minds on training, but I
> > afraid for the young people of today. I really do not know what I
> > have been with all the new tools in modern classrooms of today. I am
> > thankful for the old school learning, where you had prayer, respect,
> > honor, integrity, and discipline in the schools. I think this is
> > made our Nation so strong. I think we need a variety of cultures in
> > work places, schools, and offices. It would be a dull world with only
> > culture. There is no one cut paper doll for the learners of tomorrow,
> > there can be one education for all people. This education must
> > reading, math, and writing. The teachers need to require all students
> > research other countries and write facts on each. The paper needs to
> > reasons why they would want to live there or why they would not want
> > live there. Take back the education and teach to real life in
> > world. Teach students how to live not to play a role with someone's
> > knowledge. I think we must teach our students to think, feel, and
> > to what is going on in their worlds. The future will depend on how
> > students reacts to knowledge, rather than printing it off of a
> > This technology can come later, after they have the facts to feed
> > computer. The computer was programmed by someone who acquired the
> > knowledge ahead of the computer. The mind is a terrible thing to
> > We must turn on minds to education and learning to teach trades for
> > future. There are more papers to write, fill-out, and sort than
> > taking place. Every head or policy maker should be made to teach one
> > class a month. This person would have assess to books only. The
> > would have the rainbow of students, with all the differences in the
> > If the laws and policy makers would allow teachers to do their jobs
> > without any interference these cultures would benefit the harvest of
> > knowledge. The teachers have taken the test and all the classes to
> > the multi-cultural students. I feel that the short end of the stick
> > given to educators as a Whipping Boy for Politicians. I feel that I
> > earned the right to teach by educating my self for five years, with
> > going learning. The classroom teacher never graduates. This allows
> > all cultures to be expanded, but does not allow for bias in the
> > The cultures of the world are on-going adventures for educators.
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