Agile Learning Centers Network Spring 2020 Webinar Series
“Staying Connected to Why”
with Anthony Galloway Jr. of Heartwood ALC
[00:00:01] – Anthony
What we’re talking about today is staying connected to ‘why’ – not to be confused with some cynic’s book in philosophy on ‘Starting with why’, though it would be very similar. Definitely not him.
Just really quick, who am I? I’m Anthony Galloway Junior, as you see. And I am a director and facilitator at Heartwood Agile Learning Center in Atlanta, Georgia, more specifically, Clarkston, Georgia. We just finished our fourth year of operation just this past Friday. So, yeah, let’s go, let’s get started.
Again, what this is about is staying connected to why. What I wanted to start off was talking about how sometimes we can get really attached to the details of what we’ve done or what we’re doing and get so married and invested in a very specific way of things happening. And that just results in a lot of different complications, for ourselves individually as well as for the community that we might be living in or existing in. So there’s mental stress, there’s the emotional stress, there’s the social stress of trying to push something through, get something to happen in a very specific way that others aren’t doing. It’s that sort of age old issue of wishing people would do what we wanted them to do, the way we wanted them to do it. Which just is not possible.
And even in a Agile Learning Center, or in a cooperative community where there’s a lot of negotiation and consent giving, there can still be some issues and tensions where one person’s methodology is not fitting with another person’s methodology and everybody just keeps butting heads and getting stuck on ‘how do we do this?’. As relates to education and schooling and how ALCs do things, not only does it happen at the school level – and we’ll get to that after this slide as far as what we do with the young people – but then it also happens for the staff, it happens for the board of trustees if you’re a nonprofit, it can happen with the parent community as they relate to the school. It also happens just for the parents themselves.
[00:02:16] – Anthony
And that’s actually what I’m hoping to get to through this, it’s the individual work that parents and caretakers and educators have to do for themselves. But in order to do that, we’re going to go back into it, starting with… First, my theory is that when those moments happen, when we get frustrated, it’s really because the assumption that we have that how something has to be done and if it’s not done that way, then our needs won’t get met and the people around us are then saying or implying that they don’t value us, they don’t care about us, we’re not important to them. What we need or what we want is not important to them. That’s my little theory there.
[00:03:04] – Anthony
All right, so before we get into I want to do a crash course in the Change Up process. I’m not sure if you all attended the session with Ryan a few weeks ago about how Change Up works. And so what this board is, we call it a Community Mastery Board or Community [Have-it?] Board, in some places. And this is where we have our Change Up meeting and track sort of the cultural habits and customs and agreements of the community that we exist in. And it’s a weekly meeting that we have. So what happens is someone comes up with an awareness, as you see here on the left, about some phenomenon, stuff that’s happening, and then from there a proposal is created to say, ‘Hey, here’s an idea of how we can address this issue’. And each week we revisit it. We all agree that first week to practice like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do this work for a few days. We’ll see how this goes, if it fixes the problem’. And each week we mark off, OK, week one ‘keep practicing’, week two ‘keep practicing’, week three ‘keep practicing’, until it becomes… we just keep checking it off until it becomes a habit or we feel like we’ve mastered it as a community and everybody has internalized this value. This practice is just part of the culture. There’s no need to keep track of it on a long list of rules or book of rules, there’s no need to keep it posted or presented all the time, it’s just sort of the habit, it’s just the way we do things. This board helps us to visualize how we’re improving at these practices.
So that’s that’s a crash course in there. I won’t go into too much detail about that. Instead I want to focus on and look at sort of the things that can end up happening when we go through that process. Like, it’s not a cure all. Let’s see if I can hide all the things that are floating [talking about the screen]. That’s great, here we go.
[00:04:56] – Anthony
All right. So like I said, someone brings up an awareness, some phenomenon. Then someone proposes something for the community to practice, to improve the situation. All right now, version one of this is maybe others in the community don’t like that proposal and a debate starts, you know, especially with the young people. One person wants it done this way. They really want this particular practice or proposal to happen. Other people are like, ‘I’m not willing to try that out or do that for a week or however long’. They’re just not willing to. And they propose something else, there’s a counterproposal. But the original person who brought up the awareness still isn’t budging. They want it their way.
That is a common occurrence, and that is an issue where a person is not hearing or understanding that this practice, this way of doing things, is not a fit for other people in the community, that they don’t like that, that there’s a need or value on their side that is going to be hindered or at least not addressed. But if the person who’s proposing it is so attached to their way of doing it, then these meetings can’t work. There’s no debating or arguing or logic to be had in these situations, because the idea is for everybody to get along and to be able to exist in community. So that’s an issue that we have that pops up.
[00:06:18] – Anthony
The second side of the issue is that we’ve actually been doing it for a week, practicing it for a week, but then the original person who brought up the awareness actually still isn’t satisfied. There’s still something being unmet, unfed in them. And so there’s still the issue of trying to figure out why isn’t this practice working? It might make the most perfect sense as it relates to the awareness they brought up.
Third situation. It’s cut off from me [on the screen], I hope you all can see it. It says, maybe it’s been a few months actually, everybody liked the practice at first and it went well. It’s working. It even evolved, as things happen. And then over time, it starts to fade. People stop doing it, people stop engaging with it. Some people want to…what that says is that some people want everyone to recommit to it and maybe start some enforcement to make people do it. And then other people are not as interested in continuing it.
All these situations happen for us while we have our Change Up meetings, at school or for staff or for the board or even for the parent meetings. Which is why we’ve introduced this concept or introduced the column that identifies our needs and values. That didn’t show up [on screen] either, oh man. That should say ‘Needs and Values’ there. But basically what it is, is that when somebody puts out an awareness, if someone has a proposal, we also sometimes will ask them to identify what’s the need behind it, what is the value behind it, because especially with young people, someone might bring up an awareness, an issue happening for them and everyone else is just like ‘Ugh, OK, so whatever, like, who cares?’ But what’s important is that they also indicate, what do they need from this? Why is it really bothering them? What’s important? Or what community, what shared community value that we all have, this is related to.
Because then that gets everyone invested into this process as well. It gets everyone starting to think about ‘How can we help our fellow community member?’ Because it’s not just about one person not being happy, so one person needing to figure it out. It’s about the entire community coming together to help that person and to help them figure out what’s going on and how can we how can we come up with a solution that meets everyone’s needs, that fits the values of our community and makes everyone happy? What can we try out? So that’s how that happens for us at the school sort of program level.
[00:08:54] – Anthony
But I find that process of identifying needs and awareness to be really important for the overall unschooling and deschooling process, that it’s important for us as facilitators to do it ourselves individually. It’s important for us to continually ask ourselves these questions, to figure out what’s going on, because if you are raised and trained in this world, honestly, there’s some traditional, rigid ways of existing that we learned that don’t fit the future that we are co-creating and that we exist in.
In addition, there are ways in which we think things have to be done and that we’re just inclined to do for the young people we work with that don’t fit for them or that don’t work, and we have to be creative and not try to sort of force a square peg into a round hole or vice versa, depending on the size of the peg. Anyways.
[00:09:50] – Anthony
So, how we apply this at the individual level, the adult level, the caretaker level. Disclaimer: because I’ve done so many info sessions and have marketed the school and talked about this stuff, I know that this process can be difficult for people. It can be challenging because it really takes some time to ask and answer these questions. Sometimes you have to deal with and face very hard truths. Sometimes it causes you to question the very basic beliefs you have about yourself and the world, especially in the field of education.
It challenges you to think about the way you learn, the way your development happened and if there are other ways in which it makes you realize, there’s some other ways to go about this. Then at times – sometimes there are no immediate answers or there are no answers at all. And you have to deal with the discomfort of standing in… you have to acknowledge and then also stand in the uncertainty, I will say, because there are some people who feel certain and are pretty sure, but even if there really are no guarantees in this case, you have to stand in there and just learn how to be OK or to deal with being uncertain about what the future holds or how things will have an effect on you.
[00:11:09] – Anthony
All right, so it’s cutting off all of my questions [from the screen]. OK, that’s cool. So, the questions – actually, this is an exercise that I would love for us to sort of go through together, but I wanted to sort of go through the presentation first and then come back to this, so that we can sort of have a dialogue and talk about the questions that I always have to ask myself, other facilitators have to ask, and that we challenge parents when they come to us and they’re interested in schools, to ask themselves: What do they want, what are their values and what’s important to them? What do they want for their young person? What are their values and priorities as it relates to raising them?
So actually, for our info sessions, whenever someone RSPVs, we ask them what’s important for them as it relates to their child’s education. And then when they also come and are present, we also ask them again. And then when we do our interview at the end of our trial weeks, we ask them again. Just to make sure that what they value, what’s important to them, is aligned with what the school even does. So in addition, asking yourself how can you accomplish this and if there’s more than one way to accomplish it. So whatever your desire is, whatever your goal is, there’s a tendency to think, ‘OK, here’s a way I can do it’ or we are just doing the thing.
[00:12:28] – Anthony
Sometimes we don’t even start out at necessarily what we want or what our values are, we’re just doing it. But it’s really important to realize, is there another way? And this goes back to the Change Up process with the Community Mastery Board, that we were looking at earlier, where based on your need or value, there might be more than one way to accomplish this. There might be a way to do this that actually meets the needs of all parties involved. And that’s why we try to challenge students, and we challenge ourselves, not to get fixated on how it gets done. Because if what’s important to you is maybe fun, making sure that everybody’s having fun, or making sure that everybody is involved, or maybe for our meetings, if it’s important to you that the meetings are quick or time efficient, there are a lot of different ways that we can accomplish that, actually. And it doesn’t have to be some specific idea that you came up with, because no matter what, there are other needs and values that also have to be considered.
So funny enough, even in a SDE space – I put these questions last, but usually we tend to start out with these questions. But in talking to adults or parents, it’s always necessary to sort of meet people where they are and then bring them into our space and asking, OK, we’ve asked you, what do you want? What are your values? What do you want for your kid?
Now, what does your young person actually want? What do they value? What’s important to them? What if they don’t want what you want for them? And how do you reconcile that discrepancy?
So we’ll come back to those questions together and sort of dialogue about some of that. But I want to move on and show some of the rest of the tips. That’s a repeat of the questions.
Something else I want people to remember is that you have to be honest with yourself about these questions. And again, that’s why sometimes it can take time and you really have to do some work and dig in. It’s not just about saying the things you think are right or what you think is socially acceptable, because these answers are actually for you, not for others. Because whether you acknowledge the true answer or not, it’s still what’s driving and directing all the decisions that you’re making for you, your family, your household, your young person, your students, if you are an educator. All of that is at play. So you have to acknowledge and call that stuff out.
[00:14:53] – Anthony
Some other stuff to remember is that, like there’s that book, Simon Sinek, ‘Let’s start with why’ or ‘Finding your why’. But like, that’s not – I mean, it would be great if we could all do that all the time. But sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. So sometimes you have to back into it, after looking at what you’re doing and you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong or what’s not working. You have to be invested, though, also in this process. It’s a rediscovery process and you have to stay connected to it and you’re always checking in on it. Eventually it becomes a habit of yours to be aware of this and be plugged in. But at the beginning, you really have to remind yourself and sort of dig deep into these moments, until it becomes just sort of a part of how you exist.
[00:15:39] – Anthony
In addition, motivations, needs and values can shift. Sometimes that affects the efficacy of what you do. So right now, what might be important to you is that your child is just having fun. And so that’s why it can be easy for some parents and educators to be like, ‘Oh, I can let my five or six year go to this SDE space and let them play all day, because I don’t want my five or six year old to have homework right now or I don’t think they need to be reading chapter books right now’. But then sometimes your motivations or needs shift and you start to think that, ‘Oh, I want them reading’ or ‘I want them doing math’. And again, in that sense, you really have to ask yourself why. Like, is literacy really what you value or is there something under that, or are math skills that you value? Why did you stop valuing your child having freedom and fun? And again, these are difficult questions to ask and answer, but they are important to ask. Important to stay connected to.
Few things also to think about, this would be part of what we also share, is sort of what did you learn was actually important when growing up? What did you learn to value? How was that message delivered and how has that helped or hindered you as you got older? As you were young?
Is anybody else willing to share some of their answers to these questions or what’s going on for them?
[00:17:17] – Abby
You know, I really appreciate that you’ve got an explicit like, ‘Is there more than one way to accomplish this?’ Because often… I mean, I like to ask, like, what am I not seeing? But often, if I value their playing because I value their joy and the skill building that I trust they’re doing, and I value a variety of literacies and they’re getting to develop that and to learn how to keep developing different literacies as they grow, then that reminder to ask, ‘Is there more than one way?’ helps me step back and see maybe these things aren’t in conflict the way they initially appear to be. Which is often helpful for me, especially with teenagers.
[00:18:32] – Anthony
Yeah, I think the… oh Spence has their hand up, I forgot about that function. Go ahead, Spence.
[00:18:41] – Spence
Yeah, something that I’ve thought about recently is how my… maybe the focus that… the things I want sort of change. And I came to this new sort of want, I guess, and you know, I’ve been doing this sort of unschooling stuff for a while, self-directed learning for a while, and recently where I reflected on my own childhood and how I was forced to go to these after school reading classes, because I was like dyslexic and I did it for like seven years.
And I saw it as like, you know, good intentions of my parents to do that for me, to try and help me to learn, but I actually discovered that – through therapy, actually – that the forced nature of that actually silenced my, like, voice. And I’ve seen a huge ripple effect of negative consequences throughout my life because of that. And there wasn’t really a check in on my social emotional needs surrounding that topic. So thinking about my own son, like the social emotional is now my biggest value and the thing that I care about the most. And when he ever learns to read and all that kind of stuff, whatever the topic or a thing that he might be interested in or not learning yet, that will come at some point when it’s necessary. But like the thing that feels really top of my priority list is that he figures out how to, like, speak up for himself and have his emotional, mental needs met as he feels that he needs them. So that was my piece to add there.
[00:20:45] – Anthony
Cool cool, thank you, for participating.
[00:20:55] – Participant
I’ll jump in. Can you hear me? Ok, cool. When I look at this list, I think about what type of like, community I want to be a facilitator in, because I’m kind of… like, we’re at a place here where I live, where there was a project that dissolved and a new project that was being started, and the pandemic hit. And then it’s like, all right, well, is that other project starting? Will it continue to grow? I don’t know. So now I’m back to like, how do I get involved and what are my values? Where do I want to put my time during this time where everything has shifted back to being online? I guess I never imagined that things would be online instead of offline. So I’m trying to, like, reimagine what’s important to me, because what was really important to me was doing more stuff in person. And I wanted to do a lot more things with kids in person that I feel like I’ll probably be able to do right now. So this was just like, it doesn’t really give me answers but just more ways to, like, figure out how I can come up with what I can do with my time now. Thank you for this.
[00:22:04] – Anthony
I wanted to add a piece about the – that actually Abby highlighted – the concept of there being more than one way to accomplish something. We find when parents express interest in our school, they come to the school, you know, one of the most frequently asked questions is, ‘Well, how do they read, write, learn math, go to college if you’re not making them do it?’ And it’s an interesting question because the question sort of says, well, if it’s not this way, what other way is there? What are the other methods? And so it suggests that there might be some other way. But also the person asking the question tends to be in a place of like, ‘This doesn’t make sense. What you’re doing is magic’, or rather, they’re looking for a very specific methodology, a step one, step two, step three, that really replicates what they know, what they’ve experienced, but not necessarily in that same framework.
And so it’s harder for people to imagine that actually, there’s a way that this can get done without forcing it. Just because it is something that you were sort of forced or led to do doesn’t mean that it’s not something that can naturally occur in the young person. There’s an assumption that the young person doesn’t naturally want to become more capable in life and in their community and in the spaces that they operate in, that that desire won’t come for them just because it wasn’t allowed to naturally come for you. And I think, as some people have been pointing out, do you believe that’s the only way? Are you open to finding out or knowing that there’s another way to accomplish it?
[00:23:57] – Anthony
This is the sort of final question for me, when we have these kinds of conversations or discussing self directed education specifically with people, because then that tells me whether or not they’re even open to the conversation or to experimenting with other things, if they can’t at least be open to the idea that maybe there’s another way.
Because after a few years of doing this, I’m very much not in a place of defending and/or convincing and arguing and having sort of an intellectual battle with people about whether the way we do schooling, our education, is effective or healthy or right, because that’s an endless conversation and that’s just not the space that I want to operate from. For me, it’s just about here’s a way to do it. And I prefer this way. It’s really fun for me. It’s really fun for the kids and great for the parents. And this is just the way that I prefer. And if that’s not OK for you, if that’s too uncomfortable for you, then that’s fine. There might be some other way to do it.
Part B of that is, I think when we get too attached to a very specific way for something to go or we get attached to how something is supposed to look or the methods there, I think that’s when we get really dogmatic and very rigid about how we practice whatever we’re doing, whether it is Waldorf or Montessori or Agile Learning or Sudbury or project-based learning or anything, there’s when we get so attached to ‘This is the exact way that it has to be done’ and this protocol is what fits for us, then I think we lose and miss out again on staying connected to our why and being able to adjust and adapt based on what works for the young person.
[00:25:54] – Anthony
So maybe Montessori is what works for a particular young person. Maybe project-based learning is what works for that young person, maybe Agile Learning Centers are what works for that young person. There’s so many different ways out there and I’m not an advocate of saying that one way is more right or more of a fit universally for all people. Everybody’s different. Everybody has different needs that need to be met. And there are different ways to do this. So that’s why for me, like in this – even though it’s important to ask these questions to yourself, Akilah Richards says ‘mad questions asking’, I think, quoting a song, I think it’s an endless process of just interrogating oneself. And it’s difficult, but as it relates to me as an educator and in bringing someone into the fold or participating in an Agile Learning Center, I usually have to say, are you open to there being another way? Like is this possible for you? There are other professors out there who are doing the very important and necessary work of convincing people that there’s another way, that other ways work.
For me, it’s just, are you open to this? Are you willing to hear that there’s another way? Because if not, that’s kind of where the relationship for me with that parent, you know, might stop. But as an individual, it’s important to keep going. It’s a cycle back through all of these and do them in various forms. The question that actually got cut off down here, I believe is….Are your actions actually reflecting your values?
[00:27:36] – Anthony
Sometimes we say we value one thing. We know that we really do value it, but then what we’re doing in our daily lives or what we are doing education wise, doesn’t actually pair with or doesn’t match up with our values. And in those cases, we really have to like, reassess and adjust based on what actually gets us the things that we need. Or realizing that if we’re not willing to change our practice or our way of doing things, then maybe our values actually aren’t what we say they are. So the relationship and the effect goes back and forth, in that maybe your actions aren’t matching your values and you need to change your actions, or maybe you need to realize that your values are different. What has shifted?
I want to hop along to this other slide, and if people are also willing to share some of their thoughts here about their own experiences. If anyone’s willing to share sort of as you were growing up, as you were going through school, what did you learn was actually important? What did you learn to value? How was that message delivered and how is that helped or hindered you?
[00:28:57] – Anthony
I will actually go first and say that what I learned was important was getting good grades and keeping a very high GPA. I learnt to value intellect and intelligence, but as it is… I valued intellect and intelligence in the way that it is valued and displayed in a traditional school and academic setting, which means being well-spoken, being able to read and speak eloquently and write eloquently, being pretty quick on your feet to answer difficult questions and answer math questions, math facts, and doing all the things that, as we know, traditional schools tend to want from young people. And whatever the teacher says is necessary to get the A or maybe not even doing those things but just having the A and having a near perfect GPA was what I learned was important and what was valuable.
And I got that message delivered to me really just from, I guess partially, obviously partially my parents and then partially from the school environment that I was in and the people who I interacted with as a kid. So always being told about how smart I was or how gifted I was, being in a talented and gifted program, and honors programs. Parents explicitly telling me that my job and my role is to get good grades and stuff and then being rewarded in many different ways because I got good grades and having sort of special advantages or privileges because of that. So I had a lot of that sort of speaking to me and I really started to learn and overvalue a certain appearance of intelligence and value education – formal education, I should say – which resulted then in me devaluing for a while more creative fields, music, the arts, devaluing the community and how to exist with other people, devaluing just sort of character development and improvement in that way.
[00:31:12] – Anthony
So I think it stunt me for a while. And upon becoming an adult and sort of leading a sort of independent adult life, it really also hindered me in that way, like I don’t have everything I wanted. I’m not perfectly happy because my GPA was perfect. Like, sure, I got scholarships and I had access to different education experiences, but it didn’t necessarily lead to happiness. It didn’t necessarily lead to social and economic mobility. It didn’t necessarily lead to an extensive tight knit network or community of supporters. It just called for a period of my life where I was very, I would say, self centered and would write people off if they did not display that they were as intelligent. And for me, just as valuable as I thought, intelligence ought to be displayed. And so that’s my responses to those questions and how the messages that I got and the values that I internalized have impacted me.
If anybody else is willing and wanted to share that’d be great. So after having some people share, I want to go back to this. Definitely want a lot more conversation and participation here, because I think this is what is going to be – this is where this subject of just asking yourself why and what’s important to you and what are my values, like, those are really important. Those are great. And for some and in some instances, it can be very surface-y almost, or it doesn’t get into the weeds and the details and the sort of things that people end up nit picking about. So I wanted to ask some of the difficult questions to you all. And I’m going to read them off here.
[00:33:09] – Anthony
So, how does our role of responsibility in our relationship with the young people that we work with, how does that impact things? Specifically if we are a parent, teacher, guardian, nanny, et cetera, and we’re working with young people, we just undoubtedly end up having a greater responsibility in that dynamic. There are certain things that are expected of us by the young person, as well as the rest of society, that people don’t expect of the young person. How does that increased responsibility affect what we’re talking about here, about doing things according to the young person’s values?
Also, how does the young person’s maturity, age, their understanding and developmental capacities impact this theme or this idea of basing things on the values of the young people?
A few examples of this are, as many of us know, when it’s time to leave an event or end an activity that the young person does not want to leave, or alternatively, if it means attending an event that they don’t want to go to, how does our increased responsibility and being the adult in that dynamic, how does that affect this sort of…almost too perfect or too easy, saying, we should follow the values of the young person. What do they want? What’s important for them? How do we reconcile that?
Additionally, another situation is, you know, what about our young person’s diet, what they eat or their eating schedules? What about their – this is a heavy one – what about this screen time? How much screen use should they have or what kind of content they engage with on their screens? What about things like doctors appointments or certain therapies that they have to attend or that we want them to attend? What are people’s thoughts about how we reconcile that? How do we deal with our role of being the responsible or more responsible party, and how do we balance that with also trying to honor and respect what that young person needs, what they value, what’s important to them, and keep in check the different stages or abilities they have?
[00:35:55] – Abby
I had a period where I was like parenting a teenager and her mom had specifically said, and the teenager had specifically said, she wanted to practice like planning, buying groceries and cooking all her own meals. And that kind of stuff like was explicitly one of their goals for her during this period. And for the first few weeks, sometimes she would have cereal for breakfast, but sometimes I’d wander through the kitchen when she was prepping her breakfast and she would have like, teriyaki flavored seaweed packets and birthday cake ice cream. And it was really an interesting reckoning for me to have to sit with, like, what is my role? What is my responsibility?
Like, all right, this isn’t ideal, but is it so harmful that I have to, like, interrupt what’s happening or is there something else I can do in terms of just asking her about this choice. Like, is it because she didn’t plan her groceries or because she actually wants this and if she really wants this, like, cool, cool, like, how is that feeling? What am I going to move maybe in terms of, like inviting her to grocery shop with me later that day or, you know, to cook dinner together kind of thing, so that I don’t get in the way of her learning, you know. Or then on days where, you know, like, I knew I was going to have to wake her up early the next day to go catch a bus somewhere and do some big thing where she would need to be feeling well, because we’ve been having conversations about like, ‘How do you feel when you’re eating this way?’, I would then prep her and be like, ‘Alright, so this is what we’re looking at for tomorrow. Can we talk about lunch and dinner plans to make sure that we both are ready for this next day?’ But it was hard.
[00:38:34] – Anthony
Who else, who else, who else?
[00:38:37] – Spence
I could jump in. Yeah, I think there’s definitely been moments where it’s like ‘I know what’s best, so I’m going to tell you what to do’. And then I sort of self reflected on, like, you know, how do I like to be micromanaged and how do I like to be told what to do and how that sits and feels for me. And so while my son’s choices may not always be like what I perceive as the healthy choice, getting to bed on a certain time or brushing teeth or whatever it may be, I think having sort of the conversation of like, ‘Hey, tell me more about what going on here for you. Like, I really value sleep and I know all these reasons why it’s good for my body. Like, tell me how you feel about that and what your thinking is.’ And so then it’s just sort of like a conversation and we talk about what feels good for him and how the consequences of like, not getting enough sleep or too much or whatever it might be. And then we just sort of experiment and sort of do kind of like what you introduced at the beginning, the Change Up, where it’s like, let’s try this for a week and then we’ll check in about it and see how it feels. And then we’ll have more information to kind of base our next conversation on.
So that way, it’s not about my opinion or his opinion, but it’s sort of like how can we, like, figure this out together? And that’s, I guess, part of the learning process. It’s just like, it’s not about my textbook answer. It’s about the dialogue in the relationship about this thing that we’re kind of talking about.
[00:40:40] – Anthony
Yeah, I think it’s interesting where there’s sort of a continuous dialogue, because my next question is, or my next point is, in addition to honoring or acknowledging the young person, our responsibility as caretakers and then considering where they are developmentally, age wise or in maturity, their ability to understand sort of all the pieces. That shifts, that line shifts and that line changes. So then what you really allow for them to – I think that’s what’s important also is to remember or acknowledge that our position of responsibility also comes or it’s there because of our increased power in the situation, is the…. sorry, I’ve made a Spiderman reference in the back of my mind, about responsibility and power. But we are definitely the more capable and more empowered party in that dynamic. We are the ones who are allowing them or giving them the ability to operate according to their own sense of autonomy and to direct themselves. We could very easily take that away. And I think that is such an important thing to know and to just accept, and like you say, continuously dialogue and work out our own stuff.
[00:42:13] – Anthony
In that process, like, as they grow, as they develop, as they change, how do we allow more things and new things based on what we see from them and what they’re capable of doing? So, for instance, you may need to heavily police screen time or heavily police diets at a younger age, but then are we still doing that when they turn 10, when they turn 14? When they turn 17? When does it stop?
As we know, it’s expected culturally – I’ll stop and say, in the United States, culturally, it’s kind of like the parent is ultimately responsible for everything all the time. And then when 18 happens or in some cases 21 happens, now the kid gets all the powers and privileges and responsibility for themselves. And sometimes that’s a way of existing that they’re not used to. It can be pretty hard if you are suddenly expected to do all those things instantly for yourself on your own.
So how do we as educators, caretakers, sort of move that needle, move that line to allow them more? And when do we decide to move that line? That to me, is the trickier of these tricky, sort of difficult situations or questions. Acknowledging that we do hold the power and when and how do we allow them to access more of that continuously in preparation for adulthood? Wondering if anybody had just open thoughts or feedback about that.
[00:43:53] – Abby
To build off that, bringing the conversation back to community and the value of taking care of relationships and being mindful of our impact, that’s been super helpful for me. You know, Amy, when a kid wants to do a thing and I’m like, well, I’m trying to take care of my relationship with your parent and your relationship with your parent. So let’s talk about how can we do that, you know, to honor that we’re all connected to each other or even with some of the tech stuff, you know? Oh, do you know that video game is run by this company and like they hired this casino guy to try to hook kids and manipulate little kids? Like, what do you think about that? Let’s talk about it. What does that mean for the broader community if you then bring that game into school or share with this younger person? But yeah, just like bringing the conversation back to that, to the values, to our relationships, is really helpful.
[00:45:08] – Anthony
Lastly, I guess to wrap up, I just wanted to sort of review or reemphasize, I guess, the concept of staying connected to the why, like always being willing and ready to sort of self assess and say, ‘All right, I want my kid, my young person, to do this or I want them to have this experience. Why? Why is this important for me? What do I need actually need from this?’
And based on whatever that value is or whatever that important priority is, is there some other way to meet that that also doesn’t conflict with their needs and values? Is there some kind of way we can both consent and continuously dialogue about what works for them, what works for me, as we have a relationship and or are in community with each other. And not just between me and that person, but then like I said, the community, the rest of the household or the rest of the school, what works for all parties? What is actually the shared need or the shared value?
And sometimes that requires…we’ve had those things just explicitly written out, so that we’re reminded this is what’s important to us. This is what actually matters. So whenever some kind of disagreement pops up or whenever some kind of issue or tension or stressor comes up or there’s just sort of difficult emotions, we can always literally look to the poster on the wall and say, ‘OK, well, remember, these are the things that are important to us. Do we need to possibly add to that list or how can we actually get to accomplishing the same thing if actually what we’re both trying to do, mission wise is the same?’.
There’s some other thing going on, and it’s so great to detach like the personal and internal sort of involvement, the identifying as the practice or identifying as the method, separating those things, like you were not the way in which you choose to accomplish something.
And so if somebody is having a disagreement with the way you choose to do something, that doesn’t mean they disagree or don’t value you. And the same thing happens if we’re talking specifically about the young people, we have to help them realize that that experience is happening for them and us. And again, as we said, it’s with great angst. It’s a continuous conversation and it’s difficult and it’s hard, but you have to be willing to do it.
Also, Alicia said in the chat, I saw that she talked about the connection in the relationship. That’s probably the most important part. Unfortunately, I didn’t really emphasize that before, is that without being in relationship to and to actual connect it to the young person that we’re working with or that we’re parenting or raising, then everything else is lost. We just become this person who’s forcing them to do stuff and they do lose trust. They do lose their ability to depend on us to really value what they want.
[00:48:24] – Anthony
So we always have to keep those things in mind. I heard it said somewhere else by another facilitator somewhere that for them, they would much rather sacrifice the ‘what’ they want the kid to do or what they’re doing or anything and save the relationship with the young person. They would choose the relationship no matter what, like what can be done to preserve our connection rather than trying to exert my authority or my power or control or just trying to show you that I know better and proving that I know better and I’m the wiser person and that you’re actually going to like this in the end.
Maybe they like it in the end, but then after that they don’t…the connection is frayed and that takes a lot of work. So sometimes you have to realize that valuing the connection and the young person is more important than the literacy or more important even than them having fun all the time and laughing all the time, because that’s not life. So, yeah, I’m done my official formal presentation conversation. I can and will remain here if anybody just wants to ask a question, pose some other situation or just wanted to talk. I’m available for that.
[00:49:48] – Anthony
But thank you all for attending. I hope everybody was able to get something out of it. Thank you all for participating as well. There will be another session, a few more sessions actually, the following Sundays. Not from me, but from other facilitators. So, yeah. Thank you.
[00:50:11] – Alicia
As you know, I have a 15 year old – this is Alicia talking, for those who are looking at the screen. I’ve been participating…because I didn’t grow up in an SDE community anything like this, I actively, intentionally chose this for my family. And so it takes a lot of coaching and guidance and mentorship, which is why I’m always in these groups like this. And Abby sees me all the time. There’s another group happening right now that’s being hosted by Maleka Diggs, and she is with Eclectic Learning Network. So any of you can, like, check it out too.
Anyway, we’ve been dealing with this exact issue in that group and just actually starting a new group called ‘Deschooling – it’s a thing!’. That one’s starting Thursday. So, one thing that we came up with and this was just, it ended up being just moms, but just talking about like, what do we do in these situations where especially with our teens, where they just shut down. And because they have the ability to just go in their rooms and shut the doors and have their headphones and be on the screen or whatever, whatever it is, or sometimes even just get in the car and leave or whatever it is with teens, they have more independence.
[00:51:18] – Alicia
So we’re saying like – one person had said, and I’m gearing up the courage to try it – sometimes as a parent, I tend to, like, have this leadership mentality, where I have to steer the ship, and that means I have to, like, almost be… and maybe this is not anyone else’s experience, but for me, like, I must be less emotional with my kids in trying to provide that stable base of someone to lean on, whatever my inborn concept of parenting is, you know.
And so one of the parents, and actually there was a young person there too, said ‘Sometimes parents just have to break down and have a moment where they just show that emotion’. Like that raw ‘I am struggling here and this is how I’m perceiving this thing that’s happening’. And I’ve tried this recently with my daughter to help our relationship a little bit where I was just like ‘To me, when you’re in your room all the time and you’re on the computer, I totally respect what you’re doing in there’, like she does her own cool stuff, ‘but it almost feels like either you’re hiding, you’re trying to escape from me. Maybe that’s not how…’ And she’s like ‘That’s not how I mean it!’. Anyway, we had this whole like thing, where I’m crying, cause I cry a lot. You know, it’s just a thing of, instead of trying to like… I just let down my guard and I got super vulnerable and I just kind of showed my strength for a little bit and I don’t know if I would do that with a younger child, but maybe with my teen, at least it worked for me. And I don’t know if that’s even useful, but there I am.
[00:53:09] – Spence
I would concur there. Like, being vulnerable is super helpful to like almost every relationship. I think, with maybe like a younger learner, child, like I think maybe, at least for me, self editing when I’m like sharing my fears or anxieties or, you know, the most catastrophic stories that are happening in the world. Just to not, like, put that burden on my young person. But I can hint at them and share some of those realities. But it’s a case by case basis. You know, each kid is going to react to heavy stuff differently. So but, yeah, being vulnerable, sharing emotions, I think especially as a man trying to undo my toxic masculinity, like being able to show I can have emotions and share them authentically, I think is a valuable thing to present to young people, so that they can see that that’s an OK thing to do and healthy.
[00:54:22] – Anthony
I wanted to say something at the beginning of sort of your prompt, beyond you were talking about the sort of swift or rapid changing of interest, possibly in like as soon as something is pursued or done, then they’re not into it anymore. And I know I’ve experienced as an educator and also as a kid, that for me sometimes when the adults, or definitely when the parent seems to take over – and that could be from just showing too much enthusiasm about a thing, to actually, like, take in the driver’s seat and taking the steering wheel and like, really going for it. It could really suck the joy, the sort of naturally occurring joy, for me out of it.
In addition, I’ve seen with the young people that when we as the adults, you know, see something that they do and we’re trying to like shape it and make it into a thing too much, too soon, for them, whatever it is, it just loses all its interest and all its glimmer. For whatever reason.
There are definitely young people that I facilitate for who, the moment you give them too much attention for a thing or too much applause or over acknowledge, they’re like, ‘OK, I’m not – I hate it now’. Or because they’re sometimes attached to a very certain reputation or look – almost, I want to say, like just looking cool – but it’s deeper than that. But then when I come in and I say or do something or try to be a part of it or try to shape it, then that can just really take them out of it. They can completely lose interest in it. Or sometimes it’s actually a passive aggressive [thing], like now to make me mad they will lose interest in it, just to show me that, like to almost imply that I ruined this for them. Or ruined the moment and that it’s my fault, just as a means of communicating some kind of frustration. So I know that is a thing that I have not only done when I was younger, but I also experienced now as an adult working with young people.
[00:56:52] – Spence
I had a recent experience with my grandmother. I had, this past year, left my spiritual tradition, religious tradition, and she started sort of telling me how I was wrong or how, like, I needed to come back to church and all this stuff. And I had one conversation with her that was like, I got all defensive and I pointed out all the reasons why she was wrong and that didn’t get anywhere healthy. And then the next conversation, I had a chance to sort of reflect on that and then say to her, I was like ‘You know, I could tell you all the reasons why you’re wrong and why I don’t agree with you. And you can tell me all the reasons why I’m wrong and you don’t agree with me. But does that actually help us build the connection that we want?’ And that was it. She shut up. We’ve stopped having any arguments about that thing. And that’s been valuable because I was able to sort of like look at the thing that we both cared about, which is our connection and our relationship.
[00:57:59] – Spence
The other anecdote I’ll share is with my mother. We, my son and I, spent like a week at my parents’ house and we were eating dinner or something, and she wanted him to, like, eat these vegetables. And I was just like, ‘No, stop. I’m going to ask you to just stop this conversation.’ She got all defensive, and my son left the room. And I said ‘Now, since my son’s gone, tell me what it is that you want to tell him’. She’s like, ‘I just wanted to tell him, like, he might get cancer if he doesn’t get, like, this food’. And it’s like, good, i’m glad I interrupted that because my boundary is that I’m not going to fearmonger my child. And can we make an agreement about this that you do not, like, bring fear into my son’s life? Being able to sort of just speak up for myself and share my boundary around this I think helped reduce sort of like that friction for our relationship.
[00:59:02] – Spence
And I think back to what Anthony shared at the beginning, that board with awarenesses and agreements and practicing. And I just keep thinking about that. I may not actually, like, bring a board out with my parents, but just sort of thinking like, OK, this is an awareness I’m seeing in my relationship. What is a boundary I have and what agreement can we co-create that’s going to work for our relationship moving forward? And so just on the fly in a conversation, I will sort of think about those practices and then, you know, let’s try it for a week. And next week I can, like, bring up a new practice if that works better for our relationship. And that’s my thoughts.
[00:59:45] – Anthony
I like what you said. That sort of parenting or sort of guiding from fear. Like imagine… I just sort of put out there, imagine if we were teaching, facilitating, parenting, mentoring, whatever, not from a place of being afraid or fearful or trying to prevent maybe some future horrific thing happening. So what if I was parenting a young person, introducing them to literacy, not because I’m stressed and worried that if they can’t read, they’re somehow going to fall behind and be statistically related to all these other negative demographics and become an adult who can’t do this, that and the other.
What if I decided to choose not to operate from that space and instead operated just from a space of like ‘Man, this story that we’re reading is just like so fun or is just so enjoyable or like us just sitting together and reading and acting out the story is just so enjoyable. Don’t we love this?’ Or the information that we’re engaging with is really feeding an intellectual thirst or hunger within us. Imagine approaching things from sort of – I mean, I hate to sound this way, but imagine approaching things from like a place of love and just interest and light, rather than fear and stress and anxiety or even trauma based.
[01:01:06] – Anthony
So being worried about what could happen if this young person doesn’t learn to exist in the world in a very specific way, because of the negative things that happen out in the world. And how a person might internalize that, especially a younger person, internalize those values and start to restrict and limit themselves in the way that they can exist in the world. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a thing that people do, obviously.
We all have our own issues that we have to work with and to make sure that we aren’t instilling in and making it a part of someone else’s story. And still, just again, that question of like, why am I doing this, what are my values? And like, am I trying to teach them the way the world is based on the way it was for me? Versus teaching them actually how to change the world, how to shift the world, or just acknowledging that the way the world might be when they become adults could be totally different than how it was for me. So I’m really interested in this.
[01:02:13] – Anthony
I’m glad you mentioned that because I’m just really interested in the idea, the concept of just, what if we stopped being educators or parents from a space of worry and concern and trying to prevent horror, tragedy or discomfort, and we just like pursued the things that we loved and that inspired us and motivated us. And it can seem really romanticized and really idealistic, which I tend to be an idealist, and still, for me, it’s just important that, like, well, we have to try. We might as well try because the alternative, at least from where I sit, doesn’t work or is not a guarantee or it’s not enjoyable. So yeah.