As you probably have heard by now, WCSS is based on the principles of respect, trust, freedom, and responsibility. But how does this work? How do we get there? What does it look like in action? It is an evolutionary process which takes the whole community. Sometimes we feel impatient in the process as it cannot be done alone. It takes letting go, a careful look and a searching of one’s self. All in all...I think it is an on-going process.
Respect: Respecting one’s self and others is not an easy process. One has to be willing to look inside and to find how they are feeling; find one’s voice; find how best to communicate needs, wishes, desires, and be willing to be ‘wrong’ or let go of a ‘favourite’ outcome. It’s taking into consideration others' needs, wishes, and desires. It takes bravery, sensitivity, and skill. It takes time and dedication.
TP is an excellent space for practising and learning best communication. It gives us all a space to be heard and teaches us how to listen. Sometimes moments can get bumpy and one may run into a place in them self they don’t like. Emotions may come up as we are triggered by someone’s behaviour. But we are all dedicated to this practise. When we are called, we come. We arrive. We take turns. Everyone gets the space and the chance to be heard.
We learn that our behaviour effects the whole community. We learn who and what is our community. We may find that old behaviours change as they no longer work to serve the larger whole. We all want to get along.
At WCSS there is a wide range of age, personality, identity, backgrounds, and beliefs. We are all meeting new kinds of people and encountering a variety of new styles, music, and topics we have never heard of before. It is exciting, engaging, and sometimes even triggering. But all in all it is an opportunity for diversity and inclusion and to learn that there are people who are different than our families and friends. We embark on a process of tolerance, respect, education, and celebration.
Trust: Everyone wants to be trusted. At least I think most people want to be trusted and be able to trust those around them. Everyone wants to feel safe in their own way. Facilitators and staff at WCSS trust the students in a way that allows them to be who they are. We do not want to change them. When we look at an individual, we look at them in a way that frees them from limitations they themselves or others may have put upon them.
This process of trust is also on-going as we constantly check in with ourselves to rearrange prearranged ideas and concepts of how we think people are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing. I know when I am in the right place when a space opens up around me. It is tangible and palpable.
Sometimes there is a different kind of trust that needs to be earned. We as staff need to trust that students can keep themselves safe to the best of their abilities. Sometimes this is done by earning a ‘cert’. Students show they are ready to use equipment by completing steps, identifying risks, and showing they are responsible for the task at hand. Sometimes this needs to be revisited.
Freedom: Everyone wants to be free. But what is freedom? At WCSS our number one non-negotiable is that everyone has the right be free from harassment; to be and express who they are; to do what they feel, as long as it does not infringe on anyone’s rights...
At WCSS part of the education we all learn is that with freedom comes responsibility.
Responsibility: It is our first year as staff and students at WCSS. Something that is coming up a lot is about all the ‘rules’... ‘I thought we could do whatever we wanted.’ ‘I thought this was child-lead.’
At WCSS it may sometimes seem there are more rules than at a conventional school. But what they will find is that with more freedom comes more responsibility. At a conventional school all the rules are set out for the students with no room for change or to hear the students voices; their needs, their desires and wishes. At WCSS the students are more than welcome to be involved in the running of the school itself! There is a great responsibility that comes with this. Everyone needs to be heard who wishes to be heard, and if you do not show up then you won’t be heard! It is a process of learning and takes time. We can tell the students when the school meeting is. We can even remind them right before it starts, but if they don’t show up then the decisions will be made with out them. An ‘agreement’ might be written they don’t agree with. They then have to take the responsibility and initiative to bring their grievances back to the meeting. This is a valuable lesson for life. If you want something you have to make it happen!
At WCSS students may leave school grounds unaccompanied with an agreement made by parents, student and staff each according to their own needs and wishes. This is a great freedom but again, comes with great responsibility. If the agreement is broken it may be revoked or revisited until everyone feels safe again. When a child/teen is given this much trust and freedom, it takes a lot of revisiting and this may be an annoyance to them (and everyone else for that matter) but this is where the learning takes place. We learn to consider others' needs; find our boundaries; and that we can still be free within these boundaries.
Being in this first year at WCSS is a very exciting and often challenging place to be as everyone finds their feet, their places; their friends; their boundaries; their voice; their own definitions; and their community but sincerely, we couldn’t have found a better team. Onwords and Upwords <3