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Windsor House

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When you walk in the front door its unlike any school you've ever encountered in your life. Such a community that it's so much more than a school. I feel like this is my second family. They get the freedom to make their own decisions and to create their own paths and to explore their own passion. What we have here is we have a culture of self-responsibility. An opportunity for kids to just be who they are, and without having to fit into the constraints of what somebody else thinks they should be. It is the most truely tolerant, celebration of differences setting I've ever been in. Windsor House is the village that raises the child. Humans are learners, born innate learners. It's a very comforting, reassuring, and accepting place. It's contagious, the interest in learning; and I think that's what education ought to be about. Windsor House has taken on a personality of its own. Windsor House actually has a personality. It's vibrant and I think that's the most noticable thing about Windsor House when you first come in. Is that everybody is lively. The urge to play is the same as the urge to learn. And that when were playing were constantly learning, were constantly trying to refine something. Whether its the ability to play hockey or setting up of a complex role-playing scenario; whether your 5 years old, and it's a fantasy game, or your 12 years old, and it's structured more and looks like you know, a particular set of rules, and maybe a book as a guide, but through that, play is an intrinsic motivation, to learn something, to pursue something about yourself, about your relationship with others, about information, about physical skills, about emotional skills, cognitive skills. It's constantly happening. Now of course is, sometimes people think it means you can do anything you want. And it doesn't mean that at all. What it means is that we don't force you to do anything academic. We also have various institutions which are the judicial council, the school council. The academic underpinning, which is every single staff person knows what the academic requirements of the provincial government are. We know what children in school are expected to learn. And so we know that when a child is at this place, the next step for them is going to be this place. When their ready, when they want it. We're there with it. It's all there. It's all underlined, not seen, but it's in the repertoire of almost every teacher. So of course it isn't that the kids come in and do nothing It's the kids come and develop into the people they really are. Rather than becoming the people that somebody else wants them to be. All this stuff we normally consider a public school education, sits on top of the ability to be who you are in the world. And that actually learning and education sticks better, when you have something to frame it in, and when you have a way to go after it from a place that's internally motivated. When I was in elementary school I found a lot that I was forced into forced to try and be what everybody else was, like try and fit in. Whereas, Windsor House, I've never really tried to fit in. I've always just found people who I have enjoyed being with. Like I haven't had to change to be with them. Just being outside of some of the social pressures that are excerted so heavily in the traditional school system; I think that as a teen here, my friends and I had a lot more room to kind of just be with each other, in a really genuine way. I can hangout with kids my age and talk about relevant stuff. Talk about sex, drugs, alcohol, and relationships. It was a really open relationship. Windsor House built me from so young, to be so proud of who I am and where I come from, that no matter what people think, or what people say, or whatever pressures of young people's oppressions, that I can get through it. I can be myself and be happy with who I am. I've noticed myself to be much more open, with me, with who I am, to other people and to myself. And I've also noticed that I'm just able to feel safe. Windsor House offers a safe haven for students emotionally. I've never seen a school where the older kids are so respectful and caring of the younger children. Everyone takes care of each other. There are some people who are older and don't hang out with other kids. But when they have too, they will protect and stand up for the younger kids. So we have a cultural of non-judgemental, welcoming, accepting people. The friendships are real here, and the kids aren't forced to be with anybody they don't want to be with. The relationships they have with the adults too, they are real relationships, and they all respect each other. Another thing that I think builds their self-esteem and leadership is the true respect between the children and the teachers. I don't think that I found something like this in all my life. Everyone was treated as a person. Nobody's point of view was ever just written off because you know they were a kid and you weren't allowed to talk back to the teacher. And that empowers every member of this community to act responsibly. My becoming a person that I like, began when I came to Windsor House and started to interact with this community. The entire community was just so there for everybody and every hardship, every trouble that anybody who is involved in the community; be it in the school, or a parent of a person who is in the school. Everyone was together and it's such a community, that it's so much more than a school. Windsor House is everything to me. It's much more than a school for my kids, because for my kids their just playing. I actually think I'm doing most of the learning here. It's a great place to learn how to deal with the world; as an adult; as a child. Basically, if you can solve your problems here, you can solve your problems anywhere. The philosophy of the school here was, nurturing, problem-solving. I got to see it modeled: "What is problem-solving?" Whenever students come to me with emotional difficulties, or whenever there are certain problems that arise..."conflict", you might say, we try to work it out in the moment or through the judicial process. Here at Windsor House, the conflict, when that happened the teachers really helped work it out, and they really tried to understand the conflict, before they just handed down a sentence. Even the teachers don't hand down sentences at Windsor House, it's all more complaint based. Which was really cool, it was really interesting to see how that worked. I slowly got interested in just how the school was running, because some of my friends would leave at pre-determined times every week and go to some meeting. And finally, I would start going to the meetings myself; which were the resolutions meetings. And then I got really into the resolutions meetings, not least because I could pass silly resolutions. They were apprieciated. It's about self-awareness. And it's not self-awareness where you just look at your own naval. It's self-awareness in connection with another person. So that I'm aware of who I am, in connection with who you are, in connection with this community. And that whole interplay of seeing how you affect a community, and how community affects you. And being able to be responsible, or acknowledge irresponsibility; that you actually do have an affect on the people around you, and your actions have an affect. Many people at Windsor House learn how to get what they want. What actually comes out of all this is people do whatever for however long, and then they wake up to the fact that actually this is my life, and if I wanna make something of my life, I should do something. I gotta chance to really think, "Ok, what am I interested in?", "How do I want to spend my time?", "How do I want to direct myself?", "And then, What do I need to do to put that plan in motion?" I really got to practice thinking about things. Expressing myself and arguing my point of view. Organizing people around different causes. That I've all found to be so incredibly applicable out in the world. It was my job to go after my education, and I so did after I left Windsor House; and it made me such a driven person; what Windsor House gave me. For me, the important thing wasn't math, science, or anything like that. And I think for everybody it shouldn't be the most important thing; how much knowledge you can cram into your head and remember for the next 30 days before this test. It should be more along the lines of knowledge for life. When I left Windsor House I was 13; cause that's how old you had to leave for grade 8, when I was at Windsor House. I walked into the regular school system. I got A's and B's in everything except for French, and even that I got a C in. And considering I had done almost no formal academics from age 8 to 13. I think I represent your typical average learner. I'm not particularly gifted especially at reading and writing. Like I didn't read early, and I don't write easily. I've always found academic writing and test taking very difficult. Yet I was able to walk into that system and deal with that aspect of it, the academic aspect. You can go to college without having ever graduated from high school. All you have to do is have the skills and the knowledge to cope with whatever course you want to take at college. You can go from college to university. You can get a Ph.D without ever having graduated from high school. So children need to know that. I didn't ever have to go back and do any high school courses, or any catch up. I got to just go straight in (to the university). I actually ended up being in the same year as all my friends who'd gone through high school and graduated. I finished at CAP, then I went up to Simon Frasier University and I just graduated last June with my first class honors degree Bachelor of Arts in English. And what were interested here is in lifelong learning. So we want, when we learn something, to actually learn and start using it and make it part of them. And they know that life is about is lifelong learning. So what goes on here in Windsor House is practicing that, the beginnings of that. And it looks all different ways, it looks like play, it looks like processing emotional stuff, it looks like imagining, it looks like creating, it looks like conflict. They are not doing something because someone told them. They understand that if they have to do (something) they have to take the responsibility. And I believe that this is the true and the biggest preparation for life. We want everyone to be engaged with what their doing. We don't want that sort of half-hearted (attempt), or just doing it for some extrinsic motivation. We want it to come from some intrinsic place. It is a very different school, but it's definitely democratic and definitely non-coercive and that's different to any other school that's available in North America. These are really exciting times for parents and students because a lot of students no longer fit into the mainstream schools. Windsor offers them an opportunity to experience something different. And Windsor is actually one of the forerunners in North America for demonstrating the newness of what schools can be for your children. Globally it's reputation is wonderful. People look at our website and go, "Oh if only we had that school in our town." Many people on the cutting edge of alternative education envy Windsor House so much because we have the widest range. We have non-coercive, democratic, parent participation, multi-age group 5-18 years of age, and here's the big one publicly funded. Internationally we've had groups come from Russia, Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Holland, Japan, India, specifically to see Windsor House, because they want to see how possibly it could run, doing the things we say we do on our website. What were doing here at this time and place in history is very unique. I don't think there are any publicly funded schools that are doing what were doing right now. There are democratic schools that are publicly funded, but their hallways are pretty much like regular hallways. Whereas were trying to fit this incredibly unique program into a pretty boxy little building. But we do have public funding; and I think that if other people are wanting to do what we're doing; for us to be able to do it under public funding is really useful. It makes it accessible for people who cannot afford private education. And in the end, I guess I believe in publicly funded education. I just feel like it needs to be broader with more choice. And it needs to be more representational of the parents and the community with which it is serving. So a closer connection. Ending on that, I don't think Windsor House is the answer for everybody. I think choice is, and I think community involvment. That those two pieces are what everybody deserves.

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 22 seconds
Country: Canada
Language: English
Producer: Pacific Spirit Productions
Director: Sherry Sakamoto and Terry Martyniuk
Views: 297
Posted by: phobe on Aug 20, 2008

Democratic School in Canada

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