Following Sage Footsteps

Posted on Thursday January 28, 2010

In my first year at Wayfinder Schools I have watched students actively respond to the philosophy of “relational education” that our school founders, Dora Lievow  and Emanuel Pariser, practiced for 35 years.

I do not believe kids stay in school because they are in love with long division.  They stay in school because someone shows them that they care. This is the heart of relational education. The students at Wayfinder Schools are engaged with life and learning in response to healthy relationships with people who care.

Our Teachers and Residential Overnight Counselors are continually listening for the relationship they are forming with the student. This close ‘give and take’ helps the student unlock their natural strengths and gifts.

Individualized learning plans provide a platform for a student to create and re-create learning for themselves, with the guidance of a caring adult.  It is crucial that the learning pleases the student- not just the teacher– which in turn fuels ownership and personal responsibility.

The uniqueness each student brings to the learning experience is celebrated and acknowledged – which encourages learning  – because students learn best when they are cared for and respected. At Wayfinder Schools, we know that the process of relational learning itself is the product.

Over 35 years ago, in a very grassroots and authentic way, Emanuel and Dora set out to prove that meaningful relationships have the ultimate power to change lives.

The school has grown and shifted in many ways over these years – however this statement has never been more important as we launch our updated website and honor the ironies of modern life. We are witnessing great potential for connection through technology – and at the same time yearning for greater human connection, whether through friends, family, partnerships, community resources, or in reducing the distance between ‘us and them’ globally. Eman and Dora knew this was the greatest need.

The underpinning of the school is that all of life is a classroom and that students will thrive in this classroom – if they are held by people who care. The staff and Board of Wayfinder Schools remain deeply committed to the work of the school – and to the sage wisdom of our founders. -DF