Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maybe today's teens aren't all that screwed up...

Recently I got sucked into one of those TV infomercials trying to sell music from the 50’s. I was amused as the overly botoxed hosts told me that this music defined a generation. Come on, defined a generation? This is the stuff my parents listened to; therefore it can’t be that good. Smug I agree, but that’s what was going through my mind. I mean really, how could Pat Boone and The Everly Brothers define a generation? 

After skimming through the channels some more, and almost buying a Mr. T Flavor Wave Oven (that’s a story for another day) I got to thinking; it’s hard for someone of my generation to believe, but yes, at one point Elvis was banned from television (well at least from the waist down) because of his pelvic gyrations and that there were many people who found him, Rock and Roll (when was Roll dropped anyway?) and this new concept of teenagers to be very scary stuff. Many adults of that time felt that this was going to be the downfall of America as they knew it, and that we as a society were doomed. Of course we all know we did make it through that time, and now we all look back at those concerns as, well, quaint really. 

When I hear adults these days talk about all teens today are disrespectful, or their music has no soul, or things were different when they were kids, I have a hard time. Today most teens in America are exhibiting their natural rebellion; just as their parents and generations before them did against their parents, and, just like our parents didn’t get us, we don’t get them. Rebellion is a normal, and I would argue necessary, aspect of growing up. Where I feel parents get into trouble is when they don’t counter this rebellion with natural consequences, and as a result I feel many parents find themselves in a position where they can’t differentiate between normal behavior and accepted behavior.

One of the things we work very hard at here at The Deck House School is the idea of natural consequences.  We don't have a thick rule book, and we don't have a list of "do's and don'ts"  - instead we have a community.  A community which embraces, adapts and learns from itself.  Yes the way we do it is a bit messier, but we feel strongly that our methods, developed by our founder  Ned Hall over 38 years ago, are still relevant and appropriate today.  
Admittedly,  the issues facing families today are different than generations before, yes. But I’d argue that is true of every generation, and we’re doing our teens today a disservice if we either underplay or overplay these events or factors and don’t do our job as parents, stewards and guardians of the next generation of adults. Just remember these famous words said recently, 

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt forauthority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in placeof exercise Children are now tyrants, not the servants of theirhouseholds. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. Theycontradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up daintiesat the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

Ok, not that recently, as those words are attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, but you get the idea. This issue of how to handle or deal with adolescents has perplexed adults for literally thousands of years, and will continue for thousands more. Someday our children will look back on the good old days of the 10’s as fondly as other generations look back on the 50’s 70 or the 80’s and wonder what’s wrong with their children. Until then, however, it is our job to guide them, educate them, discipline them and love them until they're old enough to actually have that epiphany. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Deck House School; controlled chaos...

I know, it looks like chaos.

On Wednesdays we have vehicles full of students heading on and off the hill at all hours.  More so than usual, there is a constant flow of boys and vehicles headed up and down the hill. At lunch the kitchen, which usually has a hive of hungry boys circling for food, is quiet.  Additionally, the classrooms are quiet; now that I think about it, the whole school is quiet. Pleasantly, the only thing interrupting the silence is the occasional dog barking as another car comes back from its trip off the hill.  It’s not a normal day, but it’s a good one for us.

You see, one of the many things I love about The Deck House is its flexibility.  Now for those of you who knew Ned you know that flexibility may not have been exactly his strong suit, but as someone who worked with him I can tell you he was indeed very flexible when it came to offering his boys more things to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure that Ned is rolling is his grave with the way we have our Wednesdays structured, but I’m sure that once I was able to get the literal fireworks to stop coming out of his pipe, I could get him to see the wisdom of our ways.

Wednesdays are an opportunity for our students to focus more directly on our community service and co-curricular programs.  Community service is a hallmark of the School, dating back to the early 1980’s when we started helping set up and break down the tables at the local Red Cross Blood Drive (which we still do, by the way, and they may be serving the same cookies!) Similarly, Co-curricular programming has been a part of the school for decades, dating back to since the mid 1990’s.  We feel very strongly that these programs help us educating the entire student.  Knowing that many of the lessons taught at Deck House have nothing to do with the classroom, we have expanded these programs to help foster a sense community; community here on the hill, on the peninsula and, hopefully, beyond.

On any given Wednesday we have students preparing and serving food at the Bath Area Kitchen Table, additionally our guys spend time at the Boothbay Community Center assisting locals with computer and other tech issues.  In the spring we may have the boys help locals with spring cleaning of their yards, or head off to Morris Farm for light grounds keeping help.  These are not one off visits, these are weekly commitments we make to these non-profits, which not only help the other organizations, they also help our young men understand the symbiotic nature of relationships.

Additionally, in our co-curricular program we are doing work with Bigelow, learning Tai Chi, playing piano, developing computer skills, building hockey rinks, welding go carts, and mapping trails to name just a few activities. The goal is not only for the boys to learn about their chosen art, but also about themselves.  Most of these programs are taught by locals, not our staff, so needless to say there is a constant flow of people visiting us on Wednesdays. Cars coming and going, students on and off the hill at odd times, no-one sitting down at lunch, and no academic classes.


Some seriously engaging and powerful chaos, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.