“If you want to build a ship, don’t recruit the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

~Antoine de Saint Exupery

There are probably 600 ways I could begin to present my philosophy for Wellspring; however, I would not dare to claim any single one of them as my own.  The vision I have is an integration of the many aspects of my background:  research, education, experience, observation, personality, and most importantly, wise teachers I have known and courageous kids I’ve taught.  The field of educational therapy is, at its core, integrative.  Good grades and high test scores do not happen in a vacuum.  Many factors contribute to an adolescent’s success or lack thereof.  So the goal of my work is not defined as a competitive SAT score or a 4.0 GPA.  In fact, those are possible outcomes, but I am more focused on the process rather than the goal. A process is broader and life-long:  I want students to become aware of the ways they learn and to understand the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning.  High school is a transition time; it is the time when adolescents must come to believe that they are the ultimate shapers and creators of their own futures. Part of every educator’s job is to guide students toward autonomy.

Recent research in neuroscience, brain-based learning, multiple intelligences, progressive education, executive functioning, learning differences, and processing skills is fascinating and expansive.  The authors, educators, psychologists and scientists dedicated to this research are my mentors and my guides.  Every time I pick up a new book or take a class or talk to someone who works with kids, I learn something new.  In fact, every time I talk to kids, I learn something new.  So when I had to choose one place to begin, I asked myself:  as an educator, what is the most valuable way I can serve kids?  As a public school teacher, my answer had many limitations: the classroom, curriculum, funds, student-teacher ratio, state testing, bureaucracy.  To the left and right, forward and back, the answer was “no.”  I left public school this summer because I wanted to find “yes.”

If you have read Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, you know how he celebrates the child.  If there is a “yes,” I believe it lies in the way we honor children’s wisdom, creativity and individuality.  It is in the space and time we make for them to discover who they are.  It is in the way we illuminate “the vast and endless sea” stretched out before them.

The word wellspring means abundant source, endless supply.  Every child is a wellspring. Every human is a wellspring.  But we do get stuck sometimes.  The main obstacle is fear.  The main fear is self-doubt.  I am not a sports person. It would be embarrassing to admit how little I know about any given sport.  However, I do appreciate what being on a team can do for a child.  In his insightful book, The Motivation Breakthrough, Richard Lavoie (see the book at this link) celebrates ways in which coaches motivate players, and aligns these with strategies that educators (and parents) can use to reach kids.  “A good coach will make all his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”  (Ara Parseghian)  This is the wellspring.  This is the point where a child pushes through a challenge, not because it is suddenly easy, but because he has found the courage to take a risk.  This is where I want to focus my practice: guiding adolescents to recognize their full potential and to become self-advocates.

Establish a channel and the water flows.