Respect is a core value at LightHouse. We have very few rules over here, but a commitment to treating everyone and everything at LightHouse with respect is one of them. It’s an easy rule to make, and who would disagree that this is an essential aspect of any learning environment? To truly create a respectful atmosphere, however, it’s not so easy as simply making rules.
At LightHouse we believe that you teach respect by giving respect. We teach through discussion, but more effectively, we teach through demonstration. We begin by treating young people (and everyone) with respect, always. Staff and teens at LightHouse are not peers, but they are equals. We engage with students as equals because we think it’s the right thing to do, and because we believe that people learn what respect is by receiving it. Respect, fairness, acceptance- these are not values that you can be simply told about- we need to experience them.
The staff at LightHouse are older than the students, and have more experience. We have something to offer. We’re here to share it. We are older, but we are not better. We have been on the planet longer, and we’re fortunate to have learned some things that we are now prepared to share. This does not make us more important or more valuable, however, or less important or less valuable. We are equals, voluntarily collaborating.
As staff our role is to protect the space and everyone in it. Beyond that our jobs are to build relationships with students in order to facilitate their learning, and support them to move forward into their futures in the most positive and inspiring ways possible.
It’s ineffective to tell someone to be kind unless they are being treated with kindness. People develop empathy when they are treated with empathy. Same with respect, and all the rest of the qualities we wish to support in young people. These are not textbook concepts. It’s unrealistic and unfair to demand behaviors that are not modeled.
So we’ve built a program that has respect, empathy, kindness, and social justice at its core. LightHouse students are autonomous and equal. They participate willingly, accept the support they choose, and engage from a place of equality. There are rules, of course, and each class has it’s own set of expectations. But every student chooses which of these agreements they are willing and able to make.
Some students are familiar and comfortable being treated with equality, and for others, this is a new experience in an educational setting. All of us are learning- learning how to be together, to support each other, to move forward in our learning and in our lives. We’re just a few weeks in, and while these are all normal, regular kids from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, right from the beginning we’ve been working in a respectful, safe, fun, and even sometimes quiet! atmosphere. This does not happen through words or rules, this has to be demonstrated, and it has to be true.
What happens to teens who learn that they are worthy of respect and trust? What if a whole generation of young people knew they they were valuable, that they deserved respect? What if they came to expect it, and expected to extend it to others as well?
We get to make the future we want.