The Makarios Path To Self-Directed Learning

The Makarios Path to Self-Directed Learning

Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs is an excellent example of the “upside-down” educational approach that we employ at Makarios Community School. Just as an individual must build upon earlier foundations of physiological well-being, safety, belonging and self-esteem to reach the pinnacle of self-actualization, there are building blocks to becoming an autonomous, self-directed lifelong learner.

We propose that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fitted to Makarios Community School’s educational model offers the best chance for students to become self-directed learners. Technology is constantly changing, and our students will need to be adaptable in these dynamic times. They can not depend on being told what to do. They will have to be able to ascertain that which they do not yet know and have the ability to seek out solutions. To experience future success, students must have the time and space to develop as lifelong, independent learners. The earlier, the better.
=The Student’s Physiological Well-Being

At the very basic level of physiological needs, Makarios Community School is an environment where students are respected as the masters of the body they possess. They are free to eat when they are hungry, use the restroom when they need to, be active or be still, and if they need sleep, they can sleep. A blog by Dr. Lucie Hemmen reviews research of teen sleeping patterns which indicate that a young person’s sleeping schedule is contrary to being alert, at a desk, and at their best by 8 am. At Makarios, students are asked to arrive by 10 am, or call/text to alert staff if they will be late. It's not uncommon to see a teen napping in the late afternoon on one of the many couches throughout our school or a younger student with a cuddly pillow or toy chilling out with a staff member reading stories. We are keen to the physiological needs of the students at Makarios Community School.

The Student’s Need to feel Safe

The next level in Maslow’s hierarchy centers on a person experiencing a sense of safety and security, trusting that their emotional needs will be met while feeling secure in their physical surroundings. This immediately brings to mind the onslaught of playground bullying and cyberbullying that is prevalent among young people. Makarios is an environment where all students have direct access to the Judicial Committee. At any time, a student may bring a grievance against another student or staff member if they feel in any way threatened or mistreated. The Judicial Committee is made up of two students and one staff member who take turns hearing cases and determining appropriate steps to be taken. But it doesn’t end there! Both the plaintiff and the defendant have the right to appeal a decision of the Judicial Committee to the entire school community. However, at MCS, the emotional well-being of a student is often met by the expectation that all are worthy of respect whether student, staff, parent or volunteer. The Four Agreements are used as a standard that protects members of the school from excessive criticism. While it would be regrettable that any Makarios student or staff member experience feelings of fear, the school community is organized so that primary feelings of safety may be secured through the Judicial Committee and School Meeting.

Makarios = A Community of Love and Belonging

Makarios is a diverse community of staff, students, and their families that value educational freedom. Students continue their journey towards becoming independent learners through community once they come to believe that their physiological well-being and safety are secure, have learned how the School Meeting and Judicial Committee operate, have accepted that the adults at the school are trustworthy and that he or she really does have the freedom to pursue their unique interests and goals.

At this stage in Makarios’ “Hierarchy of Needs,” the student has adopted the school received_282951845489061as their own. Their pronouns change from what “you do at Makarios” to what “we do at Makarios”. They have a sense of belonging and pride in the amazing place they call school and begin to utilize the School Meeting to make a difference. For instance, a very quiet teen girl hit this mark when she got fired up about the mess in the school yard on the day she picked that chore. When she saw how messy the yard was littered with lunch trash, she made it her purpose of presenting a plan to the School Meeting in order to address trash in the yard. The School Meeting approved her plan to purchase trash cans for the yard providing a proper receptacle for lunch waste. Another quiet, unassuming young man brought a proposal to the School Meeting that the student body rotates reciting the Makarios Mission Statement or Four Agreements every day during mandatory assembly. This one act has been extremely important in building community among the student body. Just about everyone has both documents memorized, regardless of whether or not they are readers. These students have taken responsibility for the well-being of not only themselves but their community.

Nothing Builds Self-Esteem like Agency

Building on physiological needs, safety, and community, the student comes to understand their sense of worth and identity as they discover the power to influence their community. This self-respect grows out of respect “for others” and “of others” as the person blossoms into an active part of the school. The student has had the time and space for their own needs to be met and to establish relationships with peers, younger students, older students, and staff. While they may not be best friends with everyone, they have given and received respect just because they are a human being. This awareness fosters respect for everyone regardless of differences. Makarios Community School is a diverse community built on democratic principles; a community that represents the breadth of America.

Introducing...The Self-Directed Learner

The pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy is self-actualization; a time when one is thought to be capable of reaching their full potential. We visualize this pinnacle as the fulfillment of our mission when students leave Makarios with the confidence to make choices in pursuit of their unique interests and goals. In short, when the student has become a self-directed learner. We would venture to suggest that what society considers to be academic endeavors are not the first step towards becoming a self-led learner. Rather, all the other steps must be realized for an individual to truly take control of their own education. How long does that take? Well, it varies. When students come to Makarios from a traditional school setting, it can take quite a while. Grace Llewellyn, the author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook, suggests that students that have experienced compulsory education settings need “a considerable amount of time to recover their innate curiosity”; a value of becoming a lifelong, interest-led learner. Regardless of how long each student takes to build this pyramid, the staff of Makarios Community School is dedicated to using best educational practices to mentor students through the process in the most excellent manner possible (that means efficiently, but not rushed).

We honor that each student needs time and space to develop trusting relationships that may one day culminate in mentoring relationships through the Makarios Diploma process. Relationships and learning can not be forced; they take time. In a recent blog, Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Airways talks about relationships and learning as being time sensitive. He says, “it [a big idea] only works if you can dedicate your time and energy to it” and calls out two self-directed individuals that chose to leave school in order to pursue their big ideas-Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. At Makarios Community School, we value each student, their unique talents and abilities, and their aptitude for the work that they will engage in. We believe that it is imperative that they have the time necessary to develop these traits in a safe and supportive environment where they are sure to experience both failure and success. Relationships with students and staff are extremely important to that process and require dedicated time.

But what does this all mean? If students are really given the freedom to develop as self-directed learners will they choose to do...reading, writing, arithmetic??

Most people can relate in one way or another to what has been shared and nod in agreement on many points. But if we are honest, the question most will have is...what about reading, writing, math, history, science and all the rest? If students are really given the freedom to develop as self-governing learners will they choose to do these things? The short answer is yes. In their time and in their way; when they find that they have the need/desire to learn specific academic subjects.

As Maslow helps us understand, making learning compulsory, before basic needs are met, is inefficient and has undesirable side effects to the foundational parts of the pyramid. Our experience at Makarios (and the experience of similar schools that have been around for decades) shows us that when needs are met according to this pyramid, higher level learning doesn’t have to be compulsory. In fact, this experience leaves us wondering whether “compulsory education” is an oxymoron. For instance, once a student has begun to be a part of the community, they are ready to branch out into what society considers “traditional” modes of learning. This is when they begin to hover around the door of a newly formed class. It may take a few more weeks, but eventually, they adopt the learning activity as their own and begin to actively participate until they have learned all that they are interested in and move on to other endeavors. But wait, you say. Shouldn’t they finish what they started? If it is something of value to the student that they discover they need later, they will. In the meantime, they have the freedom to roam the buffet of ideas through a variety of classes and learning experiences spending as much time as necessary exploring subjects until their curiosity is satisfied. This is how they become true students, students that obtain mastery. This is the pinnacle of the Makarios “Hierarchy of Needs:” Self-directed learning!

Want to know more? Interested in supporting alternatives to traditional education? Give us a call at 682-422-6886. We'll be glad to schedule a time to visit with you and discuss how you can be a part of the Makarios Path to Self-Directed Learning



Keywords: educational freedom,posts by donella,behavior & child development,self directed learning,interest directed learning,education,democratic free school


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