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Peers are either new, or at least different after a summer apart.
New adults come into a child’s life. How shall I interact with them?
Social groups form in the first week or so. Will I be alone and isolated?
New subject material to learn. Am I intelligent enough?
And so on…
Our society encourages us to deny fear; it is a feeling that needs to be suppressed, buried, ignored, overcome by paying it no mind. However, in a safe, friendly, and supportive environment it is healthier to recognize it, face it, acknowledge it and move on through, leaving it behind as a memory. “Psychological research shows that attempting to minimize or ignore thoughts and emotions often serves to magnify them,” writes Susan David in a Harvard Business Review article.
At our Princeton, Bucks, and Raritan Learning Cooperatives we focus on making the environment comfortable enough that the natural drive to learn is not overwhelmed by fear. With a maximum size of about 30 members in each centre it is very difficult for bullies or exclusive cliques to thrive, and each member is celebrated as an individual with unique gifts. As we all, the younger members especially, work on developing a set of values to live by, our Learning Cooperatives model values that guide and encourage us to face up to our fears, communicating and sharing them with others, and thereby moving beyond them