What is keeping my teen from learning?

What is keeping my teen from learning?

“We teachers – perhaps all human beings – are in the grip of an astonishing delusion.”

Our astonishing delusion about education.

“We think that we can take a picture, a structure, a working model of something, constructed in our minds out of long experience and familiarity, and by turning that model into a string of words, transplant it whole into the mind of someone else.”

Trying to implant our knowledge in the brain of another.

“Perhaps once in a thousand times, when the explanation is extraordinary good, and the listener extraordinarily experienced and skillful at turning word strings into non-verbal reality, and when the explainer and listener share in common many of the experiences being talked about, the process may work, and some real meaning may be communicated.”

It’s easier to share knowledge when you’re in close relationship with a lot of non-verbal sharing.

“Most of the time, explaining does not increase understanding, and may even lessen it.”

– John Holt, (1923-1985) American Educator,  in How Children Learn

The more impersonal and disconnected the relationship, the harder it is to share knowledge.
Open Doors teens at the beach — because sharing real life experiences leads to sharing real life knowledge. (And it’s fun!)

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.  If your teen isn’t learning in the classroom, come find out more at our Open House on Monday, October 13 at 12 noon.

How Can Your Teen Claim Her Power? Part I

by Jacob Sabourin

One of the things we love to explore with teens here at Open Doors is how they can reclaim their power.  It begins with some critical thinking about what power is, and how they can access it.

Our Open Doors Intern, Jacob Sabourin, has worked closely with struggling students at Aquinas College here in Grand Rapids.  He is a Political Science major with a keen interest in the politics of power.  At Open Doors, he offers a class called Powerful Possibilities.  Here he begins a critical analysis of power.

A stressed teen tries to access her own power in ways that cause friction with family.

The word poder in Spanish has two meanings when we try to translate it into English:

  1. Power (a noun).
  1. To be able to do something (a verb). Conjugating poder in this way allows a Spanish speaker to say things like “yo puedo,” which means literally, “I can.”

Power as we think of it (as a noun), is a measure of the ability to do something. “What can I do?” is the same question as “What power do I have?”

Resources are the sources of peoples’ power. Money, knowledge, and physical strength are all resources. In this way, money, knowledge, and physical strength are all forms of power.

A good way to begin to understand power dynamics in the world is to ask questions about resource allocation. For example:

  • Who has the most money? How did they get that money? What do they spend it on? How much do they spend?
  • Who has the least money? Why do they have so little money? What do they spend their money on? How much do they spend?
  • Who has the most knowledge? How do they get that knowledge? What are they using that knowledge for?
  • Who has the least knowledge? Why do they have so little knowledge? How do they use their limited knowledge?

    A teen often fears he is the one with the least knowledge and the least power.
  • Who has the most physical strength? How did they get so much physical strength? How do they use their physical strength?
  • Who has the least physical strength? Why do they have so little physical strength? How do they use their limited physical strength?

To ask these questions is to begin to think critically about the world around us. These questions can be applied to the large scale: “Who has the most power on Earth?” or the small scale: “Who has the most power in my classroom?” To be a true critical thinker, one also has to ask, “How much power do I have?” and related questions such as, “Who has power over me?”

Through critical thinking, we become aware of the world, and by extension, ourselves. So, through critical thinking we gain knowledge of a very important kind.  This knowledge allows us to increase our power as individuals.

If everyone were to think critically about the world, we would all be more knowledgeable, and all of us would create a more powerful society. That is, we would be able to do more.

An empowered teen has more tools to face life’s challenges.

In Part II, Jacob will explore how every part of learning can be connected to these questions of power.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

Self-Discovery through Self-Directed Learning

by Kate Boelkins

Kate Boelkins is studying to be a secondary education teacher at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  As part of her training, she has assisted in several classrooms in the area.  We are delighted to have her as an intern at Open Doors.

Developmental psychologists agree that the voyage towards self-discovery is vital for mental growth, for emotional development, and for self-esteem improvement.

Open Doors Tapestry
The voyage of self-discovery — those who open doors discover new lands within.  If a tapestry says it, it must be true.

Yet self-discovery is often ignored or suppressed in the traditional classroom setting.

In their natural state, teens are constantly struggling with an identity crisis brought on by changing relationships, mounting responsibilities, and simple developmental psychology. Between the ages of 12 and 18 years — a mere 6 years — we expect teens to develop a sense of self, to home in on their interests, and to use those interests to outline a plan for the rest of their lives.

Every teen must embark on her own version of the hero’s journey, like those found in film and literature.

In theory, this period of self-discovery and identity formation is fostered by the encouragement of adults who reinforce exploration and motivate teens to develop a sense of control and independence in their lives. This encouragement should inspire self-confidence in teens and help them find their core direction in life.

However, this doesn’t seem to be the case for a majority of teenagers graduating high school and headed out into the “real world.”

Recent studies show that up to half of college students enter college “undecided”, having no idea what to pursue despite the fact they are paying tuition for their education. On top of that nearly 80% of college students change their major at least once.

Distressing research from Penn State suggests this complete lack of direction is due to a “developmental disconnect”.

These teens simply haven’t formed enough of an identity to define their interests. Why not?

  • The traditional classroom takes students and strictly defines the information in which they will be immersed each year.
  • This knowledge is comprised only of an “academic” load, meaning the traditional subjects of English, Mathematics, Science, and History.
  • The exploration within each subject is shallow and broad, and allows no flexibility for students to delve deep into an area of interest.
  • Areas outside the traditional academic area are ignored, and even rejected from the classroom.
  • Learning is transmitted through books and lectures, not real world experiences.

After graduating high school, students have been exposed to only certain areas of academic information. If subjects in school fail to grasp their interests, teens are at a loss when asked to choose a direction — nothing seems worth pursuing. When they reach college, they’ve had little time to define their own identity and find it impossible to make an informed decision.

Additionally, this lack of freedom affects the psychological state of the teen as a whole. The classroom experience is restrictive– it’s commonly noted that one week we expect students to ask permission to use the restroom, and the next we expect them to have a detailed plan for the rest of their lives.

Raising hands to use the restroom, though it helps the teacher keep order, is part of system that doesn’t support independence and self-direction.

Schools often fail to encourage and support student exploration. Teens need new experiences; it is normal to run through many different trials and errors before they have the self-knowledge to make decisions.

Instead of fostering opportunities and embracing failure, schools often try to confine students to specific ways of thinking and doing.  They look for hard commitments too early in the students’ development, without offering the tools to build self-knowledge.

Teens are then left with two poor choices.

  • Fall into a pre-described identity defined by the school climate they’ve known, which can result in choosing a post-grad path like college that is a poor fit for the student.
  • Avoid self-exploration completely.

The lack of self-discovery and identity formation in the teenage years can have life-long impact.

So how can this change? How can we as a society foster confident, strong-hearted, and self-directed teens?

It begins with adults. We have the responsibility to our teens to change our perspectives on what is important for them. Instead of ensuring they fit in the mold, we need to encourage the quest of new experiences, applaud them when they pursue what they love, guide them when they have questions, and let them know it’s okay when they change their mind.

At Open Doors, this mentor relationship is priority – teens have the freedom to explore what interests them, whether it involve traditional academic areas, video games, or wild edibles. By their side are experienced adults whose mission is to simultaneously participate in their exploration and guide them towards self-discovery and the future.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

Open House: Learn About a Self-Directed Education

Open House

Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

7:00 p.m.

1324 Lake Drive, Suite #1, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Have you been wondering what we do at Open Doors Center for Self-Directed Teens?  Come find out!

A community gathering at Open Doors.

Open House

Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

7:00 p.m.

1324 Lake Drive, Suite #1, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

We’ll give you a tour, answer your questions, and talk about the upcoming fall semester.  Are there some classes your teen would like to see offered?  Let’s see what we can do!

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Need to get your hands into your learning? Here’s our hands-on dissection class from last year.
Want to get outside and learn in the real world? Our Wild Edibles class last year foraged foods to share!
Skyrim Mod
If you learn from video games, we can support that, too!

See you at the Open House!

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

“Better than a Report Card” — One Parent’s Open Doors Story

Dear Open Doors;

I am in awe of the tremendous growth I have seen in my son Tristan after his first year at Open Doors. He started the year very reserved and hesitant to get involved, which is true to his public persona. (Or at least it was!)

He tended to avoid situations that could potentially be embarrassing. He spent the first semester asking to be picked up immediately after his Biology class and wanted absolutely nothing to do with any activity in which he might feel the need to “share” anything – verbally or otherwise. He politely refused to have his picture taken and added to the website.

Though he didn’t want to share most pictures, Tristan did give us permission to share this photo of his hands chopping dandelion roots in the Wild Edibles class.

The staff and members of Open Doors respected these things completely. (I am confident a school would have seen this as a “problem” to address.) Rebecca and Adena did a great job of offering him ways to participate and contribute individually – painting a much needed sign, helping to move things, inviting him to meetings about fracking, etc – which gave him the space he needed to “warm up” while still feeling that he was vital to the center.

Ever so slowly, he started asking to be picked up later and later. He stayed to hang out and explore other classes. He chattered about film studies and foraging. He told me about sharing his theory of fluctuations in the stock market being related to fears of the “blood moon” with his finance class. He loved to tell me about conversations he had with the other members about their hobbies.

By the end of the year, my reserved kiddo was cracking jokes and showing off his juggling and hula-hooping skills at the end of year celebration in front of all of the members and their families. My heart sang that night.

two hula hoops
Crazy for hula hoops!

His juggling blew us all away.  We also like the Grateful Dead shirt and the sunglasses.

As a parent, you want your child to shine to the world as much as they do when no one is watching; to be their true selves, no matter the situation. I am positive that if it were not for the respect and room to grow given by everyone at Open Doors, the world would never know the funny, bright and confident Tristan that I do. And that would be a shame.

A special thank you, Open Doors, for the letter you sent at the end of the year. Your insights about Tristan were spot-on and it made me feel awesome to see that you really know him and are acutely aware of his needs. It was so much better than a report card.

Sincerely,  Danielle Bodziak

Tristan and his chair
Tristan built this in a summer woodworking class that we heard about and shared with his family. Awesome!

Let the Prizing Begin!

The Open Doors Summer Art Program, Prizing Your Power, began today.  This week, we’ll be getting familiar with different media for creating art — painting, fabric, words, and more.  Here are some pictures of today’s goings-on —

We doodled while we got to know each other in the Gathering Room …
Then it was time to explore with India ink …
India ink
India ink with different brushes …
India ink on different papers, plus the start of a canvas piece …
Everyone thought it was a great space in which to be creative …
painted mannequin head with chess board
Yep, it’s looking to be a great summer program!

As we all grow more playful and comfortable with our creativity, the plan is to explore how art is power, and how we can communicate our passion through our art to the community.   Stay tuned!

Prizing Your Power is supported in part by the Wege Foundation as part of the Open Doors “Your Life — Your Learning!” project.


“I’m Bored!” Four Ways to Really Help Bored Teens this Summer

As a quick Google search revealed, there are a slew of Internet articles about how to handle boredom in your teens this summer.  They suggest organizing your young person’s time, making sure they get up everyday, and limiting “screen time.”  Though we can understand the concern that teens will curl up in their bedrooms with the blinds down, watching TV all summer, all these suggestions deal only with surface issues.  Our culture has a long way to go when it comes to delving into what boredom really is for a teen and what it could mean for them.

Summer Swing
Summer can mean a time to reflect.

1.  Ask and listen.

We at Open Doors have noticed that “I’m bored” can actually mean a lot of things.  Think about how boredom feels.  It can feel restless and discontent — or it can feel lethargic or even despairing.  If we can help our teens explore that, we can find the deeper truth underneath.

For instance, complaining about being bored often means is that a teen is looking for connection with a person they care about.  They may be feeling disenchanted with the world and need help finding their inner spark again.  They may mean that they have lots of half-formed ideas about their next direction, but they need help sorting them out.  And many teens are remembering the playfulness of their younger days, and wishing for a way to recapture it.  Only when you know the deeper need underneath the complaint can you work towards a solution that really fits.

Also, keep in mind that what a parent is seeing may not be what the teen is experiencing. If the same video game has been on for hours, check in and see what it means.  The teen may be really enjoying the challenge and the chance to immerse herself in it.  Or she may be feeling disconnected and unsure what else to do.  Ask with an open mind, and listen carefully to the response to make sure you understand.

If you don’t feel able to connect with your teen in this way, that’s okay.  Many parents were not treated with this kind of respect when they were young, and they find it hard to do so with their own kids.  At Open Doors, we may be able to help with our Summer Art Program.  No art experience is required, and your teen can participate as much or as little as they’d like.  We can help them connect and sort things out — not to mention having a lot of fun along the way.

hands collaborating
Connecting with others.

2.  Be open to exploration.

For a parent, it can feel so different when a teen who was up early every day for school and activities starts sleeping later into the sunshine hours.  But exploring a new sleep schedule can mean exploring the feeling up being up at night, when the world is quiet and the night sky invites reflection.  It can mean the kind of intense half-awake dreaming that comes with dozing in the sunlight from the window.  Our culture doesn’t value the rich inner life that can be explored by spending some time just “vegging,” but it’s there, and exploring it is an important part of teen development.

Happiness is an inside job, and often it’s found with some time spent in reflection.

Our Summer Program has flexible hours so that night owls can sleep in and still connect with others in a gentle space that honors their journey.

3.  Don’t compare.

It can be easy to comment, loudly, that the neighbor’s teens seem to be industriously running their own lawn mowing business, and hey, they’re not bored.  Resist the urge.  Every teen has his or her own journey, and you have no idea what’s going on behind-the-scenes in that neighbor’s home.

sad teen
How it feels to be compared.

If you find yourself tempted to compare, re-focus on connecting, exploring, and playing.

4.  Be playful.

As we mentioned in the first tip, many teens feel torn about growing up.  That’s a natural part of the process, and it encourages us to bring the best aspects of childhood — playfulness, spontaneity, laughter, creativity, and our honest emotions — into our more adult lives.  Model your own playfulness, and look for ways to support playfulness in your teen — whether she is with friends, family, or engaged in an activity.  Play is such a revitalizing part of life.

At the Open Doors Summer Art Program, we look for ways to bring play and creativity into community life.  We believe that a lot of adults would be more fulfilled if they found ways to integrate the childlike into their lives, and so we use all kinds of art as a medium for helping our young adults do so.

Dandelion fluff on parking lot lines
Creative fun in everyday life.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.


Three Ways to Consider Alternatives to High School

1. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost

path in forest
The path less traveled has a pretty awesome view.

You feel like you’ve been waiting for your own incredible journey.  You’ve been marking time until your life can start.  Leaving high school can be the first step on that path.

Brainstorm.  If money were no object and you weren’t in school, what would you do?  This frees your mind to think big.  Write down your ideas, including where you want to go and what you want to see.  Find an adult who will listen to your ideas and help you talk over possibilities.  Many of them will be closer than you think.


Everything I learned back in college
Everything I learned in high school? This goes double.

You realize that the kind of learning schools offer is now available online, for free, from a wide variety of sources.  From the Khan Academy to MIT, from John Green’s Crash Course in World History to an exploration of the Cosmos and the most interesting NOVA Chemistry Course you’ll never see in school, you can immerse yourself in the subjects you love without tests or grades.


Won't Swim in Rivers
Dare to be different.

You want an alternative to high school that’s truly different — not just a computer-based learning program, but something that supports you in being the unique and creative person you are.

When you leave school, you can explore art and craft, shadow someone you admire at their job, and try your hand at your own small business.  You can build self-knowledge in several ways:  volunteering for a community you care about, traveling, or joining an interest-based group, like a book club or foreign language club.  In a recent article, Blake Boles shares 12 ways to educate yourself, and his book, Better than College, has ideas that people of all ages can explore

In addition, Open Doors can coach you through your options, right here in Grand Rapids.  Call us.

This post is part of our ongoing “Your Life– Your Learning!” series, launched with support from the Wege Foundation.


Five Ways Our Teens Can Love Learning Again

In our last post, we talked about why many Grand Rapids teens hate school.  Alternative schools or private schools are not an option for some families, so let’s talk about ways that our young people can come to love learning again.

The most important thing is to not equate learning with only school.  Humans, including teens, learn all the time in the real world.  In fact, what they may have difficulty grasping or memorizing in the classroom often comes much more naturally in real life.  Here’s how:

1.  Meaning, meaning, meaning.  When a young person loves something — whether it’s animals, swing dance, cars, investment, or a sport — it’s because that thing has meaning to him or her.  If a teen’s interest is horses, then everything related to horses makes sense to her — if she can’t make sense of it at first, she pursues it and asks questions until it does.  The teen is fully engaged — emotionally, physically, intellectually, socially, and even spiritually.

All humans learn best when information has a meaningful context.  Yet teens are asked to repeatedly solve math problems using abstract numbers, or to recall historical dates and events without a context that feels meaningful to them.  Study after study has shown that though some students may be able to memorize well for tests, they are not able to apply their learning in real-world situations, where things rarely look exactly as they appeared on the test.

Fortunately, Grand Rapids is full of interesting people doing interesting things.  The arts, farm-to-table restaurants, environmental projects, cars, community events, more community events, games of all kinds, sports — our city offers a wide variety for the passionate teen in your life.

Swing dancing
Making Meaning from Movement: One of our members loves her swing dancing class every Wednesday night. The constant movement both challenges her and relaxes her in a way that typical physical education classes don’t.

2.  Problem-solving.  Teens know that their day is coming — soon they’ll be working jobs, managing money, and making adult decisions every day.  And yet everywhere they go, they are judged on how well they follow rules, not on how well they solve problems. How will they learn to problem-solve if they never practice?

Whenever possible, we can ask teens to join us in problem-solving.  Whether we’re working on home projects, fixing dinner, creating a blog, or scheduling a busy day, we can “think out loud” with our process and ask for input from our teens.

In a similar vein, if our teens struggling with school, homework, bullies, or a social situation, we can ask questions, including, “is there something I can do to help?”  It helps if we remember to wait for their responses, rather than jumping in with ideas.  We can invite them to write down possible solutions (even fantasy solutions) and talk over their options.

Central Station in Downtown Grand Rapids: Problem-Solving and a Ticket to the City

Because Grand Rapids is such a rich community, it’s a great place to offer problem-solving opportunities.  Would your teen like to figure out how to take the bus from the mall to their home, or from Meijer Gardens to the Art Museum to Blandford Nature Center? (And can they do the latter challenge all on one bus fare?)  Or make a day of it and ride The Rapid together for fun — it’s a great way to see the city and chat with our neighbors.  This is just one way to help teens practice problem-solving:  we’ll offer more in a future blog post.

Fortunately, others in the community have recognized the need, and teens are being invited to problem-solve more often through area programs focused on larger social issues.  Still, more needs to be done, and attending workshops doesn’t always give the daily practice needed to think through everyday situations in the real world.

3.  Getting involved in the real world.  Teens often feel they are wasting away in the classroom, cut off from the rest of the world.  Since teens are very concrete thinkers, they need exposure now, not later, to what real life feels like.

College visits,volunteer opportunities (including the zoo and a summer therapy program), opportunities to shadow professionals (including in the growing health care field), travel (even to different Grand Rapids neighborhoods), part-time jobs, and fun projects — from cleaning up the Grand River to making a movie (like the Open Doors Slender Man project) — are all opportunities to experience the world, and all are right here in Grand Rapids.

A teen works with a young child at the Comprehensive Therapy Center

4.  Spending time alone when needed.  How often are teens encouraged to really think their own thoughts, particularly during school time?  Waking up early for school, participating in after-school activities, and doing homework often takes up an entire day that could be spent observing, considering, and dreaming about the future. Grand Rapids has many community spaces where a teen can wander and think her own thoughts:  the Main Library (which also offers fun activities), the Blue Bridge and other bridges over the Grand River, the Quiet Cafe at GRCC, Blandford Nature Center, the Calvin College EcoSystem Preserve, Johnson Park, and Schuler Books and Music, just to name a few.

Schuler Books has lots of quiet places for a teen to curl up and think her thoughts.

5.  Playing and learning with others.  As Peter Gray writes,  “Teenagers have always been attracted to public spaces where they can hang out with friends, find new friends, and talk endlessly with peers about matters that concern them, away from parents and other authority figures. Such gatherings are crucial to human development; they are how teenagers expand their social horizons, share views on issues that matter to them, experiment with different versions of their personality, and develop the sense of independence from parents and other adults that they must in order to become adults themselves. ”

Our teens crave unstructured time together to figure things out — let’s give it to them.  The Friday Night Skate at Tarry Hall, grabbing a taco at the Downtown Market, or many of the activities listed in this GRKids.com article will fill that need. At the same time, teens need their parents and guardians to stay connected in a friendly way.   In a 2009, only about half the teens surveyed by the Grand Rapids Youth Commission reported that their parents asked about their friends, checked their homework or had regular meals with them. “We want to let parents know: their kids feel they are important.”

Teens trying out ideas and talking about what matters to them.

Offering meaningful context, providing real-world problem-solving and experiences, and allowing for both reflective times and social times to connect with friends and family — this is what the Open Doors Center for Self-Directed Teens does.  We can help your teen love learning again, whether they stay in school or leave the classroom for a real education in the real world.

If you have other ideas for how to help our Grand Rapids teens love learning again, we’d love to hear them in the comments.  And if you and your teen would like to continue this conversation about how to love learning again, contact us.

We hope you’ve enjoyed another installment in our series, “Your Life — Your Learning!”  

With support from the Wege Foundation, Open Doors continues to explore what learning is and how it works (and doesn’t work) for the teens in the Greater Grand Rapids community.  Our hope is that more local teens and families will find tools for claiming their own learning on their own terms, whether they stay in school or choose to leave for an option like Open Doors.

Two Reasons that Your Teen Hates School

Grand Rapids, like many other cities, has it’s share of unhappy teenagers — teenagers who hate school, homework, their teachers, bullies, cliques, and more. And our teens are not alone in feeling unmotivated by school — nationwide, 40% of teens feel the same way. Other statistics testify to the problems teens are facing as they try to learn how to make their way in this big world of ours.

Families look for alternative schools or private schools, but they can’t always afford the tuition.  Even if they can, these schools don’t always get to the root of the problem.

We can all agree that education is important.  So why are some teens having problems?  If we look under the surface, we can see that traditional high school and middle school classrooms aren’t connecting to these teens for two main reasons.

The First Reason: Learning Styles

There is a huge diversity of learning styles among teens!  The traditional classroom structure that requires sitting still, quietly reading, listening, memorizing, and writing is simply not a fit for the majority of learners.

Many teens need to move around more — they need hands-on learning with concrete experiences.

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Cecilia’s learning style is very hands-on. She needed dissection, not memorization.

Other teens need to be able to talk things out to learn them.  While some teens need to hear things in lecture, others need a musical connection, and still others need to see content or map it out before they can truly interact with it.

With a full day of school, after-school activities, and homework, these teens don’t have the time to learn about how they learn best and to translate the day’s learning into their own learning style.  Instead, they disconnect, feeling bored and unmotivated in class.

The Second Reason:  Meaning

Teens, and all humans, need meaningful context to truly learn, while school too often provides disassociated facts.  Consider the words of John Taylor Gatto as he accepted a Teacher of the Year award for the State of New York:

The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents’ nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world….What do any of these things have to do with each other?

Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek.

When a teen experiences something meaningful to his or her own life, motivation and real learning spring forth.  They not only retain what they’ve learned — they also can apply it in appropriate situations, and they can adapt it and build upon it as new situations arise.

Though this member didn’t stick with playing guitar, having a safe space to explore this interest for as long as he wanted was a meaningful experience. It led to more exploration and more meaning for him.

As a community, we can work to intentionally help our teens re-engage with their learning and their lives.  How?  Our next blog post will offer 5 ways to help our teens love learning again.  Or you can contact Open Doors and ask us directly — we’d be happy to help.


Note:  Welcome to our new series, “Your Life — Your Learning!”  This is our first post in the series.

With support from the Wege Foundation, Open Doors will explore what learning is and how it works (and doesn’t work) for the teens in the Greater Grand Rapids community.  Our hope is that more local teens and families will find tools for claiming their own learning on their own terms, whether they stay in school or choose to leave for an option like Open Doors.