Wright School Re-Education Principles

12 Principles of Re-Education

 Click here to read "Stories from the Front Line," stories written by former and current Wright School staff about Wright School kids and the Re-Education Principles.

 l. Life is to be lived now, not in the past, and lived in the future only as a present challenge.
 We really don't look backward, we don't retreat, we don't try to repair something so that life can be caught up again .... We start with the assumption that each day is of great importance to young people; when an hour is neglected, allowed to pass without reason and intent, teaching and learning go on nevertheless, and the child or adolescent may be the loser. In Re-ED, no one waits for a special therapeutic hour. We try, as best we can, to make all hours special.

 2. Trust between child and adult is essential...
 Trust is the glue that holds teaching and learning together .... The first step in the reeducation process is to help the young person make a new and very important distinction that adults can be counted on as predictable sources of support, understanding and affection. The teacher-counselor, to nurture trust, must be a whole person, not a therapist .... No amount of professional training can make an adult worthy of the trust of a child or capable of generating it.

 3. Competence makes a difference, and children and adolescents should be helped to be good at something, and especially at schoolwork.
 School is near the center of a child's life and that is the natural fulcrum for efforts to help children in trouble .... We regard it as sound strategy to attack directly the problem of adequacy in school, for its intrinsic value as well as for its indirect effect on the young person's perception of his worth, and his acceptance by people who are important in his world.

 4. Time is an ally, working on the side of growth in a period of development when life has a tremendous forward thrust.
 A broken bone knits more rapidly at six and sixteen than at sixty; we assume a comparable vitality in the psychological domain. Reeducation may simply speed up a process that would occur in an unknown percentage of children anyway. A long stay in a treatment center may actually slow down the process of learning to be oneself .... we try at least to avoid getting in the way of the normal restorative processes of life.

 5. Self-control can be taught and children and adolescents helped to manage their behavior without the development of psychodynamic insight.
 Children and adolescents get rejected in large part because of identifiable behaviors that are regarded as unacceptable by family, friends, school or community .... A first step in this process is to help them unlearn particular habits that keep high the probability that they will be rejected by people whose support they must have if they are to grow.

 6. Intelligence can be taught. Intelligence is a dynamic, evolving, and malleable capacity for making good choices in living.
 Children and adolescents coming into a Re-ED program frequently have deficits in both concepts and in problem-solving ability .... The program provides many formal experiences in problem solving-- especially in interpersonal relationships with other people, about their futures.

 7. Feelings should be nurtured, shared spontaneously, controlled when necessary, expressed when too long repressed, and explored with trusted others ....
 Positive feelings are important, too. The simple joy of companionship is encouraged. We are impressed by the meaningfulness of friendships and how long they endure .... We contrive situations of controlled danger in which children can test themselves, can know fear and become the master of it .... Feelings also get expressed through many kinds of creative activities that are woven into the fabric of a Re-ED school.

 8. The group is very important to young people, and it can become a major source of instruction in growing up.
 When a group is functioning well, it is difficult for an individual student to behave in a disturbing way. Even when the group is functioning poorly, the frictions and the failures can be used constructively .... discussion of difficulties or planning of activities can be a most maturing experience. And the sharing of adventure, of vicissitudes, and of victories, provides an experience in human relatedness to which most of our students have been alien.

 9. Ceremony and ritual give order, stability, and confidence to troubled children and adolescents, whose lives are often in considerable disarray.
 At Pressley Ridge Wilderness School, a very simple but important ritual has evolved. Before the noonday meal every day, the campers gather and sit in groups on "ready-logs." The camp staff (plus visitors) lines up at the entrance to the mess hall. When the dinner bell rings, the campers, one at a time, walk through the line of staff and visitors. There is a handshake, and from the staff a personal, appreciative comment. It is a powerful event, asserting comradeship and community.

 10. The body is the armature of the self, the physical self around which the psychological self is constructed.
 The Peace Corps program involved rock climbing, survival treks, surf kayaking, physical fitness exercises, and other similar activities designed not to train volunteers to do this sort of thing on their jobs but to give them a greater awareness of what they thought they were capable of doing. It was an exercise in self-discovery. The basic notions seemed applicable to work with young children and especially with adolescents.


 11. Communities are important for children and youth, but the uses and benefits of community must be experienced to be learned.
 Many children and adolescents who are referred to our schools come from families that are alienated or detached from community life .... Re-ED programs for adolescents have worked out dozens of ways for students to participate in community projects ... distributing boxes of food and toys to needy families at Christmas, gathering migrating birds injured by flying into a television tower at night and taking the birds to a shelter, participating in a neighborhood clean-up day, and so on.

 12. A child should know some joy in each day and look forward to some joyous event for the morrow.
 There is an extensive literature on anxiety, guilt and dread, but little that is well developed on joy. We thus go beyond most contemporary psychology to touch one of the most vital areas of human experience. We try to become skillful at developing joy .... Some of the most satisfying moments are generated by successful achievement in school. To do well in spelling or arithmetic, especially for students who expect and dread failure, is to know a sharp delight.
-Excerpted from Hobbs, 1982, Habel, 1988. (Hobbs credits the idea of the importance of joy in the life of children to the Russian Educator and youth worker, Anton Makarenko.)

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