Democratic education is a way of life in a democratic educational community. In this community, the role of the adult differs from that of the child. The child’s goal is growth through liberty, while the adult’s role is to chaperon and assist the child on his or her path.
From this stems the adult’s obligation: he or she is obligated, on the one hand, to the autonomy and independence of the child, and to the child’s physical and emotional well-being on the other.
We see the adults in the school as those who chaperon learning and development of the children. In the personal process that each child undergoes, we try to assist them in creating and acquiring the tools they need to fulfill their goals. The adults support the student, in personal and school-related matters. In the personal arena, the child-adult dialogue that takes place during mentoring fosters a personal process of goal clarification in which the individual benefits from transparency, an ongoing significant relationship, listening, empathy, contemplation, and real dialogue with an adult. More generally, the adults in the school are in continual dialogue with the students every day and hour, through a shared way of life and all it entails: in the classroom, on committees, in the schoolyard, and so forth.
The expectation is that the spirit of the school will preside over every aspect of the
adult-student relationship. Naturally, we believe that the classroom should also offer room for conversation, development, growth, and mutual transparency, in order that real learning, in the deepest sense of the word, can take place. For each framework and activity in which the teachers take part, they are responsible for asking how and whether it supports human dignity. If not, they should act in the spirit of the school to change it. Likewise, the teachers should chaperon the students through the process of discovering their goals, and afterwards, to assist them in going forward and acquiring the tools they need to realize them.
Mentoring has a central place in school life; the child’s mentor is the person to whom he or she can turn for help. Closer than others, the mentor is a caring adult who shows interest, pays attention, listens, talks, accompanies, advises, plays, assists, and is available for the child.
The mentoring relationship is based on individual meetings between mentor and child that can take a wide variety of shapes and forms.
One of the principle roles of the mentor is to mediate between the school and the child and his or her family. This role carries even more weight with regard to new students at the school, who need closer attention at the beginning, with greater awareness and devotion on the mentor’s part.
The mentor is the central figure in daily ongoing contact with the child and his or her family and can be turned to for consultation, learning, common pursuits or problems, and making decisions concerning the child’s life in and out of school.