Teach Without Teaching
My favorite professor in college was a fantastic teacher. He was enthusiastic every time he would show up, but he never taught a class. He always had some outrageous experience through which we would somehow teach ourselves. And thirty years later, I remember every detail of the theories I learned, because I experienced them first hand.
This is not the typical story of the recovering addict, a fair number of whom have college degrees. More common is that institutions have been their teachers. Decisions for when and what they will eat, what time the lights go out, and nearly every daily routine has been made for them.
Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.
Now they are back on their own and have no idea where to turn. Those in recovery are not “classroom ready” because of a lack of focus due to past addictive behaviors and their current formidable efforts in overcoming those behaviors. And they often come with something known as “attitude.” It can be challenging to teach them anything.
Through something called the Stable Environment Model, Access Foundation uses practical and sometimes engineered experience to conduct real-world training for those reunifying with family and re-entering the workforce.
The goal is to engineer experiences that maneuver residents into making decisions that may have been left to others in the past. We just get out of the way and let nature take its course. Residents learn through practical experience that is physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
One example of this is upon moving into a home, the new resident is asked to complete a budget. No one reviews this budget, and frankly, few actually complete this requirement. But come the first of the month when rent is due, in nearly every case, the resident needs an extension. This is where the magic happens, and my partner is the magician. He is truly gifted. As the resident explains the budget, the obvious becomes somehow more obvious, and the “aha” moment is permanently burned to the hard drive.
This example is one of many ways in which residents learn to manage personal finances. Through other structured experiences, they learn home skills such as self-care, healthy cooking and shopping, setting and achieving goals, and the importance of maintaining a clean living space. They learn life skills like personal responsibility, time management, building healthy relationships, and finding and maintaining employment.
At Access Foundation, we do not teach. The proverbial deck is, however, stacked so that residents have a purpose in learning and, in the process, can’t help but prepare themselves for re-entry. The knowledge gained then becomes permanent and valued as practical rather than hollow and irrelevant to their lives.