• Written by Jeffrey D. Woolley, Head of School
The concept of respect is so fundamental to Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy as to comprise the only proper stance of one human being toward another. In his Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals (1785), Kant writes, “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.” Treating people respectfully, then, for Kant, is to treat them as ends in themselves and therefore humanely, acknowledging their free and rational natures. At a basic level, student respect demonstrates an awareness of the fundamental differences making us all unique. Respect at Dartmoor builds on this awareness beginning with the enrollment meeting, wherein students have a chance to articulate their educational experience, their triumphs, and their frustrations. This stance of respect continues throughout a student’s attendance at Dartmoor. All of our students have individualized programs that, while referencing general standards, remain relevant to specific learners, all of whom we consider to be sui generis.

These programs originate from a battery of internal assessments as well as professional evaluations, and the anecdotal information shared by students and parents. Another key to showing student respect resides in the fact that we place all students at instructional level rather than grade level: sometimes these are the same, but when a discrepancy exists, we modify programs to fit our students and not vice versa. This means a 10th grader who reads at a 7th grade reading level begins with 7th grade reading skills and builds from there, and a 7th grader who reads at a 10th grade level starts with 10th grade materials.

As a student progresses, Dartmoor staff ensure the program evolves organically to accommodate the student’s growth and changing needs.This simultaneously guarantees student engagement and demonstrates respect for the learner. For most students, Dartmoor’s approach represents a volte face from their former academic experiences in which the inertia toward conformity dominates with its apparatus of authority and attending rewards and punishments. The Dartmoorian educational experience rather is one of liberation, reengagement, and rediscovery in which students revive their innate passion for learning. Respect is the seed of transformation here, and, for all of us at Dartmoor, helping students realize their potential more fully is both compelling and rewarding work.

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