What Staff Do At Fairhaven
Staffing at Fairhaven and other Sudbury schools offers as many challenges and rewards as any educational job out there. The analogies multiply: surfing a tidal wave, pushing a boulder up a mountain, skydiving, playing in a jazz combo. Days can be remarkably challenging, variable and sublime. Working at Fairhaven qualifies as a vocation, not just a job.
To distinguish both the school and its employees from traditional schools, Fairhaven adopted Sudbury Valley’s nomenclature, calling its faculty “staff members” rather than “teachers.” Staff at Fairhaven can play both the administrative and teaching roles found in other schools, but they also wear a variety of other hats throughout each day. Staff can be mentors and role models, coaches and mediators, leaders and listeners, artists and judges.1
A deep understanding of the philosophy is critical. Like librarians, staff don’t intrude, providing information and support only when asked. We are careful not to push our personal views on students and to be respectful of their autonomy. At the same time, as equal members of a vibrant community, we add to the richness of the school culture by engaging freely in conversations in our own individual ways.
Staff are responsible for making sure the school runs smoothly. The work of running the school is divided up among Clerkships and Committees voted on by School Meeting. Students as well as staff may run for many of these Clerkships and serve on any Committees.
As Daniel Greenberg, cofounder of Sudbury Valley School has written, “More than anything else, staff has to serve as role models for excellence for the students as they grow up… Students observe in minute detail the intellectual abilities, the ethical standards, the aesthetic preferences, the interpersonal skills, the caring, the tolerance, the hard work, the commitment of each and every staff member… Through such observation students gradually learn how to collect and organize their thoughts, how to express themselves orally and in writing, how to debate an issue, how to compromise, how to listen to opposing points of view, how to accept defeat and victory, how to think through a knotty problem, how to be compassionate, how to be just, how and when to lighten up and laugh, how to show respect, and a hundred other similar subtleties that make up gracious, effective, competent adult behavior without in any way compromising individuality and creativity.” 2
1 From Like Water, pp. 108-109, Without A Net: Staffing At Fairhaven.
2 Worlds in Creation by Daniel Greenberg (Sudbury Valley School Press; Framingham, 1994), pp. 69-70.