Although I can’t believe it now, looking out at all this rain, a couple of days ago the weather was very hot and humid. One of the younger girls invited me to go to the stream with her, so we walked together down the winding, forest stairs. The leaves on the trees are now toughened up, and the sun is almost completely covered, except for the occasional diamond of light shining down. She got in the water, I stayed on the shore.
I have been working at Sudbury Valley School since my kids were little. They are older than many of you are now, and those of my grandchildren that are old enough to go to school are going to a school like Fairhaven, and like SVS, in Oregon. So it is clear to me: I trust children. My children trust children. I even trust grownups.
Since we first opened our doors, we have spent hundreds of hours playing kickball. This year, however, tension caused by players trash-talking, disagreements about rules, and a general malaise descending on the game threatened its existence. How the players addressed these issues exemplifies problem solving at Sudbury schools, and might concretize how our community functions.
My son was comparing Fairhaven to the public school he attended until he was eight. “You know,” he said, “when I went to my old school, I was always doing things because someone told me to. I did things to make my teachers happy, or to get someone to like me, or to be like everyone else. At Fairhaven I do things for myself, and I don’t have to worry about what other people think.”
The one thing that makes my job as a staff member at Fairhaven School interesting and challenging is that it offers an ever-changing kaleidoscope of experiences. No day is ever quite the same as the one before, because the infinite potential of human creativity is unfolding before me on a daily basis. I have observed that when students are given the chance to create what they want, many unexpected and rich experiences evolve.
After hearing a short explanation of our school’s philosophy, many people understandably try to link it with something already familiar to them. We have tried to be fair but clear in distinguishing ourselves from other philosophies. However, all the subtleties of these educational models are not laid out and comparisons are not made from every angle.