I have recently become a volunteer and substitute staff member for HVSS. Since I’ve been at the school, memories that I had not thought of for many years have resurfaced.
When I was seven, I found myself at the Sudbury Valley School, in Framingham MA, and knew I had found the perfect school for me. I spent the next four years there. During my time there I was the free to play and be a kid. I played all day, everyday. I learned by asking others for help when I needed it, by being in a social environment with peers of all ages, by being hands-on in the art room, and by participating in a fully democratic society. Whenever I tried to force myself to learn something because my parents told me I had to, the attempt inevitability failed.
Now, fifteen years later I am witnessing kids going through that same process. While I watch and interact with students, moments come back to me. When I visited the Judicial Committee, I saw people serving their time. Some were focused, because they knew it was their responsibility, while others were wiggling to get free, so they could go play. I remembered my time, as a wiggling kid; when a big case came in I would stop wiggling and focus because I knew my vote might determine whether or not the case was referred to school meeting where the student might get suspended or expelled. Another time was when my sister asked me to go easy on a friend of hers who had been written up. When it came time to vote, I didn't know what to do; help her friend or choose the punishment I thought most fitting? Serving on JC is where I started to learn wrong and right because it tested my morals at a young age. I cared because I had an equal share of power at a time where no where else in my life was that true. I took it seriously.
Serving on JC is where I started to learn wrong and right because it tested my morals at a young age. I cared because I had an equal share of power at a time where no where else in my life was that true. I took it seriously.
Being on the other side of this system is still surreal for me. I find myself more frequently interacting with students who are just a little older (12 and older) than I was when I left SVS. This might be because I knew a few of them from outside of school because they go to the summer camp I work for, but I think that there has to be more to it than that. When I look around, I notice that this group is interacting a lot with all the staff. This also brought some memories of my friends during my last year at the Sudbury Valley School. We were starting to grow apart - I was not interested is hanging out with the older kids; I still wanted to play make believe all day. As my friends sought out older friends, they also seemed to be taking a greater interest in the staff as well. As a group of younger students we normally only asked the staff for things if we had to (to certify us, to heat up lunches, and spell things), but as my friends grew tried of playing pretend they wanted to know more hard facts, and that is when they started to set up times to sit down and learn form the staff, or have meals and conversations with them. And, though the group at HVSS still plays all kinds of games to their hearts content, I am also seeing the eagerness for more knowledge emerge.
The best part of attending or working at Sudbury is the commitment to a project. When a student decides they want to do something, they're all in. I remember wanting to perform, and for every talent show I would be in a dance (it was one of the few ongoing classes at SVS) or I would find Mark, the staff member in charge of the music room, and he would assemble a band and help me (and my friends) rehearse. And we would until we had it down. Currently, I’m working with the HVSS students on a play and they are, in true Sudbury fashion, committed and working hard nearly everyday. At first I was nervous because we had less time to put the show together then I would like, but they’re progressing swiftly because they want to be there and want to do the work.
It is different going to a new Sudbury School and being there as staff, but the more I think about it the more I think it is only because there are different people here. It’s the same model, but a different community, and it’s a diverse community. The variations in personalities surrounding you at HVSS are what really make it a wonderful place to be.