Re: DSM:teachers

Scott David Gray (
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 10:28:38 -0400


     The word "class" is often misleading when used at Sudbury Valley. Within the Sudbury Valley School culture, the
word "class" is used entirely differently than it is in other settings.

     What we call a "class" at Sudbury Valley might be better described as an "academic club" in another setting. Let
me run down some of the most obvious differences between SVS "classes", and tradtional classes. Other Sudbury Model
schools no doubt have different traditions around classes; this represents only what I see at Sudbury Valley.

* Classes are rare and never take up more than a tiny fraction of any student's time (many of the more academically
oriented students wouldn't touch a class with a ten foot pole).
* Classes are not recognized in any official way by the school; they do not get any kind of precedence or priority
for room use, and the Judicial Committee can (and does) call people (including staff) out of classes when their
investigations require it.
* Classes are organized when (and only when) students take the initiative to organize them rather than being
organized "for" the students.
* There are no tests or grades used as either a prerequisite for attending the class or as a guage of "progress" as
the class continues.
* Classes often meet for only a few sessions.
* Classes usually center around discussion rather than around lecture.
* A person who chooses to stop attending the class may do so. This includes staff members (there is a related issue
of "primary tasks" on staff contracts, however).

Sharon Stanfill wrote:

> Joe,
> Could you comment further? I'm sure that the classroom dynamic
> is greatly different in most Sudbury schools than in many traditional
> schools, but how is it better?
> Sharon
> ----- Begin Included Message -----
> >From Tue Oct 20 18:53:02 1998
> X-Authentication-Warning: majordomo set sender to using -f
> From: Joe Jackson <>
> To: "''"
> <>
> Subject: RE: DSM: Sudbury Valley/Summerhill
> Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 18:09:45 -0400
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> Sender:
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> On Tuesday, October 20, 1998 3:06 PM, Sharon Stanfill
> [] wrote:
> >
> > Albert's mention of Shady Hill points to one of the potential problem
> > areas I see with Summerhill/SVS and similiar schools. It is certainly
> > true that people (not just children) will often work hard at learning
> > something that they are interested in or feel a need to learn, however,
> > it's simply not true that everyone can learn everything they might
> > be interested in well without excellent and often structured instruction.
> > Summerhill/SVS/etc. (what's the best phrase to refer to this set?) seem
> > likely to be less good at providing classes than other private schools -
> > there seems to be a tendancy to regard teaching as a relatively unskilled
> > activity.
> For good cause, as folks in our traditional schools who are considered
> "highly skilled teachers" are doing such an inferior job of "teaching" in
> this day and age. I've seen "highly skilled teachers" in action at a
> Sudbury School -- they have to use all of their conscious restraint to keep
> out of the student's faces, and rightly so, as that very tendency which
> most "skilled teachers" seemingly cannot resist (the urge to own, initiate,
> and control the learning process) is precisely what harms students the very
> most.
> However, I don't agree that Sudbury Schools don't do as good a job of
> "providing classes", in fact, I think the deemphasis, and in fact the
> un-dietification of the adult in the classroom revolutionizes the classroom
> dynamic to a degree that if I had not personally witnessed it I would call
> me a liar.
> -Joe
> Fairhaven School in MD
> ----- End Included Message -----

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