Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Tue Apr 5 22:23:00 2005

On Tue, 5 Apr 2005, Jennifer Blair wrote:

> Anyway, wouldn't the students have to vote them out ...and
> what if the students didn't recognize the encouragement as
> an adult may... and what if they didn't find it
> offensive.... Should anyone assume that they know how
> someone else will vote? Are adults going to influence the
> students' votes to get rid of a staff member who they
> believe "encouraged" a student? Can anyone tell me if
> there has been a staff member at a sudbury model school
> voted out for "encouraging" students.

Well, my comments were based on having been part of the
community at Sudbury Valley for the past 25 years. Several
of those as a student. But, they were *my* comments -- and I
can only report with certainty *how* people voted -- not
*why* they voted that way.

I can think of several adults who students have rejected as
possible staff candidtaes. Of those, my *feeling* about the
rejection of many of them had to do with those people being
too 'proactive' in encouragement -- not respecting personal

I can also think of staff who have been voted out over the
years. Most of the comments on the floor of the meeting
about those staff, including the 'feeling' in the air, has
been that they were too intrusive.

So I'll give you my educated sense -- based upon 25 years of
experience in the school (8 as a tudents, 7 as an Officer of
the corporation, and 10 as a staff memeber), and based upon
what several students have actually *said* about their
reasons for voting certain ways -- that students don't like
the sort of intrusiveness that sometimes masquerades as
adult encouragement.

Can I *prove* that what people are *saying* about their
rationale for voting certain ways is their rationale? No.
But it seems that I owe people the respect as assuming that
they mean what they say until I can see evidence to the
contrary. And, certainly, at least one major campaign to
remove a staff member that I was part of as a student, I
remember being part of because of my clear sense that she
thought she knew better than the individual students what
those students needed.

I do want to say Jennifer, that you are *absolutely* right,
when you suggest that everyone goes through a growing
process, including staff. Certainly, every year I feel that
I am a better staff member than I was in the year before. It
*is* important that people are supportive of everyone in our
community -- staff and staudents. And, frankly, I am very
thankful that the School Meeting was as patient with me as
it was in my first couple years on the staff.

The reality is that there is a little learning curve for our
culture -- the kids don't get it when they walk in the door,
and neither do the adults. But in order to keep an adult on
staff, the School Meeting *at*least* wants to know that the
staff member *recognizes* errors and problems; they want to
know that the adult has the capacity to come quickly up to
speed as a staff member, and avoid the gross mistakes, and
become a valued asset.

There *are* material difference between students and staff
-- for one obvious basic example (not the only one) students
*pay* for the privilege of being in the community, while
staff are *paid.* This has ramifications. Including the fact
that the School Meeting is willing to spend a lot more time
and energy on finding a way to bring a student who is
annoying people into the community, than they are willing to
spend on brining a *paid* *adult* who is not adding much to
the community, especially if that adult is actively making
life uncomfortable for some. This seems reasonable to me.

Finally, lets please not ignore the fact that when an adult
says something to a kid which implies a serious *judgement*
by the adult, it is (at least in our culture) *much* harder
for the child to dismiss it than it is for the child to
dismiss things said by his/her peers. When I was a kid,
you'd argue with your friends all the time about stuff. But
when an adult said something, it was a *much* weightier
thing to actually disagree. Because of that, in a school
which is fostering independence, it is imperitive that the
adults use some care to not take clear sides on decisions
that really are personal choices. And, when possible, leave
any formal statements about what 'should' be done to the
school's democratic and judicial structures.

> Jennifer Blair

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
How do you explain school to a higher intelligence? 
-- Elliot, 'E.T.'
Received on Tue Apr 05 2005 - 22:20:52 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Jun 04 2007 - 00:03:11 EDT