Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] 7 Lessons Taught in School

From: Jeff Collins <>
Date: Wed Nov 29 00:20:00 2006

Hi Ann,

To answer your questions: yes this **can** work and yes we (Hudson
Valley Sudbury School) have done something similar to this in the past.
In our case, however, it did not work very well. Let me explain in more
detail exactly what happened as a illustration of what can be done, why
it didn't work for us, and how it could work.

A couple years ago, one of our student's parents made it known that she
was a certified Spanish teacher. At the same time, there was a interest
among a number of students and staff (including me) to either learn or
brush up on Spanish. The mom learned about this and made a proposal to
School Meeting to come in twice a week to teach Spanish. School Meeting
approved the proposal and agreed to pay the mom a nominal fee to be paid
by the students taking the class. The classes lasted roughly 2 months,
then petered out until it became clear that interest had lapsed to the
point that the fee could no longer be supported by the remaining
students. The last class consisted of me, a teenager and the mom's
daughter. Later that year the mom applied to be on staff, and was not
elected by School Meeting.

So, what happened? A couple things. The first class was attended by
roughly 10 people and interest was very high. At the first class,
however, a lot of people were turned off by the mom's teaching
technique. It seemed artificial, forced and clearly from the "I have to
make learning fun and exciting or no one will want to learn" school of
teaching. Only one teenager ever returned. As the class went on, it
became more and more clear that the mom had an agenda and the agenda was
to be able to watch over her daughter at the school.

I think there are two lessons to be learned by this experience. The
first is when allowing outside teachers to come into a Sudbury school,
be very careful of their teaching style. When classes are voluntary, I
think a different - more straightforward - method works better than a
lot of the methods currently taught to and used by certified teachers.
The other lesson is to understand if there is an underlying agenda on
the part of the parent who is teaching the class. If a parent wants to
be so involved in their child's education that they want to be with them
all the time and can't stand to be separated from them for 5 1/2 hours a
day for 5 days a week, they shouldn't send their child to a Sudbury
school (or any other type of school). They should home school. In
fact, the mom in our example ended up not re-enrolling her daughter and
is now home schooling her.

Speaking as a staff member *and* parent of a student, I would rather my
daughter attended a different Sudbury school than the one where I
staff. It is not easy being a parent and detaching my parental emotions
from my child's experiences. When she screws up (which is almost
never), I would really rather not know about it. Unfortunately, I don't
have that choice. I am right there. My daughter knows I read every JC
report and knows that I attend every School Meeting. She is sick of
me. She wants her space, and I am in the middle of it. Last year, my
wife was also on staff, so our daughter really had it bad. One of the
primary reasons my wife did not run for re-election was to give our
daughter a bit of a break. We have had another staff member leave this
year, in part because she promised her son she would not be on staff
when he turned 13. People don't join staff to be with their kids - if
they do, they don't last on staff. When a parent is a staff member it
is because he or she loves what they are doing and is totally committed
to the school succeeding and is there **in spite** of the fact their
child is a student at the school.

Jeff Collins
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Ann Ide wrote:

> Just thought I might clarify my question: I'm not talking about
> parents being on campus for hours at a time. I'm talking about going
> in for a specific task, like teaching a class of interest for an hour
> once or twice a week. For example, if some kids were interested in
> having a singing group with help in voice technique, and there was a
> parent with such skills willing to volunteer his/her help, and the
> kids voted on it.....would that work? Any Sudbury schools doing this
> sort of thing?
> Ann
Received on Wed Nov 29 2006 - 00:19:35 EST

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