Parental involvement (was re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] 7 Lessons Taught in School)

From: Dilyara Breyer <>
Date: Wed Nov 29 01:25:00 2006

Hi Ann et al,

I do not think I am gonna add much more to his wonderful discussion but as
the name of the school where I work popped up, I am compelled to answer :)

I am a parent, so I totally understand what Elizabeth is feeling. I feel
sometimes that it is stupid and wrong to drop off my preschooler before
heading to work in the Sudbury school. I wish our school was one of those
Sudbury schools that are more tolerant of having staff's little kids in the
school. I wish I could work it out so I could be more with my kids. Maybe
that's how we, parents, are supposed to feel. The fact is that we are
separated only 12 hours a week and even though I hate to admit it, I am much
more productive that way and my son is enjoying the best preschool that
exist in the county (it is play based and is run by my friend).

Now I put my staff hat on. Parents can be very good and bad to the school.
Our parents are taking some of PR on recently and I am looking forward to
it. In Diablo Valley School parents organized a parents club that sponsors
parent education nights and annual California schools campout. Love them for
it! There are a lot of instances when our schools need parents help: PR (who
can tell it as well as parents what the joy the schooling can be (well,
students of course say it even better but parents prospective is
invaluable!)), fundraising. In fact, I boldly state that many Sudbury
schools would not happen without parents-founders. We are people in need
and are willing to put a good fight for our and our kids' needs.

Unfortunately, my humble experience working at a Sudbury school showed that
often parents are not much more responsible than the kids (and it is OK for
kids to be that way, they are learning, adults are modeling): they do not
follow through, they parent, they talk down. (sorry, I do not mean to offend
- happens to the best of us)
Staff are selected for their properties and have certain responsibilities
and when/if we do anything of the above, there are very serious consequences
(from write up to losing the job). With parents who pay the tuition and come
on occasional basis, it just does not work that way.

Now to when parental involvement can turn really bad:
Example 1. We had this very opinionated girl. She tested all the school's
limits and rules. She was great! Her mom fell very supportive of the school
and ran for staff. It just didn't work. It was just plain wrong for the
reasons Scott mentioned. At one point, she gathered kids around a big piece
of paper and had them state why they didn't like the girl, so the family
(and their shrink) had some material to work on. I flinch when I remember
it. (I was not there but later saw the paper with 15 or so reasons hanging).
Ouch! Do I need to say that the family withdrew?

Example 2. We had another mom who liked the school community and wanted to
get involved and pursued a staff position a month after her son enrolled.
She also felt that her 8 year son needs her (even though he spent 3 years
before without her, thousand of miles away). She also felt she could not
afford the school and wanted to trade her hours with the permission of then
admissions clerk. Cut to the chase, 2 years later, her son still "needs
her", doesn't like the school anymore and she leaves with 8 of our students
(who spend a lot of time with her in the carpool) to form her own
homeschooling enterprise. Can it get worse? I mean good for her, bad for the
school. And I as a staff who worked years without compensation building the
school of our dreams while paying for the preschool for my kids I feel
outraged, to say the least.

(In both of these cases, the adults were the nicest people I've ever met.
We had other examples when kids were hurt because of their parent's
involvement in the school.)

Do I need to say that our school is more and more cautious about parental
involvement? We LOVE our parents, they pay the tuition and we love for them
to be involved and enjoy the community that we gave the seeds but like in
SVS parents are not welcome to hang out on the day-to-day life of the
school. As a lot of other Sudbury schools, we learned the same lesson. Our
process for the staff is much stricter. We have another admissions clerk

My own painful example:
When my son started school, I thought I was cool. I was. First week. By the
end of the second week, he was written up 8-14 times. Some of the offenses
made me wonder if it was really my son. He tried to attract so much negative
attention, did some very disrespectful things. We have a relatively normal
relationship, so I did not expect him to be that disrespectful. I fell very
depressed. It felt like a revenge for all years of those evenings that we
spend discussing what a better school would be like, how to build it, how to
improve the one that we started. The joy of being staff and parent!

As a parent I would love to have had a Sudbury school in place.
Unfortunately, it takes more than a vision for it to materialize, it takes
bloody amount of work, luck, work again, standing up to the mounts of
bureaucracy, filling gazillion amount of papers, learning all the laws,
bookkeeping, business managing that you never thought you would or could,
being humble and persistent and yes once again, lucky. It takes years of
sacrifice of TIME and ENERGY that we take from our own kids.

Can you blame us (founders, staff) for being a little protective for the
little piece of dream we created for your kids? :)

Dilyara Breyer
Big Rock Sudbury School

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Ann Ide
Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:58 AM
Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] 7 Lessons Taught in School

Scott stated:
 " In the day-to-day life of the school, parents
 are *not* welcome. The school is the *child's* place, not the

I know this is the case at the Sudbury Valley School, but aren't there other

Sudbury model schools that actually utilize parents as resources in a number

of ways, while still allowing the school to be the "child's place"? I'm
pretty sure I have heard of parents being used to help with PR activiites,
and on campus to teach something, and in other volunteer roles to help the
school function and thrive. Doesn't Fairhaven do this? And I think Big
Rock does, too. If any of you out there do use parents as resources, I'd be

interested in hearing in what capacities, how that works, if and how the
kids are affected by it, and, essentially, how it still meets the goals of
the model.

Ann Ide

Discuss-sudbury-model mailing list
Received on Wed Nov 29 2006 - 01:24:09 EST

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