[Discuss-sudbury-model] parents on campus

From: Mimsy Sadofsky <mimsys_at_comcast.net>
Date: Thu Nov 30 21:51:00 2006

My original email got garbled; this is just a repeat, hopefully
readable.
Mimsy

I wish I knew exactly what all the needs Ann Ide knows about that
have been rebuffed are. Or even a few. In my experience, kids who
have really wanted things (that are reasonable to have at school --
advanced auto mechanics, for instance, would not be one you could
pursue on our campus) have pushed for ways to get them at Sudbury
Valley and have usually been successful. Sometimes it makes more
sense to look in the outside for certain activities because it is
best to find specialized equipment, or a group that has the same
interest and one has not materialized at school. Sometimes parents
have a different view of what children's expressed needs are than the
school does. Finding a way to express these needs at school, if they
are real, is sometimes an important part of learning how to be
responsible for yourself. That is sometimes a bigger educational
experience than getting whatever it is you want. And an ability that
is an important life skill, perhaps as important a life skill as
anyone can learn in any school.

Expressing one set of needs at home and another at school also
happens regularly. It is sort of like the kids who go home after
having a fabulous day and complain to a parent about all the things
that went wrong. I could do some complaining to my husband too --
maybe sometimes I do -- but I have mostly learned to judge my day a
little more as a whole. The kids learn that too after a while, but
it is so nice to have a little sympathy at home after you have spent
the whole day being, essentially, a grownup. This is a hard school,
and one of the delights of separation of home and school is going
home and . . . reverting a little! After all, home is where people
love you the very best.

Also, sometimes loving children (most of the kids in our school love
their parents and appreciate the sacrifices their parents make to
send them to school here) sort of pick up on ideas that parents have
about good ways to spend time at school. They want to please those
parents whom they love very much, so year after year we hear stories
of the following things that have supposedly happened at school that
are told at home: "I don't know how to get [blank] to happen. No
one will help me figure it out." "I asked [blank] to teach me how to
do my times tables but they were too busy." "So and so never shows
up for appointments s/he makes." "I can't ever find [blank]." It
goes on and on. One famous time a parent complained that the staff
was always out shopping!

It is kind of difficult for me not to relate this thread to a
personal encounter I had last week with a student that seemed to reek
of one of the things in the above paragraph.

There is another side to this subject, and I don't know if Anne has
separated that part out. There are some parents who want to come to
school and teach, or work with kids in, the things that they love.
Their inability to do so has been something that parents have often
been extremely upset about. We have an absolute policy of only
supporting activities that kids have asked for, not the ones that
parents wish to give. It is part of our philosophy, and a very deep
part. We do not think kids are dying on the vine here for lack of
"exposure" or are unable to find out how to even want in the world.
Our experience is that there is a very sophisticated and educated
group of students (and the staff are not totally shabby either) in
our school, and the cross-exposure and cross-fertilization that is a
natural part of this community allows students to know a lot about
the possibilities. Indeed, even in very small Sudbury schools we see
that going on to a very high extent. Exposure is the last of the
problems we are thinking about. Everyone, of every age, is
constantly talking about what is interesting to him/her; you would
have to be wearing big earmuffs and blinders to miss getting more
than enough exposure to leave you tired at the end of the day. Oh,
and not be able to use the internet and not have a life outside of
school!

Mimsy Sadofsky

p.s. Yes, sometimes kids say they wish they had taken advantage of
more while they were at school. They realize when they leave what a
rich community it was. But in fact, it seems that everyone here is
working at top speed, and if they wish -- as I usually do -- that
they could read more/talk more/see more/play more, then that is only
human.

Mimsy Sadofsky
mimsys_at_comcast.net
Received on Thu Nov 30 2006 - 21:50:54 EST

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