Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blast from the Past, Part 3

I initially intended to create a weekly post, highlighting older article from the school's archives. Life got in the way (and by life, I mostly mean construction, and starting a new school year!), and this is only the 3rd of these installments. I will continue to post these, but no promises as to how often or how many there will be!

With all of the new students starting with us, it seemed like this was a good article to post. As for the returning students, I note that the challenges of being a "Sudbury Parent" don't go away - even after 11 years of doing this, I still have my challenging moments! With three of my own children at Sego Lily School, I find some of these reminders relevant even today. We did just spend Thanksgiving week with family after all!

"Flashback Kat" - fort building in 2008!

Congratulations! You are a Sudbury Parent! By Jen Schwartz, Staff

Take a deep breath and hold it for a year.”
-Hanna Greenberg, Sudbury Valley School Founder

I think this may be the best advice I have ever heard for parents in a Sudbury model school like Sego Lily School. Starting in any new school is a challenge for both children and their parents, but when you add in the variables that exist in a democratic, self-directed, educational environment, things get even more challenging. Parents find themselves asking all kinds of questions, such as “Why does it seem like he is doing nothing every day?” and “When will she settle down and start doing something more practical?” The answers to these kinds of questions are different for every student, but in the first few months of school the inherent distinctions of a Sudbury model school can sometimes be overwhelming.

September is always a dynamic month at Sego Lily School as old friends reconnect and new students find their place in the social community. This can be a time of making friends as well as discovering which staff members are best to go to with different kinds of questions or interests - such as Hollie for art, Kyle for a trip to the park, and Tara for a great conversation. It is also a time of finding one’s way through the system that is our school - locating the Judicial Complaint forms, sitting through a School Meeting or two, and maybe even making a first motion. We have already had a brave group of folks ranging from age six to eleven beseeching the School Meeting for exemptions to our microwave policy. With all of this activity going on, who has time for academics!

As the fall cools down, so does the frantic-ness of our environment. It is important to note, however, that not an October has come yet in which everyone simply ‘got to work.’ No, at Sego Lily School learning happens in so many ways that it can be difficult to spot. Like a well camouflaged animal, learning moments make themselves noticeable from time to time but are often hidden from our view. If you are waiting for the learning to become familiar - such as worksheets or ten kids sitting quietly in a class - you will more than likely find yourself disappointed. Think of our school as a safari - yes, you may drive right by a herd of elephants and have opportunities to take a myriad of photos, but you are just as likely to be looking through binoculars hoping to spot that elusive cheetah. Remember, though: the cheetah is always there whether you are seeing her or not, just as the learning is always happening.

The good news is that some time during that first year every child finds her or his niche. Maybe it’s the teens who decide to study the GED prep book, the ten year old who wants to be chairperson of the School Meeting, or the five year old who creates the coolest pillow fort ever - they all find opportunities to hear their inner voices telling them the direction to follow. Yes, they learn, but more importantly they find their place in the community and begin to discover their true selves. The second year is easier than the first, and the third even easier than that, simply by virtue of the fact that learning becomes so much more obvious over larger stretches of time. The child who wasn’t reading now tells you what the signs say; the teen who wasn’t speaking to you opens up about a difficult issue she helped handle in JC. You find yourself standing there at moments, wondering how it all happened, but grateful that it did.

So, my advice to new parents: take that breath, and let it out slowly over the course of the year. If you find your face turning purple, talk to a staff member or two. We’ve got plenty of experience and understand the concerns you may have! For those of you who have been around for awhile, I know that the challenges don’t go away. You are doing something unconventional - you are pioneers in the field of education! Pioneers always had it tougher the first year, planting crops for the first time, finding water, etc, but even though year two was easier, it certainly had its challenges! You, too, are welcome to talk to any staff member about your worries if you have them. We are excited to be on this journey with all of your children, and we are thankful for your pioneering spirit!