Spotlight on the Alternative Education Movement: Sudbury

Sudbury schools are registered as private schools and they operate much like an open resource center. There are staff members available to offer support to any students at the school. They might offer classes or other instruction, but unlike North Star or an Agile Learning Center (ALC), that won’t begin until initiated by students. Each week there is an all school meeting. Everyone is invited to join and participate in making decisions. Any disciplinary problems are handled by the Judiciary Committee, comprised of students and staff. Here is a short interview I did with Dylan, a 14-year-old who attends a Sudbury school in Pennsylvania and Neil, who is also 14 and goes to the South Jersey Sudbury School.

 

Can you tell me what a typical day might look like for you and/or (or what today looked like, I know “typical” doesn’t always exist)? Is there anything you’re required to do?:

Dylan: Well, today is pretty dreary out so normally. I would go on a walk because we’re located in Camp Ockonickon and I’ll play some Magic the Gathering, I’ve been trying to learn the piano and some time spent on this website.

Neil: You are required to do nothing other then follow the rules and attend the justice committee if you are written up for breaking a rule. What I do in a day can change everyday. For example, I’m writing this while at school. I also like to go on walks with other students and while on these walks we talk about current events and opinions we have on them. Some students talk and play all day long others will just walk or sit for hours in the woods that our school is in. Every student will tell you a different story.

Do you play any specific roles in your community? (Judiciary Committee, School Meeting Secretary, etc.) If so, what does that role involve, how long have you held it, do you enjoy it, etc.?:

D: We change jobs every week so I have done everything but that is not typical for a Sudbury School.

N: The role I play in the community is pretty active at least I would think so. Roles like you were talking about (J.C. SM clerk etc.) are rotated every week or month so really with such a small Sudbury school like the one I go to everyone plays an active role in the community.

 

Do you like the School Meeting? Does it seem an effective way to make decisions?:

D: School Meeting is extremely effective you can argue a point and if you do a good enough job most of the time it passes.

N: I love going to school meeting! I really think it’s a great way to run the school because everyone has the ability to give their opinion and everyone’s vote counts.

 

Tell me about one thing that you’ve accomplished/explored/learned/done that you don’t think would have happened without your school?:
D: Basically everything I just said came from Sudbury. And I’ve really found what I want to do with my life in like a year being here and I’ve definitely gotten just more time to think and feel.

N: I guess one thing I couldn’t have accomplished if I hadn’t gone there would be being able to handle myself better in a debate or conversation due to the fact that being part of the school means talking when in school meeting and in J.C.

 

Do most people participate actively in the community (go to School Meeting, etc.) or take a more passive role? What about you?:

D: Yes pretty much everyone partakes in every role in the school but I’m pretty sure that is unusual for most Sudbury Schools.

N: Yes! For me one of the best parts of being in a Sudbury school is being able to help run the school I would even argue that I’m one of the most excited students in the school when it comes to being in SM, J.C., and others. Some students love to get as involved as I do, but it is a common joke in my school that I make school meeting much longer then it needs to be. So, I would say that maybe I have some more vigor when it comes to the school being run.

 

In general, have you been happy with your experience and this model? Any final things you like to add?
D: I was at a public school for most of my life and Sudbury really has kind of changed the way I look at my surroundings, and like I said it really just gives you time to think and listen. And just the freedom to run around without adult supervision or someone taking notes it lets you be yourself.

N: I’ve never been happier at such a great place as South Jersey Sudbury school.

 

You can learn more about this model here. Check out this list of all the schools using the Sudbury method. Akilah S. Richards has a great podcast called Fare of the Free Child and in this episode, she compares Sudbury schools and ALCs with her guest.

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