As a new staff member, working at this school has been a wonderful learning experience. It has allowed me to notice certain patterns and common occurrences within the school community. Witnessing them first hand is nothing short of spectacular.
My observations are things that have transpired at this school for decades and will likely continue to do so. For example, age mixing and interacting is a daily event. I noticed it on the first day of school when students were checking in. Younger students had no qualms about asking another student to help them write the time they came in. In response, the older kid did not start to tease the student in need. Instead, the older student showed the younger one how to do it and encouraged learning how to do it alone. Because of this help, the kids that needed assistance are now able to find their name and write the time by themselves.
This type of natural learning is ongoing, and I witness it everyday. Another example of age mixing happens during four-square, a game that practically every student in the school plays. They can spend hours outside playing it. All ages are welcome. In fact, at any moment there can be a line of 10-15 kids, aged 4-18, each waiting patiently for a turn to play. The four year old's get the same chance to play that an older student gets. The way they talk and interact amongst themselves during the game is incredible. They’re lax on the rules for someone who is learning. But when you’re “out,” you’re out. All the players understand and dutifully take their place at the end of the line. What amazes me is that the younger kids rarely have tantrums and the teenagers never strong-arm the game, turning it into a “teenager only” game. They are all playing, talking, and, most importantly, respecting the game and each other.
Last fall, the dance corporation organized a Halloween dance, and they’re currently planning a Hollywood dance. I love going to their meetings and watching the communication between the students involved in planning. At the first meeting this year, we voted on a number of things, including the positions of executive director and secretary. Each of these titles are important jobs and require a good amount of work. This year, a few students wanted to be executive director. One person was nominated that was most likely to win because she is older and has held the position in the past. However, a younger student was also interested in that position. Amazingly, the more experienced candidate said, "Let’s give her a chance. I will help her if she needs it and assist in anyway." This dialog was wonderful to see because of the blatant support and encouragement offered. Instead of turning the situation into a popularity contest, the older student took this as an opportunity to teach someone else the ropes.
Watching these students interact is always a shock. Unfortunately, in a typical high school, there is an “every man for himself” approach. However, at Sudbury Valley, it’s the complete opposite. Students want to help each other learn and succeed. It is no wonder why everyone loves coming here and why each student makes the most of each day.