The Interview

During the summer of 2015, I had what for me was an unusual experience. But first, some background.

Back in early 1968, when the school was in the process of formation, the founding group had split up among themselves the various jobs that had to be done before the school could open. Hanna and I were responsible for interviewing families who were considering enrolling their children in this radical new “experiment”. The interviews were done in our home, until we took possession of the school building and were able to move into it and do them on location. At first, both of us would interview; sometimes we’d conduct the interviews together, more often separately. After a while, I became involved with other matters, and Hanna became the sole interviewer. As it turned out, she has remained the primary interviewer to this day.

However, about thirty years ago, it became clear that the volume of work involved was more than one person could handle, so Mimsy became the second member of the admission team, and the two of them have worked together since then. During the summer vacation, however, Hanna does not work at school, while Mimsy does, being one of the staff members tasked with taking care of the administrative work that keeps the school going. So Mimsy has served as the sole person responsible for dealing with admissions during summers. Now, Mimsy too is entitled to time off in the summer, and she usually goes away for a couple of weeks, but that has never been a problem, because up until now people who request an interview in the summer have always been able to wait for their appointments until she returns.

That is where the story would end, if this were any summer other than that of 2015. But by some odd twist of fate, during the two weeks Mimsy was away, a family with two young children applied for an interview, and told us that because the father had extremely limited availability, there was no way it could wait until she returns. Which meant that someone else had to meet with them.

Someone else? I was the only one around who was available, and had any experience at all in that domain, which meant that there I was, confronted with the prospect of doing my first admissions interview in 47 years. To be honest, it was a bit daunting.

And then the time came, and the family arrived - a couple with two delightful children, a five year old girl and a four year old boy, and suddenly I found myself looking forward to sitting down with them, to find out who they were, what had brought them to us, what their aspirations were for their children, and how they saw Sudbury Valley as possibly fulfilling those aspirations.

As the time flew by in pleasant, open exchanges, I couldn’t help musing about the almost miraculous reality that has brought thousands of families and children to our doors all these years, has made it possible for so many others to become part of over a hundred other schools that have been formed in the past 25 years, and has communicated our philosophy and practices to countless others all over the world. What a delight it was to think that I was looking at yet another couple that was seriously contemplating taking the great leap across the chasm that separates us from traditional schools! What a deep sense of satisfaction it gave me to know that there was a real possibility that these two children would enroll and join the growing cohort of “lifers” - people who had spent their entire schooling, through high school age, at our school - and have the joyous and challenging youth that is gifted to all lifers here.

We parted smiling - I, because the interview had been a truly warming experience for me, and they - well, I don’t know why they were smiling, but it sure made me happy that they were!