A New Rite of Passage at SVS

As is well known, our rules require students to attend school at least five hours a day throughout the school year. In order to see to it that this rule is being observed, we have to keep an accurate log of each student’s attendance.

This presented the school with a problem: how can we maintain such a record of attendance without compromising the sense of trust, independence and self reliance that we foster in our students from day one of enrollment? It was clear from the outset that to start your day at SVS with a staff member noting your arrival was counter to the message we want to impart – namely that you are considered independent and trustworthy, and that you are capable of taking charge of your life at school and abiding by the rules without being supervised.

So, to be consistent with our philosophy, we post a list of all the School Meeting members, students and staff, in the “check-in hall”, and upon arrival and departure people note the times on columns marked “IN” and “OUT”. There is a big digital clock above the attendance list, so that the times can be recorded. Kids these days don’t round out times as we used to do when we used analog clocks, where quarter-hours were deemed close enough. So when you look at our attendance sheets under the digital clock, you see times like “10:04" for arrival, when formerly “10" would have been quite sufficient.

This procedure is easy to follow for most of our students. But, alas, when you are a little person of four or six you have two problems: you may be too short to reach your name posted on the list, and you may not know how to write numbers. When that is the case, it is usual for whoever brings the child to school to check in and out for them, or for the kids to find a bigger person to help them.

Since all children strive to be totally independent, they watch carefully how to read the time on the clock, they practice writing numbers, and they stretch mightily to reach their names. When they can do it all alone at last, they are very pleased with themselves: they have passed an important rite of passage at SVS! They feel that they are growing up!

The views expressed on this page are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sudbury Valley School.