Open House for Mrs. Peacock

I’ve grown to love the interactions with the guests at Open House. It’s fun to stumble onto someone who has little or no knowledge of the school, and also to see their reaction to hearing about the model for the first time.

I had a particular encounter standing over a plate of cookies at the Sewing Room table with a distinguished lady I’ll call Mrs. Peacock. She was reading my name tag with a perplexed look on her face. It listed me as STAFF MEMBER.

“So, do you teach here?" asked Mrs. Peacock.

To which I launched into something about how we staff are called “Staff,” and how there are no teachers per se, and how actual “teaching” isn’t necessarily part of the job description, and so on.

Mrs. Peacock nodded with a little “just-as-I-thought” smile on her face. She looked me square in the eye, “I’m an educator, actually.”

There was such a tone of distinction in her voice that I thought for a minute she must be the Secretary of Education.

“So are there classes?” she asked.

To which I launched into something about how there are experts in clay and art and music who come weekly, and there is an occasional seminar, but no, there are no classes and all learning is self-directed.

“The kids are free to do whatever they want,” I said.

A little laugh puffed out of Mrs. Peacock’s mouth before she could stop it from escaping.

“So are there no rules then for the kids to follow?” she asked.

To which I launched into something about J.C. and complaints, and how the rules aren’t meant just for kids but for everyone, including staff, and how we all comprise the School Meeting which creates all the laws of the school, and how it’s actually more strict in some ways, and how it all boils down to respect, and how the system empowers the children by acknowledging them as people, equal, and so on.

Mrs. Peacock’s puzzled expression seemed to say, “That’s all very quaint, but really...”

“Who is the Headmaster?” she asked.

To which I launched into something about how no adult has any special authority over any kid except through the legal channels of the entire community, and how a four year old gets the same vote in School Meeting as one of the Founders, and how everything, including the budget and staff salaries, is voted on by the School Meeting, and how staff members, including the Founders, are voted on by the students and can also be voted out by them.

I thought Mrs. Peacock might choke on her cookie, but there was a twinkle in her eye as if someone had just told her that fairy tales are in fact true, and she started laughing and shaking her head, incredulous that such an institution exists. As it happened, her husband took her arm at that moment, and she turned away, still shaking her head, saying, “Fascinating... incredible…” under her breath.

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.