Sudbury Valley Experiences

It was warm outside. It was raining a lot and of course lots of kids were thrilled. Oh what fun it is to stand outside and let the pouring rain drench you! The mother in me wants to tell them to go inside and put on dry clothes, but the child in me exults with them. I wish I could abandon myself like them and let the rain wash over me, wet me thoroughly – hair, clothes, even my shoes. What freedom, what abandon! Delicious! Needless to say the school has its rules: the creek is closed because it isn’t safe and if your cloths are wet you are not allowed to sit on upholstered furniture or on the rugs so as not to damage them; and the students comply since the rules make total sense and they are grateful that they were allowed to get so wet in the first place.

While I was standing outside six year old Nell came over to me and gave me a hug, a hug that got me wet as she was drenched from head to toe. She asked me for help. Her problem was: “would you come with me to the smoking shed and help me to convince the kids there to leave the shed because it can get flooded like the creek and it isn’t safe.” When we got there I showed her that the shed is situated uphill from the pond, and since water flows downhill and not uphill the shed is safe. She was satisfied and walked away. As for me, I was awed by this tiny little girl who felt equal to the five or six quite tall teenage boys and took it upon herself to take care of their safety. When she had failed to convince them she didn’t give up but went to get a staff member to deal with this “dangerous situation!” What strength, what confidence, what a sense of responsibility to others!

Recently, the School Meeting had to vote about two issues. The first was about which of two teams would be granted the concession to sell snacks at noon every day for the coming school year. Each team brought their supporters to vote for them, but alas, by the time the item came up it was quite late and lots of students had left the meeting. Next day I was sitting in a room with two students and overheard their conversation. Elijah asked Josh, “How come you didn’t vote for Zach and Izzy? They lost because their friends left early.” Josh said, “I couldn’t vote because I didn’t want to dash a dream.” Elijah asked, “What dream?” and Josh explained that each team had a person who was going to graduate this year and he couldn’t participate in disappointing either one of them. That, from a fifteen year old boy!

The other election was for Chairman of the School Meeting. I asked the candidate who lost why his friends hadn’t come to vote for him. He explained to me that he didn’t ask them to because he felt that the Chairman has to deal with the people who attend more or less regularly, and those are the people who voted and chose his opponent. That seemed right to him. I was struck by the broad perspective of his reply.

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.