Re: DSM:teachers

Roxanne Grandis (
Thu, 22 Oct 1998 22:45:26 -0400


I am new on this list. I'm an English teacher at a school called Open High
in Richmond, Virginia. Open is not a Sudbury school, but it is an
alternative school that focuses on democratic learning. Teachers design
their own classes, and all teachers go by their first names. Open is
organized more like a college than a high school. We use narrative
evaluations instead of grades, but we are a public school, so we must
conform to state standards of learning.

I read about the Sudbury school model after deciding to teach a research
class next semester on alternative education. I have a few questions that
I'm hoping you could answer.

1. Do teachers at a Sudbury school have specialties? Does one teacher
concentrate on English, while another teacher focuses on math or science?

2. I've been following the posts about student choice. What happens if a
student simply hates a subject? Can a student choose to study no math at
all? Does something like this ever happen?

3. Who can attend a school like this? Are there certain requirements, or
can any student attend? What happens to students who are learning disabled?
Do they also thrive in this sort of environment?

4. Are there any requirements for graduation?

Thanks for answering my questions. I don't have any children as of yet, but
when I do, I want my child to attend a Sudbury School!

Roxanne Grandis

> The word "class" is often misleading when used at Sudbury Valley.
Within the Sudbury Valley School culture, the
>word "class" is used entirely differently than it is in other settings.
> What we call a "class" at Sudbury Valley might be better described as
an "academic club" in another setting. Let
>me run down some of the most obvious differences between SVS "classes", and
tradtional classes. Other Sudbury Model
>schools no doubt have different traditions around classes; this represents
only what I see at Sudbury Valley.
>* Classes are rare and never take up more than a tiny fraction of any
student's time (many of the more academically
>oriented students wouldn't touch a class with a ten foot pole).
>* Classes are not recognized in any official way by the school; they do
not get any kind of precedence or priority
>for room use, and the Judicial Committee can (and does) call people
(including staff) out of classes when their
>investigations require it.
>* Classes are organized when (and only when) students take the
initiative to organize them rather than being
>organized "for" the students.
>* There are no tests or grades used as either a prerequisite for
attending the class or as a guage of "progress" as
>the class continues.
>* Classes often meet for only a few sessions.
>* Classes usually center around discussion rather than around lecture.
>* A person who chooses to stop attending the class may do so. This
includes staff members (there is a related issue
>of "primary tasks" on staff contracts, however).
>Sharon Stanfill wrote:
>> Joe,
>> Could you comment further? I'm sure that the classroom dynamic
>> is greatly different in most Sudbury schools than in many traditional
>> schools, but how is it better?
>> Sharon
>> ----- Begin Included Message -----
>> >From Tue Oct 20 18:53:02 1998
>> X-Authentication-Warning: majordomo set sender to using -f
>> From: Joe Jackson <>
>> To: "''"
>> <>
>> Subject: RE: DSM: Sudbury Valley/Summerhill
>> Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 18:09:45 -0400
>> X-Mailer: Microsoft Internet E-mail/MAPI -
>> Sender:
>> Reply-To:
>> Content-Length: 1638
>> On Tuesday, October 20, 1998 3:06 PM, Sharon Stanfill
>> [] wrote:
>> >
>> > Albert's mention of Shady Hill points to one of the potential problem
>> > areas I see with Summerhill/SVS and similiar schools. It is certainly
>> > true that people (not just children) will often work hard at learning
>> > something that they are interested in or feel a need to learn, however,
>> > it's simply not true that everyone can learn everything they might
>> > be interested in well without excellent and often structured
>> > Summerhill/SVS/etc. (what's the best phrase to refer to this set?) seem
>> > likely to be less good at providing classes than other private
schools -
>> > there seems to be a tendancy to regard teaching as a relatively
>> > activity.
>> For good cause, as folks in our traditional schools who are considered
>> "highly skilled teachers" are doing such an inferior job of "teaching" in
>> this day and age. I've seen "highly skilled teachers" in action at a
>> Sudbury School -- they have to use all of their conscious restraint to
>> out of the student's faces, and rightly so, as that very tendency which
>> most "skilled teachers" seemingly cannot resist (the urge to own,
>> and control the learning process) is precisely what harms students the
>> most.
>> However, I don't agree that Sudbury Schools don't do as good a job of
>> "providing classes", in fact, I think the deemphasis, and in fact the
>> un-dietification of the adult in the classroom revolutionizes the
>> dynamic to a degree that if I had not personally witnessed it I would
>> me a liar.
>> -Joe
>> Fairhaven School in MD
>> ----- End Included Message -----

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