Hundred observations in two weeks

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My drawing of a student’s favorite toy

This article was written in March 2016 and published in the Diablo Valley Newsletter, the “Free Times”. It is a loose collection of observations without additional explanations, interpretations or judgments.

I have seen 120 eggs getting colored by students, and I colored my own with “DVS” in graffiti-style letters. I drew two Little Pet Shop animals with markers on paper and gave it to children. I drew a Graffiti style on paper and made some studies of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side”. I have seen a six students sitting in Judicial Committee for more than two hours. An older student helped a kid get up on the fridge, then the kid happily ate a banana and later voted for a sentence while still sitting on top of the fridge. I have seen JC-clerks respectfully asking witnesses and suspects, I have seen witnesses telling the truth, in rare cases caught lying. I have seen suspects pleading guilty or no contest (during my visit, some also pleaded not guilty, but I was not in the room).

I have seen children of different ages cuddle, I have seen students giving each other emotional support and hugs. I have seen a lot of Minecraft, some Undertale, some Geometry Dash and some Assassin’s Creed. I have seen Rubik’s cubes solved in high speeds. I have seen people listening to music and dancing. I was part of a jam session with around eight musicians, including singers that made up a chorus about the “Floor Sandwich”. I was interviewed by the Personnel Deployment Committee (three staff and five students) which included questions like “How does your previous reading on Sudbury align with your personal experience at DVS?” or “What do you want to change at DVS?”

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The office.

I repaired a recumbent bicycle with a staff member, rode a recumbent for the first time and supported the bicycle while other children sat down and gave it a try. I was shooting some hoops, I played “Poison”, “Mafia” and “Pantomime” outside – people were taking turns, new players came in, others dropped out, and the game was changed when everybody was tired of the game. I have seen people laugh every day. I have seen people watch “Star Wars episode 5” and others watching Youtube videos on how to disguise as a Zombie or as a Moon. I have seen staff helping to write up people, I have seen staff accompanying kids to CVS or Tacos Pancho. I have seen older kids explaining to younger ones why you can’t just take stuff that doesn’t belong to you. I heard a staff explain to a younger kid how life is unfair sometimes. I have seen people cry. I have read a draft of a graduation thesis.

Together with 20 other people, I sung “Happy Birthday” while a student blew out the candles on the huge staff-made chocolate and mint cake which was subsequently devoured by the hungry crowd. I have seen staff and students talking about their feelings in front of a big crowd in School Meeting. I have seen the School Meeting chair calmly handling the procedures and keeping track of the order of speakers. I have seen people not cleaning their dishes. I have seen a clearly organized law-book, I have heard people refer to rules C2 and B1, among others. I have seen everybody take part in the cleaning up the day before the open house. I helped clean the parking lot and weeding plants. I have seen a discussion board on the open house with students and parents confidently describing their school and how it benefits them. I have seen visitors being fascinated by the way the school runs, I heard them being thankful for these insights.

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The school is small, just 45 students!

We went on a field trip to Concord Community Park, I joined the group that got there on bikes. One of the students made the trip with a scooter, one was just running next to us. A member of staff was very cautious in blocking roads to allow for safe passage of students on the way. In the park, I saw the kids running around the playground, doing cartwheels in the grass and two younger girls play with stuffed animals far away. I talked to a parent about local and global politics, sometimes a kid would run towards us and drink from the water dispenser we brought.

I saw students leaving their mess behind, I saw a staff member sorting out unnamed food from the fridge to the “DVS free food” refrigerator shelf. I had about six apples and a wrap from this shelf. I made pasta with tomato sauce and shared it. I asked three students what they expected from a staff member.

I have seen a vibrant community that welcomed me with open arms. Thank you to everyone, I wish you all the best!

2 thoughts on “Hundred observations in two weeks

  1. Hi Alexander ! Thanks for the shares ! I’m a founding and staff member at l’Ecole Autonome, based on the Sudbury Valley School as well. I’m really intrigues by the question you asked -> ” I asked three students what they expected from a staff member.” and the answers you might have gotten, intrigue me ! Could you possibly tell us ? 🙂 All the best and a wonderful day !

    • They told me: I guess there are a lot of things you need to do on the computer to keep the school running. / I would like you to help me when I need help, or take me off campus to CVS (a supermarket). / I don’t want you to tell me what I should be doing, you know, like trying to teach me something.. I just want you to be normal.

      I feel like younger students could not really tell me what they expected in general, but they sure tell me what they need in certain situations, like “can you help me get up the fridge?” (a favourite spot of younger students), or “can you cut my apple?” or “can you help me sign in?” (writing the time on the attendance sheet).

      This is something I highly value about our school: students naturally express their needs, and they ask for help when they need it. A skill that even many adults lack.

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