In my previous post I started talking about the gifts one gains by being part of a Sudbury school. Out of this huge pool of potential subjects, today’s post will focus on the sense of belonging intrinsic to Sudbury communities.
I use this word community deliberately. People first discovering Sudbury often fixate on the individualistic side of the model and miss or discount the strong community component. Yet community is just as essential to the Sudbury experience: a community in which everyone is respected and has a say.
Personally, I noted long ago a parallel between the Sudbury schools where I’ve worked and the church I knew growing up. Both environments have more of a family feel than an institutional one. In that church I knew people of all ages: the other youngsters seemed like siblings or cousins to me, the adults quasi-aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Meanwhile, more than once I’ve known Sudbury students, while off campus during the day, say that they’d better go home—by which they meant, get back to school. Since they aren’t segregated by age, and since staff hold no authority over them, it comes as no surprise that to Sudbury students, their school would feel like a second home.
Enhancing this familial feel is the fact that, at Sudbury schools, people build relationships that deepen over many years. Now that I’ve been involved in the model for over fifteen years, my own appreciation for this aspect is reaching new heights. Alpine Valley School has graduated students I’ve known from the time they were five, or even younger. For someone who loves kids but has none of his own, being able to engage with young people throughout the course of their growing up is a tremendous privilege and joy.
Over the years, I’ve relied on Sudbury friends for help in tough times, and I’ve enjoyed writing and book groups consisting of Sudbury people. Together we experience the ups and downs of day-to-day life, pursuing our various passions and coming together to resolve conflicts, conduct our schools’ business, and work to grow our communities. This is why leaving Colorado last June was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my entire life. In a very real sense, it felt like I was leaving my family behind.
Fortunately (and thanks to 21st century technology), I can still enjoy that family from a distance and participate in some meetings and committees. Just this past weekend, two AVS alumni visiting Austin for other reasons took me out to dinner. And I’m fortunate to have an additional family right here in Clearview Sudbury School. In fact, I feel a very real connection to the many Sudbury people I know from schools around the world.
Frankly, it would be difficult for me to live in a place that didn’t have a Sudbury school. My Sudbury friends of all ages are some of the most interesting, genuine, creative, talented, passionate, and otherwise remarkable people I have ever known. Working with people who feel more like family than colleagues or students is one of the great blessings of my life. Partners in this cutting-edge endeavor, we enjoy belonging to something meaningful, life-changing, and larger than ourselves.