Children Have the Right to Choose What They Learn and What They Believe
The question and concern has come up about WCSS, ‘‘Are they going to turn all the children into Eco Warriors?’’ The short answer is, ‘Only if they want to be.’
Sudbury Philosophy is one of choice, freedom, and responsibility. There is no ‘ageism’ and everyone is a teacher. It really is a re-education for adults of our time, to deconstruct our ideas that we always know what is best for our children. Yes we have been on the planet longer and therefore have more experience in many areas, and yes we are bigger in stature (some of us) and stronger so we can help support physically. The facilitators at Sudbury are there to support safety and boundaries (with the collaboration of students which aids them to understand the logic behind the limit) and to facilitate what the individual or group want to learn. Children and youth today are growing up in a time of uncertainty, where ecological disasters aren’t so much a question of belief, but more given facts. But there are still other theories out there and questions surrounding belief in certain communities. There are also people whom have other passions, so the ecology of the planet wouldn’t be their ‘area’ or their number one concern.
Sudbury facilitators are not there to tell children ‘this is how it is’. At WCSS we use language consciously. During precious school hours when discussions are raised by the students, facilitators will use phrases such as, ‘Some people believe...’ mindful that we are allowing the individual to decide for themselves what resonates with them. The world is full of individual passions and strengths. The phrase, ’’It takes all kinds to make the world go round’’, comes to mind. We need diversity in our communities. At WCSS we celebrate unique abilities and nurture our students strengths and passions, truly providing a space where expertise can manifest.
One question and concern that is frequently asked about Sudbury is about screens and technology. It was also a sticking point with some of the founders that entailed a process of research, self-reflection, letting go, and learning to trust. Sudbury philosophy is one of trust. We at WCSS believe that we are all innate learners and just need time to explore what interests us. Research shows that children will learn and have a better understanding for their own limits and self-regulation when they are trusted and not always told when, how, why, and what. They need to find for themselves what something feels like. You can tell someone how something will feel but until they feel it for themselves, they will be guided by a voice that is not their own. Children need to develop their nature-given intuition to help guide them through life, give them a sense- of-self and develop healthy self-esteem. It is too costly when people are motivated out of fear and guilt. Children and teens at Sudbury schools self-direct their own learning with the support of facilitators enabling them to become self-motivated, contributing members of their communities.
Of course, parents and adults care and worry about their children’s well-being. It’s our job to look-out for them and to stop them when they are getting too close to danger. This is a given, but in this day and age we have become helicopters, not allowing children to discover, play and find natural boundaries. Children need to rough and tumble, and play; climb trees; go on adventure walks; use tools; know what it’s like to be cold or hungry, or what their bodies and minds feel like when they’ve had too much screen time or not enough fresh air. What do studies and experience show us, when someone tells us not to do something? Something inside us wants to do it even more. Why? Because we are naturally inquisitive creatures that want to know why, and what will happen if...A child may obey a command out of fear, (of rejection; punishment; not being loved; scared) but eventually it will come out somewhere. This kind of obedience leads to repression, secrecy and unhealthy behaviour.
There are alumni from Sudbury schools in the world today who have spoken about their use of screen time at school and what happened when they were trusted with this. Some spent a lot of time on screens forming social clubs; gaming or learning how to fix computers. For some, their interests just simply changed due to the range of diversity in their environment. Some individuals just seemed to have an innate ability for technology and as soon as they graduated from Sudbury at 16, went straight into a job of computer graphics or other technological work.
At WCSS there are a wide range of abilities, strengths, and passions in our staff and facilitators. Each one of us bring such a unique array of experience to the table, whether it be from living and coming through ‘tough times’ and being dealt, ‘bad hands’, having to take responsibility for healing into their own hands; to professional careers. We have yoga & children’s yoga; mindfulness; artists; acting; drama facilitators; dance; music; home tutors; a social worker; home helpers; gardeners; older sisters; mothers; professional carers; educational research (MA); bakers; ecologists; environmental educators; an SNA experienced in working and being with autistics, people experiencing sensory in- and output differently, those with dyslexia; and the list goes on! But this doesn’t necessarily mean the students will be interested in these things. What they learn is up to them, and we, as facilitators, to nurture and support that.
We are ever so excited!!