As part of the process of preparing ourselves to open our school we are visiting as many other schools based on the Sudbury model and other democratically run schools as possible. Last week my daughter and I made a visit to Sudbury School Gent. Despite being short the visit was really interesting and we both enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere.
Despite the language barrier and both the site and people being completely new to her my daughter felt comfortable and at home really quickly. I think it helped that it felt very much like our house, lots of relaxed spaces with different things to do and a wonderful atmosphere of peace, happiness, mutual respect and personal responsibility filled every room. The first question she asked was what are the rules, knowing how a Sudbury school works she was keen to make sure she didn’t break any rules out of ignorance. It was also interesting to see she picked up on the idea of responsibility really quickly and tidied things away after herself, not something she is usually in the habit of doing at home. She also got her first certification for using the trampoline which required her to understand and agree to the trampoline rules.
We sat in on a couple of Judicial Committee (JC) cases. One of the concerns parents and children raise most often with me when thinking about our proposed school is that the JC seems very punitive and that it might be scary for children to have complaints raised against them. If you have been used to parenting in a gentle way without the use of punishments I can see why this would at first feel very alien to you. What we both witnessed however had no sense of ill feeling and blaming. Everyone was very civil and respectful, listening to each others points of view and explaining their side. Those charged with breaking a rule were very accepting and agreed that it was fair and justified. Most importantly everyone walked away friends, one of the most important aspects of the JC is that it clears the air. Everyone is heard and everyone is treated fairly so there is no need to harbour a grudge, it restores peace to the community.
Find out more about Sudbury School Gent here: www.sudbury.be