Students are Responsible for their Education
At Sudbury School Paris, education is the responsibility of the child. When children know that they are responsible for their education they rise to the occasion. This is not actually surprising, given they have a natural instinct to educate themselves (they learnt how to walk and to talk on their own). However, when children believe that all they have to do is follow instructions, do what they are told and that someone else is responsible for their education, then they tend to disengage, minimize their creative responses to challenges and feel a lack of power and control over their lives.
Unlimited Opportunity to Develop Passions
Without scheduled lessons, students of the Sudbury School Paris are afforded unlimited opportunity to play, explore and pursue their own interests. This is important as it takes time to try out different things. It also takes time to get bored and then break through that boredom and discover another passion. Truly mastering a skill or learning about a topic that one is passionate about also takes time. Constant scheduled lessons and adult-directed activities undermine young peoples’ ability to discover and really develop their own passions.
Play is Important
Imaginative, interactive, student-led play is central to our school. Play functions as the major means by which children:
- develop interests and competencies
- learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules
- learn to regulate their emotions
- make friends and learn to get along with others as equals
- experience joy (1) and creativity
Adults who Help, not Judge
We aim to provide students with access to a variety of caring adults that are helpers, not judges. This last part is very important. The last person you want to help you learn something is someone who is evaluating you. You’re nervous about that person. You might go to that person to try and impress them with how much you know, but not to say “I really don’t know this and I would like some help”. By not judging the children, the staff members are much more able to be helpers to the children. Staff members are available to all students as academic, artistic, and mentoring resources, but only when asked. We believe adults have just as much to learn from children as children have to learn from adults.
Free-age mixing among children of all ages, from tiny tots to adolescents, is a central idea of any democratic school, and Sudbury School Paris is no exception. Free-age mixing is considered by many to be the ‘secret ingredient’ in democratic schools. The school would not work if it separated children by age-group as children learn most from children who are older and younger than themselves. Older students mentor and nurture younger students, while younger students look up to and are inspired by older students. Learning flows both ways when it comes to age mixing.
Everything from the use of materials, hiring of staff members, certification procedures, to the way the school’s budget is allocated, is presented, debated, and voted upon during School Meeting sessions. Through participation in the processes governing the school, students develop a sense of ownership of both their environment and their education. Democratic rule-making and conflict-resolution gives students ample experience with individual rights, equality, and self-regulation. Every child can grow to feel responsible not just for themselves but for each other and their community.