There are other schools that claim to embrace student freedom and even the occasional classroom teacher in a public school who wants to avoid coercive practices. But if you look closely, you’ll see that they often still embrace the idea of adult control over learning. They may offer the occasional choice, sure, but the teacher determines what those choices are and often limits them. They may speak with a calm smile, but they’re still giving orders.
Sudbury schools refuse to fall for that trap. We embrace, a priori, the idea that the entire school should be based around students who take responsibility for their own education. Those others only take it piecemeal, but try to graft it onto an authoritarian paradigm. Their differences are of degree, not kind.
KWL is another public school teaching technique. It stands for Know-Want-Learn. The teacher makes a grid of three columns. In the first, they write what their students already know about a subject. In the second, they write what they want to know. And in the third, they write what they end up learning. It becomes a rather painstaking process, during which nobody learns anything. It really is obnoxious to watch.
Again, this is a process that’s self-controlling when a student is self-motivated. They review in their heads what they know and what they want to know, then they go research it. And it all happens a lot more quickly, because they do it more naturally.
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.