Friday, March 21, 2014

How Rules Are Made at Clearwater

by Gabriel, age 16

Gabriel throws the (rule) book at Thad 
If you talk to people who are unfamiliar with Sudbury schools about Clearwater, one of the things they often say is, “So the kids just get to do whatever they want?” While it is true that people are free to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, the presence of rules means it isn't very accurate to say that the kids get to do anything they want.  

Most of the rules are about not hurting yourself, others, the school, or the property of any of the aforementioned, and they're enforced by the Judicial Committee, a group of students (and usually one staff member) headed by the Judicial Committee chair, which is an elected position.

To make new rules, or change existing ones, any member of School Meeting may put up an agenda item for discussion in the weekly meeting. In that meeting, if you can get another person to second your motion, the rule addition or change will be put up for a vote in the next week. 

The most recent examples of rule changes have been mostly minor changes to the attendance policy, but in the past, students have proposed rules to prevent people from making microwave popcorn (they disliked the way the smell of microwave popcorn filled the whole room), or to govern the usage of pillows for making forts (because if one person uses all the pillows, nobody else can make forts).

On a semi-regular (maybe about once a year or so) basis, a committee is formed to read over the rules and check for inconsistencies, out-of-date rules, rules that are no longer enforced or are now unnecessary, and other small problems, and proposes a slate of rule changes to School Meeting, which are then voted for the next week.

All changes to the rules are announced several times in School Meeting to give plenty of notice to anybody who might be affected by the changes. 

And of course, everyone has a vote.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mat and TED's Excellent Conversations

Mat -- such a vibrant guy!
One question that arises repeatedly for Clearwater families is: How do we talk to others about this kind of education and why do we choose it? How do we talk about how our children are learning when the questions are put in terms of standards, testing, and curricula?

Mat and TED's Excellent Conversations is a series of curated TED talks hosted at Clearwater by staff member Mat Riggle. The goal is to watch TED talks about educational research, the world, and our times and to start dialogue that we can continue out in the world when people ask about how our kids learn. Instead of addressing the deficit perspective – how they learn WITHOUT classes / testing / homework – we'll be able to come at it from the perspective of cutting-edge thinking about education and how, where, and when learning really occurs.

As Mat puts it, "What helps me talk to people is knowing and understanding more about what is happening not only at Clearwater but in the greater world of education. Research out there is looking at the things that are happening at Clearwater."

Our first Mat Talk is scheduled for Wednesday March 19 from 6-8pm at school. If you're attending the talk, your kids will have adult supervision after 5. It's a beverage potluck, so bring dinner for yourself and drinks (either alcoholic or non-) to share.

We're testing out this time frame, so please comment below about how it works for you. We'll also be experimenting with distance technology using Skype or Google Hangout, so please indicate if that is something you'd join.