Made for anything

SVS alumna Emma Tunstall explains why SVS graduates are so special.

Last June, I attended the SVS Moving On Ceremony, which is when the community comes together to celebrate the students who are ending their Sudbury Valley education and continuing on to other endeavors. Many have gone through the process to obtain a diploma, but usually there are a few who have not. Some head for college, while others go on to travel, get jobs, or pursue other things. I graduated from Sudbury Valley in 2013, after spending fourteen years at the school. This year’s ceremony was surreal for me. It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I was saying goodbye to the community that had been my home for so long. I am now a student at Bryn Mawr College, and after spending a year away, the ceremony was a wonderful — if emotional — opportunity to reflect on SVS, and what being an SVS alum means.

The ceremony included speeches by an alum, Debra Sadofsky, a current student, and the students who are moving on. They were heartfelt, unique and poignant, and helped me form many of the thoughts I have about being an SVS graduate. It is often difficult to quantify an SVS education. It goes so far beyond what most people experience. I didn’t come to college with AP credits or a world-class background in biology, but I was more than prepared. I did well in my classes, but more importantly, I am happy. I have figured out how to thrive in a new environment.

One day last spring I was talking to one of my friends, who remarked that I was “made for college.” That statement has stuck in my mind ever since, because while I have found success in college, it is clear to me that it is only one of many paths I could have chosen. As Debra said in her speech, SVS alumni are special. We are special because being an SVS student means we have faced, risen to, and met many challenges. We have learned how to work with others, to be responsible, resourceful, and confident. We have had trust placed in us, and responded to that trust by making the most out of the education that we, ourselves, controlled. Perhaps above all, SVS alumni are special because we know who we are. We have a deep and sensitive understanding of self, and an unyielding respect for others. That respect and understanding means that in whatever we do, we do it in a way that is true to ourselves. This is how I know that I was not made for college. I was — as every SVS alum is — made for anything I chose to do.

My education has left me prepared to adapt to and succeed in any environment, and to do so in a way that is uniquely my own. As this year’s graduates (and those who are just moving on) go out into the world, they will do just that. It won’t be easy (it may, in fact, be incredibly difficult) but they will learn, adapt, and grow in a way that only SVS students can — with grit, courage, and a strong sense of self.

Read more about Moving On here.


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Art and nature, back and forth

Musings on the relationship between art and nature by staff member Hanna Greenberg.

Treestump with FlowersMar is a photographer who can paint and draw. The other day I was shown several photos Mar had taken. One of them was of the stump of a big old tree. Mar had arranged a tiny bouquet of dainty flowers in its center. The contrast between the strong, hard wood and the delicate colorful blossoms was quite striking.

Goldsworthy Sculpture

© 1982 Andy Goldsworthy

It reminded me of the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a photographer who uses twigs, leaves, stones, and ice to make designs and structures in natural environments. He photographs his creations and then leaves them behind to let the elements return them to their original place. He works for days creating his art, knowing that their only permanence will be in the images his camera takes of them.

Mar and I spent an hour or so looking at these images in great detail and I was awed by how much more an artist’s eye saw than I did. As we were doing this, I said that I have seen people of all ages engaged in this kind of creation: on the beach, playing in the snow, or just sitting in the woods. Mar’s raised eyebrows expressed amused doubt.

Later I went outside to eat my lunch at the picnic table because it was a glorious Spring day, well appreciated after the long cold winter. At the table, Jane and Amelia, who are five years old and are great friends, were playing with pine cones, dandelion flowers and a rock. And then for a minute they arranged all these items in row, in a lovely pattern, just like Goldsworthy does. In a flash, they gathered the items and went away. The beauty was ephemeral, to be enjoyed in the moment, then quickly gone.

Without my conversation with Mar, and without Goldsworthy’s book, I doubt that I would have understood what those two little girls had created.

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What a difference!

This week’s post was written by SVS parent Foss Tighe.

When I was growing up, I cherished every opportunity not to go to school.  If I had a cold, I would play up the symptoms to get a day off. Snow days were manna from heaven. And so it was with my own children in public school. As parents with our own work schedules, we would meet each school morning health complaint with skepticism. “Are you really sure you’re sick? Mom or dad will have to miss work if you have to stay home.”

I’ve found it hard to shake off this skepticism. A couple months ago my oldest had a health complaint one morning and didn’t want to go to school. I started grilling her about the truthfulness of her alleged symptoms. Her younger sister came to her aid. She simply explained, “Dad, remember, she really likes school now.” Which is true, there is no longer much to be gained in staying home.

In April we went to Ireland, and the kids missed a few days of school. We had a long travel day home: rental car to Shannon Airport, Aer Lingus from Shannon to Logan, Logan Express Bus to Framingham and Taxi to our house. When the kids realized, given the time change, that SVS was open, they asked if we could take them to school for part of the day! Mom and Dad were too tired, but it showed again how much they actually like going to school.

Just this week, the kids woke up feeling out of sorts. Stomach ache and allergies I think. So they chose to stay home. I work from home most days now, so that sort of thing is less stressful. Then suddenly around 11:30 (maybe after the antihistamines had kicked in) the youngest said she felt better and would like to go to school, could I take her? OK sure – off we go to SVS.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of asking to go to school midday after getting “permission” to stay home for the day. What a difference loving your school can make!

Want to see the difference for yourself? Come meet parents, students, and staff at at our next Open House: Saturday, October 18th from 1:00-4:00 pm. Directions here.

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