A Sudbury Dream

(Original Chinese article by Michell. English summary by A.W.)

Michell first read about Sudbury Valley School (SVS) and Summerhill School when she was a college graduate about eighteen years ago, and she fell in love with the concept of a self-directed, democratic school. An education without a curriculum, a school without teachers nor exams, a school run by students instead of teachers. But most people thought it’s crazy and she had gone too far. She was frustrated and doubtful. “Perhaps I was too radical,” she said to herself and tried to forget about Sudbury.

She then went to the US to study Early Childhood Education, hoping that by learning more about education, she would find out what is best for children. While the college curriculum was about conventional approaches, her mind was all about Sudbury and Summerhill. She was reading everything about democratic schools. She even flew all the way from Ohio to New York to visit a democratic school there (because the original Sudbury Valley School in Framingham was not open to visitors at that time.) This was a real eye-opening experience and it inspired her to rethink what education is.

Though she felt strongly about Sudbury education, there were a few times she escaped her Sudbury passion. One time it was for a relationship. She thought that there was no way to talk about Sudbury concepts without touching on the core values of each other. As a young girl, she chose to stay in a comfortable, shallow relationship, rather than being her true self. Another time it was for a job. She was a kindergarten teacher in a ‘regular’ school. To survive in the system, she conducted the teaching and managed the classroom as designated by the school, or whatever that ‘worked’, while suppressing her desire to put the Sudbury approach into practice.

However, whenever she read updates from Sudbury Valley School, or watch interviews about Sudbury students and graduates, they always struck a chord in her.

After ten years of struggle, she finally acquired the School Planning Kit from SVS. It is a collection of all the books, videos, audios and the documentations for wannabe Sudbury startups. On the exact same day the large parcel of planning kit arrived, she received from her school in which she was teaching a renewal employment contract with a substantial salary raise. It was the Sudbury kit and the renewal contract in front of her. Her passion, her calling; or a job with stable income? She could no longer escape her life.

So she left the kindergarten job. And around a year later, she became a mother.

In 2014, a parent initiated to start a Sudbury school in Hong Kong and he invited Michell to join the team. Three core members started all the preparatory work: created a website, organized Sudbury talks, negotiated a publisher to re-print a Sudbury book in Chinese, invited Mike Sadofsky (a SVS pioneer) to speak to parents and educators in Hong Kong. The work was gaining momentum. Until, within a very short time, this working group needed to disband. One moved to the US, and the other one passed away.

Struck by grief and standstill again.

It took some time for her to assimilate the shock. With some deep reflection and listening to the guidance from within, she realized that despite the leaving of the team members, she was to carry on and hold the light.

In 2017, she gathered with more like-minded people and formed the dream team. Last year in Oct, they had first test-run school day with a few kids, and had the School Meeting and Judicial Committee in place. Today, we celebrate the first anniversary with deep gratitude for the love and support of the kids and families, and people who contributed books, toys, money, resources of all kinds, and their love of our future generation, to make Sudbury happen in Hong Kong!

* Sudbury Hong Kong is still at a start-up stage without a permanent campus. Due to our very limited manpower, we can only enroll new members at a gradual pace. Whether kids or adults want to join us as new members or staff (voluntary basis in the beginning), please write us in detail your story. We’ll answer you as soon as possible. Please “Like / Follow” our Facebook page: “sudburyhk”