About Transition

(by Chichi Chan, translated by Michell. Original post in Chinese: 跟世界接軌)

One of the most frequently asked questions about Sudbury school is, how do Sudbury graduates transit to the college or the real world?

Have we ever thought that going to the college is only one of the many paths for the graduates? Do we, as parents, believe in our children enough
that they can find a life path of their own? Is going to college a path that we want, or our children want? And is it true that if they go to college, they will live happily ever after?

Twenty years ago, my father told me if I could work harder and endure more stress, after graduating from university, I would find a good job, enjoy a fulfilling life and live happily ever after. But the fact is, this never happened. I have had some good jobs, but never felt fulfilled or happy. I have not found meaning in my life and I have completely forgotten who I really was. I was dead inside.

Why does Stress + Stress + Stress equate to Happiness? It just doesn’t make any sense. The “fulfilling life” that my father told me never happened. I always thought, how wonderful the world will be if children can just be themselves, do what they love and what they find meaningful, without the expectations and standards of ‘a good life’ from other people. Just like the Sudbury students would do.

So, how do the Sudbury students develop their life path and transit to the real world?

Sudbury schools do not evaluate students. All graduates do not get any transcripts with grades and rankings. They do not define themselves by an
“A”, “B”, or “C” grade in any subjects. They are just who they are. They are responsible for their own learning and their life. Once they find their passion and mission, their determination to live them out is astonishing.

There was a 15-year-old boy in the Sudbury Valley School who wanted to be a mortician. He was so passionate about it that he studied science, chemistry, biology, zoology. By 16, he became an apprentice in the regional hospital. Within a year, he was performing autopsies at the hospital, unassisted, under his mentor’s supervision. Five years later, he became a professional mortician and started a funeral home.

Many people think this is unbelievable. They often think this is an exceptional case in the Sudbury Valley School. It’s not.

We know the feeling of doing something that we really love as a child. Once, we were determined, we just put all our effort in it regardless of the
rewards. Somehow, we were taught that we needed to learn something irrelevant and be stressful enough to have a fulfilling life in the future. We learned to hold back and calculate….

My dear father, what I want you to know is that, with passion, everyone can transition to the real world and find a unique and meaningful path of his or her own.

Once I heard a 5-year-old boy talking with his mom about future.
“What do I do when I grow up?” he asked.
“Just follow your passion, just like what you do now” said his mom.
This is the most touching answer that I have ever heard. Thank you for trusting that if we do what we love, the universe will help us in every way.

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