“Leila, was that a dream? Or is your school real?” Suzy asked my daughter after spending the day at Sunset Sudbury School. Six students sat in the art room working on their projects while explaining the school to Suzy. At first she couldn’t believe that the school didn’t have any teachers. Leila corrected her, “Everybody is a teacher here, even the kids.” It didn’t take long for Suzy to catch on. She is an incredibly bright and intensely curious seven-year-old. She speaks three languages fluently and is working on a fourth. She is really active, soaking in her environment wherever she goes. She was a pleasure to have at our school and all the students liked her.
Towards the end of her very busy day at Sunset Sudbury, she decided that the art room needed cleaning. With a broom in hand, she recruited three students to help her. She gently directed and coordinated their efforts. When the job was complete, Suzy decided that students needed reminders to keep the art room clean. Again she recruited student to make signs and post them around the room.
“How lucky we would be to have her as a student,” I later told her mother. She agreed that Suzy was very bright, but talked too much in class. The teachers at her public school (which is “in a very good school district in South Florida”) recommended that she be tested for ADHD. Suzy’s mom was genuinely concerned. My heart sank. I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “There is nothing wrong with Suzy. Don’t let them tell you that there is anything wrong with her and don’t let them tell her that there is anything wrong with her. It is more likely that there is something wrong with that school.” Suzy’s mom said thank you and broke down crying. I hope she got it.
For a different perspective on ADHD, see Peter Gray’s blog ADHD and School: The Problem of Assessing Normalcy in an Abnormal Environment and Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about Changing Education Paradigms (See Video Below).