Most people are not ready to start schools. That’s okay.
Summerhill Democratics is here to help you with whatever your democratic education project might be.
Small, Medium or Large.
For beginning parents who want to learn more about democratic education options or for more organized groups ready to take the message of democratic education to a wider audience, we tailor workshops and conferences to meet your current needs.
• Often parents are not satisfied with current school options for their children; they realize, however, that they need more information about democratic education to create a comfort zone and template for a possible project.
We can assist with formal or informal meetings/workshops to help parents and their friends to understand democratic schools as a successful and practical educational alternative.
• A more organized and experienced parent group might want to help increase awareness of democratic education and schools among local professionals, ministers of education, politicians, media and other influential individuals. This can be done in one, two or three day sessions, with an itinerary negotiated and content tailored to your project.
Often a teacher or group of teachers is not satisfied with the current school system; we can assist beginners or more knowledgeable teaching professionals to explore or move forward with democratic education projects.
• We founded our own democratic day school as well as a home schooling centre and can help with formal or informal workshops that will explain democratic schools as a realistic teaching and educational option. We can assist with an early analysis of ‘starting up’ so that you can decide how to move forward.
• A more organized teacher group might want to help increase awareness of democratic education and the possibility of a school start-up among parents, education professionals, ministers of education, politicians, media and other influential individuals. This can be done in one, two or three day sessions, with itinerary negotiated and content tailored to your project needs.
We have years of experience using democratic methods in state schools with our Clubhouse Democracy model. Our practical authority-sharing and collaborative approach benefits school environments. It can help you and your students.
Often, teachers would like to try some democratic methods in state school classrooms. We never recommend going under the radar or going rogue, which can be counterproductive. However, we offer talks and workshops for teachers that explain what to explore and what might be tried; ideas and practices that could be logically introduced to colleagues and to principals.
Does your state curriculum offer opportunities for experiment?
This, surprisingly, can be the case; however, teachers may not know this or be afraid to venture creatively without administrative support. We offer workshops to principals and administrators that will help them to gently introduce democratic participation into schools. We have found that our Club House Democracy approach can make schools better places of living and learning for students and teachers.
DEMOCRATIC SCHOOL MENTORING
No matter what stage you are at in the process of setting up democratic classrooms an outside mentor helps to keep you on track with your plans and ideas. We work with you whether you are an experienced teacher, a parent or a student. Mentoring is of particular interest for people whose situation does not fit into the other categories you find on this webpage.
If you would like to take advantage of our mentoring services you can expect:
• a series of focussed conversations in which we listen to the problems that you have.
• help in identifying what is possible to achieve in your situation.
• help in setting some workable targets.
• regular contact to ensure you are sticking to your goals.
Examples of mentoring situations include: school administrators who want independent advice in the lead-up to inspection; groups of parents who are attempting to start a home education “school” and need an outside eye; democratic education teachers who want to improve their practice; teachers in the mainstream who want to introduce democratic processes to their classrooms; teachers who are thinking about moving into democratic education, whether from the mainstream or direct from teacher-training college.
Let us know what your situation is and we will get back to you with a proposal.
DEMOCRATIC SCHOOL CHECK-UP
In state schools outside observation and evaluation are unfortunately associated, and often rightly so, with surveillance, anxiety, and the forced maintenance of what teachers and principals often consider counter-productive policies, procedures and curriculum that do not suit their particular needs.
Such negative inspection procedures have nothing to do with intelligent self-analysis and debriefings among staff and management of an aware democratic school.
Indeed, we hope that every democratic school will pause on a regular basis, step back, and take a look at every aspect of what it is doing, how it is doing it and why … and then continue with what’s working, or be brave enough to introduce tactful minor or major adjustments to such things as: management structure, school policies and procedures, staffing arrangements and duties, the democratic ethos, teacher styles and planning, the range of school environments, what’s on offer, organization of the day/the week, curriculum, relationships with parents, with school authorities, with media … and so on.
This is not always an easy thing to do.
A new democratic school lacks the security of a tried and true tradition that will help to weather daily/ termly ups and downs; in fact, in what is simply normal turbulence can, to the inexperienced, stir up a great deal of unnecessary stress and worry.
On the other hand, a new school’s lack of experience may leave it not yet ready to accurately self-evaluate: to properly notice what is or is not working as well as it should.
Finally, schools that have been around for a decent period of time may think that certain aspects of what they do need a fellow professional’s collaborative ‘fresh look’ … to help staff and management decide whether a particular self-analysis actually ‘holds up.’
Summerhill Democratics can offer your school a friendly, non-threatening professional ‘check-up’ and conversation about any aspect of your school that you choose.
This ‘check-up’ will be crafted to meet your needs; we will arrange with you exactly how you would like us to collaborate, what you would like observed and you choose the time frame. Along the way we will offer short impressions; on completion there will be a summary conversation and then in a few days we will send you follow up notes.
Finally, should you wish, Summerhill Democratics can offer follow up Skypes to discuss your changes and to assist with minor adjustments.
Journalists often set out for a democratic school assignment without understanding the history or core values and practices of democratic education.
Magazine and newspaper articles about democratic schools are often hit and miss one-shot impressions, adrift with mythology good and bad. Editors can be faulted for this, seeking out stories at random and telling a junior writer to scoot away and dash off a sensationalized selling piece. Never mind the many decades of serious work and success by countless experienced professionals.
We think that the media should value the daily practice of democracy in education. In a world where modern democratic states are more important than ever; where democracy is fragile in many countries, not reporting democratic education with insight and intelligence is a curious, lazy oversight.
If you are a writer or an editor who wants to do the proper homework before tackling an assignment about the history, variety and specifics of democratic education we can help.
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
At the college or university level, departments of education often want their student teachers to explore educational alternatives past and present.
Many teachers in university departments of education think that an appreciation of different educational models will lead students to a deeper understanding of child development and the process of learning. They want students to realize that no era’s mainstream political and social perspective on school and learning is ‘the truth of the matter.’ Also, it is important for student teachers to realize that alternative schools, in particular democratic schools, are a fascinating career option.
Our presentations, workshops and Q&A sessions can help make sure that your students are thinking teachers, and not simply ‘curriculum delivery’ employees.
Politicians and State Education Policy
Politicians should value the daily practice of democracy in state schools. In a world where modern democratic states are more important than ever, where democracy is fragile in many countries, not considering the option of democratic education is a curious oversight.
Many thoughtful people realize that one kind of education cannot be the right education for millions of individual students and dozens of individual democratic states.
We think that it is a lazy educational and political policy that results in a generic education package purchased from fashionable shop windows. It appears to us that most ‘western’ democracies offer similar ‘brands’ of schooling; that most governments either adopt the 1980’s ‘American Franchise’ or the new millennium ‘Asian Franchise’. Off the rack education; catwalk curriculum.
Every democratic nation’s students deserve better.
We ask why most states can’t be bothered to develop a personalized educational philosophy and curriculum that suits its democracy, its nation, its culture, and its children.
We ask politicians and ministers of education why democratic states do not allow children to actively practise democracy on a daily basis. Would a state, we ask, expect children to understand Math but never practice Math?
We ask why, if education is so essential, it is constantly poisoned by party politics, election point scoring and media scandal mongering; why ministers of education become ministers of whims who can wake up any morning and implement a new educational policy, sane or insane … until they are voted out of office and the next season’s farce begins.
We offer politicians and ministries of education a presentation and workshop about the core values of democratic education; about democratic states trying a more thoughtful, intelligent approach to education policy.
Please give a brief description of how we might help.