I was inspired to open a Sudbury school from watching Ken Robinson and Sugata Mita speak on the topics of creativity, learning, and our failing traditional school system. These people and others motivated me to conduct extensive research and investigation into alternative education methods. I then spent much time and effort visiting multiple democratic schools across the world (e.g. Tokyo Sudbury School, Fairhaven School, Philly Free School) before I was elected intern of the Jersey Shore Free School in Monmouth County. In order to minimize my own biases, I have been cross-referencing anecdotal evidence with peer-reviewed university research demonstrating the efficacy of learning through play.
My studying has led me to believe that American schools belong to an outdated, industrial-era system which focuses on producing clerks and factory workers instead of creative, freethinking citizens of the 21st century. I believe the system should conform to the children, not vice versa.
Before that, I spent several years as an ESL teacher in China and Japan, which entailed working as a tutor for children and adults in various capacities (e.g. English immersion, exam prep, customized lesson plans, economics, etc.) and coordinated group ESL learning experiences with students of all ages and skill levels.
My experience with children has convinced me that students can and should be free to design their own curriculum of life and enjoy total sovereignty over their education.
My inspiration for involving myself in Sudbury schooling started when I began teaching abroad. My years of experience in Asia and South Africa opened my eyes to the failings of traditional education. Rather than helping children to learn I was instead forced to have them “repeat after me”. This repetition ad nauseam style of education not only drained me as an educator but, more importantly, sapped my students of their will to learn as well.
After returning to the United States I began teaching myself the skills I would need to start my own business. This process has been invaluable as not only do I now run my own successful operation but I've also instilled the value of self-motivated learning in myself.
This process also helped me realize how little of what I learned in school applies at all to my life as this ability to motivate and teach myself is something I was never exposed to in class. My teachers were more interested in preparing me for tests with little real world applicability.
I would like to see as many young people as possible freed the monotonous humdrum of mainstream education and be allowed to teach themselves the skills they think are valuable. Through this I hope newer generations can avoid the pitfalls I experienced in school and instead gain an educational experience that holds real, long term value.
Jeri Quirk, PhD.
has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Mental Health Counseling. She has been a teacher and administrator in public and private schools for over 20 years and was a co- founder of another Sudbury school, Spring Valley School, in Palm Harbor, FL in 1997. She deeply enjoys the myriad learning pursuits of children who are free to follow their inner passions. As a psychotherapist, Jeri has long been apprehensive about the negative impact of coercive education on children, teenagers and our society. Her doctoral research documents her concerns about traditional schooling and demonstrates the more positive and holistic development of students at Sudbury schools. Jeri's school can be found here: www.jerseyshorefreeschool.org
I am the Production Planner and Assistant Planning Manager at Wedgewood Pharmacy. I recently dove into a career in supply-chain management and I'm developing my own skills in inventory management. By teaching myself concepts such as Six Sigma, lean production, and the Toyota Production System, I have added value to my company. Based on my self-directed learning, I now save my employer thousands of dollars a week.
For these reasons, I have come to accept the value of unstructured, self-motivated learning as opposed to institutional instruction. Unfortunately my experiences in school were not helpful in training me for the labor force. I want kids to have the same freedom in education that I now enjoy but missed out on when I was in school.