Life in our free democratic school
The last article was about a new approach to education; the concept of Free Democratic schools, as a model and global movement. Today I would like to tell you something about how we experience this educational model in a daily life, at our Free Democratic school in Kladno. First of all, I would like to share with you that a typical day at Free school does not exist - every day is completely different, even though there are plenty of things we repeat in our weekly schedule.
So, how do we envision freedom in our school? There are different subjects and workshops offered every day in our school. (Some of them repeat every week or more often. Some of them are one-off). Plenty of interesting people visit the community to offer workshops or projects. We also go out on trips quite often. The critically important aspect of all activities is that the children are choosing what they’d like to do, when and how. They do not have to choose anything from the schedule at all. So it means that you can choose to play soccer in the gardel all days if you like, or play music, paint, etc... If you are tired you can go to relax room and sleep. Generally everyone at school organizes her/his time by herself/himself. You have free choice what to do but you need to obey the rules that has been created by the school community. (Basically the only mandatory activity for now is that everyone is required to do is to help out with cleaning before lunch and attend certain school meetings requiring everyone’s presence). So it is a tricky task to tell you something about a day in our school because every day is really different for all the kids and adults as well.
The foundation of the schools structure is the democratic process that is held at morning circle - usually once a week (more often if needed). We are voting about creating new rules, changing the old ones if necessary or canceling the unneeded ones (it can be about visitors in the school, running the school, decisions about the school environment, etc). The rules have been created to meet the needs of the community. Responsibility is equally distributed as it is connected to our freedom.
Age mixing creates mutual respect and engenders peer to peer learning. Just imagine what kind of game basketball becomes when people aged 6-30 are playing together. Relational work is never finished, but rather evolving constantly. The relationships between different members of the school community are not always ideal (that is purely loving), but everyone tries her/his best to get along well with others. In the absence of hierarchy, power imbalance, and coercive methods, peace is given ample room to grow. We give attention and space for developing our communication and social skills in our school environment. In my opinion good relationships address and communicate needs (using non-violent communication), are fueled by choice, and open the door for understanding and happiness in all aspects of our life.
I see our school as an environment full of tools & instruments for learning and growth. A place where everyone (kids and adults) are learning from each other.
This article is a contribution by Kateřina Kováčová, staff member in the Free Democratic school Donum Felix in Kladno, which has the following motto for growing with children: “I do not know where you go,
however, I want to help you to discover your unique journey and support you on it.”