Dr. Maria Montessori once stated, “Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.” It’s a lovely sentiment, where we, as caregivers, do all we can to make sure our children have the kind of environment that will give them the world. A world they will one day become a part of as adults. It is important, however, in these times, that when we look toward the children and their future, we ask are we doing all we can for them? Are we freeing their ultimate potential?
At Alcuin Montessori, we pride ourselves on adhering to the basic Montessori tenet of following the child. What this means is taking their lead, meeting their needs, and advocating for them. As such, we recently introduced our “Alcuin Montessori School Policy Regarding Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Non-Binary Students and Staff Members” policy. While Alcuin has always been a safe space, we felt it was important to have this policy in place.
According to Trans Student Educational Resources, “80% of trans students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression.” Our policy is meant to foster an educational environment that is safe, welcoming, and free from stigma and discrimination for all students and staff members regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Yes, the policy facilitates compliance with local, state and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment, privacy, and discrimination, but it also achieves so much more. It ensures that all students (and staff members) have the opportunity to safely experience and express themselves, and live authentically. Dr. Montessori stated, “To assist a child we must provide them with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” At Alcuin, we strive to provide that environment for each and every child.
We could list the countless facts and data about the positive impact acceptance has on trans youth, but as with everything else we approach at Alcuin, ultimately it is about people, not statistics. Alcuin Montessori promotes acceptance throughout our school and provides a safe space as a support network for all. We strive to create an environment in which it is safe for people to express themselves and their individuality without consequence or judgment.
We hope to both educate and cultivate an attitude towards others marked by a generosity of spirit and acceptance, and welcome all students and families to our community. By instating this policy, we are not changing what we already do. We’re merely reinforcing our ideals that all children deserve recognition, respect, and love---and at Alcuin, they receive just that.
Throughout the school year, we hold various Institute Days where classes are closed, and our faculty and staff come in for a full day. What is the purpose of our Institute Days? For the faculty and staff, it’s additional time for everyone to discuss school-wide events, work on conference reports, freshen up our environments, and plan and prepare curriculum for the upcoming months, but Institute Days also serve to reconnect as a community professionally and personally.
Often during Institute Days, we have professional development for everyone. In the past, we've had talks about food allergies, gender, childhood development, and social media—to name a few topics. These discussions not only serve as a springboard for more in-depth conversations but also to keep teachers abreast of current topics in order to better serve the children.
Institute Days also give time for intra-level connections. Coworkers who may not have an opportunity to interact during the school day have time to chat and build relationships on these days. They discuss new ideas and bounce them off one another, seek guidance or advice. All of this affords everyone time to see things from different points of view or another classroom level. It’s all about growth and maintaining perspective.
However, in between all the serious bits, we also make room for some good old-fashioned fun. Today, our teachers competed in a fast and furious game of Hot Potato (or rather, Hot Donut!) They also had a highly contested relay race—and let it be known that our very pregnant teachers are not afraid to out-run their competition. We also take moments to celebrate and acknowledge our amazing staff, from birthday cake to compliments during circle time.
When the children return on Monday, the teachers and staff will eagerly receive them happy to share new ideas and thoughts. And little will the children know that only a few days prior, their teachers were involved in a cut-throat game of Hot Potato.
A blog by various Alcuin staff members.