“Order and discipline must be aimed at the attainment of human harmony, and any act that hinders the establishment of a genuine community of all mankind must be regarded as immoral and a threat to the life of society.”
Education and Peace, p. xiii
Dr. Maria Montessori believed in the value and worth of every child from the beginning of developing her pedagogical model for education. In Montessori schools, community is based on the assumption that every human being has value, gifts, and contributions to make. Classrooms are carefully prepared to promote inclusion, collaboration, valuing the perspective of others, and fostering a strong sense of self-worth.
Based on this foundation, The Children’s House staff have been actively educating ourselves in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). Since 2018, we have worked with speakers, and consultants and engaged in dialogue with one another through shared experiences and readings. We believe that to be a place to support the raising of children who will establish a future that truly is a community of all humankind, it needs to start with the adults.
Currently, our DEIB committee is meeting regularly to engage in intentional focus to ensure our children have opportunities to learn, grow, and understand the greater world and all people in it. Fortunately, as a Montessori community, we were not starting from the ground floor. Our classrooms are rich with elements that expose and inspire them to see and be the beautiful diversity that is humankind.
In Nido and YCC, beautiful artwork hangs representing diverse artists and mediums, songs are sung from all over the world, and vocabulary is shared from many cultures, religions, and places in the world.
In Primary, books are carefully curated to ensure the representation of many different peoples, cultures, abilities, and family make-ups. Geography folders enable the exploration of the diversity included on every continent, through conversations inspired by photographs.
The Elementary classrooms include history lessons that broaden perspectives of how history is told. Students are encouraged to conduct studies of a diverse range of people and learn and share about how they have contributed to our global community. Read-aloud books representing a broad range of authors and characters inspire deep conversations among students.
Junior High students study history and movements throughout history, based on their interests. Itineraries for trips across the country are inspired by these studies and take students to real places where extraordinary events have occurred over time that have shaped the world we live in today. Critical thinking and understanding other perspectives unfold through shared reading and group discussion.
These examples just scratch the surface. Our classroom environments are rich with opportunities to build adults of the future who uphold Montessori’s vision of a peaceful world. We look forward to continuing our work together and offering ongoing ways to work together as parents, caregivers, and educators. Our commitment to DEIB here at The Children’s House has no point of arrival. Today, and for generations to come, we strive to be a community where every person feels valued, seen, and belongs.
A parent of a current student recently asked us: “If you had to describe Compass Junior High in ten words or less, what would you say?” This question got us thinking about all the things that make Compass unique – and there are a lot of them. We are the only school in downtown Traverse City; we are an independent Montessori school; we don’t operate on a bell schedule; we don’t grade our students (A+, B- and so forth); we travel extensively; we blend seventh and eighth grade into one classroom community; etc. These were all important details, but they were small pieces of a much bigger picture. We soon realized the better way to answer the question was to focus on the outcomes for our students:
Compass Junior High fosters capable, compassionate, resilient teenagers who are curious about themselves, and the world around them.
Not quite ten words or less, but if you have a teenager of your own, or have any experience with high school freshmen, then you understand just how big a statement this is.
Let’s talk about the word capable for a minute. When we say our students are capable, we mean that our graduates can take on whatever challenge is presented to them and seek out the supports they need to do the best they can in any given situation. In high school and college, this translates to independent students that care about their learning (not simply their grades).
Compass Junior High also cultivates a high level of compassion for others. This compassion is rooted in two years of intensive travel, cultural studies, and community building. Our students are compassionate because our curriculum and methods necessitate and nurture empathy: for themselves, their peers, their community, and those outside their community (aka “others”).
Resilience is another quality that Compass cultivates in spades. When we talk about resilience, we are speaking broadly about a culture that celebrates failure as the primary pathway to growth. Our students are routinely pushed beyond their comfort zones and are supported in overcoming their fears. As such, when they hit high school and college, they are less daunted by fear and more interested in the possibilities that lie beyond the horizon of productive failure.
Finally, we come to a quality that Montessori graduates are so well known for, and that is curiosity. So often when children hit adolescence they are overcome by social pressures to fit in, don’t ask questions, and “stick to the script.” In our safe, supportive, non-judgemental Compass community, students are encouraged to explore, unapologetically, who they are, what they are interested in, and how they wish to contribute to the world beyond the walls of the classroom. They learn what it means to be human, throughout time and in a variety of places, cultures, and contexts. Consequently, Compass graduates are prepared not only for high school but for the world!
At Compass Montessori Junior High, we believe that our future is global, filled with complex challenges that require capable, compassionate, resilient adults – people that are curious about those who are different from them. Rather than judge or fear differences, Compass graduates seek to build understanding, work in community, and traverse the inevitable failures that come when people undertake any worthwhile endeavor.
In ten words or less:
Compass is in the business of building better adults.
If you want to see how we do this, we invite you to visit us (that is, if we’re home) at our downtown campus at 101 Park Street. We’d love to see you!