September 20, 2015

Every year on the Friday of the first week of school, we gather together as a whole school for our first assembly.

For those of us who have been doing this work for a long time it is a ritual of renewal and remembrance: so many new little faces; how tiny some of them seem. Wow! How much that one has grown…
Then, here come our Middle Schoolers – including the ones who will graduate in 9 short months-weren’t they tiny just a day ago?
During the first assembly, we welcome all the students and staff who are new to our school, and introduce the idea of being a school dedicated to peace.
This year, our Middle School students introduced themselves and relayed the age they were when they first came to EAC: the majority began their journey in our Primary program!
Our Middle School students serve
as student leaders for the rest of the student body – how fun for our youngest students to imagine themselves in that role one day. Practice for this important work begins the moment they set foot in their classrooms on the very first day of school.
The cyclical nature of the EAC year, its marking with dependable regularity by all school gatherings like the Welcome Assembly, is perhaps the greatest hallmark of this wonderful school. By attending purposefully to community and focusing for brief moments on the connections between us, we ground our students- and ourselves- in the richness of what an ideal community life can yield. And being given the opportunity for leadership during those gatherings, and the anticipation of one day being the one to take that on, is the true meaning of education as “simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to the next”. (G.K. Chesterton)
In addition to fostering connections as a whole school, adult guides and mentors at our school will create opportunities for connections to be made, both formally and informally throughout the year. Annie Robbins will craft a buddy list that pairs a younger student with an older student. Their bond will be nurtured by occasional lunches together, dining side by side during our Harvest Feast, gifts crafted for each other before winter break, and buddy sledding on a bright winter’s day, to name a few. In classrooms, children will have the opportunity to write letters to their buddies and students from other classrooms, or to use an invitation work to invite a friend to lunch.
During their Primary class years, 3 to 6 year old children are taught the language of making connections: how to introduce oneself; how to invite a friend to work; how to ask to work alone; how to respectfully tell a classmate, “I don’t like it when you do that”, and more.
The Junior Level children, 6 to 9 year olds, are taught that the quality of human connection supercedes all else. The Peace Tables give the children a concrete schema to move through as a way of negotiating conflict. No dispute is too small or too large to be left unresolved. They are taught to use their words clearly and from the heart, and to listen from the heart as well. When understanding is reached, a bell rings and the entire classroom stops to applaud. Peace has been returned to their environment. Respecting and caring for community members is paramount.
Upper Level children begin the work of making connections in the wider community. They do important community service in the Ithaca community and travel to other states. Middle School students learn about peace through the study of war. They go to the UN, Ellis Island, and the Holocaust Museum. Middle School students learn to “sleep in another’s bed” when they go to Heifer International’s Overlook Farm and experience life as it exists in other parts of the world. They care for others when they “adopt” a family from the Advocacy Center, and bring art supplies and ball games to Nicaraguan refugee children in Costa Rica.
A Montessori teacher is primarily an observer. We spend our days watching what develops on its own accord, and stepping in when opportunities for teaching present themselves. We take whatever moments are needed to attend to every child, and every relationship. Furthermore, as Montessorians, we practice and model what we preach. Before school started this year, we spent 2 days as a staff advancing our communication skills and enriching our faculty culture – we attended purposefully to community and focused for those brief moments on the connections between us. We grounded ourselves in the richness of what an ideal community life can yield.
As with our students, we make community and dedicate ourselves to peace.