I hope to visit the Mall on Saturday for the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. You can see more about the schedule of events this weekend and through the week including an address by President Obama here. It will be a good time to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial where you can find one of my favorite MLK quotes from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
As Evergreen School prepares for our 50th anniversary celebration as one of the first Montessori schools in the Washington DC region next year, it has been startling to notice all the other milestones from 1964. From the beginning of Evergreen School, the passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964, MLK’s Nobel Peace Prize and the creation of the Black Student Fund (see blog post below), fifty years can feel close or far away.
With progress and set backs, we march on working to fulfill the dream for our children and students.
Have the audacity to believe.
Evergreen recently became a member of the Black Student Fund (BSF). I am thrilled to be part of this organization that has helped so many DC area students and their families have access to quality education. Evergreen has a long history of leadership in diversity issues in independent schools. We have been recognized as the most racially and culturally diversity member of the Assiation of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS)
As the BSF website says:
“Since 1964, the Black Student Fund has provided financial assistance and support services to Washington, DC metropolitan area African-American students, grades pre-kindergarten to 12, and their families. BSF-assisted students stay in school, graduate high school with distinction and enter college. 70% of these students are from one-parent households. Many are the first generation to progress to higher education.
Established to racially desegregate the independent schools of the National Capital area, the Fund serves as an advocate for all black children and strives to assure that black students and their families have equal access to every educational opportunity.”
Evergreen will be participating in the BSF Independent School Fair on Sunday September 8 from 2 pm to 5pm at the Washington Convention Center. I hope to see you there.
Evergreen welcomed MJ and Jerry Park from Little Friends for Peace today. The Parks led two energetic assemblies to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and his work promoting peace.
During the assemblies, children sang about conflict resolution, rode a Peace Train and learned how peace starts inside us all. Mrs. Park even brought the “gift of peace.” Children saw their own reflection inside the gift.
The Park’s mission is to teach peace skills to children and their adult leaders to counter systemic violence. Through an open and responsive approach to our participants’ goals and by fostering connections among participants and partner organizations, we seek to empower a community of peacemakers with the knowledge and strategies for improved intrapersonal, interpersonal, and communal lives.”
According tot he Little Friends for Peace website, the organization was “named for the disarming nature of peacemaking and the little part we can all play in spreading peace, LFFP was founded in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1981 by MJ and Jerry Park. A teacher and social worker/nurse (respectively) by profession and together parents of six, this dynamic duo decided to teach peace skills part-time to live out their personal convictions. In 1988 they relocated to Mount Rainier, MD, continuing LFFP’s operation in the DC metro area while maintaining national programmatic partnerships with organizations based in Minnesota and El Salvador as well as several other national networks.”
Read more about MJ and Jerry Park and the Little Friends for Peace here.
It’s an annual highlight: each year we invite parents to share their international experiences with our children in 20-minute classroom presentations. Presenters can bring artifacts, share personal experiences, picture books, photographs, maps, music or even a special food with students.
International Children’s Day is an important way we celebrate the diversity in our community. This year we will wrap up the event with an assembly in the gym. Ms. Garry has prepared a song for the whole school to sing together. Then we will close with a performance by an African drumming troupe.
Central to Evergreen’s mission and identity is respect for the worth and dignity of every person. It directly follows, therefore, that Evergreen is committed to the ideals of equity and diversity in all aspects of our program and community. We seek to be a diverse community of many voices and experiences.
Our global education curriculum and our commitment to equity seek to provide sufficient perspective on the diversity of human experience so that students come to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of the world around us.
Can Montessori serve as a model for education reform in China? Earlier this week, Evergreen welcomed Steven Qian, a consultant from The Guidepost Educational Development Company in China. He is working with Beijing officials to open a premier learning center there. Mr. Qian seemed earnest in his desire to create a new model for education in China. He was open minded about Montessori ideas. Looking into Mr. Bingcang’s room, he was fascinated to see our students concentrating deeply, working independently and talking joyfully about their school day. And he was surprised to see the Elementary students sitting on the floor listening to Ms. Hatziyannis reading a C.S. Lewis novel aloud. He had a keen interest in the Montessori materials and learning where they can be purchased.
The longer he visited, the more I understood what a daunting task lays ahead for him: at its core, the purpose of education in China is fundamentally different than ours at Evergreen.
In each classroom, I proudly pointed out how independently our children were working. Mr. Qian saw Emily and Ruby moving around the classroom as the set up the Bank Game without Ms. Liotta’s interventions or corrections. He saw Krishna working on a painting and Alex with the Movable Alphabet. And he saw Tara mastering the Hundred Board as Abe watched.
“Are the students always working so hard?” he asked. I explained that our emphasis on internal motivation, not external teacher control keep students engaged longer. They know that they can switch gears or choose new work when they have exhausted their attention spans. This respect for the child is the foundation for how we organize the classroom and school day. We believe that children are naturally motivated learners who can make good decisions, without coercive discipline, about their class activities.
Mr. Qian explained that it may be nearly impossible in China to make teachers understand that they must first respect the child. He said that in the Chinese system, the primary goal is to teach children to respect authority. There, education is designed to teach compliance, not independence; obedience not entrepreneurship. Desks are bolted to the floor.
When I told him that the Montessori community brags that it produced some of the world’s greatest innovators, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos and Sean Combs he responded, “Maybe one day China will too. We know it starts with education.”
I applaud Mr. Qian’s efforts. I offered to host his school’s principals and have them observe here. Will they be as open to reform as Mr. Qian? Let’s hope so.
I am writing about the culture at Evergreen. But first, let’s start with some geography: there are about 196 countries in the world. That’s counting Vatican City, Monaco, Liechtenstein, the Marshall Islands and several other countries that are less than 100 square miles in size.
We live in Montgomery Country, Maryland which happens to be 491 square miles. At the most recent Montgomery College commencement speech, Dr. Wallace D. Loh, President of the University of Maryland pointed out that there are 170 countries represented in the current student body. This county is a magnet for those around the world looking for brighter future. He addressed the graduates, “When I looked at you standing in line outside, I saw our future.”
Dr. Loh continued, “It reminded me of [the opening ceremony at the] Beijing Olympics. China walked in and I saw Chinese faces. Nigerians walked in and I saw African faces. Russians walked in and I saw Slav faces. Americans walked in and they looked like the world.”
Evergreen, too, looks like our future. Our diversity is our strength. As the most diverse member of the Association of Independent Maryland Schools, Evergreen is on the forefront of private education. What Dr. Loh said to the Montgomery College graduates applies to us at Evergreen: “It is not only what you know and what skills you acquire, it is your values that count,” he said. “Our values define us as Americans. Difference is respected and valued and common culture nurtured.”
Here, in the Montessori tradition, the value and culture of learning from one another runs deep. Thanks to all the parents and visitors who have been in class to share a special part of their background, tradition, culture or skill with our students. You make us great.
You can’t put together a jigsaw puzzle of the world with a piece missing. At Evergreen, there are many pieces to our global education puzzle. In addition to culture studies, map skills, flag projects and Spanish language instruction, the most important puzzle piece is the diversity of our multicultural family community.
It was such an honor to share in their traditions during our International Children’s Day Celebration on Friday. Without a doubt, our children are benefitting from the richness of their Evergreen experience.
Here, global education is about providing sufficient perspective on the world so students come to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of the world around us. That is why our students approach different cultural practices with curiosity, not judgment. And we fit together like small pieces in one giant, complete puzzle.