Perfectly Themselves

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of joining a couple of other parents and one of our lead guides in chaperoning some of our sixth graders on an end-of-year trip. Moving from sixth grade to seventh grade is a big milestone at City Garden, because it marks the end of our students’ Montessori experience. In seventh grade, our young people begin to get letter grades, have formal exams and prepare for the transition to high school. Thus, one sixth grade class decided to mark this milestone with a final “bonding” time and an overnight adventure.

The plan had been to travel to Monett, Missouri, where one of the students’ grandparents live. The students were SO excited about this! They had worked meticulously to map out each part of the trip. However, with the flooding that has occurred throughout Missouri, plans had to change. The students and their guide (teacher) met to discuss what they should do. They really wanted to still have their “trip,” so they decided to stay in St. Louis and have an adventure in the city.

It was really beautiful to watch all of this unfold. The students brainstormed their options. One parent works at City Museum and was able to get a number of free tickets, so City Museum became the highlight of the adventures. Another parent offered to host everyone at her house overnight, so they were still able to do their sleepover. Another parent offered to get all of the fixings for dinner and have it ready when we returned from the museum. The students had planned breakfast for the next day, and each of them brought ingredients to make a feast.

What was most remarkable, though, was the love and care our young people exhibited toward each other. They watched out for each other and made sure everyone was included and having fun throughout the day and a half we were together. They processed their disappointment together, but quickly shifted toward what they were able to do. It is clear that our students are not just classmates, but that they really know each other inside and out. They are patient with each others’ annoying habits, they support each other in their struggles, they playfully give each other trouble, and they know how to create pure, unbridled joy together.

This is why we do what we do. This is why I love this place—City Garden—with all of my heart and soul. Because despite our many challenges and imperfections (and there are many), together we manage to create, day after day, a place where children feel a sense of home, give and receive love and are perfectly themselves.

Over the course of this school year, we have been researching what we need to do to eliminate the achievement gap at City Garden. Though there are many important considerations, and many strategies we will be implementing in the coming months and years, much of the research identifies that a child’s sense of acceptance, belonging, connection and empowerment are essential to academic and future success. To create equity, it is essential to cultivate these things in an environment that celebrates diversity and actively works to interrupt bias.

Thank you for helping to create this environment of love and respect for our children.

Thank you for being part of the City Garden community.

In partnership,