Promoting tolerance in Montessori classrooms
In the most recent issue of TIME magazine (June 9, 2014), the cover article on transgender identity was subtitled “America’s next civil rights frontier.” It pointed out that tolerance for transgender individuals lags way behind tolerance for homosexuals, especially same-sex marriage, which is speeding towards the commonplace. I was surprised to learn how widespread transgender identity is and how difficult transgender individuals find life in school.
Near the end of the article was a story about a transgender boy thriving at a Montessori school in Tacoma, Washington because the school administrators had recognized his special needs and established a climate of tolerance. The principal, Sandra Lindsay-Brown, explained, “Our goal is to make him successful so he has good days and not bad days.”
From a Montessori perspective, her remark could apply to any student. Some children have obvious personal obstacles to manage. Many others carry them hidden deep within. The Montessori teacher’s first priority is to observe students closely in order to individualize each child’s experience in the classroom and make sure he or she feels successful.
Tolerance for all kinds of people is a learned habit of mind. Part of the bedrock of a democratic society, its seeds are planted in the early years of schooling. Let’s hope that Montessori will continue to lead the way in promoting tolerance for all kinds of people. Part of the challenge will be making concerted efforts to promote diversity in our school populations. When we are successful, everyone will benefit.