“Novels and stories are renderings of life; they cannot only keep us company, but admonish us, point us in new directions, or give us the courage to stay a given course. They can offer us kinsmen, kinswomen, comrades, advisors — offer us other eyes through which we might see … Every…student…will all too quickly be beyond schooling, will be out there making a living and, too, just plain living — that is, trying to find and offer to others the affection and love that give purpose to our time spent here….[Characters] can be cautionary figures…who give us pause and help us in the private moments when we try to find our own bearings”
I have been fortunate to study with some of the great moral psychologists of our time including Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Robert Selman, and the founder of Sesame Street, Gerald Lesser. After graduating from Harvard, I taught a course with Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Robert Coles called Social Reflection of Literature. I remember walking into Dr. Coles office and mentioning that I hadn’t read any of the books that he used in his course. I distinctly remember Dr. Cole’s response, “That is great Jeff, you can teach from your heart.” I learned a great deal from Dr. Coles about the power of connecting people and stories to your heart with the teaching and learning of life.
- Dr. Jeff Beedy
I would like to take a moment and express my experiences with some of your staff during the inclement weather on January 28th.
I arrived at the school at approximately 4pm after traveling for 4.5 hours from the Galleria to the school. Once I arrived I took my son from his Lower Elementary class to my daughter’s class in preschool. We spent the rest of the afternoon with Sarita and Jennifer and then the night with the rest of the students and teachers of preschool. We left the following day at 1:30pm.
Sarita and Jennifer graciously welcomed us into their class and looked after both my children and myself as they did with the rest of the children. I was very impressed with how they handled their students throughout this very unusual event. The students were always occupied whether working on jobs, doing crafts, or watching videos. We went on a trip outside to allow the children to experience the snow. We merged with the other classes for dinner which was provided by the cafeteria. There was no panic with any the children regarding where their parents were. We watched a movie prior to bedtime to allow the children to wind down. All the children found a sleeping spot with their sleep mat and/or cot. The teachers managed to find blankets for each of the children. What impressed me most was that the teachers sat with every child and ensured that they were comfortable and ready for bed. I saw teachers lay with children, rub their backs, and basically do whatever they could to make sure they were able to sleep. Getting thirty children to sleep through the night is no small feat! The teachers handled the situation with such calm, order, and love. All parents should have rest well knowing their children were well cared for, safe, and mostly happy.
I was particularly impressed with Ms. Sarita, Ms. Jennifer, Ms. Shweta, Ms. Shelley, Ms. Kathy, Ms. Naomi, Ms. Zehra, and Ms. Lindsey.
I am very thankful for the school opening itself to me and my children for this very unusual event. I am even more grateful the children have the superb people they have as their teachers.
For the last 4 years and this year, I have been honored to be asked to chaperon the Upper Elementary spring trip, and every year is a new adventure. My first year was when our oldest son Bennett was in 4th grade, we went to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. For most of my life, I have enjoyed learning about the frontier outside our earth’s gravity, studying astronomy in college and always enjoying math, but it did not prepare me for this. We spent 2 ½ full days learning about America’s space program. Getting to know the men and women who risked their lives to exploring the world around ours. But it wasn’t so much my quest for knowledge that made this trip fun, it was watching the students explore, learn about space exploration, and learn about the commitment our astronauts made to boldly go where no one had gone before. To watch Jazzy, Bennett, Luke, Abigail or Sara as they question the leader and then the light goes on, bright as the sun, when they get it! That was exciting to me.
The same thing occurred the following year when I joined the class again at Camp McDowell near Jasper, AL. Camp McDowell is a complete opposite experience from Space Camp, but still just as fun. We spent 2 ½ days romping around the woods of an old coal strip mine and learning about the impact mining can have on the environment. Drew, our middle son, joined Bennett and me this year. What a treat! The students thoroughly enjoyed all Camp McDowell had to offer; the waterfall, digging through detritus on the pond’s edge, playing kickball and learning about food waste during meals. They soaked it all in.
The next year was, for me, the most exciting. This year, all three of my sons were on the trip; Bennett, Drew and Trey. The Upper El students went further from home than they ever had before, venturing up into the Smoky Mountain National Park to an outdoor learning facility called Tremont Institute. We we spent most of our days exploring the ecosystems around the institute. Team building activities, mountain music, Native American culture and ecology, were among the many activities we enjoyed. While there were some challenges on this trip, the students, teachers and chaperons “weathered the storm” and came out fine on the other side.
In 2013, I joined the Upper El class as they went back to Space Camp. It was Drew and Trey’s first experience of Space Camp. Being a veteran of Space Camp allowed me to help the students with their learning experience. This year, we walked under the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo and Skylab programs into space. The students enjoyed performing a space mission, the moon walk, rocket construction and launch, and conducting experiments. What a BLAST!
This year, I have been asked again (probably for the last time) to join the Upper El class back at Camp McDowell. Of all the places I have gone with the Upper El students over the years, this is my favorite. Not only are we exploring the great outdoors, but we are able to interact with some of the local wildlife. Big Dave will usually bring out a raptor or two as well as some other land based creatures. We also learn about the Native Americans and how they lived in this area; exploring how they hunted and cooked, and how and where they gathered and slept. The night hikes are always fun because of the different reactions kids have about being in the dark. Personally, I rather enjoy it.
Along with the Upper Elementary class rooms, I have joined the Third graders for three years in a row at Camp McDowell, one year even back to back with the Upper El Class. This past year was very special in that I was asked to chaperon the Middle School on their Western adventure of the Grand Canyon, Brice Canyon and Zion National Park. Talk about an adventure! Well, maybe for another article.
Thank you to the teachers and parents who entrust me with your children/students. I am honored to be asked to chaperon every time.
- Spencer Atkins
The setting is fall 2003 on the JBMA soccer field. My 4 year old son, Guy, is on the filed representing the Bruno Bears with shin guards that almost cover his knees. The conversation on the bleachers among the Bruno parents involves some concern about Montessori education being a good environment for now, but how well will our children transition one day to larger schools with more traditional educational delivery, and competitive sports teams. The Bruno teams are losing soccer games, in part, because of the non-competitive spirit we cherish in academics but not so much with sports. And we laugh when we see our children make our point for us by stopping in the middle of a game and point to geese flying overhead (Note: the other team’s players stopped to look too). And affirm it again at half-time when the kids run-off to pick honeysuckle and bring it over to us before going on their bathroom break.
The ” Montessori having to end at a certain grade” conversation and angst continues with parents at birthday parties, plays, field days…anytime there is a group of Montessori parents around. (Of course the question goes on in some of our heads each month when we write another tuition check, or when we find out we are expecting another baby!)
The day came for us this past fall when Guy went from a graduating class of five students at JBMA to being one of 850 freshman at Hoover High School. Frequently I would check with his guidance counselor and HHS on-line academic progress grades/reports. Guy seemed happy and was thriving, so all that concern was in vain? Maybe not, since he hadn’t tried out for a sport yet.
My son played almost every year on the Bruno soccer team and two or three times played with a “recreational” soccer program. He even played a little flag football, and basketball a time or two at Bruno. Coaches were almost always parents of the other players, i.e., no special soccer star paid for recruits were around. And, even given his disadvantaged competitive background by being in a Montessori environment, Hoover High School freshman Guy Hudson Griffies made the HHS junior varsity soccer team this month.
I doubt I will be brought honeysuckle branches at half-time but maybe geese will fly over the Hoover Met during some of their games.
- Ada Hudson
“In the beginning, farm animals were free to roam the grounds. We acquired two goats which enjoyed eating everything green including trees and shrubs of every sort except boxwoods, and two sheep which needed to be sheared each year. The children enjoyed watching the shearing process, and carding the wool. We even had someone come to the school to spin the yarn. Over the years we adopted all kinds of unique animals that were gifts from friends. This included Frances, our heifer, who liked to jump the fence and run across the street to visit the bulls, and a Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig who was not in the least friendly and once chased Ms. Patricia. Big Red was our pet chicken that was hatched in the science class with Ms. Sue. Big Red was a true pet that had the run of the land. He would follow the children and Mr. Bruno when he visited the school. The children enjoyed feeding the animals and would often see a goat or sheep peering through the windows of their classrooms. They were also filled with excitement and amazement when a new kid was born.”
- Ms. Theresa Sprain
“Back in the day when we did have animals as a part of the JBMA campus, we had a sheep roaming around. One year it was time to shear the sheep and that task fell to our then PE instructor Ray. The children all gathered to watch the process take place outside on the field. We sent the wool off to a processor to be cleaned and combed.
When we got it back I had a women come to art class with a big spinning wheel and she showed us how to take the wool and spin it into strands of yarn. The children all tried their hand at the spindle and the yarn was thick with the natural color of tan. The next week in art class we dyed the yarn with Kool-Aid and had beautifully bright colors of yarn (and some beautifully colored little fingers as well!). We then used the yarn for a weaving project in class. What an amazing, full circle experience for our children (and the sheep). I still have some of that yarn!”
- Ms. Bev Mabry
“In 1998, when my daughter started in the toddler program at Bruno Montessori, she was a very shy 2-year-old who would hide behind my legs and rarely spoke with anyone outside of our family. She cried each morning when I left her at school – separation was hard for her – but each afternoon she did not want to leave. By the next year, when she started her 3 years in Ms. Kathy McGuire’s preschool class, she got out of the car with a smile on her face every morning. She loved going to school.
I will never forget our first Parents’ Night in Ms. Kathy’s class. I recall my worry when I saw that, in “line,” each child was expected to introduce herself and her parents to everyone assembled. I was not aware of this tradition. I had never heard my child speak audibly in front of more than a couple of people and I feared she would be traumatized by this experience. After a number of children made their introductions, it was her turn. She spoke, clearly, if quietly, with a look of pride and accomplishment on her face. It was then that I began to understand the many ways that our school was nurturing my child and allowing her to begin to emerge from her shell. Two-and-a-half years later, we enrolled in a summer class to help with the transition to lower elementary. On the last day’s pool party, I mentioned that I was concerned about how my shy child would make the transition. Ms. Sue Richards looked at me quizzically and said “that child is NOT shy!” What a revelation!
Now that this same child is a high school senior preparing to go off to college, we can see clearly the many gifts her JBMA education bestowed upon her and our family. She was given opportunities to grow and lead that we do not believe she would have had many other places. She is confident, capable, and works well with others in virtually any situation. She does not follow the crowd; she is content with who she is. She has thrived in a big, public high school, but JBMA is still home to her as it helped shape her into the person she is today.”
- Ms. Lisa Singer