My Turn: Why can't we all just get along?

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I went to the Adolescent Montessori Program. Now let's be honest with ourselves: When you read that, what did you think? I'm guessing it was something along the lines of, "Eh, she went to a private school," or "Stupid smart kids, thinking they're better than everybody else."

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I don't blame you if you thought that. "Isn't that a private school?" is the reply that I get 75 percent of the time, spoken with various levels of disdain, disinterest or lack of caring.

But it's the same on this side, too. The first year I went to AMP was the first year that the program was housed at Mendenhall River Community School. We were all convinced, for good reason, the entire staff and parent community of Mendenhall River hated us. We were not allowed on the playground during elementary recess time; we had no gym time; we were not allowed to use the public bathrooms; we had to use the staff bathrooms; we had no bus service to anywhere other than Harborview Elementary School; there was at least one instance of a teacher being unduly vicious.

Our feelings of being hated were not offset by the poor conditions of our classrooms. It was so bad that there was a running joke about MRCS staff and parents being terrified that we were going to corrupt their children and sell them drugs in the bathroom.

The next year, we tried to integrate with the elementary students a bit more, but all that came of it was a small school store that we would roll down the accessibility ramp and park in front of the doors. The money we raised went to our end-of-the-year Odyssey, a twice-annual trip that we take once at the beginning of the school year and once at the end. The first trip is for community service and bonding together, the second is an arts camp with a formal dinner at the end. However, apparently it wasn't enough. One of my friends, then a seventh-grader, was yelled at by a playground monitor for hugging a friend who went to MRCS.

All accusations about us getting no homework are false. When I was in fifth grade, I did pre-algebra. The next year, I went to Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School and had to take the standard seventh-grade math course, a level below then what I had done the previous year.

Only in Montessori did I get to work at my level in math. And in a year, each student writes approximately 12 in-depth papers. I'm sure that you, being on the other side of the fence so to speak, know more things that are said about us beyond, "Montessori is a stuck-up private school for kids who get grades between 'good' and 'excellent.'" We aren't.

We are students who chose Montessori because of the way we were taught at other public schools, such as Dzantik'i Heeni, or because we preferred a smaller environment. Or maybe it was because an older sibling had done so and had spoken highly of it.

We may be many things, but we aren't stuck-up. There is a difference between being stuck-up and being prideful. We are proud of being Montessorians. Maybe a bit too proud, but we're no religious fanatics. So why can't we just get along?

• Katherine Wilson is a ninth-grader at Juneau-Douglas High School.

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