Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Karuna Skariah - National Board Certification - for Teaching Standards
Culturally Responsive: Learning How to Learn from Each Other
How do we build bridges between cultures in a multicultural PreK-8 Montessori Public School in Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland? We start young! At Robert Goddard Montessori School (RGMS), a school with 68% Black, 18% White, 5% Asian, 7% Latino population, and 2% others, teachers embed culturally responsive practice into their daily instruction early on, starting with the three-year-old students. Staff and students follow Dr. Maria Montessori's teleological philosophy and pedagogy, the interconnection of people with each other and with the universe. RGMS is also a Maryland State-certified Green School where students work together to care for the green space surrounding the campus. Students of all ages are organically exposed to Peace Education and conflict resolution as a way of life. While the Montessori interdisciplinary lessons span subjects like mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, culture studies, and practical life, Core Values such as care of self, care of each other, care of work, and care of the environment, are interwoven into daily classroom conversations and activities. RGMS aims to instill the joys of learning via peer teaching/learning, multi-grade, multi-age experiences, and hands-on practice into mastery and independence.
Eight teachers of primary grades (three to five-year-old students), hailing from diverse backgrounds and ethnicity, collaborate weekly to plan lessons that consider student knowledge, culture, race, and ethnicity. Despite the challenges of virtual learning, the lesson format includes independent work with parents, idea share, and stories. Lessons
also include art and music integration with the help of creative arts teachers. Adjusting to the distance-learning plan, teachers have been co-teaching in the Zoom platform, ensuring that all students have access to appropriate technology, educational materials, and engaging lessons. Virtual teaching has made it difficult for students and teachers to connect over the screen. However, the planned lessons allow students and parents to interact with teachers daily. Montessori lessons often include Black and Latino history, culture, and cultural traditions and rituals from the world. As one teacher succinctly put it, "in our classrooms, every day is Black, Latino, or Asian history month because we learn from our students as we teach them." Teachers of RGMS go beyond the generic celebrations of Thanksgiving or other holidays; they delve deeper into the indigenous Native American tribes who lived in the region or discuss the significance of Juneteenth and the legacy of Black inventors, writers, artists, and musicians in the American culture. At Robert Goddard Montessori School, teachers practice culturally responsive teaching by applying the Montessori philosophy of equity and inclusivity every day through conversations, role play, modeling, and mini Grace and Courtesy lessons.
Background of Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland
Student enrollment: 131,657
Black/African American: 55.32%
Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS): 66%
Special Education: 10%
English Language Learners (ELLs): 20.59%
Karuna Chettri Skariah, NBCT