Dessori Middle School
Preparation for Life. Education of Peace.
*Overall we would like to point out that we fully recognize an important objection to Dewey's work and that is that he paid little attention to forms of systematic oppression and cultural hegemony. With that being said, we understand that we are all human beings who are in no way shape or form static. We are constantly growing and morphing our perceptions of the world around us.
We think the purpose of education is to grow to become a well-developed globally engaged person. School is a place where people can learn social skills as well as how to work within diverse groups. Education is not strictly confined inside the four walls of a classroom. We strongly believe in experiential and outdoor education. There are a wide range of ways in which people gain and apply knowledge. American education scholar, Mike Rose notes in his book Why School? that, “The schools one attends and the work one does are powerful social markers, perhaps the most powerful, by which we make judgments about a person’s intelligence” (74). This sparks the question: where exactly does intelligence manifest itself? Rose acknowledges that intelligence is culture-bound and heavily affected by historical and social circumstances (85). The idea that there is a one size fits all definition of intelligence is absurd and unreal. Intelligence is deemed to be someone who is exceptional, however we believe it is nothing more than a construct; a standard made up by man. We all come from different backgrounds and different approaches to interpreting/examining information which is also why it is pertinent to honor the histories of the people in a classroom. Multicultural education is a core part of our learning mission because we as a school value authentic learning experiences. If you were in a classroom where everybody looked and thought pretty much the same way, no one would be challenged to grow and see the world in a new light.
We made these choices based on the historical treatment of Mexican-American's in the West, the focal point being largely in part about the Chicano protest for bilingual education. In the California schools, students "were not permitted to study their own history, and were told by teachers and counselors that they were best suited for menial jobs as laborers, factory operatives, or domestic servants" (Rury, 2013). As a way to fight for respect and honor, Chicano students staged a walkout. Many protesters demanded instruction in Spanish to help students with limited English proficiency (Rury, 2013). Recognizing these historical events from the 1960's and beyond, Dessori Middle School's aim is to give Latino students as well as non-Hispanics who are interested in Latino culture, a space where they feel safe and optimal learning experiences can be had. No separation should be made between "hand work" and "brain work" within school systems. All knowledge is relative in some way, shape, or form whether it be academic or vocational studies.
Three general standards that graduates from our school will be able to do is 1) develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve a life of success, 2) use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships, and 3) demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts. Being as we are a public charter school, we must abide by state laws which require us to follow state standards. A general standard Dessori Middle School upholds is honoring the histories of the people in the class and making sure that students see that what they are learning is applicable to their everyday life. For example, in math courses here, students learn how to convert the percentages of the racial populations in the community that they currently grow up in (these kinds of real world applications are key). We don’t want students to feel like they can’t relate to the concepts that they are learning. In order to measure children’s knowledge in traditional subject areas we test their knowledge through a project based component where students demonstrate core concepts that they've learned through a variety of mediums they are allowed to pick from. As for the dual language component, children will have to be tested in their efficiency of the language through orals and written examinations that are in accordance with state standards.
Dessori Middle School's curriculum includes traditional subjects such as math, science, language arts, art, music, and a foreign language. However, other non-traditional courses are offered such as a permaculture farming and sustainability class. This is a class where children will be able to see how the seasons change and how this affects the soil and land. Program activities include everything from studying the soil food web, nutrient cycling, crop planning, seed saving, permaculture, beekeeping, fruit tree pruning and herbalism to nutrition, cooking, fermentation, body systems, food scarcity, food justice, food culture and more! Students will work in the garden and in class to deepen their understanding and experience of the natural systems that we depend on and current food systems. Math and science skills will be applied as well as the implementation of Native American and indigenous practices (culture component). Another non-traditional course we offer is mindful meditation. Catered to specific age groups, the goal of mindful meditation is to teach the children how to listen to one another and respect moments of silence. If not mediated correctly, a lot of the time certain people dominate in classroom discussions. Our vision is that by having mindful meditation classes early on, children will become more aware of how their actions affect others and be more grounded in the present experience.
Frequently Asked Questions: A Discussion About Diversity
A. We believe the best policy for addressing diversity starts by having racial and gender discussions early on. Students must recognize that the U.S. was built on the institution of racism. Once we acknowledge that our societal system is flawed, we can then delve deeper into how this affects our relationships with one another seeing as we all come from different backgrounds. But before any of this can take place, a welcoming, nurturing environment has to be cultivated.
Teaching about diversity goes beyond having a cultural day of celebration where people come together to eat different types of ethnic food and watch a cultural performance or dance. By building positive identities and respect for individuals through team building activities with the children who are mixed together in various grade levels, our aim is that this will strengthen community.
Q. How does Dessori Middle School support students who are undeserved?
A. As stated above, one of Dessori's general standards is to honor the histories of those who are in the classroom. Since the target population is mainly Latino youth, Dessori wishes to address the critical issues concerning Latino youth and identity development. We wish to maintain certain values that Latino communities uphold such as the idea of familism which places an importance on the extended family. We hope that our school becomes a sort of extended family for many Latino families; a place where they feel safe and heard. We also believe that, "language is not only an instrumental tool for communication, but also the carrier of cultural values and attitudes. It is through language that the affect of mi familia, the emotions of family life, are expressed" (Tatum, 139). Dessori's goal is to encourage all students to embrace bilingualism, and to foster it in a non-invasive manner, because as we all know learning a new language is not so easy. However, with the dual language program we have, students will be the one's assisting one another in the language process and by doing so we hope they create a meaningful, holistic way of learning. And as previous research has shown us, "bilingual education, in which children are receiving education in content areas in their native language, as well as receiving structured instruction in English, is more effective than English as a second language (ESL) instruction alone, because the children can build on their previous literacy" (Tatum, 143).
Noddings, N. (2012). Philosophy of education . Boulder . Westview Press.
Rose, M. (2009). Why school? New York. The New Press.
Rury, J. (2013). Education and social change: contours in the history of american schooling. New York. Routledge.
Tatum, B. (1997). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? New York. Basic Books.
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