The February 11th issue of Gambit includes the following sponsored article featuring the independence and community at Audubon Gentilly Charter School, from the perspective of parent Ariane Anderson.
Independence and Community at Audubon Gentilly Charter School
By Ariane Anderson
My daughter, Aubrey, is in the first grade at Audubon Gentilly Charter School. She has been there since kindergarten and we haven’t looked back.
Two years ago, I went to the curriculum meeting that Audubon Gentilly was hosting for parents doing OneApp. In the meeting, they told us about the Montessori method and what the school is like. It was my first time sending Aubrey to school at all; my mom had been watching her since she was just a couple months old. So, my anxiety levels were through the roof. But then I attended the curriculum meeting. I learned about their model and I said to myself, “this is the place.” I couldn’t see Aubrey anywhere else.
I was drawn to the unique Montessori model. The children are given much more autonomy than in other schools. It molds them to be independent thinkers and workers. It is also valuable for gaining life skills. The school teaches things like how to cut an apple or how to use glassware—even when the students are just in kindergarten. At four and five years old, they know how to safely use a knife and they drink out of real glasses. Once, when I was visiting Aubrey’s class, a child dropped a glass bowl and it broke. Right away, the children stood back and the teacher swept it up.
“That’s Montessori,” she said to me. She was keeping her class safe while showing them the life-skills of making a mess and cleaning it up carefully.
The children are taught to “restore their space” when they finish doing a project of any sort. They set up their own materials to learn from and they clean them up, too. Again, these are critical life skills being taught and reinforced in school.
My daughter is developing as a free thinker. The teachers are guides, not drill sergeants at the head of the class. Kids learn at their own level, and once they master certain tasks, they move onto the next level. Each child is working to meet their own individual goals. They are not made to feel like they are being placed in a box; they are treated as individuals. We don’t have enough of that in society, so it’s something I’m very pleased with.
When you go to visit the classroom, you’ll see kids approaching whatever work they decide to choose at the time. They have little mats, and they roll them out and place their materials onto the mat. Then they begin their work. Once they’re finished, they signal the teacher, who checks the work and gives them a stamp of approval. Then they move on to the next activity. The teachers observe the class as they’re working, but they stand back and allow the children to learn and explore.
I trust their methods. What they’re doing works. I’ve seen it with my daughter, specifically around learning how to read. She had moments at the start of the process where she felt defeated. But her teachers helped her work through the beginning and ending sounds of words and provided personalized attention to her to help her when she needed it.
Through that, she became excited and proud about reading. She was still a little apprehensive about the big words, but she knew she was able to pick up a book and recognize the words and letters. She knew she would be able to sound out the beginning and ending sounds in order to figure it out.
Now she’s even more comfortable. I’m practicing with her at home too; she brings home a lot of sight words and we read together. To have her going from the start of kindergarten, with no school experience at all and not really knowing the ropes, to blossoming and reading and doing math—that makes me feel good.
For me, appreciating the school also means being involved in it. It’s important to me that it is a part of the Gentilly community. I was raised in Gentilly and I have a lot of pride for my area. I went to public schools here and I am glad my daughter is, too. My roots are here, and so to find a school that was a good fit for her and was one of the best neighborhood schools available, that was fantastic. There are lots of other warm, friendly, family-oriented parents here, and we get together a lot and have play dates for our children.
I play a role in building a school community from that local community. I am Aubrey’s “room parent,” which means I am a liaison between the school and other parents, and also that I help plan events for the children. I’m also on the Parent Teacher Committee board. For Halloween, we had “trunk or treating,” where a bunch of parents got their vehicles together and handed out candy from their trunks. Aubrey dressed up as Princess Jasmine.
We had an event for Thanksgiving, and for New Year’s Eve the school had a “countdown to noon” celebration right before Christmas break, which was awesome. The kids dressed up & also had sparkling cider & noise makers. We will also have a Valentine’s Day dance. In the spring, the school hosts a “Fais Do Do” fair. The kids get to enjoy all these events and have a sense of being part of the Audubon Gentilly community.
All year round, for the big events and the small moments, I feel Audubon Gentilly is the right place for my daughter. She has grown in her confidence and her knowledge and I know she will do great things as the free thinker Audubon Gentilly is allowing her to be.