Category Archives: Diversity

Reframing the “Trump-Effect” for Our Kids

15_fac_jusle_j-4405There is no doubt this past election has been far different than one we have ever seen. For some it was a refreshing change from the normal political rhetoric and for others it was a bit like watching a trainwreck. It has been interesting both as an educator and as a black man to watch both sides of the political spectrum churn over what should happen next. We can all agree that President-elect Trump isn’t perfect, but nor has anyone who has ever bid for the presidency. We have all said things we regret, or typed something we never intended the world to see.

Try Not to Feed into the Hysteria
It is just as important that our kids see us be vulnerable, as it is for them to see us poised in the face of something difficult. Stay excited and energized to be part of a culture that provides space for voices of dissent as well as consonance and there may be instances where our nation has been better at this than others, but how lucky are we to live in such an exciting time. We are living history before our very eyes. Fear in the human spirit often comes from our assumptions of the future coupled with the absence of trust in ourselves to be able to handle whatever circumstances come our way. Always keep in mind, hysteria encourages TV ratings not an educated electorate.

Advocacy isn’t the New Kid on the Block
As it has been for any human being who identifies with some sort of minority, it isn’t suddenly a new concept to advocate for one’s needs because the President-elect isn’t as politically correct as his predecessors. He isn’t the first imperfect person to bid and be put into a position of power and he probably won’t be the last. There always has been and will be people who will answer the call when our kinsman are in need. We must trust that our collective humanity will balance the scales and we can’t go around calling imbalance into existence with our words and actions. We have always managed to take care of ourselves in the end.

What Do We Say?

  1. We are Americans. We believe in democracy. We believe in the voice of the people. And that means accepting that things may or may not work out the way we imagined or wanted to but we trust that indelibly our nation’s creed will abound in this experiment we call freedom.
  2. We speak up. Silence is dangerous. We have an honor/responsibility to speak truth to power and support those in need.
  3. We respect one another not in spite of our differences but because of our differences.
  4. Bigotry is not up for debate. It is a stain on the history of our democracy and its our r
    esponsibility to understand it and purge it from our social fabric. Don’t believe the hype! (as we say in Brooklynese). Not everyone who voted for President-elect Trump is a racist. A great deal of them are Americans who voted for the best option they could, with the information they had in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness that our Declaration of Independence calls for.
  5. We don’t walk away. We will preserve and practice our sovereign right to engage in our governance even when it is inconvenient or cumbersome. We don’t just choose our President but our local officials too. And when our ideals don’t align, we engage in civic discussion to promote understanding not to treat our compatriots as other.

There are people in the world who are really good at showing us how to be. There are people in the world who have a knack for showing us how not to be. And more often than not, those two things can exist in the same person and the lessons we teach our kids remain the same. We teach them to have the discernment to delineate between the two. To remember our highest ideals and from there work together and when we strive to be our best selves, honor and responsibility are one and the same.

Jimmy Juste is Inly School’s Director of the Office of Inclusion and advises the school on programmatic, personnel, and community topics on diversity and equity. Before joining Inly, Jimmy taught middle and high school students in the NYC public school system. He also taught poetry at the Waverly School of the Arts in Brooklyn, NY and performing arts at MCC Theater, CenterStage NY, Usher New Look Foundation and Hospital Audiences Inc. Jimmy has worked as a professional background singer for the likes of Amos Lee, Patti Labelle, Josh Groban, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and St. Luke’s Orchestra. A teacher of many talents, Jimmy has a degree in theater and communications from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is currently working on a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Scituate is the New Brooklyn

15_fac_jusle_j-4405I come from the land of Breukelen. A land far, far away from here. Some of you might know it as Brooklyn. I was born of Haitian immigrants and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up around an array of dialects, inflections and rhythms. It was necessary for survival to decipher sound and I was good at it. Sound and language was an inherent aptitude of mine and not only was I good at understanding it with very little context, but I could code switch with ease. It was no credit of my own. It was the gift Brooklyn gave me. I was adorned with a gift to make people feel at ease with the sound of my voice. As a six-year-old, black kid in the BK, I felt immense power in that. There wasn’t much self-empowerment to be found lying around on the streets of East New York, but I had my voice. I often sat with my parents at the dinner table and listened to the way conversation flowed in and out of Creole, French and English, while Brazil played Mexico in a game of futbol on Telemundo in the background. I lived in a symphony of cultural sounds, but my father was the great noisemaker of the family. I could always find him dancing around while imitating a brass sound instrument while listening to the radio, or misusing an American idiom. Outside the house were voices from Puerto Rico that boomed from their diaphragms like cannon-fire. There were Dominican voices that lingered on diphthongs with a kind of driving determination. Voices from Ireland, Sudan, Italy, Guatemala, India, Jamaica and countless more. I had been around so many different ways of communicating.

Middle school was the first time I had been anywhere that wasn’t mostly people of color. My proclivity for sound and music coupled with exposure to a myriad of cultures made code switching easy for me, so I had a diverse group of friends and with adolescence in my veins I was drawn to friends of the female persuasion. Rita was Italian with wavy, dark hair and honey colored eyes. She was FLY! And I had accomplished the ultimate goal, I got her phone number AND her AOL Instant Messenger screen-name.  After a few days of my courting her via coiled phone cord, she began to like me enough to start calling me first.

“Jay! Rita is on the phone,” my father shouted.  I strutted down the stairs and approached the phone with a king’s appeal. “Was that your dad?” said my queen. “Yea.” “He’s got a cool accent!” It never occurred to me that my father spoke differently or had an accent. To me, he spoke like my father. Everyone spoke the way he spoke. “No, he doesn’t,” I snapped. “Yea, he does! It’s cool.” “Whatever,” I said with disdain. I was protective of it and protective of my father. So much so that I was turning my back on adolescent love for his good name. My experience with the sound of my father’s speech was quite different, I couldn’t hear his difference because it sounded like home to me. I was, in my naivete, bothered by the idea of my father being other. As far as I knew he was the best man I had ever known. He was not ‘other’, he was it.

I have now come to realize the tremendous gift he gave me by raising me in the cultural smorgasbord that is Brooklyn. He gave me the gift to navigate through all kinds of social circles with little turbulence. The gift to have experience and meet people from what and whom I may have been barred by means of my ‘blackness’ or socio-economic status. In a world that sometimes seems chock full of extremes rather than reason, my hope is to give the gift of Brooklyn to my students. Where, in a sea of homogenous faces, our kids can look difference in the eye with good judgement and esteemed curiosity. Together we strive to do a great work; to understand our neighbors and provide space for them to engage in our community as their truest selves. I am so grateful to be given to opportunity for my desk to become a pit stop for students, teachers and parents. With some elbow grease and hard reflection we can make Scituate a little more like Brooklyn ;-).

As a school we have decided to tackle race on our agenda for conversation. I’ve included a short but helpful article for parents. “6 Ways Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Race and Diversity.”

Jimmy Juste is Inly School’s Director of the Office of Inclusion and advises the school on programmatic, personnel, and community topics on diversity and equity. Before joining Inly, Jimmy taught middle and high school students in the NYC public school system. He also taught poetry at the Waverly School of the Arts in Brooklyn, NY and performing arts at MCC Theater, CenterStage NY, Usher New Look Foundation and Hospital Audiences Inc. Jimmy has worked as a professional background singer for the likes of Amos Lee, Patti Labelle, Josh Groban, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and St. Luke’s Orchestra. A teacher of many talents, Jimmy has a degree in theater and communications from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is currently working on a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Inly’s Middle School Diversity Conference is for Parents, Too

“When prejudice is vanquished by knowledge, then there…will appear the child who is destined to form a humanity capable of understanding…our present civilization.” —Dr. Maria Montessori

“When prejudice is vanquished by knowledge, then there…will appear the child who is destined to form a humanity capable of understanding…our present civilization.” —Dr. Maria Montessori

There are plenty of engaging, intellectual, and hands-on workshops planned for middle school students, but an equally important component of the upcoming Montessori Conference on Diversity & Equity (MCODE) are the two parent tracks and afternoon panel that is ‘by parents, for parents’.

As our children learn about same and different, fair and unfair, and how to navigate peer groups, they often make statements or pose questions that catch us off guard—whether they are preschool, elementary, or middle school students. While these questions can be tricky, and we often feel like we miss opportunities to teach our children valuable lessons, simply being willing to engage in these conversations is key to helping our children develop positive self-identities, no matter what their age.

“We all want our children to be able to navigate the global, multicultural world that is their reality. The parent workshops at MCODE will give us, as the adults in their lives, some much-asked for tools and language for those critical discussions with our children about who we are and who we want to be in the world,” said Donna Milani Luther, Inly Head of School.

For full details about the conference, the programming for students, the sessions for parents, and the keynote, visit the website at Register today to join the 80+ participants (including more than 30 parents) from half a dozen different Montessori schools who are already signed up for the conference.

Additionally, Friday, October 24 (the day before MCODE) is the “Inside Inly: Diversity” Parent Insight Event. While Saturday’s MCODE programming will focus on tools for conversations between conference attendees and their children, Friday’s “Inside Inly: Diversity” conversation will focus on Inly’s curriculum and the multicultural competencies that are taught throughout all the different levels.

We hope to see you at one or both of these events — Inly is indeed “going places” when it comes to the important and challenging work of fostering global citizens!

Inly School Hosts First-Ever Montessori Middle School Diversity Conference

By Paran Quigley, Diversity Coordinator

MCODE_2 (1)“Inly should host something like this.” It was a simple enough statement, uttered by an Inly student at last fall’s AISNE Middle School Diversity Conference. The idea clearly resonated with the other Inly attendees, who quickly bounced around some thoughts about what that might look like and happily brought the fledgling plan back to campus with them. A year later, what started off as a wild idea has gathered steam, and here we are, gearing up to host the first ever Montessori Conference on Diversity and Equity (MCODE).

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, from 8:30 am until 3:00 pm, Montessori students, teachers, and parents will gather on Inly’s campus to “explore identity through diversity.” All attendees, plus our Inly 6th grade conference volunteers, will enjoy an opening keynote by Mike Benning and a closing interactive African Dance session with Shaumba Dibinga all together. For the bulk of the day, the 7th and 8th grade students and their teachers have several workshop sessions to choose from, while the attending parents have specially designed conference tracks to engage in.

Student workshops including a live-action “game of life,” an in-depth exploration of stereotypes in the media, and world cooking projects, to name a few. Parent tracks will focus on the questions of who we are and who our children are in the increasingly multicultural world in which we live. All attendees will leave with new skills, a broader perspective, and clear next steps for our journeys toward becoming better global citizens.

The Inly students who have attended the AISNE middle school diversity conferences over the past several years have learned a lot—how to salsa dance, exactly what percentage of human DNA is identical from one person to the next, and the power of sharing your own personal story through written free verse and spoken word performances alike, to name a few highlights.

“Montessori students know how to deeply engage in a discussion, take intellectual risks, and explore topics in a way that that is truly unique,” observes Donna Milani Luther, Inly Head of School, “So the plan to get as many Montessori middle school students as we can in one space to delve into identity and diversity was a magnetic idea that attracted a lot of enthusiasm.”

“I love new ideas and I love when our students and teachers innovate and raise the bar,” said Donna. “MCODE is an exciting example of this.”

We hope you can join us on October 25th.


John Hunter and His Montessori Message

A chat with Inly’s head of school about student-centered learning, global awareness and the power of experiential education

John Hunter at Inly School in Scituate MA

John Hunter presents his film “World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements” at Inly School on April 9th

When Donna Milani Luther heard John Hunter speak at the Creative Education Foundation’s annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference last summer, she was blown away. “His approach aligned so perfectly with ours, and his message was so compelling, that I immediately knew I wanted to bring him to Inly to meet with our school community. And I wanted other teachers and administrators and parents to share in the experience, too.”

John Hunter will speak at Inly on Wednesday, April 9 as part of the Omran ♦ Nelson Speaker Series. For a full description of the event, see the Inly News story:  John Hunter to Present “World Peace Game” Film and Talk on Hands-On, Experiential Learning.

To purchase online tickets visit the Inly Speaker Series page.

Q: Hunter’s talk is called, “The Schools and Teachers our Students Need Us To
Be.” What does this mean, exactly?

It’s about allowing students to guide their own learning, based on their interests. It’s about teachers and schools allowing students to really take ownership. John’s message is that we all need to focus on how students learn best and then thoughtfully prepare the best type of environment for this success. He asks us to ask ourselves: What are our roles as guides for children in this century?

Q: Hands-on, experiential learning is the focal point of his film, “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.” Is this a focal point of his talk as well?

World_Peace_Foundation_Inly_SchoolYes. He firmly believes that experiential education is the most effective way for students to learn, and that’s really the premise of this talk. It’s the best proven way to capture students’ attention and extend their learning and their capacity to stay on a task. As educators we want to see students building skills around interest and content, and we want the learning to be rigorous and challenging and fun.

Q: And can it be rigorous enough, this type of experiential learning?

Oh, absolutely. It’s about teaching from the inside out.

I think that people generally will challenge themselves if they feel like they’re learning and growing. Otherwise they just look to the least common denominator. We see that alive in our school every day and you see that in great schools and in great teachers.

Kids will often keep going if inspired. But when they’re led in a direction that’s rote … that’s ‘sorry, you can’t spend any more time on that because our curriculum maps say you have to do this tomorrow,’ and the child isn’t really interested in going there, they’re really not going to learn nearly as much.

So, yes, I believe it can be rigorous and I believe it’s our job as teachers to stay ten steps ahead to be true guides to help students develop.

Can you speak to the Montessori like aspects of his message? Peace studies and global awareness are two themes that come to mind.

Yes, this is very much the type of cosmic education that Maria Montessori cared about. Understanding our place in the world, figuring out that there are pieces that make up the whole, that we’re all part of that in some way and that our job is to find out how it all fits together… It’s all part of the continuum in a Montessori school.

His approach is very much what we do in Montessori—not only in the content delivery but in the content itself.

The entire World Peace Game is also very Montessori in that it is very hands-on and the teacher really steps back and guides the students to solve the problem on their own. Yes, it is a challenge and it’s a big challenge! World peace is not something you can solve in a day. But he has designed something that’s appropriately long enough for 4th, 5th and 6th graders and designed it to capture their attention and to extend their attention—and extend their thinking and learning and processing and their capacity to stay on a task.

These students are the future designers and inventors and entrepreneurs, the ones who are figuring all this out. I think it’s ingenious and it gives me hope.



News from the Council on Diversity and Equity: Multicultural Competencies for Students

by Paran Quigley, CDE co-chair and Middle School teacher

Celebration of CharacterHere at Inly, we are constantly assessing our curriculum to make sure our students have plenty of opportunities to build important next century skills. One of the many ways we examine our curriculum is through the lens of Multicultural Competencies for Students. According to this framework, all students should have curricular and programmatic opportunities to develop a skill base that will enable them to create an inclusive community and become global citizens.

Within these multicultural competencies, “Skill Set A” involves affirming diversity, “Skill Set B” involves encouraging critical thinking, and “Skill Set C” involves providing students with hands-on experiences.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the ways Inly students develop these critical multicultural skills:

All Inly students…

  • access stories that cultivate an appreciation for and interest in all kinds of people (Skill Set A) through our school library and literature selections.
  • seek out new experiences (Skill Set C) through a wide range of After School Program options.
  • gain cross-cultural communication skills (Skill Set A) by studying Spanish and Mandarin.
  • work to understand their own learning style, strengths, and stretches in multi-age environments (Skill Sets A, B, and C).

Toddler House students…

  • understand similarities among and differences between (Skill Set A) their families and their classmates’ families.
  • use images of children from around the world to recognize people have different life experiences (Skill Set A).

Children’s House students…

  • share personal stories about their own identities (Skill Set A) by planning for and participating in their Special Day.
  • become more aware of the world around them (Skill Set A) through their geography curriculum about the earth, continents, countries, states, and towns.

Lower Elementary students…

  • complete a family history project (Skill Set A) and share their stories with their classmates.
  • learn about commonalities all people share (Skill Set A) through their study of the fundamental needs of humans.
  • consider how groups of people have historically interacted with one another (Skill Set B) through their studies of migration.

Upper Elementary students…

  • discuss how to foster an open and inclusive classroom community (Skill Set A) during advisory group time.
  • build a model tenement house to combine what they know about their personal family history with what they learn about immigration to the United States (Skill Set B).
  • articulate different sides of historical debates (Skill Set C), like whether or not slavery should be abolished.

Middle School students…

  • develop their media literacy skills (Skill Set B) by identifying and discussing biases in news reports and accounts of historical events.
  • grapple with the ways in which human behavior and relationships are impacted by history (Skill Set B) through studying the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • apply their multicultural competencies by engaging in conferences like the Montessori Model United Nations and the AISNE Middle School Diversity Conference (Skill Set C).

Inly Alumni…

  • participate in a service learning trip to Guatemala with other Inly alumni (Skill Set C).
  • extend on their community service experiences, serve as allies in clubs at their new schools, and pursue opportunities to travel abroad (Skill Set C).

The Montessori cosmic education curriculum that has been expanding children’s worldviews for over 100 years is alive and well here at Inly. For more information on other philosophical underpinnings of multicultural education, check out the selected readings (link) posted on our Council on Diversity and Equity page. For more information on current happenings on campus (link) that are diversity-related, check out our Diversity at Inly page. If you have questions or comments about what multicultural education specifically looks like at Inly, you can reach the CDE by emailing

What is Diversity at Inly and Why Does it Matter?

DiversityWordle5As members of Inly’s Council on Diversity and Equity, we talk a lot about what diversity means at Inly. We hear questions from the community, and we ask questions of ourselves. Please read on for snippets of the ongoing conversation, enjoy the accompanying Wordle images, have a chat with someone who serves on the CDE, and come to the Parent Insight Event “Beyond Sticks and Stones” at 8:30 am on Friday January 31.

What does “diversity” mean at Inly?

DiversityWordle7“When we talk about what diversity and multiculturalism mean to Inly, we are talking about all kinds of diversity—racial, socioeconomic, gender identity, learning differences, and more. At our Council on Diversity and Equity meetings, we have focused a lot on the words we use, the questions we ask, and the values we prioritize. What’s our school’s culture? How do we make sure that every family and staff member feels safe and valued? How do we build on our Montessori roots to create a school that inspires children and families to be global citizens?” —Shelley Sommer, Head Librarian and Alumni Parent

“Like the mosaic of the Inly logo that hangs in the foyer of the main building, Inly is multi-faceted. It is made up of a diverse community of families, teachers, and staff with different backgrounds, life experiences, and beliefs. There is incredible richness to enjoy when we recognize that diversity and dig into it.” —Nancy St. John, Children’s House Assistant Teacher

Why does “diversity” matter to our students and our school?

“We embrace diversity and purposeful diversity education at Inly because we want to liberate kids from limiting thoughts and fears and open them to all of life’s richness and possibility.” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School and Alumni Parent

“Our mission statement is pretty powerful. It states that ‘Inly is a partnership of children, teachers, and families dedicated to the joyful discovery of each child’s innate capabilities and potential. Our community of learners inspires and nurtures children to become global citizens by embracing the philosophy and methods of Dr. Maria Montessori, in harmony with other compatible and innovative practices.’

“Why is that our mission? I think it’s because Inly has the courage to look at difference — something that scares so many of us — as a strength, and, more than that, as essential to individual, educational, and societal health. People who embrace difference in others are likely to look inside themselves with honesty, and to have the courage to know and accept themselves. In turn, they are likely to look out into the world, from that place of understanding and confidence, with open curiosity.” —Lory Newmyer, Board Member and Alumni Parent

“As Cheryl Duckworth writes in the Encyclopedia of Peace Education, “values such as global citizenship, personal responsibility and respect for diversity, [Montessori] argued, must be both an implicit and explicit part of every child’s (and adult’s) education. These values in Montessori education are every bit as crucial as the subjects of math, language or science.’” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler

What skills do students gain through diversity and multicultural education?

“When he came to speak with us about diversity at Inly three years ago, Robert Principe left us with a skill base he calls ‘multicultural competencies for students.’ This skill base includes communication skills, self-reflection skills, and ally skills, among others.” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler

“Diversity is a way to develop critical thinking skills. It’s a means to foster empathy. It’s a foundation for global citizenship.” —Liz Knox, Director of Admission and Alumni Parent

“Appreciating difference and commonality is who we are and what we do as Montessorians: we observe, we seek multiple perspectives, we attempt solutions, we try new experiences, we seek to know and understand our own narrative and that of others.” —Shannon Harper-Bison, Board Member and Current Parent

What are some of the diversity-related conversations happening around campus now?

“As a teacher, I am constantly encouraging students to take other people’s perspectives and to honor the differences they see in each other. So in that sense, diversity work happens every day in every classroom.” —Amanda Pillsbury, Upper Elementary Teacher

“The Inly Players’ Creative Team has been consulting with the Council on Diversity and Equity to plan out how we will capitalize on the teachable moments that producing Peter Pan provides us with.” —Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

“So far this year, six Inly adults and seven Inly middle school students attended two diversity-themed AISNE conferences. Conference workshops that the adults gained a lot from included ‘Books, Rehearsal, Action!: Disrupting Gender Role Stereotyping in Elementary School,’ ‘How Teachers and Parents Can Talk with Children about Issues of Difference,’ and ‘Cultural Humility — Using It to Learn about Self and Others Across Difference.’ Conference workshops that the students particularly enjoyed included ‘Our Common DNA Heritage,’ ‘Why We Love Rebels: Music, Identity, and Social Climate’ and ‘Future Global Leaders: Sua Sponte Forum.’” —Paran Quigley, Middle School Teacher and CDE Co-Chair

“A big theme of our professional development is ‘teachers teaching teachers.’ As a community, we’re made stronger by the individual knowledge and passion that our colleagues bring to the table. Members of the CDE have led recent workshops for our faculty on topics including inclusive classroom language, book resources for students that we have in our own library, and academic articles to discuss amongst ourselves.” —Jimmy Juste, Upper Elementary Teacher

For more information on the Council on Diversity & Equity, click here.

Peter Pan Comes to Inly!

PeterPanPosterAn Interview with director Martha Sawyer about this year’s production

By Amy Martell, Inly parent

Peter Pan is coming to Inly! Set to open on February 28, this year’s Inly Players performance promises magic, joy, and a consciousness that brings to life the heart of the Neverland tale.

Amy Martell, mother of Inly Students Lilja (’19) and Theo (’22) and cast member in the play sat down with the director, Martha Sawyer, to discuss this year’s production.

Amy: So, given all of the other wonderful possible musicals out there, why Peter Pan? What made you want to put on this production at Inly?

Martha: Well, at Inly, one of the things we have to consider is [choosing] a show that will showcase not only the great student aspects but also the aspects of the adults that we can bring into a cast. The show also has to have an appeal…we specifically look for a show that will have a lot of imagination in it, something that will appeal to a young demographic—not just from a performance standpoint, but [also] from an attendance standpoint, and we want to have themes that we feel the students will learn and grow from. Inly did Peter Pan as the premier show for the Artsbarn and we had considered it again for last year’s play. However, we wanted to make sure that all of the students who had done it before had already gone through the school so that it would be a new experience for the students and no one was going to do the same show within their tenure as an Inly Player. I’ve never done the show—so I’m very excited! I love doing a show for the first time!

It’s amazing that in your whole career you haven’t done the show! 

The technical aspects of the show are so challenging—a lot of places won’t touch it. That’s one of the other reasons that I love doing shows here at Inly—they will tackle any technical aspect, and say, “we’ll find a solution!”

What are some of the technical challenges of the show?

Well, number one, you’ve got flying. It’s interesting, they’ve just come out with a junior version of this show from one of the houses where they have suggestions for doing a show where you don’t have to fly, which would work beautifully, but there’s nothing quite like Peter’s first entrance…it’s magical. It’s one of those moments in theater that just…happens. That’s one of the great technical aspects.

The other thing is that, because of the setup of the barn, everything is done sort of in the round, so I’m constantly trying to make sure that the vision, and the way we tell the story appeals to all sides of the audience so they will get an equal experience. So you have to really work with your actors to make sure that they’re not getting stuck in a proscenium, downstage presentation. We have to really work on staging and using every side and crevice of the barn and the space. So that’s fun, but it can be challenging too.

So that brings me to my next question. Many people have seen other productions of Peter Pan, including the Mary Martin version, the Cathy Rigby version, the Disney version, and even the Inly version in 2007. Can you share with us a little bit of your vision for this production?

Well, because this is the first time that I have done it, I read the script and I thought it was charming, I really did—I jumped right back into the lovely Victorian storytelling. But most of all I was struck by the definition of Neverland. When Peter sings the song, “Neverland,” he describes this place where “time is never planned,” and I think my brain just sort of latched onto that and said, “Ok, there’s my theme.” For me, it’s so childlike. It so captures the essence of who Peter is, and why he holds on to that mystery of Neverland through so much. When I worked with actors the other day, we talked a little bit about, ‘what would a place where time is never planned be like?’ and one of them said, “It would be chaotic!” And you know, I said, “that’s because we come from a world where, for instance, the first thing I did at rehearsal is give out a schedule. We are planning every second.” And I said, “You’re right! It might be chaos. But it could be good chaos—it could be bad chaos. It would be different.” So that’s probably the main theme that I asked all the designers and the creative team to keep in mind as we make the journey through the rehearsals. I want the wonder of Neverland—this place where the joy and the freedom of youth to sort of just take a day and let it happen—can be captured. So that’s what we are trying to envision.

You gave me goosebumps in rehearsal the other day when you described it! It really sounds magical.

So, another important question—J.M. Barrie wrote “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” in the early 1900s, and the first production of that play was produced in 1904. The story takes place in Victorian England and is clearly rooted in a Victorian mindset, such as in the characterization of the so-called “Indian” characters. How are you working with these aspects of the play?

So, there are sensibilities. You encounter this with any piece—each piece is written in its own timeframe and with its own sensibilities of how life was at the time and how perceptions were at the time. This piece is based on a story written in the early 1900s, this stage play was done in the mid-1950s, so those sensibilities are part of the play. How people are imagined—whether Indians or Pirates, even the Lost Boys who are orphans who are basically described as children who have fallen out of prams—you know, these ideas are drawn from the time when the play was written and produced. Now, in 2014, our awareness is different, and we are aware of the importance of rejecting stereotypes about places and people. So what we have specifically tried to do is say, again, going back to that lyric in Neverland, we want to create a world where, yes, there are groups that may seem different to each other [initially], but they, in fact, build a bond through learning and through knowledge and through discovering—through the story of the play. We are going to make this a very strong theme (and I’ve already started in rehearsals with the students)—how the different characters start off being afraid of each other, and by the end of the show they are no longer afraid, they’ve learned to work together, and even to overcome some of the obstacles they face together, because they have learned about each other.

We did an exercise this afternoon at the rehearsal where I asked students ‘what are the types of things that make you afraid?’ They talked about being in dark, they talked about sounds they weren’t sure of, and they talked about trying something new—those were all things that might be fearful. And then I asked, how do you deal with things that you are afraid or things that seem different to you? And they all gave me different solutions. Some said ‘oooh, I might run away.’ Some said ‘I might try to stay closer to it so that I learn more about it.’ Others had other solutions. What I’m trying to do when working with students in this way is to find the feelings of how you might have an unease about something that is different, but then through opening up and making the journey and learning about that person or that place or that thing you can learn to fit it into part of your story. So that’s what we’re working on.

In addition, one thing we have also decided is that during production of the play we will continually refer to the ‘Neverland Lost Boys,’ the ‘Neverland Pirates,’ and the ‘Neverland Indians’ when talking about the different groups of characters. This is to emphasize to the children that these groups of people exist only in Neverland—they are imaginary, not based on any real people in our world.

[Editor’s Note: During the production of the play some of the students will be engaged in learning modules about Native Americans and other native communities. Those classes will be learning about the concepts of stereotypes and archetypes (in developmentally appropriate ways), and students will be taught how to appreciate the differences between how literature and entertainment often present native communities and how they actually live.]

So, is there any one thing you are most looking forward to about this production? I know that’s a hard question!

It’s not too hard! What I love about the Inly shows is that, when everything comes together, and the students and the adults—you know, you have professional actors working with students—when I see those two worlds connect—when I walk through the backstage before the shows and Scott [Wahle] will be sitting chatting with a third or fourth grader, and they’ll be speaking right up and giving him their impression of how the show went—those moments are what I thrive on, I love them.

About the Director

Martha Stewart is an award-winning director, actress and designer. She has previously directed OLIVER!, THE WIZARD OF OZ, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, WILLY WONKA and THE MUSIC MAN at Inly School. Over the last three decades Martha has served as artistic director for more than 50 full stage productions in the community, scholastic and regional theatre venues. A graduate of Manhattanville College, Martha has studied directing with Helena Dreyfus of Yale Drama School and David Wheeler of Harvard and A.R.T. She has served as an adjudicator for the Mass. High School Drama Festival and has won awards from EMACT and AACT for outstanding direction, set and costume design for productions on the state and regional levels. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree and is on the staff for Theater Plus in Marshfield. Martha extends her sincere thanks to the whole Inly community for their hard work and support in bringing these wonderful productions to the stage.

Inly Middle School Students Attend AISNE Diversity Conference

IMG_5518Inly Middle School students (from left), Jonah Lee, Emma Kahn, Charlie McDonald, Quentin Hill, Caroline Leta, Dean Chamberlin, and John McNeil, attended the AISNE Middle School Student Diversity Conference on Saturday, November 16 at the Fenn School in Concord, MA. The theme of this year’s conference was “We Are All Connected” and the objective was to help middle school students better understand themselves and their peers through reflection, dialogue, and leadership opportunities.

The keynote speaker at the conference was John Sharon. Born with a rare physical disability called arthrogryposis, Sharon’s belief is that “everyone is the same, but I’m just a little different.” His speech, titled “We Need Each Other,” explored the human need for connection and challenged common assumptions about disability, encouraging the audience to embrace disability as an absolutely vital part of what it means to be fully human. Tapping into stories from his own life and his extensive experience as a teacher in independent schools, John asked the audience to see disability as crucial to the success of diversity efforts in schools.

The workshops at the event included Capoeira (Brazilian Martial Arts); The Delight of Japan-Sushi Making; Fencing and its Life Lessons; Future Global Leaders; Why We Love Rebels: Music, Identity and Social Climate; Our Common DNA Heritage; Self-Expression through Street Dancing; Learn to Salsa Dance; Cultural Identity Collaging; The Art of Origami Making; I am Cambodia; Introduction to Hip Hop Dancing; The Irish Folk Way: Listening, Learning, & Performing Music & Stories from the Heart; and Media Literacy.

Student Reflections

Dean Chamberlin, who attended the “Our Common DNA Heritage” workshop, said “it was really interesting to learn that 99.9% of humans have the exact same DNA, which basically means that, at our core, we are all the same.”

Quentin Hill attended the “Why We Love Rebels: Music, Identity and Social Climate” workshop and found it fascinating to think about the rebels within our society who were at one time the minority but became the majority. “Take the Rolling Stones, for example,” Quentin said, “at first, there was no one like them, but now, years later, rock & roll is actually pretty mainstream.”

Emma Kahn attended the “Cultural Identity Collaging” workshop. “The workshop was really interesting because mask-making is an old tradition in many cultures,” said Kahn, “and it communicates a lot about an individual and a community’s personality.”

“I really appreciated how the conference talked about this idea of ‘the world of same’ versus ‘the world of different,’” said Caroline Leta.

“It’s always interesting to go to these conferences and meet other students from other schools,” said Charlie McDonald.

John McNeil reflected, “I really appreciated how the conference made us think about the importance of being sensitive to people’s differences. We did an exercise where we had to ask other students about themselves and we talked about how not everyone wants to be judged by how they look or act. I think we all felt that we could relate to feeling like an outsider at some point in our lives and tapping into that can really help us be more sensitive to how other might feel.”

Multicultural Education In Action at Inly this Fall

Joe Ehrmann speaks at Inly School

Joe Ehrmann speaks at Inly School

From Inly’s world language programs to after school offerings; cultural curriculum to the school-wide focus on character education; from extension opportunities for students to professional development offerings for faculty, there are always many examples of multicultural education in action at Inly. Here are a few of our most recent school-wide happenings, discussed through the lens of diversity and multicultural education.

On the afternoon of our September 26th early release, the faculty participated in a Council on Diversity and Equity (CDE)-facilitated workshop about inclusive classroom language. We shared anecdotes, had great conversations, and left with many new questions to consider and discuss. We also left with some new resources, including “Gender Doesn’t Limit You,” a Teaching Tolerance curriculum for grades K-6 that directly addresses student comments like “girls can’t play,” “girls have to be the nurses,” and “boys are better at math than girls.”

As always, our Assembly offerings this fall have broadened the worldviews of our students. Toby Forrest spoke with the students on October 2nd about life in a wheelchair. His messages that “being different makes a difference” and “playing safe is fun” were impressive and interesting, and his easy-going nature and excellent storytelling abilities made him a joy for our students to hear from. Ventura Fabian is a craftsman from Oaxaca, Mexico who is a part of a strong family history of master wood carvers. He brought his work (including a fun stop-motion animation video of his dancing wood-carved chickens) and story to us on October 30th.

On October 21st, we welcomed two new members to the Middle School community with the arrival of Guatemalan exchange students Juan Di (staying with the de Murias family) and Abby (staying with the Snyder family). The students are here during their “summer” break to live with American host families and study in an American school, and they will be with us up until the start of our Winter Break. This is an excellent extension of Inly’s mission to create global citizens, as the cultural learning for our students during this exchange is immense (plus, of course, the authentic Spanish that can be practiced with two more native Spanish speakers in the community is boundless).

We had our first Omran-Nelson Speaker Series event of the year on October 23rd when Joe Ehrmann came to campus, opening a dialogue about masculinity and femininity among the faculty and parent body. He made many great points about the culture of sports in our society and how adults can be powerful figures for social good and character education in young folks’ lives.

Coming up, there are even more diversity and multicultural-related events and opportunities to look forward to. Many of these opportunities will take place on-campus, while some will take place away from Inly. AISNE (the Association of Independent Schools of New England, one of the bodies that accredits Inly) hosts several diversity-themed conferences over the course of the year, including a Diversity Conference on Friday November 8th that five faculty members, board members, and administrators are attending. The day is packed with dynamic opening and closing speakers, and workshop sessions to choose from include “How Teachers and Parents Can Talk with Children About Issues of Difference,” “People of Inspiration: a Year-Long History Curriculum for Young Children,” “Diversity Directors: Strengthening Our Programs through Regional Collaboration,” and “Cultural Humility — Using it to Learn about Self and Others Across Difference.”

On Saturday, November 16, some 7th and 8th graders will spend the day at the Fenn School in Concord Massachusetts, attending AISNE’s Middle School Diversity Conference. AISNE holds this conference each year, providing middle school students with more opportunities to explore topics related to diversity in interesting, interactive, thought provoking ways. According to AISNE’s website, this conference focuses on “helping middle school students better understand themselves and their peers through reflection, dialogue, and leadership opportunities.” The title of this year’s conference is called “We Are All Connected” and workshop titles include “Capoeira: Brazilian Martial Arts,” “Cultural Identity Collaging,” “Introduction to Hip Hop Dancing,” “Future Global Leaders,” “Why We Love Rebels: Music, Identity, and Social Climate,” “Our Common DNA Heritage,” and “I am Cambodia,” among many others. Workshop formats range from presentations to interactive theatrical games to writing workshops, and according to students who have attended opportunities like this in the past, “it’s really fun,” and “it made me think a lot more about who I am and about the identities of the people around me.”