A Democratic School - What Does it Mean?

Alfred Adler School provides a learning environment that supports each individual student’s learning experience and at the same time challenges them in ways that a more traditional environment cannot. Public education began as a top down model more suited to the times and needs of the industrial revolution. A new approach is needed today. We are the school that thinks “outside the box”. We offer a choice to move away from long outdated models in order to provide a more relevant, innovative and joyful educational experience for our students. We tap into students’ passions and creativity, and engage them in the process. Students are not passive bystanders who are told what to do, instead they are active participants, trusted in making important decisions and guided towards opportunities for self-directed learning and discovery.  They learn to take responsibility through trial and error.  They figure out ways to adjust their course and assess their choices.

Here is what our students gain from participating in a democratic school:

• Students find their place of belonging by having the opportunity to contribute in a multitude of ways
• Learning is a choice. A joyful and fulfilling, sometimes challenging, endeavor that allows them to find their passion and interests as well as their strength and courage
• Students learn to persevere as they are encouraged and supported when engaging in new and challenging learning experiences
• Students are able to build confidence in their ability to figure things out for themselves and by being active problem solvers
• Students learn to cooperate and be part of a team by recognizing the importance of community

• Students have choices which allows them to be self-regulated and self-guided, taking responsibility for their choices and actions
• Students learn to become adept at articulating complex questions in multiple ways, so they can develop as critical, analytical, free thinkers.
• Students have the time and space to pursue their own interests and passions
• Students gain a deeper understanding of self and others. They focus on what they need in order to succeed, rather than what they lack in measuring up to standards imposed by others
• Students learn to understand the importance of having a balance of order and freedom in this school community, by understanding the importance of boundaries and the give and take.

School Staff Expectations:

• Provide a rich and qualitative educational experience that encourages student engagement, team work and creative problem solving
• Provide a safe space in our classrooms and our school community, where students feel a sense of belonging and know they count. A caring environment that allows each individual to know they are equal in their worth and that their individual and collective contribution matters.
• Communicate with students as equal partners in their educational journey and provide relevant feedback
• Provide various ways for students to participate in their education and various ways to demonstrate their learning
• Provide ongoing training and support to parents so that they may help their students in all areas of their development and in building a community that encourages learning and connecting relationships.
• Provide opportunities for parents to participate in their student’s educational journey and their school community by having monthly events, during which time students’ work and accomplishments are showcased

Student Expectations:

• Engage in their education by actively participating in their ongoing learning, group projects and presentations.
• Demonstrate effort and take on new challenges
• Take responsibility for their individual and group assignments
• Use the class and school agenda and the disagreement form, as well as follow the “working it out” process to problem solving.
• Take responsibility for their actions and choices.
• Follow school agreements as well as the School Code of Conduct and the Stop/Go System.

Parent Expectations:

• Ensure their students are at school at a reasonable time and manage days absent so that students do not miss out on important opportunities at school.
• Take an active role in their student’s education by staying informed via email, website and/or Facebook and as much as their schedule allows, participating in school wide events.
• To ensure continuity and alignment between school and home, parents are supportive of the basic Adlerian values and tenets practiced at the school (i.e. a democratic approach, the stop and go procedure, classroom and school wide meetings, working it out and the use of the agenda to mention a few).
• Parents agree to attend a minimum of two Family Education Workshops in addition to the workshop required as part of the enrollment process.
• Contribute ten hours per family per year to the school by volunteering (attendance at the family ed. workshops is counted towards volunteer hours as well)
• Parents communicate any concerns they have with the school in a respectful manner (best via email) and if the disagreement is with the core philosophy of this school, then the understanding is that this school is a choice amongst other available choices.

Freedom and Order

Students choosing to be a part of Alfred Adler Democratic School agree to follow our collective agreements and the three golden rules.  This system only works if all members agree to engage, participate and pursue common goals.

At Alfred Adler School, we practice the same principles which have been well accepted, and deemed effective in many true Montessori schools. Adler and Montessori had the same ideologies regarding children and education.

This quote by Maria Montessori explains our approach to “freedom and order” better then we could hope to. We thank them both for their wisdom, and courage in challenging long held beliefs in order to gain a better understanding of the child.

“Today we hold the pupils in school, restricted by those instruments so degrading to body and spirit, the desk–and material prizes and punishments. Our aim in all this is to reduce them to the discipline of immobility and silence,–to lead them,–where? Far too often toward no definite end. Discipline must come through liberty… If discipline is founded upon liberty, the discipline itself must necessarily be active. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined. “
~ Maria Montessori

Order is established in part by the participation in community meetings. There, problems are
resolved and students vote. A sense of trust, justice, and respect is fostered, as well as a sense of ownership. Rule infractions and interpersonal conflicts are resolved using such tools as the “working it out process”, mediation, classroom meeting, school agenda and the disagreement form.  School Meetings protect boundaries
and ensure order. Any member of our community can write down a complaint, a problem or a question about anything they have experienced, witnessed, or heard about, in the agenda. These are brought up during the meetings. Agreements/consequences are discussed and voted on.