For many younger students, our Junior High adolescents are role models and mentors. In a pre-COVID world too long ago, our Junior High students engaged more fully with our younger students. We had Study Buddies (pictured above from 2019) and found Junior High students playing actively with Upper Elementary, Lower Elementary, and Primary students all across campus. The photo below of a Lower Elementary student waving at a Junior High student from afar tells the story both of our current caution with resulting physical distancing and the ongoing importance of our Junior High students to our greater school community.

Our Junior High students engage in essential work throughout campus by caring for the gardens and chickens, while also performing campus clean-ups. They also prepare meals for faculty, staff, each other, and the Upper Elementary division each week. Offerings from Maria's at Home (our Junior High students' community supported agriculture (CSA) program) provide families the opportunity to enjoy the produce, eggs, and other goods our students have grown, gathered, and made. However, there is a qualitative nature to a potentially greater essential quality for our adolescent students, and that is their presence as role models on campus.

We learn through experience, through exposure and instruction to new concepts, and by observing others. Our Toddler, Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary students are always observing their Junior High role models, learning from the ways these "big kids" interact with each other, the Junior High teachers, and younger members of our school community. Through observation of the Junior High students, the younger students are learning how to be an active member in society, how to show grace and courtesy to others, how to compete fairly and honorably, and how to grow into responsible young adults.

And it's no surprise that our Junior High students are often at their best when they know their younger friends are watching. For our Junior High students, being role models provides purpose and responsibility above and beyond their individual pursuits. It elevates their sense of belonging and supports a key tenet of our adolescent program: valorization. Valorization is the process of understanding you are a strong and worthy person, through work and exchange in society – not through work as a means to an end. It is the process of self-actualization and fulfillment in knowing that you are an essential member of your family, your school, and the community at large.

Photo taken in December of 2019. A seventh grader paints a first grader's face at the 2019 Junior High Holiday Marketplace.

About the Author

Ben Payne, director of upper school

Ben Payne is Greensboro Montessori School's director of upper school. Ben joined our School in 2019 with a wealth of teaching and leadership experience in education, including: leading the creation of two charter schools; effectively leading a faculty of 60 professionals as their principal; raising over $1.5 million in capital funds; managing the school renovation of a $2 million, 32,000 square-foot historic property; and cofounding The Symposium on Liberal Education and African American History. Ben holds a Master of Architecture from from the University of North Carolina at a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Virginia.