Say "Cheese"!

A new year. Some new faces. Reunions with old friends. Many stories of summer adventures. Rekindling passions for work and learning. Many giggles. A few tears. All valuable. Endless opportunities to learn and grow. And this was just week one!

The first week back to school is always a beautiful flurry of joy, excitement, nerves, and orienting (or reorienting) to life at school. Each new and returning child, parent, and family unit experience this transition in their own unique way. As Montessori guides and administrators, our number one objective in these first few weeks of school is to help students and parents settle into the new year. This must be a physically and psychologically safe place for children to develop. Without the foundation of trust and respect, learning doesn't occur.

Our current cultural climate, specifically in regards to technology, is vastly different than it was even just a decade ago when OakHaven first opened our doors. It wasn’t until several years after we opened that we were able to purchase a digital camera for each classroom. That was big stuff. As a newly trained, and very enthusiastic, Montessori guide, the ability to take pictures in the classroom gave me an entirely new way to communicate to the parents (and the entire world) exactly what children are able to do in an authentic Montessori environment. For me, it was a game-changer. To say I was excited is quite the understatement.

Fast forward to now, just a few short years later, and our children can hardly sneeze without an enthusiastic adult wanting to document and share that first big moment with the entire world. I challenge you to find someone today who hasn’t heard of Facebook. Child YouTube sensations are making millions. Those of us who intentionally do not participate in social media (yes, I’m one of those odd ducks) are few and far between.

Before the start of school this year, our team had an engaging, in-depth conversation about photographing children at school (especially while working in the classrooms). Here are some of the main points we discussed around this important topic:

In favor of photographing children at school:

Powerful parent communication tool - as parents, it means so much to be able to see what/how our children are doing while at school. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Education about Montessori methods - Montessori education is widely misunderstood. We want each and every parent in the world to be able to better understand what Montessori is, how it works, and why it’s so beneficial for children. Photos and videos can be a great support with this.

Precious memories - we all love looking back at the children’s photographs as they grow and mature over the years.

Reasons to minimize photographs at school:

Protection of the student’s work and concentration - when in the classroom, the work and concentration of each child is our number one priority. Often, pulling out a camera disrupts this important work.

Keeping the classrooms a safe place/sanctuary for the students - many children have become accustomed to having a camera on them at any given moment of the day. We find it important to offer them space where this is not the case.

Respect for the children - some students do not want their photo being taken at all, and we owe it to them to honor that choice.

It takes the adult’s attention away from the students - if the classroom Guides are more focused on getting that perfect picture and sending it out to the world, it deters them from their top priorities of giving lessons and observing the children.

After much mindful discussion, thought, and debate around these points, we realized that the arguments FOR taking photographs in the classrooms generally meet the needs of the adult, while the arguments AGAINST taking photographs in the classrooms are generally aimed to meet the needs of the child. While both sets of needs are certainly important, our top priority here must always be the children. This has always been something that sets OakHaven apart.

I’m sharing this with you to help you understand that in order to do the very best for your child(ren) and each OakHaven student, you will not receive an enormous number of pictures of your child(ren) at school. We will continue to do our best to capture some precious moments and share them with you because there are so many reasons for and benefits of doing this. That partnership with you IS so very important to us, and we constantly strive to maintain that balance of doing the very best for the students and meeting your needs as parents.