Tag Archives: Scotlyn McConnell

Weird School Down the Way

By Scotlyn McConnell

I want to let all of you in on the best kept educational secret in Southern Indiana: Community Montessori.

The non-traditional public charter school is currently nestled in a hideaway off St. Joseph Rd. in New Albany and the only real indication that the entrance is there is the beloved weeping willow and pond located at the entrance.

The building looks more like a ski resort than a school. But yet, the natural stone building holds around 600 students pre-K through 12 on any given school day. This, of course, does not include the Nurturey, the school’s daycare for 0 to 3-year-olds, which is located inside a house on the hill in front of the school. The school grounds also include a Creativity Cabin on the hill where ceramics and woodworking take place, a loopy parking lot, patio spaces off of each studio and a wooded area referred to as the “back four,” which is four acres of trees and trails.


The inner workings of the school are even more interesting than the outer. From how spaces are set up to the language used to describe them, there is no aspect of Montessori that can be compared to a traditional school. The school is made up of five different age levels. Each age level is mixed up and then put into a few classrooms. The easiest way to explain this clearly is with the high school program, referred to as the “Woods.”

There are four Woods studios (classrooms) called Sycamore, Sequoia, Cypress and Oak. Each studio has a mix of students 15 to 18 years old, freshman to senior, all collaborating in the same space. It’s the same with the Shapes (3- to 6-year-olds), Biomes (6- to 9-year-olds), Gemstones (9- to 12-year-olds) and the Islands (12- to 14-year-olds).

The Montessori schedule is perhaps the most confusing thing about the school. In the high school program, the average student will have a math class every other morning and a humanities class, which is a mix of English and history. In the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students have two seminars that they choose at the beginning of the year. On Wednesdays, they have an expression, which is a class that is supposed to be something you’re more interested in. On Mondays, they have a free work cycle in the afternoon, and Fridays are free work cycle days.

One more thing that’s a little bit different in our high school program is that it’s required that we have an internship every semester from the time we turn 16. Every Friday once you’re 16, instead of going to school, we go to our internship sites. For example, every Friday this past semester, I interned with Angie Fenton, Extol’s editor.

I’d like to take a jump back and take a moment to talk about our elementary levels. The Shapes, Biomes and Gemstones are where Montessori philosophy truly shines. The school’s namesake, Maria Montessori, dedicated herself to these age levels as they are the most formative years. While living her life in Italy she constantly saw the wasted potential of children in the slums, so she made the first Montessori school and named it Casa dei Bambini Montessori or Montessori House of Children.

Basic Montessori philosophy is to meet children where they are. Whether that’s emotionally or academically, the school doesn’t try to make learners go faster or farther because they’re a certain age or that’s what they’re “supposed” to be learning. The other factor is to help the children be independent and learn how to do things for themselves.

As with the older students, in these age levels there are no lesson plans. Instead, every student has an individualized work plan. This is one of the ways to meet the children where they are. While this may create a harder time for the teachers, it pays off in the end when the student is learning at their pace and is only learning what they are ready for. This also gives the opportunity for students to be able to do work that is above their age level if they are ready for it.


One of the fun things this age group gets to experience is what’s called “practical life.” During practical life, children learn how to wash dishes or chop food or tie knots or do other things they aren’t able to do at home. I remember very vividly a day when I was in Quatrefoil studio and we were doing practical life exercises. We were all given a piece of string and were learning how to tie bows. Then our teacher told us to try doing it on our shoes instead of with the string. That’s how I learned how to tie my shoes.

Unfortunately, Maria Montessori died before she could fully develop the teens program, but we follow the philosophy as best we can. Students are met where they are and have individualized work plans. With a lack of steady classes, most students take on a fair amount of independent credits. Students make these plans with one of the two advisors (teachers) in each class. Students are treated as equal to all the advisors. We call them by their first names and are encouraged to question advisors and to disagree when warranted.

Students are trusted to stay on top of their work, much like how college is. There’s no one standing over your shoulder telling you what to do. This is scary for a lot of parents, and a lot of kids aren’t able to work like that.

Before deciding on Montessori, it’s important to know that it is not for everyone. Not everyone can deal with having the freedom to do what they want all day. It takes a lot to make the decision to do math when you could watch Netflix instead.

I feel lucky that I can work in this environment. It took me a little time to get in the groove, but once I got there, it all fell into place. I was alway the “weird kid” at my traditional school, but at Montessori we’re all the weird kids. This school is a good fit for me because I used to always rely on other people to make sure I was doing well, but now I can rely on myself. I’ve become so much more responsible through this school. I’ve been forced to grow up, and I love it.

All in all, and I may have a bit of a bias here, Montessori is a great school. If you or your child don’t work well in traditional school environments, it may be a good alternative. Creativity is cultivated here, ideas are supported, people are made.

Extra Credit is a new feature focusing on education. If you have a story idea or are a student of any age interested in writing an opinion piece for Extol, please send an email to angie@extolmag.com.

As I Was Saying | The ‘A’ Word

By Scotlyn McConnell

In this article I’m going to be discussing the “A word”. Maybe not the one you’re thinking of though. This isn’t the word you get a call from your child’s teacher about, but rather the one being discussed in every political forum in America. Abortion. Now, don’t let me lose you here. I know these waters are muddy, and I know I won’t be able to clean the entire ocean, but let’s see if I can make your own pool a little clearer. I’m doing this because I am constantly surrounded with different opinions on this issue. As a passionate women’s rights activist, I have a strong view on this topic.

First I would like to give a brief lesson in where U.S law currently stands on abortion. Abortion in the United States is currently legal thanks to the case of Roe v. Wade which came to a conclusion in 1974. However, it is not federally dictated, meaning that each state can decide whether they will allow abortions and what regulations will be in place. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States_by_state)

Now I’d like to talk about the laws in Indiana specifically. Currently, it is only legal for a woman to get an abortion in the first trimester of her pregnancy. A woman can only get an abortion after that if deemed absolutely necessary by a medical professional. There is also a need for parental consent if the patient is under the age of 18. If a woman has an abortion done illegally, she will be tried with a class C felony. (http://statelaws.findlaw.com/indiana-law/indiana-abortion-laws.html)

Now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk about some of the arguments brought up when discussing abortion. The issue of church and state is a very large one when it comes to this topic. Now, everyone has the right to believe in whatever religious things they want, however, constitutionally, we can’t place our personal religious beliefs on another person.

Another non-religious pro-life argument is that not getting an abortion is better for a woman’s health. This can be disputed with the slew of things that could go wrong in a pregnancy. From chronic high blood pressure to heart complications, a woman’s entire body is at risk during a pregnancy and a birth.

Her entire body, of course, includes her brain. Lots of new parents have a moment of freezing up when their child is born. However, this expands further than a few weeks of panic. Around 20% of moms will suffer from postpartum depression. This severe form of depression can follow a new mother for months on end, along with a whole array of body confidence issues. In no way do I want this to scare you away from having a baby. If you take care of yourself while pregnant, there’s little chance these things will happen, but you can’t just ignore the things that might go wrong.

In the end, everyone is absolutely allowed to have their own opinions on the topic. But just like with everything else, it is good to have an educated argument to back up what you’re talking about. I know that in this article I just talked about pro-life arguments, but there’s a very simple reason for this. The pro-choice supporters have one central idea, it is a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body.

As I Was Saying | Operation Vaccination

By Scotlyn McConnell

In my government class, we were given an assignment to come up with a bill to propose. My group decided to make a bill entitled the Mandatory Child Vaccination Act. This bill would make it so that all children in America must be given their immunizations. We decided to make the fake bill because of the consistent rise of parents who are choosing not to give their kids vaccinations.

Not vaccinating kids is problematic for a couple of different reasons. The biggest is that the child could get sick with a variety of different diseases. Not only that, but that child is now in constant contact with other children who, even though they’ve gotten their shots, can contract that disease. Therefore, parents who don’t vaccinate are endangering their child and everyone they come in contact with.

The biggest defense for people not vaccinating is that it will cause autism. This was sparked in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, published a paper in which he stated the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. This paper was written with lots of pseudo and fringe science and didn’t consist of a lot of hard facts. The paper has been disproven by many scientists and doctors, and countless books have been written about the falsehood. Recently, the writer himself even admitted that the paper wasn’t accurate.

In reality, the only real harm to come from vaccines is the possibility of an allergic reaction which could cause asphyxia. The statistical likelihood of this happening is one in a million, but it’s still possible. However this can also happen if you take an Advil or Zyrtec without knowing you’re allergic. Regardless, anxious parents are still scared of the vaccines.

Another reason some parents choose not to vaccinate is because they believe that natural remedies can do the same thing vaccines can. While this is true, natural substitutes are difficult to find and do correctly, and the effects won’t last as long as a vaccine. Natural remedies are a short term way to treat something, but when you’re vaccinated, a small dose of the disease is released into the body. The body then works to create a defense to the disease so that if ever exposed to the full force of it, the body can have a better chance of fighting it.

I understand why parents would choose to not vaccinate: it’s scary to allow someone to put a potentially fatal disease into your child. It’s also scary to have the possibility of your child contracting another illness because of the vaccine. However, most parents who don’t vaccinate tend to read all of the fringe science and then decide to not vaccinate. Before choosing to not vaccinate and put your child and everyone else in danger, read actual studies of vaccines, do real research. Entire books have been dedicated to the study of these, and they’re much more reliable than a blog post about the link between vaccines and autism.

As I was Saying | America’s Killer Clown Epidemic

By Scotlyn McConnell

In recent weeks, there has been a startling amount of creepy clowns popping up around the country. It started in Northand South Carolina and has since spread across the country and even over to the United Kingdom. The clowns are often seen in dark costumes and pointed makeup that creates a sinister look. In clown culture, you are taught not to use points in your makeup because it’s seen as threatening.

The first report of these clowns was made by a little boy who saw a few of them standing in the woods trying to lure him in with money. Since then, they have been seen lurking by houses and apartment buildings, following people when they’re walking or driving and running around with knives. In fact, a man in Texas recently released security footage of a clown trying to break into his house with a butcher knife. The video is about two minutes long and shows the clown trying to open three different doors and a window before he walks around the side yard and disappears.

At the beginning of all of this, people thought it was a publicity stunt done by the people making the new It movie. However, when asked about it, the producers wrote an official letter stating they had nothing to do with it. Another idea people have about why it could be happening is that all of the clowns are part of a cult that worships serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr., who in his spare time served as a clown for neighbors’ parties and charity events and was known as the Killer Clown after sexually assaulting and murdering at least 33 teenage boys between 1972 and 1978. (Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994).

Because of these clowns, states are tightening their reigns on laws that prohibit wearing a mask in public. Target department stores have even stopped selling clown costumes. These people, whoever they may be and whatever reason they’re doing this, frankly need to calm down. They have unleashed a fear on the country, and with Halloween quickly approaching it might get even worse.

It’s rumored that on October 30, they’re going to have a “purge night.” A Facebook group called Clown Hunters made a post advising everyone — and their pets — to stay inside and lock all the doors and windows on All Hallows Eve. Police stations around the country have started issuing warnings as well, which puts a realistic touch behind what could be classified as a hoax to spark hysteria.

No matter what the case may be surrounding these clowns, I hope all of you stay safe. Take all advised precautions and don’t take any risks. If by chance you see one of these clowns, call the police and leave the area. Don’t be a hero.

As I Was Saying | CoverBoy: Breaking The Easy, Breezy Boundaries

By Scotlyn McConnell

As of Oct. 12, the popular makeup brand CoverGirl made history by being the first-ever company to have a boy as the face for their brand. James Charles, a 17-year-old high school student and New York native, is a makeup artist with a huge following on social media, and now, the first ever CoverBoy. By taking on this role he is opening himself up to a lot of hate and I applaud him for that. However, I feel like this historic thing that’s happening brings to light the issue of gender boundaries and roles, and how society treats them. james-charles

 While most people are getting more comfortable with the idea of women in combat and diaper-changing stations in the men’s room, when it comes to fashion and beauty, there’s still a very harsh set of rules. Men cannot wear dresses and makeup or often even jewelry without being criticized, and a woman in a suit is seen as trying too hard.

 Women still can’t compete in major league sports like football and baseball alongside men, even though there’s are some who are just as good. Men can’t be accepted when they wear a skirt. While we’re making great strides in the world of breaking the gender binary, everyone still freaks out when Jaden Smith wears (very cute!) shift dresses in Vogue.

 Bringing a boy into a feminine role in mainstream media breaks a whole new set of rules.

 While the world may not be ready for people like Jaden and James, what they’re doing is necessary. As a culture, we constantly need to move forward. So, even if they don’t want CoverBoy, they’re going to get him and all of the fabulousness that surrounds him. And you know what? The world isn’t going to end because of it.

 Just like when gay marriage was legalized, there will be some unhappy people, but in the end, life will go on. Nobody’s life is affected by this, except for all the boys who do makeup and now have representation and, hopefully, acceptance.

 James’ boxy brows and blinding highlight are punching down the walls that put men and women into a box of social constructs. His 500,000+ Instagram followers know gender norms are over, I know they’re over, CoverGirl knows they’re over, and, together, we’re going to make sure everyone else knows it.

As I Was Saying | Calling Out Catcalls

By Scotlyn McConnell

 Almost two years ago, there was a video released by Hollaback!, a nonprofit group that aims to stop street harassment. The video is called “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A). The title is pretty self descriptive: In the video, there is a woman walking in New York City, and she’s being recorded by a camera that’s hidden in the backpack of the person walking in front of her. The woman silently walks through the city for 10 hours in jeans and a t-shirt and is catcalled more than 100 times (according to Hollaback!).

The video quickly went viral and currently has more than 43 million views. With this many people watching it, there’s bound to be some backlash; however, the amount of backlash was above expectations. Immediately, people claimed that they only put in clips involving men of color, thus creating a racial stereotype. There were innumerable amounts of videos, mostly made by men, who were trying to prove this video wrong. People were even making videos about how they like catcalling. Hollaback! received so much hate, but no one was focusing on the point of the video:

In our culture, catcalling and sexual aggression is normalized, and that needs to be talked about.

This isn’t an issue that only exists in big cities, either. I can’t walk to the gas station down the street from me for emergency snacks without being whistled at or yelled at to smile. The fact that some people say that these are compliments is crazy.

Someone coming over to you and saying, “Hi, I’m sorry, I just wanted to say that I think you’re pretty” is different than someone shouting and blessing your mother on the street. One of these things is really sweet and the other one makes me feel unsafe and disgusted.

Unsafe. That’s a word everyone laughs about when I talk about catcalling. It’s like no one can understand why I would feel threatened. Well, let me explain.

More and more women are being killed and beaten and raped for not responding to catcalls. Andrea Farrington was 20 when she was shot three times in the back when she turned down the date offered to her by the security guard at her work. Raelynn Vincent was 22 when she didn’t respond to a man catcalling her from his car. The man got out of the car and repeatedly punched her in the face, which broke her jaw. These are just two of many cases.

Men who catcall — people who catcall — act as if they have an entitlement to the people they are catcalling. They don’t care who you are, whether you’re 11 or 73, they will shout at you and swear at you and act like you were put on the earth just for them.

Street harassment has never been an innocent thing, but recently it has escalated so much. Women try to make themselves more masculine or cover up more, but no matter what we do, we still are yelled at.

I feel like at it’s core, catcalling brings about a bigger issue. The issue of toxic masculinity in our society and how boys are raised to believe that doing things like this is OK. Toxic masculinity refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that define the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive and so forth.

Lots of boys are raised with the idea ingrained in them that they are entitled to women. They see their fathers doing things like this and then believe it’s okay — and it just continues down the line.

There is an issue in our society with how we raise our boys. They are being raised to be angry, they are being taught that femininity is a synonym for weak. Boys who are raised like this will likely never know that it’s okay to be compassionate and loving. These men are built to feel superior.

This is toxic.

Toxic masculinity and street harassment go hand in hand, when we find a solution to one, we will definitely find a solution to the other.

As I was Saying | What’s the big Kneel?

By Scotlyn McConnell

This preseason, Colin Kaepernick who quarterbacks for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to kneel during the national anthem. While Kaepernick’s original reason for taking a knee was that he was not going to show support for a country that treats the black community so poorly, the movement has spread.

All around the country, professional, college and high school athletes have started to kneel or sit during the “Star Spangled Banner.” These actions of peaceful protest have put the country into a fit. Left and right, there are different opinions; everyone has something to say. Including me.

I believe that instead of condemning him, we should be commending him.

Kaepernick, and the other athletes, are standing up (or sitting down) for what they believe in. People are saying that he should be arrested for this, for disrespecting his country. However, our country gives him the right to do this. Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest protect these people. You can’t have these things and just decide to get rid of them when someone does something you don’t like.

Others say that he signed up for this job and he knew what he knew what he would have to do, but nowhere in a football contract does it say “must take part in national anthem.” Just because he is being paid millions of dollars doesn’t mean that he’s given up his rights. Colin Kaepernick is still a person.

In Kaepernick’s contract it does say that you need to represent the team well. I think he’s doing this. By standing up for his beliefs in a peaceful way on a platform that millions and millions of people will see, he shows us that we can stand up, too. He’s teaching kids that you don’t need to be violent to get your point across.

I don’t think it matters whether or not you agree with what he’s doing. He’s still allowed to do it. In the end, he’s just a person, an American with rights. No amount of money or fame is going to change that. He and others are getting punished or threatened and you might think that’s proper action, but I don’t think so.

I think that all of the people who are doing this are brave for standing up to our country and it’s injustices. America gives them the right to stand up against America, and I think that’s beautiful.

As I Was Saying | Trump Vs. Muslim America

By Scotlyn McConnell

No matter how much you don’t want to admit it, America has an underground factory of racism towards Muslims that has been pumping out hate speech since 9/11. With the possibility of Donald Trump becoming president becoming more and more real, how Muslims are treated in this country might get a whole lot worse. From tagging to tracking to deportation, it’s all scary. So, what will the country look like if Trump becomes president?

Trump has differing views when it comes to Muslim immigrants that are here legally and illegally, and how he feels about Muslims who were born here. I want to talk about how he feels about illegal immigrants first, since it’s a whole lot simpler than his views on legal immigrants. Trump doesn’t want illegal immigrants of any sort residing in our country. He has stated that they will be instantly deported. This is a little strange considering the fact that his current wife, Melania, has had a bit of an issue concerning the validity of her own immigration. He also has spoken about revoking birthright citizenship. This means that if a child is born here, but their parents are illegal immigrants, Trump would take away their citizenship and deport them.

His views on legal immigrants and Muslims that were born here are more lengthy and a bit more confusing. The reason they’re confusing is because Trump often backtracks and then backtracks his backtracks and so on and so forth. However, one thing he has stuck to is tagging all Muslims. He wants to do this in more ways than one. The first way is a public identifier that shouts, “HEY GUYS! I’M A MUSLIM!” which would be a patch or pin required to be worn on shirts or jackets. This sounds awfully familiar to how Hitler started out with Jews in 1930s Germany (which Trump has no problem being compared to, by the way).The second way he wants to tag Muslims is kind of a tracking situation. He will require all Muslims to register with local police so they can be “monitored.” According to NBC News, when asked about whether Muslims would be legally obligated to register, Trump replied, “They have to be — they have to be.” Trump also wants to take away mosques, the place of worship for Muslims.

As of now these are the policies that he seems to be unwavering on, but nothing is for sure when it comes to Donald Trump. You may be asking yourself why this matters. While I’m sure some of you are, most of you reading this are probably not Muslim, so this really doesn’t affect you. I mean, there are only 225 Muslims for every 100,000 people in Indiana and only 3.3 million in the entire country, so what’s the point? It’s not that bad, right? Well, friends, I’m sorry to say that yes, it is in fact, that bad.

While most of us are revving up to do our favorite fall activities, our Muslim friends are considering things that seem out of this realm. I personally have a friend who is considering a move to Canada, where his father already has work lined up. Others are considering things that seem even more insane. From Washington down to Florida, I have friends all over the country considering the need to flee.

We all need to keep in mind that just because a group is smaller, that doesn’t mean that that group doesn’t have a right to be human beings. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t vote for Trump — it’s not my place to decide that for you — but I do implore all of you to take every single little thing into consideration before election day rolls around. And I beg, please, please, don’t not vote at all.