Upper School Director Maiya Jackson’s article, “We Begin to Know Each Other,” describes how Manhattan Country School worked with teachers, students and parents to welcome a new transgender eighth-grader and the gender transition of another student. It is the lead story in the Winter 2015-2016 issue of Rethinking Schools, which focuses on sexism, gender and sexuality.
From the meetings with the admissions director and school psychologist to the staff workshops and meetings with parents to the Q&A sessions for students to ask questions of their transgender classmates, Maiya’s article details successes and challenges MCS faced in its first year with two transgender students. In each step in the process, there were thought-provoking questions about gender and identity and difficult assumptions about the intersection of gender with race and class.
In the piece, Maiya writes, “Part of me knew that being in a diverse community meant respecting other points of view. Another part of me was sure we could convince students that being transgender was OK. I stubbornly left definitions and charts hanging on the wall, so students would know that this topic was important and that we would keep struggling with it. Still, we had to find ways to make room for all of our students. We also had to remember that our students were in middle school, a challenging enough time to think about identity without upending a category most of them had taken for granted. Our group was young to be taking on these topics. They needed time, and we had to be patient.”
To learn more about this experience at MCS, read the Rethinking Schools article.