TODAY WAS AN AMAZING DAY. I was able to visit Anne’s Montessori school that she attended from 1934 until she ended grade school in 1941. (In the summer of 1941, Anne and her sister Margot were notified that Jewish children could not longer attend school with non-Jewish children – they would have to go to a Jewish school with Jewish teachers.)
Today the school is named after Anne and it is a vibrant, life affirming space for preschool to Grade 6. The front of the school (above) has a huge, colorful mural painted across it with words from her diary. As I walked up (on a cold, wet day) there were two students on small, wooden stilts standing outside against the wall – very strange! “So how do two students get to play outside in the rain on stilts by themselves?”, I ask. The little boy looks at the little girl and responds, “Oh, she has a heart condition so we get to come down early to play.” Sure enough, about 20 other children come pouring out of the school and into the rain, most carrying little wooden stilts to walk around on.
I meet the students’ teacher and tell her who I am and why I am there. She says that Anne’s classroom is still there (really?!) and that the principal is teaching a class today or he would give me a tour. She then looks around and instructs two boys (about age 7) to give me a tour themselves (really?!). We visit the hallways, the art room, some offices – where a lady inquires about us and directs the boys to take me upstairs to see the principal. Now this is the second time in my short trip that I’ve been taken to the principal’s office!
Sure enough, the principal is sitting on a small student chair in the middle of a classroom of about 20 kindergarten kids, who are politely sitting at little wooden desks. They appear to be humoring him as he rambles on about some story and I can’t help but turn away to chuckle. (He looks a little bit like Mr. Belding on “Saved By the Bell” – just a few years older.) Finally he stops, gets up, introduces himself and I tell my story. He seems delighted to have me there and is a genuinely nice man. He says the boys can take me to Anne’s classroom and that I can take pictures but cannot publish the student’s faces. No problem – my trusty behind-the-scenes assistant (Phil Castillo) has blurred out their faces and I now present to you Anne’s classroom from around 1937 and 2013.
A couple of interesting things that you cannot see from the photos:
- If you look in the left hand side of the picture in the middle, you can see a wall.
Behind this wall is a heater (protected by a barrier – which can be seen in the photo of Anne sitting politely behind a desk) and a sink/kitchen/clean up area (to the right).
- And there are absolutely beautiful windows to the left of this famous photo – you just have no idea they are there because you never see them. I took a photo of this so you can see all the natural light streaming into this room (and I’ll post it as soon as I get the student faces blurred – check back soon!).
The school seems fairly large. There are two stories and many classrooms. Here is a picture of the hallway leading down to Anne’s classroom – you walk into the school, take an immediate right, and Anne’s room is the last classroom on the left.