Back To School

4 Jan

My fiancee has a 12-year old niece who has been in a Montessori school since the age of three and whose mother is an Elementary guide.  During a family reunion, we gave the child a gift that consisted of a small bag of assorted rocks (quartz, turquoise, etc.) and an accompanying classification chart.  The simple offering sparked her curiosity, and she spent a couple of hours examining and classifying the rocks.  There was obvious joy in the work she was doing, and a palpable sense of satisfaction – combined with renewed curiosity – when the task was accomplished.

When I observed this child, I knew little about Montessori (other than my own experiences as a Montessori child).  However, it was clear to me that there was something special about this girl: she exhibited behaviors, curiosity and maturity the likes of which I had never seen in the children of my friends and relatives.

Only when I took the Primary Montessori training course did I realize that this child’s behavior was characteristic of a “Montessori child”, and that all children – if allowed to develop to their fullest potential in a carefully crafted environment with purposeful activities and consciencious adults – could be peaceful, orderly, joyful and self-reliant.

I thus embarked on my new life path as a Primary guide, and marvelled at the achievements of my young students.  While I appreciate and delight in every facet of the child’s experience in the Children’s House, one of the stages that caught my attention the most was the surfacing of the second plane of development in the 5 ½- to 6- year old students.

Although I found the transformation in the children of this age fascinating, I also became frustrated.  Their curiosity was blooming, their power of imagination and abstraction was taking hold, and their learning style was merging from one of independent work to one of group effort.  Yet all this had to be put on hold halfway through their third year in the Primary classroom, because the pressures of the traditional school system they were about to transition into trumped the child’s individual interests and learning style.

Due to the limited number of Montessori elementary schools in our area, combined with and a deficit of information available to parents, most of our graduating Primary students are enrolled in public (traditional, state-run) elementary schools.  The quality of education in these schools is defined by yearly national test scores and by how many children are promoted to the next grade level, regardless of their actual knowledge or preparedness.  Our efforts to create parental awareness regarding the benefits of a continuing Montessori education cannot compete with the lure of free schooling, leaving most children destined for a lifetime of factory-modeled, one-size-fits-all education.  Little by little, the joy of learning turns into the drudgery that is compulsory traditional schooling.

I shudder to think that the children I currently work with – each of whom has a particular learning style, talents, and interests – will cease to be individuals and will become just another spoke in the wheel of “No Child Left Behind”.

How will these children be impacted by being in a same-age classroom, changing teachers every year, studying from outdated sources with the sole objective of passing tests, and transfering the role of evaluator from the child to the adult?

Just as importantly, what potentials and abilities could these children unlock – and what impact would they have on our future societies – if we allowed them to grow in a Montessori environment during this next phase of development?

These are the questions I seek to answer, and these are the opportunities I seek to provide children with.  Among other reasons, they are the driving forces behind my decision to go back to school to obtain my Elementary AMI certification in Bergamo, Italy in September, 2010.

My application goes out this week!  Wish me luck!


6 Responses to “Back To School”

  1. PS Montessori January 5, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    Oooh! Good Luck! I’ve been thinking about getting my Elementary training too. Not in Italy, though. Wow, how amazing that would be!

    • montessorimatters January 6, 2010 at 3:45 am #

      You should go for it!! I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, because I ADORE working with the Primary kids (once the insanity of the first few weeks subsides)… But it will certainly be useful in many aspects of my work! And yeah, Italy… DREAMY!

  2. Tina Johnson January 6, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    What a wonderful story of child development. When allowing the child to develop naturally, using their senses and curiosity to examine something puzzling, or even intriguing, brings a smile to this mother’s face. Sometimes I think about how my thought process might differ had I been raised Montessori…

    • montessorimatters January 6, 2010 at 3:44 am #

      Thank you for your comment! It IS quite joyful to see children discovering new things, it’s one of my favorite things about being a teacher. 🙂 I think a lot of parents wonder what they would’ve been like if they had been raised in Montessori, but the important thing is that you are able to think outside the status quo and give your children (and others) the education they deserve!

  3. Cynthia January 11, 2010 at 2:08 am #

    My fingers are crossed! Our Elementary teacher took her training in Bergamo and took her four children with her. She loved it!

    Good luck!


  1. In Plane View « Montessori Matters - April 27, 2010

    […] and semi-precious stones, so now I’m on a hunt for a “bag o’ rocks” like the one that kept my fiance’s niece enthralled for hours.  Ahhh, if this is but a morsel of what awaits in Elementary, I can hardly […]

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