The Montessori Advantage
Dr. Montessori talked about her philosophy of education as being “education for life.” What does that mean today? Is a 100-year old approach to educating children still relevant in our fast-paced, ever-changing 21st century world?
The answer is a resounding yes. A recent Gallup study, conducted by Microsoft and The Pearson Foundation, identified collaboration, problem solving and innovation, self-regulation and communication as some of the 21st century skills needed. In fact, those individuals who exhibited high development of these 21st century skills were twice as likely to have higher work quality. Sadly, another finding was that a majority of respondents felt they developed these skills outside of their school setting.
In a Montessori classroom, development of these 21st century skills is built into the fabric of our curriculum. Curiosity and joy of learning are fostered, with student’s passions fueling discovery and exploration. Students take charge of their own learning. They work collaboratively with their peers to uncover solutions. In fact, the process of trial and error oftentimes is the very doorway for finding a new way to approach – and solve – a problem. Our students learn for the sheer joy of learning! A comment from a recent alumni is a testament to this: “I want to know this information because I’m curious, not because it’s on the test.” Not words you typically hear from a teenager!
Our classrooms are learning communities, with students being a vital and integral part of something larger than themselves. Students bring forth their own unique contribution to the community, as well as uphold their responsibilities to their fellow students and teachers. Developing the ability to articulate one’s thoughts and ideas strengthens a child’s confidence and prepares them to be active members of whatever community for which they are a part.
Is this a different approach to learning? Definitely! Is it an approach that prepares children to be confident, successful, responsible contributors in the 21st century? See how these notable Montessori alumni have made their mark on our world.
Montessori stresses a values-based curriculum and multicultural experiences.
Before “values curriculum” became a trendy educational buzzword, Grace and Courtesy were an integral part of the Montessori day. How we create community, how we resolve differences, and how we treat one another with honesty, care, and respect are among the most important lifetime skills we can impart to our children. Part and parcel of that is creating a diverse cultural, racial, and linguistic environment at Winston-Salem Montessori School where differences are celebrated and where the specialness of one’s culture, language, background, race, and religion is honored.
Maria Montessori wrote, “Social peace and harmony can have only one foundation — man himself. This is the task of education. We must make it possible for the individual to be free and independent.” Is this not the greatest task of an education in a democracy? By creating a respectful, stable, and interdisciplinary learning environment, Winston-Salem Montessori School provides a sense of order, understanding, and respect in an often disordered world.
At Montessori we teach kindness.
Though simple lessons in grace and courtesy the children became sociable and their characters is developed. This is why in a Montessori classroom we provide simple lessons in grace and courtesy. It is not just lessons in social interaction that bring about the changes in the children. It is that the fundamental obstacles are removed in a prepared environment, and the child soon emerges from a cocoon of ego-centrism and wants to interact and participate in the community.
“No sooner was the child placed in this world of his own size than he took possession of it. Social life and the formation of character followed automatically.”
Further facilitating this process is the mixing of age groups, providing a community in which children can contribute by helping others less capable, and children can look up to others as models for their future. These combined characteristics form the fundamental reason why children become socialized in a Montessori environment.
Belonging to a group offers shared experiences. In this community approach to education the child comes to understand that each one of us is dependent on others and each must make a contribution for the betterment of all. Through living and working daily in a collaborative approach to learning the child finds community membership can be both personally satisfying and socially rewarding. Ultimately this will foster the idea of us being what Montessori named as One Single Nation.
It takes time and experience to learn how to be a good friend.
The degree of rapport and friendship among the children is one of the most important characteristics in the Montessori learning environment. The three-year cycle in Montessori classrooms provides the time for deeper friendships and the reuniting each year of friendships and relations that span a longer time period then conventional single-age groupings.
Children are motivated to interact with each other, especially with friends, and they become motivated about learning when collaboration is an avenue for learning. These familiar peer groupings reinforce the positive results of achievement and support reinforcement that motivates the child to higher levels of performance. By placing the learning process in a context of highly desired social interaction, Montessori responds to the needs of children at this age and creates motivation for learning that is not dependent on external motivators like testing and grades.
Montessori emphasizes learning by doing and by teaching others.
Maria Montessori wrote, “Only practical experience and work lead to maturity…. Those children who have been able to work with their hands make headway in their development, and reach a strength of character which is conspicuous.” An ancient Chinese proverb says, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Unhappily, lecture continues to dominate American education, even at the elementary level. At Winston-Salem Montessori School we provide specially designed, multi-sensorial materials that engage the children constantly in their own learning, allowing each to learn — and to understand — by doing. With cross-age, cross-grade groupings in three year developmental cycles, children eventually internalize what they have learned by teaching the younger children and by being mentors and role models, for we believe the old axiom that “You do not really understand something until you have taught it”.
Learning to balance your needs with the needs of others.
Montessori School classrooms consist of cross-age, cross-grade groupings in three-year developmental cycles. In these groupings children internalize what they have learned by teaching the younger children and by being mentors and role models. The children are encouraged to show mutual respect and empathy for others by working together towards common goals. This is the spirit of the community. The mixed age community creates conditions that foster individual differences as strengths, and promotes groupings of mixed abilities. The collaborative learning process facilitates the development of social skills as a response to informal group interactions, rather than through direct teaching intervention.