Wheaton Montessori News
I always think it is a stark difference that our teachers have time and lessons for social and emotional lessons. It isn’t just providing instruction on academic content.
In addition, I don’t believe any teacher has the priority of using Montessori methods to get students to be advanced academically, but rather the goal is to have each individual working at their individual challenge level because then all of the social/emotional “stuff” is easier. Behavior expectations are higher, friendships are stronger, problems offer opportunities, and each individual can be known in the community.
[When I was training to become a Montessori teacher,] my elementary trainer told us, vehemently, that when a parent asks “…but what about memorizing the dates of the Civil War/the names of the Presidents/etc.” she responds, “WHO CARES (she shouted) ABOUT WHAT FACTS THEY KNOW IF THEY CAN’T THINK???”
I haven’t brought myself to respond in quite that way as of yet.
I do point out examples such as the principle of always relating the parts to the function in biology. We always talk about each part of the plant in terms of what job it does. Once you know that the root’s two jobs are to connect it to the earth and to seek out water, you can use that to understand lots of other things about how plants work. Now, concepts like erosion are simple to understand because you have this working understanding of the relationship between plants and the earth.
The information we give them is in response to each child’s basic human need and desire to make sense of their environment. Contrast this to an environment where the information is important because it will be on a test. Furthermore, because we give the child a jumping off point (what Dr. Montessori called ‘planting seeds’) with the lessons and then support them in following up on whatever angle interested them, we have their interest as intrinsic motivation instead of the motivation coming from the adults. And a wonderful byproduct of that is that they end up studying subjects I never would have thought of or gotten around to introducing.
This idea of supporting students’ thinking (vs teaching of facts) came up in several of my conferences. In a nutshell, we don’t give our students facts and figures. We give them tools they can use to understand their environment. And because they are free to explore, the environment includes more diversity and depth of information than any one teacher could ever offer in an adult-centered classroom. And the tools for understanding their environment go with them everywhere. This is why in my conferences I hear a lot about how engaged my students are on family trips to museums and on vacations!
From Mrs. Carrillo, Primary Teacher
There are intangible qualities that truly can’t be measured by a test. These “intangible qualities” are things that help us to live in a world of peaceful coexistence. In a traditional educational setting, the emphasis is placed on transferring information. In a Montessori program, we are helping build children up to be good human beings. We don’t just spit out facts and expect them to be spit back out to us on demand.