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“Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling.”
– Yong Zhao

Room 19 - Dioramas 2The past two weeks have brought time to reflect and catch up on some reading. As I’ve done so, I was moved by the statement above. Yong Zhao is the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. I heard Dr. Zhao speak at a Learning and the Brain Conference a few years ago and have been captivated by his thinking ever since. He is not only entertaining; he also understands the challenges our students will face in a rapidly changing world.

“Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling.” Reading and writing are the basis of an educated populace; our goal is that all of our citizens are able to read and write. That is not the end game. If it were, how would we compete in a world market? How would we inspire our students to create and innovate? It is not enough to read and write and, I might add, to compute numbers. We need these skills to be able to do so much more.

As we begin 2016 and I consider the goals of students at Wilmington Montessori School and at every school, what I know is that the children are at the center of what we do and why we are here. Children are eager to learn, to ask questions, and to play with materials and ideas. They are naturally curious and willing to try and try again. They are thrilled when they unlock the squiggly lines that make up the words they learn to read and write. They can’t get enough.

Our responsibility is to keep that wonder alive. We must create a strong and sturdy foundation of those skills in order for them to apply them to increasingly challenging and interesting work. We cannot simply pat ourselves on the back when we can prove through test scores or other measures that our children can read and write. We must challenge ourselves to do more. The “more” is creating an atmosphere where learning is valued and everyone is a learner. That is what we strive for each day and each new year at WMS.

Learning is at our core, and learning is not defined by a grade, an age or an ability. It is defined by the very children in our midst. What is it that each child needs to remain engaged and inspired and wanting more? That is the question we ask ourselves each day as we greet the children at WMS.