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Dr. Maria Montessori developed an educational pedagogy that has now entered mainstream education. More people have heard of Montessori education than ever before; many think they know what it means. It’s not that every school has adopted the Montessori philosophy or name. Instead, what many schools have done is take her lessons and adapted them to suit their environment – it’s kind of like selling a Calvin Kline instead of Calvin Klein. Education is an open system, meaning that what happens in schools is not top secret. We all know what schools are designed to do…educate children. What many people do not know is how to do it effectively. So, ideas are taken and incorporated into existing systems where they may or may not take flight.
The thing about a Montessori education is that it is meant to be done to the highest possible standard, where the environment is one of the most crucial elements of success. Taking a faux Montessori material, or even an authentic one, and supplanting it into a poorly prepared environment without a strong pedagogy and commitment to Montessori education will not serve children in the best possible way. This is the difference.
At WMS, we first prepare our teachers and our environment. Once those things are in place, the children enter and learning begins. Without the thoughtful and deep commitment to Montessori education, the children in them will not have the benefit of all that is offered. A classroom environment set up for children to navigate independently is crucial. Teachers, who are trained observers, notice the choices children make, guiding them to the next appropriate activity to support and cement learning. Fellow students who have become experts at their level, having been in their classrooms for a year or two, support younger students as they learn the ropes and grow to become those leaders. Spaces are set up so that children can work alone or in small groups – talking, sharing and learning from one another. These things are the skeleton of our classrooms. Without them, we would simply be any other school that has some nice materials and good teachers. We take great care to ensure the health and well-being of our framework. It is by nurturing that and holding true to our core that children benefit from an authentic Montessori education.