Some days go along smoothly and stay that way. Others, not so much. One of the interesting things about working in a school is that there is seldom a dull moment. That may sound like things often go wrong, but that’s not the case. Things just go “differently.” A child who navigates assignments and social relationships nicely may hit a snag and need support. A teacher who is reliable and always on top of things may encounter a challenge that requires her to further develop her skills to best address the needs of one particular student, though these skills may eventually serve many. A well-designed schedule may be interrupted by a fire drill or an unexpected visitor. Things change, and we need to be ready to embrace the changes.Continue reading
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What do fashion and a WMS education have in common? On the face nothing. Yes, we have some nice T-shirts in our school store and the design is changed once in awhile, but you may have noted that we are not in the fashion business. However, Montessori education is a bit like fashion in that we set trends. We also adapt and change, remaining relevant in an ever-changing world…just like fashion.
There are buzzwords in every field; education is no different. The interesting thing about the latest buzz in education is that it centers on words and ideas such as innovation, flexible thinking, social skills, leadership, collaboration, communication skills, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, time management, organization and more. Most, if not all, of these words – and practices – have been a part of Montessori education for well over 100 years, reminding us of the adage, “What is old is new again.” Continue reading
Lately (and honestly most of my life) I’ve had occasion to consider flexibility… and not that of a gymnast or Cirque du Soleil performer. What I have observed and learned over and over again is that those who are the most flexible and adaptable win. Winning isn’t something high on the list of most Montessorians, so why does winning in this instance matter? In schools, in jobs, in families, in friendships, in most everything a person’s ability to adapt and flex pave the way for a more joyful and productive existence; that’s winning. We know this lesson well from examples in the plant and animal kingdom; those that adapt survive and thrive.
It’s no coincidence that two of the life and career skills listed in the “Framework for the 21st Century” are flexibility and adaptability. Things don’t always go our way. It’s a life lesson. Flexing and adapting to the given circumstances allow room for a positive outcome when it may not seem possible. Children have opportunities to learn this over and over again. It’s our job as adults to help them. Things may not work out as they envision. They may be disappointed. Shifting their perspective, adjusting their expectations, adapting to the new situation and being flexible enough to embrace the shift will lead to feeling of success and, yes, maybe even winning.
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Take a moment to think about something in your life you really really wanted to learn. Now think about how you went about learning it. Who was involved? Who or what helped you? Who or what stood in your way? How did you overcome those obstacles? Why did you keep trying in the face of difficulties? Continue reading
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Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He is a bundle of energy and dares us all to think more deeply about what we need from schools. He shared his “biggest” idea early in his presentation. He views the primary goal of education as creating citizens of the world, people capable of making informed decisions that benefit others. Where have we heard that before?
In To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori says, “Children in the first plane of development (birth to 6 years old) have already absorbed the immediate environment and the restricted society they and their families have dealings with. You must try to give the child what he now longs for: the understanding of the world, how it functions and how it affects the life and behavior of humanity.”
The purpose of cosmic education, which she proposes is the task of the child in the second plane of development (6 to 12 years old), is to help us understand ourselves and relate to the world in which we live. We do this by learning about and understanding others; this prepares children for the future.
Schools, educators, parents and the general public worry about the skills being taught in schools. Public education began as a way to make sure that we had a literate populace. That continues to be the general goal of school today. However, it is not the primary goal. Our children have access to facts in more ways than ever before. They can learn and practice skills in so many ways that we could never have imagined. What they need is to learn to think, to wonder, to question, and to consider what has been done and what is possible. They need to understand facts that are presented and consider how they have evolved over time.
If, as Chris Lehmann and Maria Montessori propose, fostering engaged citizens to make responsible decisions for our world is the purpose of education we are well on our way at WMS.
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Many of us never “take a break” from learning. We continue to ask questions, wonder and play with ideas. For others, it can be more challenging to engage in learning. The questions that they ask might be more along the lines of, “How or when will I use this?” or “Why do I need to know this?” or “Will it be on the test?” All of these questions and the questions that every learner asks have to do with motivation. What motivates us to learn and what keeps us engaged in the learning process?
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Reading this blog entry reminded me of the wisdom of Maria Montessori. The entry posits four stages of curiosity: process, content, transfer and self. “This has changed me” is the defining sentence of this fourth stage, self. Dr. Montessori did not identify four stages of curiosity or refer to it as directly as may be found in today’s writings about learning and education. What she did was create an educational system that utilizes what she termed ‘three-period lessons.’ From the youngest children to the oldest, this is a defining principle of Montessori practice, one that can be found in authentic Montessori schools, such as WMS, throughout the world.
Three-period lessons consist of stages:
- “This is…” Information is presented, named and shown step by step. The teacher demonstrates the materials to show a child what is possible.
- “Show me…” The student is asked to show the teacher things, to recognize and associate an item. For example, if a lesson were done on triangles, a student would be asked to show the teacher the equilateral triangle. At this point a child is not asked to name the triangle, but to demonstrate her understanding of the concept by correctly identifying the triangle when asked.
- “What is this?” The student is asked to name an object or idea that has been presented in other lessons. As children learn to name items, they also begin to associate them with previously learned ideas and thus begin to creatively associate concepts and ideas.
What the aforementioned blog entry on the stages of curiosity and Montessori’s three-period lessons have in common is the understanding that children need someone nearby to help them negotiate the beginnings of their learning, no matter the topic. The first stages of learning require a patient and knowledgeable teacher to provide the information and help the student define his or her world. As the child gains more information, he associates it with previous knowledge and begins to wonder, to make sense of what he is learning. Finally, the child assimilates this learning into his world and extends his definition of the world and his part in it. The student begins to create, and to seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake. This is the pinnacle of learning, and it is guided by curiosity.
Once again, Montessori’s understanding of children and how they learn is brought to bear when considering the 21st-century skills touted in education today. Wilmington Montessori School, a school with strong and tested Montessori principles, leads the way in educating children for their future.
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Alumnus Brad Wason, who recently started working for Zappos, wrote the following blog post about how Wilmington Montessori School has helped him deal with the changes that are happening in his work life today. His words serve as yet another example of how WMS prepares students for their future – both in school and in life.
Growing up Teal.
by Bradford Wason
If the title of this post is perplexing to you, I assure you, that you’re not alone. Only recently have I been enlightened to the meaning and it provided a bit of context to my life up to this point. For the past few weeks I’ve digested a mountain of information and ideas from concepts presented in Frederic Laloux’s book: Reinventing Organizations. I’ll admit my first pass of the book was tough, though I blame that on the subtext of my perspectve at the time. I had just found out that the new job I had started nine weeks ago would be evaporating in a sense as of May 1st. I work for Zappos and if you haven’t heard, we’re going Teal. Hello self-management and goodbye managers (that’s me).
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As we wind up this series on 21st-century learning, it is time to consider the skills at the forefront of discussion when most people think about this topic – the goals of innovation and creativity. Employers want them, and schools work hard to “teach” these skills. Montessori education leads the way in this respect. At WMS, classrooms are set up to allow personal expression to flourish and creative experiences abound. Learning is student directed, not teacher directed.