It’s the time of year when we fall to traditions and all they hold. Most of us follow traditions within our families. We know the sources of some of those traditions, while others’ origins remain a mystery. Once we introduce a tradition to our children, they count on it; that’s why it’s a tradition. Children relish the comfort and predictability of knowing what to expect and what comes next.
As I think about the traditions that are tied to school, it can be a bit less comforting. Most schools today are very similar to the schools of 50 or 100 years ago. They operate on the same schedule, test for the same knowledge base, have teachers as the “knowers” and students as the “learners,” and have the same definition of success. At Wilmington Montessori School, we adhere to the traditions that could be described as Montessori: using Montessori materials, having dedicated spaces in our classrooms for Sensorial, Practical Life and academic materials, furnishing with appropriately sized furniture, focusing on peace education, and learning about the world and its people.
We also adhere to the tradition of observation. We are responsive not only to the children in our classrooms, but also to their needs in an ever-changing world. The world today is not the same as when Maria Montessori observed children in Italy and developed the Montessori Method. However, what is the same is the adherence to the method of noticing what children need as they move through school and life. Though we are a Montessori school and all that implies, we are constantly watching, learning and noticing children’s needs. Our lessons, materials and experiences reflect those requirements; therefore, they change and adapt to the times in which we live.
In some ways a Montessori education may appear to be the same as a traditional education. The difference is that we are not stuck in a system built on traditions that are being held onto no matter what. We are not looking for the next best educational theory or practice. The Montessori method is built to embrace necessary changes. We learn, shift and grow; we embrace the world today and we learn from the past. Our traditions are molded from past experiences to shape the future for our students.