Education

Why Montessori

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[Photo credit – Montessori school of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side] 

By Community Advocate Kandy White 

The best resources and educational outcomes seem to almost always be reserved for the wealthiest of people. The affluent, the well-connected and the elite. But every now and then an opportunity comes along that has the potential to change the trajectory for a generation and improve their chance of success. North Tulsa has the opportunity to say yes to a model of learning that has been a proven success in other urban districts. Montessori. 

The education system has had a long track record of highs and lows, great outcomes and bad, from public schools to private, charter schools to vouchers, but still no silver bullet. From one program to another, initiative to initiative, what will it take to get the education system on track to educate our children to be productive, well-adjusted citizens? Well, I guess if we knew the answer, perhaps we’d do “that”. 

What could be the problem? Money? Race and class in America? Urban districts vs. suburban? I’ll take it a step further: could it be the inability for districts to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and school leadership?  Strong principals, who support teachers? A solid academic curriculum that works for all students? To be frank, it could be a number of these reasons and more, but the bottom line is we can’t stop trying to find “that”. 

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[Photo credit – Montessori school of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side] 

As a society, we can’t throw in the towel on our future leaders. We can’t throw in the towel on perhaps the next president of the United States. No, we can’t give up just because we haven’t found the program that is supposed to be “that” one thing that turns our public education system around. We must work together to research and explore the possibilities available. We have to be willing to open our hearts and minds to new ways of learning, experiencing life and developing skills in untraditional ways. Yes, it’s okay to do that.

The key feature of Montessori schooling is that children play a significant role in deciding what they want to do each day. Led by their own interests and skill levels, children in a Montessori classroom move around freely and work independently and with others on tasks of their own choosing. The classroom is intentionally stocked with materials tailored to the developmental needs of children, including the need to learn using their different senses—sight, touch, movement. The teacher in a Montessori classroom is less like a boss and more like a caring guide or facilitator who works with each child individually, demonstrating various activities and then giving them space to try it on their own. The idea is that over time, students learn to master even the toughest tasks and concepts and subsequently feel an intense sense of pride and accomplishment because they did it by themselves, without pressure or pushing. 

Remember when you had the opportunity to attend outdoor or nature school as a kid?  This was usually a day field trip for some or even an overnight camp for others. But I bet we can all reminisce about the experience of being away from home for the very first time. Exploring nature and living in a way you never lived before. Seeing things around like you’d never seen before. And what about when we talk to our children about the countless hours we spent outside playing until the street lights came? It seemed like the entire world was right outside our doors. 

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[Photo credit – Montessori school of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side] 

Things are so different now. Children are confined to screens, rooms, and places that don’t expose them to the many wonders of the world including nature, community, and resources that often exist right outside their door. And so many children live in desolate areas where there is no access to a corner market to purchase fresh food or a local library to read the latest book or even a safe clean playground to run and play. 

Emerson Montessori wants to be the first public Montessori school to not only expose children to discover their natural abilities in learning but to develop a deep connection with the richness of the community around them. It is very important that children understand the environment around them: what it is today, what it was yesterday and how they can play a role in making it better tomorrow. Community leaders will emerge from a learning style like this. 

Individuals familiar with different models of education have the advantage of knowing and understanding the value of a free Montessori education. We desperately want every student in the Emerson catchment area to take full advantage of this opportunity to get their child started on a trajectory that will last a lifetime, a trajectory that countless parents of means already choose for their children. 

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