Saturday, February 11, 2012

Montessori Classroom and the Unfolding of Children

Montessori is not a philosophy that can be explained in a nutshell.  This is both intriguing and frustrating at times.  When I meet with parents for the first time or speak with them over the phone, I am never quite sure where to start when explaining our environment. There are the basic tenants of the philosophy, but sometimes the day to day happenings are the most difficult to explain.  Our classroom is set up with many, many purposeful works and activities.  I tell parents that every work that is out has a specific skill or concept in mind that we hope the children will develop when working.  Our classroom is inviting, peaceful, structured, honored, clean, and beautiful.  We watch everyday how the materials call to the children and invite their focus and concentration. The teachers watch with anticipation as children come into the classroom and make their work choices.  Each child is so unique and we love watching each one engage with the environment.  Each child enters with their own set of skills they have developed and still need to develop, their own personality, temperaments, moods, and ideas.  Our hope is the environment calls to them as they progress, mature and develop. Different aspects of the classroom will call to each one of the children differently at different times. It's difficult for parents to see how things work in our classroom when we're not being so directive and dictating what children do each day.  It's hard to imagine that children can have freedom in their learning.  It's hard to imagine, but also just as difficult to deny. The children in our classroom are learning patience, they are learning to count, they are learning sounds, phonemic awareness and building words, they are understanding similarities and differences in shapes and sizes, they are learning loads of vocabulary that is helpful for developing abstract thoughts as well as social development.  They are learning important steps in how things work together, sequence of steps that bring about a desired outcome. They are learning to get their needs met and to express their emotions. They are learning to be respectful of others which is very challenging in a world that gives the message of thinking of yourself first. They are learning to manage themselves and care for their environment. They are learning to greet visitors.  In our Montessori classroom, we trust the children to follow their hearts and minds to choose the work that stimulates them and helps them become who they are meant to be.  The gift the teachers receive everyday is watching the unfolding of children and how they become secure and happy in who they are and their potential of what they will contribute to the world at large.  If you have never observed in a Montessori classroom, please do so.  It will stir up hope in your heart and you will be amazed watching children work.