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Dr. Montessori explained the goal of education as “the development of a complete human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her time, place and culture.” At Montessori Community School, we are interested in the development of the whole person. Our goal is to nurture our students emotionally and socially, as well as academically.
Within each class, there are many different activities happening at once and a lot of movement. You may see students working independently, conferring with one another, working in small groups, reading, receiving a lesson from a teacher, constructing something, or solving a problem.
Our classrooms are specifically designed by Montessori teachers to meet the needs of the students. They are “prepared environments.” The furniture is scaled to the size of the child. Materials are displayed on open shelves that are easily accessible and inviting to the students and are arranged in such a way as to capture a child’s interest and entice him/her to work with them.
We design the prepared environments to foster independence. Students learn to do for and help themselves in our classrooms. They select their work from the shelves, work on it alone or with others, and then return it to its place. They put away their own belongings. When students are hungry, they choose to eat snack. They clean up after themselves as well. Independence is nurtured and fostered by the design of the classroom, the guidance of the teachers, and the mentoring of other students. It is an ongoing learning process.
Freedom is very important to the nurturing of independence. However freedom is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of Montessori. Many people assume that when we describe freedom, we mean that students can do whatever they wish. This is not true. Freedom means choice within limits. Freedom has a counterpart - responsibility. They are inseparable; they go hand-in-hand and work in concert with one another.
Freedom to choose one’s own work is a hallmark of Montessori education. Children in our classes are accorded more freedom of choice after they demonstrate higher degrees of responsibility. Responsible behavior includes respect for classroom materials and using them for their intended purpose, the ability to concentrate and be engaged in work, and to work within reasonable time frames on an activity or follow-up from a lesson.
A student has freedom of movement within our classes, as long as he is able to move responsibly. In fact, there is a lot of movement within our classrooms. Students move around when they are ready to choose new work, when they are finished with some work, when they want to talk with someone, or when they go to the bathroom or get a drink. In our environment, these are choices that the students make, not choices that the teachers make.
In a Montessori environment the adults are not the focus of the classroom, the children are.
Montessori teachers give students lessons with the materials, but the child actually learns through his/her own work. The child teaches himself/herself. The adult’s role is to observe each child’s needs and then link the student with the appropriate materials of the prepared environment.
The teacher is a trained observer who notices developmental milestones and when a student is ready for another presentation and is always ready to guide a student in a new direction.