I discovered Montessori. A classroom with no desks, instead different sized tables scattered throughout the room. Colorful, wooden materials arranged neatly on small shelves fill the room. There is a bathroom inside the room, a dishwasher, sink, and each child has an individual mug for drinking water.
Everyone is energetically working. Some students choosing to work alone, where others work with one or two friends. There are children working on an animal research project, a few practicing math with a bead frame, others doing writing. Every group is working on their choice of a subject. The teacher isn’t in front of the room, lecturing. Instead, she is monitoring the students work, giving guidance, and roaming between the tables. Soon, she will sit down with a small group of students to give a lesson.
This school is unique because of the location. The campus sits on top of a hill on several acres of land, surrounded by trees. Each classroom has access to a back patio with a classroom garden. Behind the school consists of a playground, and forested area, with two bridges crossing the stream, the area where children participate in Outdoor Education. A section of the roof has solar panels and between the classrooms chickens are housed.
I initially went to observe here, thanks to James’ aunt Shauna, between job applications and substituting at the public schools. Serendipity took over. Soon, I started working here as the assistant teacher in a lower elementary classroom.
A Montessori classroom consists of three age groups. The primary classrooms are for children ages 3 to 6 years old. The lower elementary classroom has children ages 6 to 9. Then there is an upper elementary classroom with children ages 9 to 12. The children stay with the same teacher for all three years. It builds a tight community among the children. The older children often help the younger ones. They learn leadership skills, how to thrive in a group environment, and quickly accept the variety of personalities. The dynamic is humorous, because everyone gets to know each other so well, it is trusting and caring.
Although I was only exposed to Montessori for a short couple of months I knew I could never return to the conventional school system. Montessori is unlike any educational system I’ve seen. The environment is positive, the teachers enjoy their work, and the children are ecstatic about learning and being at school.
Soon I will be starting the Montessori training, earning a Master of Education with a focus in Montessori. It is a year long program so my teaching will be put on pause. However, I believe this is going to open countless opportunities for me. I see it as a stepping stone, bringing me closer to achieving my goals and dreams.