There have been several posts on social media from various individuals and organisations commenting on schools providing “work” for children to do at home, taking the route of “home-schooling” and criticising those Montessori schools who have taken this path.
As a Montessori school owner, principal and guide for almost 30 years, I respectfully share a different perspective. Our school has chosen to go the route of digital learning for many reasons but the two most dominant are – to ensure our school survives Covid-19 and to ensure our children maintain a connection to school their friends and their learning experiences.
Love in the Time of Covid-19
I have spent the last six days with two additional children living in my home unexpectedly. A family crisis that has seen their mother hospitalized and their father unable to travel from the neighbouring province to be here due to the lockdown brought these children to me.
Well in fact I asked the question, “How can I help with the children?” and initially was asked to support for a couple of hours. Without going into any more detail, they have ended up living in my home for 6 days.
On a day sometime in September 1990, I experienced one of the most profound days of my life – I observed in a Montessori classroom and knew in every cell in my body and soul that I had found my passion. I don’t recall the exact date but I do recall the very moment when I just knew. This. Was. It.
I was 17 years old, an au pair to a young boy who would eventually be diagnosed with Bipolar as a teenager after many painful years. He was 5 at the time and had been expelled from 3 schools prior to starting at his Montessori school. Because of his history with behavioural issues, the directress, Susan, asked that I accompany him to school so that if his behaviour became out of control, I could take him home immediately. But until he misbehaved, my instruction was to sit as unobtrusively as possible in a corner of the classroom.
The word tolerate has its origins in Latin. It is a word from the early 15c., and means "endurance, fortitude" (in the face of pain, hardship, etc.), from Old French tolerance (14c.), from Latin tolerantia "a bearing, supporting, endurance," from tolerans, present participle of tolerare "to bear, endure, tolerate" (https://www.etymonline.com/word/tolerance)
When I think of the word tolerate, I think of “putting up with something” – my mother saying “I will not tolerate your bad behaviour”. It is a word that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
There is such a trend in education, fuelled through the media, of teaching tolerance. There are websites, blogs, books, Facebook pages…it is everywhere.
Montessorians are intense, dedicated and passionate people. We live, eat, sleep and breathe what we do. And sometimes, in that process, we forget that we are part of a wider community of educators, all of whom are as intense, dedicated and passionate as we are. They just express it differently, through a different philosophy, methodology, pedagogy or language.
Montessorians often have the reputation of being aloof, judgmental and having an air of superiority about them. This leads to other educators not wanting to approach us with questions about what we do, how we do it and why we do what we do.