Term 3 Week 8
If we define ‘perfect’ as complete, lacking nothing, having all its parts, and we apply this to children, we are looking through Montessori eyes. Each child is complete and has everything they need.
No, not a quote from Maria Montessori – just some notes I took at a conference earlier this year!
Here’s another: Begin with love and begin with yes.
Dear Parents and Caregivers
Some topics you may hear in educational circles include Student Voice, Student-Centredness and Self-Directed Learning. I thought it might be timely to share with you some of the realities that exist at SMS. As you read the following, bear in mind that classrooms are not identical – we have agreed school-wide practices, but some may vary from room to room. I’m sure you will agree that your children should feel empowered in this authentic Montessori setting:
- Weekly meetings to discuss any concerns which allows all children to participate in discussion
- Children are encouraged to adopt a self-directed approach to their learning whereby they are encouraged to choose topics of interest or set targeted learning goals where required
- Working closely with the younger children in the classroom to develop their ability to recognise and set clear, challenging yet achievable goals
- It’s about relationship building, respectful conversations, understanding where a person’s strengths and weaknesses are and tapping into their strengths
- Differentiation is not only about differing the lesson and expectation, it is also using inquiry based learning and supporting the needs of each child
- Building a caring classroom environment where each person is heard is critical
- Children are given choices of where they sit, who they work with, what they want to learn about
- Students respect that they have had input and are listened to, regardless of the outcome
- Children are clear of the boundaries in our classroom because they had input in setting them and the consequences for not adhering to them e.g. not working productively because you sat with someone you get distracted by means your choices are limited where you can sit
- We make the learning not only relevant and purposeful but engaging
- When I plan I think of my students – what is contemporary and what are their interests?
- In the classroom I strive to meet the needs of individuals and the class as a whole
- Class meetings are about classroom systems and school initiatives. I direct students to speak with CRC representatives for whole school issues
- We work extremely hard on building relationships so they find us approachable and are able to talk to us about ideas and possibilities in the classroom
- Students plan and carry out their own mini excursions
- Students meet with me each week to review and evaluate their learning. I ask students what they would like to pursue in the coming weeks. Here I am looking for students not just pursuing an interest but also identifying areas of weakness in which they need more practise. I keep records of conversations and try to follow through in supporting students in their independent projects
- Most terms students are set projects in which there are elements of choice
- Through weekly meetings/conferences I am trying to ensure that the students’ work is driven by themselves
- Walking through my classroom you will often see me assisting and teaching individuals, pairs and groups of children. This ensures that learning is taking place. I give feedback through marking work but also in weekly meetings about achievement
- We structure the class to allow students maximum choice
- We use humour in our class. This demonstrates to my class that learning can be fun and dynamic
- Students are given choices around how they want to structure their own day. Lessons are given at various stages throughout the day but the students then choose what and when. Teachers support students to make good choices and scaffold when support is required.
- Students are given tasks that provide lots of choice around how they want to present their work. Topics are usually presented with various options to allow the student to make their own decision about the task.
- Assignment rubrics are given out in order for the student to fully understand what is required within the task which allows for self-direction in relation to achievement. Students sometimes make rubrics in conjunction with their teacher
- Our class runs democratically, where majority rules for decisions and I make sure any decisions that affect the children are discussed. It doesn’t mean they get their way but it is discussed as a class as to why something is or isn’t possible
- Students make their own decisions about where they sit on a daily basis
- We always present a variety of Occupations and students pick their topic for the term
- We endeavour to differentiate tasks to cater to student interests
- We have whole class meetings to further discuss issues that arise within the class
- Regularly survey students to gain an understanding of their thoughts (anonymously) regarding a range of topics
- It’s about finding ways to make sure each and every child has a feeling of success and that their success is not measured against someone else’s
- We give children a lot of control over their learning and the way the classroom runs – from simple things such as games we play, to which order they would like to do their work, what materials they would like to use to help them, and where to sit in the classroom (at a desk, on the floor, alone or with a group etc)
- When children encounter a problem we encourage them to try to solve it themselves first, or ask their peers. We often use the saying ‘ask three then me,’ to get them to help each other and not rely on the teacher
- When conflicts arise between the children, we take a facilitator role, and try to let the children come up with their own solutions. We have high expectations of the children in regards to their behaviour and the quality of their work and we find that the majority of the time, the children rise to meet these expectations
Thank you to all families and staff who attended the Working Bee on Sunday. The grounds look very tidy and ready to welcome the spring season. I hope that you felt a sense of community building through being involved in the Working bee.
Last Thursday through to Sunday, James and I attended Meeting in the Middle, a conference specifically for Montessori middle school teachers. This year it was held at Elonera Montessori School on the outskirts of Wollongong, NSW. For James and I the highlights included sharing ideas about new and existing initiatives, networking on deeper levels and engaging in rigorous discussions about meeting the needs of adolescent learners.
Last Wednesday (‘Show Day’) our staff undertook some Cultural Awareness Training, facilitated by Mary Awata from Anglicare. Mary was accompanied by David (originally from Sudan) and Haura (originally from Palestine) and together they shared their amazing journeys of perseverance, heartache and joy. Our evaluations at the end of the session attested to the experience being both profound and inspirational. Having heard from these guests, each of us took from the session a much deeper level of empathy and understanding.