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So, what exactly is Montessori Education – three answers short enough to give in an elevator! August 20, 2013

number rolls 1

What exactly is an elevator speech?  It really just means a very short, prepared speech you can use when someone asks you a question such as, “What exactly is Montessori education?”  When someone asks you this question in an elevator, you usually only have about a minute to answer before one of you reaches your floor.  If you don’t have something prepared, a golden opportunity can be lost as you mumble either jargon (sensitive periods, normalization, prepared environment) or an answer involving catch phrases such as ‘whole child’ or ‘hands on.’  Or even worse, “It’s too difficult to explain.”

So, here’s my first attempt at an elevator speech, using an analogy, describing Montessori education in terms of something else.

Person in the elevator notices my name tag for the Montessori conference . . . or someone asks where I work . . . or someone asks where my children went to school . . . or . . . leading to

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“You know how if you only offer your child nutritious food, and no junk food or empty calories, whatever your child chooses to eat will be good for him, and help him grow strong and healthy?  Well, Montessori education is like that, only for the whole child.  Montessori education offers your child so many choices of activities, but whatever he chooses, you can be sure that it will help him develop and reach his full potential, because there are no activities that are just filling in time, no junk activities . . . You might enjoy seeing for yourself a whole class of children, working on their own or with a friend or in a small group, all focused on activities they have chosen for themselves, based on their own interests.  Montessori classrooms are filled with happy, interested, engaged children.  If you call your local Montessori school, I’m sure you could arrange a visit.  Oh, this is my floor.  Bye.”

number roll 2Elevator speech, take two – telling a story.

“So, what exactly is Montessori education?”

“Oh, I love Montessori education so much, I don’t know where to start.  I know, I’ll tell you a story about a real girl in one of our Montessori classes.  She loved counting and numbers, and one day I watched her start writing a number roll.  She took out one bead and wrote the number one on her roll of paper, followed by two beads and the number two, and so on until a few days later she had written to over a hundred, and then she told me that she could write numbers all by herself, without the beads.  She’d figured out how our decimal system works.  Well, she continued writing her number roll off and on all year, writing into the thousands.  Her number roll grew enormous!  It stretched further than the length of a long hallway or across the playground.  This little girl told me, “I could write numbers for ever, couldn’t I?  Numbers never end!”

This pre-kindergarten child, using the Montessori math materials had just built for herself a deep understanding of the concept of infinity, and she was so excited about her discovery.  I think that’s really cool . . . Oh, I could tell you so many stories like that, but I think it would be even better to see for yourself.  Here’s my card . . . contact me, and come visit, please.  Oh, gotta go . . . this is my floor.”

number roll 3Elevator speech, take three – talking about the differences

“So, what makes Montessori so special?” or “Why did you choose a Montessori school for your children?”

“Well, I wanted my children to be able to be who they were meant to be.  At Montessori, they get to make choices for themselves and develop at their own pace.  They are unique individuals at Montessori . . not just part of a herd, being moved en masse from one activity to the next, whether they are ready to move on or not.  They go to the bathroom and eat snack on their own schedule.  The children and teachers enjoy being together in the classroom and talk to one another like real people!  I’d love it if you took a look at our Montessori School and let me know what you think.”

Maybe you won’t be asked the question in an elevator, but another parent might ask you a similar question in the grocery store, or at the swimming pool or at the park.  Please take a moment to think how you might answer.  Only 3% of children attend a Montessori school, and I hope you agree that Montessori Education is too worthwhile for children to be kept a secret!  I encourage you to think of a story you might tell, or perhaps talk about what you noticed on a visit, or what your child has been learning about, and please end with an invitation to take a tour.  I love showing off our wonderful school.