Seeing our school through new eyes is amazing! We have Ms. Makiko, a kindergarten teacher from Japan, visiting our school for three weeks. This is a great cross-cultural experience for us all, and I am really enjoying seeing Ms. Makiko’s enthusiasm for what she is learning about Montessori education. Yesterday, on her first day, she had a tour of our school and an introduction to Montessori philosophy and practices. We looked at the practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural areas for different age levels, toddler, three to six year olds, and lower elementary. She then observed in the toddler environment and both three to six-year-old classrooms. Today she spent the day with our elementary students. Observing students from age two to age nine working in their normal environments is a wonderful way to see child development.
Tomorrow she will accompany our elementary students on a walking field trip to our local public library and participate in her first staff meeting at our school.
I am really enjoying hearing her comments and answering her questions.
“Your students are so smart!” Well, yes, they are. Children are smart and given the right opportunities, are engaged and excited about learning.
“Your teachers are amazing!” Well, yes, they are. All of our lead teachers have Montessori teacher certification for the age levels at which they teach, and all of our assistant teachers have completed a Montessori assistant teacher training. Our school is passionate about Montessori teacher training. During the last eight years we have financially supported eight teachers through Montessori certification, and provided a practicum site for an additional seven students, and provided Montessori assistant teacher training for over twenty teachers. Our teachers are also hardworking and passionate, a winning combination.
“I noticed a boy doing math all morning long, and nothing else. Is that OK?”
What followed was a discussion about following the child and the importance of the teacher really knowing his or her students. Some children balance their learning over a week, and spend each day focused on a different area – math today, language tomorrow. Other children balance their learning over a longer period. This is what one of my children did – focus on language for six solid weeks, followed by maps and geography for two months, then math for a month . . . Some children need their teacher to help them balance their learning. “Yesterday you spent the whole day doing math. Today, let’s start in a different area.” Sometimes that might include the teacher and child collaborating on a work plan. Teachers also need to take into account the development and age of the child. For a young three-year-old, a focus on practical life is typical.
As for that cross cultural experience, one of our classrooms is currently studying Asia, and will invite Ms. Makiko to introduce them to Japan. We are also all getting ready to celebrate Moms’ Day with a tea, and so would love to experience a Japanese Tea Ceremony.
I can’t wait to hear Ms. Makiko’s comments and answer her questions over the next few weeks.