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Friday, December 31, 2010

To CPS, We Need More Montessori Schools

1. More than one hundred years ago a young doctor, Maria Montessori, created the model for cooperative education. It begins by showing three-year-old children how to care for themselves, allowing them to explore their surroundings, and providing fascinating manipulative materials for mathematics, language, geography and the sciences. Children do receive brief lessons both individually and in small groups, but the majority of their time is spent exploring materials of their own choosing and learning from them what they can. These children who spend three years, until they are six, in these mixed age classrooms are engaged in their own education for life.

2. We have had enough competitive learning. Enough grades, class ranking and achievement test score comparisons. We get it! Children are competitive and it's easier to control their learning behavior this way. Enough already! We want our children to learn to cooperate, to share knowledge and discoveries.

3.We are tired of hearing you blame the principals or the teachers or the limited facilities or the lack of finances or even the parents for the traditional system that fails too many children in one way or another. We are tired of the blame game. Our traditional system is fundamentally flawed. The solution lies in understanding why it does not work.

4. Yes, the present system does work for some children: the ones who find a personal connection to what is being taught. For those who are disconnected, your only solution seems to be a teacher with the ability to fire up the students' minds. Teachers with this ability are wonderful like rock stars. But training super teachers is not the answer. The continued success of each student must lie within the student himself. What is being learned must have some personal meaning .

5. Children who spend three years, from age three to six, in a Montessori classroom find that personal connection and meaning in what they are learning even as they grow older.

6. We need more Montessori public schools. We need more well trained Montessori teachers. We need our state and local colleges to offer masters degrees in Montessori education. We need this now.