Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Montessori education - cultivating a renewed social contract

As I explain the successes of Montessori education to many potential families, I am usually explaining the benefit to the individual student. Executive functioning is one of the highlights I touch on every time. Montessori practice allows students to make choices about their time, their location in space, and their work. The child has the freedom and independence to exercise responsibility and experience natural consequences of choice.

Better executive functioning skills lead to better overall academic results for students. A recent Atlantic monthly article articulated the benefit we hear so often from research on brain development - that time spent developing freely results in increased capacity for student performance.


However, individual results on exams and measures are not the core of our mission. The worldview of our school mission is about the contract we have with each other - personally, locally, and globally. How we treat people on the bus, how we make our society more peaceful, how we do in connection to others is the extension of our contract with classmates in a Montessori environment.

Our social contract to care for, respect, and support each person with dignity builds a more peaceful society. Preparing individual students with excellent job-ready brain function is great, but it's not the glue that holds high performing teams together. We have a specific task to facilitate cooperation among young people, and trust in their ability to carry dignity out into the public sphere so that they - as inheritors of our society - may construct a better world.

It's in the respect for each person, and the acceptance of their humanity, that we find ourselves able to solve problems together. And, in the face of challenges that will increasingly require cooperation, the social and emotional skills we practice become essential skills to create solutions. Kindness, inclusion, collaboration, respect for difference, and recognition of the value of human dignity become increasingly essential to addressing issues of inequity, resource competition, and imbalances of ecology, economy, and social order.

In growing together, and encouraging acceptance and respect of differences - we demonstrate a different value than most schools. We encourage students to shine, and we encourage students to raise each other up.  Preparing students to out-compete their peers on tests and admissions is not the solution to our local, regional, or global challenges.

Preparing students to work together in holistic thinking will find solutions to these challenges that face their world.

So, while we work with students to wrap up the year, and you guide your students toward a summer, I invite us to remind our young people how proud we are to witness their work establishing and carrying a more peaceful world within them. It's the mission we begin with each day at school, and the soul of our work.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Aiming for more than our #1 rating on from US News and World Report

What a week for Great River School. In case you didn't see the many social media shares this past week, Great River has been rated as the #1 high school in the state of Minnesota.

I am proud of this rating, but it doesn't speak to all our school does or to our true mission in education.  It does indicate the hard work of our students in preparing for academic success. Strictly based on college preparedness and standardized test scores among IB High Schools in the state of Minnesota, our results are the best in the state. 81st in the country for charter schools, and in the top 1% of all schools in the country.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

And the winner is....

Bike Shop at work! 
7 things I loved about this week:

1) 3 families at the Spring Fest carnival on May 2nd telling me they missed the dinner and concert
because of how much fun they were having outside

2) The concert at Spring Fest - the best cover of purple rain. Ever. I hear the choices for next year's concert is narrowed down to Beyonce vs. Rolling Stones :-)

4) Students organizing for community - 
from high schoolers rallying for civil rights, to A1 students experiencing mock trial, to elementary students planning a milkweed campaign for monarch habitat, and A2 students planning a memorial community meeting space,
A1 bike shop running a professional business....
Inspiring to see our future leaders leading

Dunked 19 times at first annual dunk tank :-)
5) Students organizing for fun! Student planned events of the week: set list of Spring Fest concert, all the carnival games, the A1 spring dance on 5/8, A3 students willing to play frogger at community meeting, Elementary students delivering May Day baskets of handwoven paper

6) Volunteers coming out to make Spring Fest Happen! Bake sale, food prep, setup, cleanup, and snocones... thanks volunteers :-)

7) Reflection in person with parents who watched the video from last week on vulnerability, and connected to their own experience of the school.

We have a long way to go as a school to reach our potential. And, what rewarding work it is when we come together, in the name of passion and fun, work on behalf of this community, and dunk our head of school in 50 degree water.
Pure gratitude.
Happy May to all!