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.

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/

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.