Tag Archives: Montessori

Le Maitre Est L’Enfant: A French Montessori Documentary

You probably know about the Montessori documentary in the works, Building the Pink Tower—maybe because you read about it on The Montessori Observer here or here, more recently on MontessoriPublic, or on Facebook, or on BPT’s own website, or via their new Indiegogo campaign.

But did you know about the other Montessori documentary in the works, in French, featuring French primary children, speaking adorable French?!  I know this betrays an American parochialism, and an exoticizing obsession with cute kids speaking languages other than English, but I think you’ll agree that this is la Montessori la plus mignonne that you will see today:

But cuteness aside, like Building the Pink Tower, Le Maitre Est L’Enfant (The Child is the Teacher) is serious business.  The director, Alexandre Mourot, is a a Montessori parent and documentary filmmaker who, like so many others, fell in love with Montessori in his child’s classroom. He started researching in 2014, filming in 2015, and during the summer of 2015 began an AMI 3-6 training course.  Filming is now complete, and after self-funding the process up to now, Mourot has  launched a crowd-funding effort for post-production and distribution.  The campaign bas blown past its first two goals of 50,000 and 100,000 Euros, and is headed for its stretch goal of 160,000, which would allow translation into English and Spanish and foreign distribution.

And the Montessori? The classroom featured in the film, at L’Ecole Montessori de Roubaix, a Dominican school in Roubaix (a declining industrial suburb of Lille in the north of France), is led by veteran guide Christian Maréchal, who trained with the Dominican sisters in 1992 and took an AMI Primary diploma in 2000.  In 2012, he entered the AMI Primary Training of Trainers program, to become a trainer of new AMI teachers.  So it’s probably pretty solid

I spoke to Vina Kay and Jan Selby of BPT about the film.  They hadn’t heard of it, but they said they didn’t feel threatened by another documentary, even one with adorable French children.  “I don’t thin the problem is too much communication about Montessori”, Kay told me.  “The more, the merrier.”

Jane (Wife of Bernie) Sanders Mentions Montessori

Jane Sanders, formerly President of Burlington College, currently with the Vermont Economic Development Authority, and spouse of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, briefly name-checked Montessori this week in a conversation with education wunderkind Nikhil Goyal.

Goyal is a 21-year old education writer and advocate for progressive education with two books to his name: One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, written when he was just 17 and still in high school, and Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice, out this year.  In an interview with Sanders, he brought up Montessori:

Goyal: Who do you think are some of your most influential heroes in education? Who are the people you’ve most been inspired by in your scholarly work?

Sanders: [John] Dewey, [William Heard] Kilpatrick, Robert Coles. One of the things I like are the people who focus on philosophy as the underpinning of their work.

Goyal: People like Maria Montessori, Dewey, Rudolf Steiner.

Sanders: I was a strong supporter of Montessori when my kids were very little. I homeschooled for a year, and then we did public school all the way through for the kids.

So there you have it.  Sanders’ three adult children are from her first marriage, they aren’t public figures, and we don’t know much more about their education (not that we should). But it sounds like she got them off to a good start.

Famous Creative Montessorian in the News (this time, it’s Beyoncé…)

A colleague tipped me off (not to Beyoncé, I’ve heard of her) to an American Public Media Marketplace piece about the business of Bey, which cited her curiosity and habit of life-long learning.  I remember hearing that too, although it’s not in the transcript up at Marketplace.org.  Also not mentioned was the pop star’s time through 3rd grade at St. Mary of the Purification Catholic School, formerly St. Mary’s Montessori School and still offering at least a Children’s House Montessori program.  But could we attribute some of that “life-long-learner” attitude to Montessori?  Yes, I think we can.

Beyoncé is on that widely-shared, often poorly-sourced list of “famous Montessori alumni” you can find on almost every school’s website, including:

I’m always a little skeptical of these lists.  Did they really go to Montessori school?  (Jimmy Wales says no.)  How Montessori was it? How long were they there?  Did it really make that much of a difference?  (The Google Guys say yes.)  What about the hundreds of thousands of ordinary Montessori children who did nothing more remarkable than go on to lead fulfilling, well-adjusted lives and contribute to their communities.  (And how long before the name gets linked to some kind of high-profile disaster or scandal?  Will it be good press then?)

And it’s hard to track down the references, since Google just brings up all the lists people have already posted, citations sorely needed.  But I have come across a pretty good list, with links to (at least!) the relevant Wikipedia articles.  It’s here, at the Post Oak School in Houston*.  For whatever it’s worth.

* Beyoncé’s home town, so put her on the list of famous creative Houstonians, if that counts for anything…

Public Montessori and MontessoriPublic

MP-LogoHow many public Montessori schools are the in the U.S., do you suppose? Where are they clustered? What challenges do they face? What successes have they had? How can I get one going in my town, city, or state?

There are places to go where you can get answers to those questions. The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), covered on The Montessori Observer here, has been doing a fantastic job of gathering and sharing information. The Montessori Public Policy Initiative (MPPI), the AMI-AMS collaboration (!) covered here has information and resources as well.

Now public Montessori has a new voice: MontessoriPublic, dedicated exclusively to public Montessori news and information, bringing Montessori into the public conversation.

Or is it a new voice after all? Montessorians may remember Public School Montessorian, the quarterly newsprint publication, beloved by many, largely the tireless work of the late Dennis Shapiro, who passed away in 2014. NCMPS worked with Dennis’ family to take over the publication and relaunch it as a print, digital, and social media communications and advocacy platform for public Montessori in all its forms.

MontessoriPublic was all over the AMI Refresher Course in Long Beach this weekend, passing out buttons and collecting subscriber emails, and you can look for the publication at the AMS Annual Conference in Chicago March 10-12. There’s nothing at the website yet except a place to sign up for email updates, but if MontessoriPublic can bring Public School Montessorian’s reporting into the digital age, it should be a great resource.

Montessori—Fit for a Prince

The news blew around the Montessori world on Friday: Young Prince George of Cambridge, aged 2, only son of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton), third in line to the throne of England—will follow in his father’s path to Montessori school. In a departure from palace tradition, the young Prince William and his brother Harry attended a Montessori “nursery” in the mid-1980s, reportedly at the insistence of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, herself a one-time Montessori classroom assistant.

(It’s possible George’s parents were also motivated by a letter from a 10-year-old Dutch Montessori student which included a copy of Susan Mayclin Stephenson’s The Joyful Child, but we’ll probably never know.)

The news coverage is pretty good, and fairly accurate things are said about Montessori schools, if without a lot of depth. You do get a sense of how tightly the British Royal Family controls the media narrative, as the brief account is pretty similar across publications. The BBC has an official announcement, the Mirror does a nice job, citing a three-hour work period and student choice, and Hello! magazine has probably the cutest picture:

prince-george--a

But the headline that caught my eye was Prince George to attend £33-a-day Montessori nursery in Norfolk in The Telegraph. The Telegraph is a reliably Conservative, somewhat populist British paper (and multimedia company), so I wasn’t sure what to make of the figure in the headline: is £33-a-day a lot, or a little? Turns out, it’s a little:

The school costs just £5.50 per hour, or £33 per day, and 23 of its 27 children are in receipt of funding. It also has some children with special needs. In contrast, nurseries near Kensington Palace can cost upwards of £15,000 per year.

£33 per day would be £165/week, or £6600/year for 40 full weeks (I bet the Royals take some time off in the summer, even though they both work). In dollars, those numbers are about $8.25/hour, $50/day, $250/week, and $9,900/year. (Those posh places near the Palace would be about $22,500.) That’s about on the middle for U.S. Children’s House programs. What’s more, it seems like there’s a commitment to access—more from the Telegraph:

… a modestly-priced Montessori nursery school in Norfolk where most parents get financial help to pay the fees.

… Prince George’s new school was opened 23 years ago and has 27 children, including 23 in receipt of funding, meaning they get 15 free hours of education per week.

… All three and four year olds get free child care but two year olds get it only if they are in the poorest 40 per cent of families.

… Westacre says it has “an all inclusive open door approach” and has in the past taught children on the autistic spectrum and physically disabled children.

The school, a small cluster of buildings down a private lane in the Norfolk countryside, has battened down its public presence, if it ever had one—probably a good idea considering the publicity this is bound to attract. But they’re happy to have the young prince among their charges:

A spokesman for the school said: “We are looking forward to welcoming George to our nursery where he will get the same special experience as all of our children.”

 

New Study: Co-Operation and Problem-Solving is Good For You

Thanks for still being there, loyal readers.

The New York Times and National Public Radio pick up on a major study (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) in the American Journal of Public Health:Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness.

Basically, kindergartner’s “prosocial skills” — such as sharing, cooperating, and helping others — strongly predicted their “key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health”.

I mean, we know these things, but when they are borne out by an impeccably designed, exhaustively controlled, ten-year study, we really know we know them.

There’s so much in the NYT summary that it’s hard to pull out just one things. But there’s this:  At the beginning of the study,

the teachers were asked to assign each child a score based on qualities that included “cooperates with peers without prompting”; “is helpful to others”; “is very good at understanding feelings”; and “resolves problems on own.”

The findings:

predicted the likelihood of many outcomes: whether the children would graduate from high school on time, get college degrees, have stable or full-time employment as young adults; whether they would live in public housing or receive public assistance; whether they would be held in juvenile detention or be arrested as adults. The kindergarten teachers’ scores also correlated with the number of arrests a young adult would have for severe offenses by age 25.

And it’s not just happy talk.  Public programs are implementing social and emotional learning in districts from Anchorage to Nashville.

This, obviously, is our wheelhouse.  We know intuitively that Montessori does this work — and we’ve known since 2012 that high-fidelity Montessori Primary programs deliver

significantly greater school-year gains on outcome measures of executive function, reading, math, vocabulary, and social problem-solving”

cited right here on TMO.

It’s not like Montessori gets a mention.  But there’s always the comments section…

New York Times Discovers Play-Based Learning, Pretty Much Stops There

The New York Times Sunday Review has a bit of a drive-by take  (picked up by Diane Ravitch among others) on early childhood education that, I’m sorry to say, I’m going to have to send back for revisions if it’s going to get a passing grade.

The gist of the piece is in the title: “Let the Kids Learn Through Play”. I usually say, go read the whole article, but I think I can do it justice in a short summary here with some bullet points and a couple of quotes. Essentially:

  • 20 years ago, there was a lot of play in schools (a bold statement without much citation, but let that go)
  • formal, didactic instruction has worked its way down to preschool (sad but true)
  • research suggests that this may not be such a good idea

Here Kohn quotes an authority:

One expert I talked to recently, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., describes this trend as a “profound misunderstanding of how children learn.” She regularly tours schools, and sees younger students floundering to comprehend instruction: “I’ve seen it many, many times in many, many classrooms — kids being told to sit at a table and just copy letters. They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s heartbreaking.”

Heartbreaking indeed. If only there were body of theory and experimental work in how young children learn, that could be broadly applied with predictable results across cultures and classes…

Kohn goes on to ask a question:

As the skeptics of teacher-led early learning see it, that kind of education will fail to produce people who can discover and innovate, and will merely produce people who are likely to be passive consumers of information, followers rather than inventors. Which kind of citizen do we want for the 21st century?

Which kind indeed? Sergey Brin. Larry Page. Jimmy Wales. Montessori and innovation. If only there were a method…

Kohn touches on a few other points: Common Core, Finland, inequality, and (at last) cites some intriguing research: The “Marcon Study”, by Rebecca A. Marcon  at the University of South Florida, which compared didactic, child-initiated, and “blended” pre-school models. Kohn doesn’t actually come out and say it, but Marcon found the strongest support for child-initiated preschool programs. From the abstract:

By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences.

And he closes with this:

But the early education that kids get — whatever their socioeconomic background — should truly help their development. We must hope that those who make education policy will start paying attention to this science.

Indeed, education should be in the service of development, and proceed from a scientific basis. One way we can start is by calling it by name.