I never wanted to be a teacher. As a young person, I saw school as one long competition where comparison to your peers was normal and compliance with rules was celebrated as an achievement. Relationships with teachers were transactional, albeit for the rare occurrence where an educator took the time to really get to know me.
For all these reasons, I couldn’t see myself pursuing a career in education.
I did, however, love the idea of working with young people. Understanding my own experience, I knew that my school environment could have done so much more to develop my strengths at an early age and nurture my emotional and social intelligence.
I dreamt of finding ways to influence the system. I imagined a learning environment where children not only felt at home but a place that sparked their curiosity.
So, I started my teacher training, determined to find a different way to educate the young people in my care.
Learning about Maria Montessori’s work I realised how much her method of education has been influencing aspects of our current education system for the past hundred years.
Differentiated learning which focuses on students’ individual needs and the emphasis on collaborative work are marked differences from the industrial age, factory-style classroom method that we once saw in education.
As an ever-growing body of research on the benefits of a Montessori education emerges, I am sure her influence will continue to shape education as we know it.
Montessori students have been shown to score higher in academic tasks, in assessments of social-emotional skills, and creativity tests. Because students’ have long periods of uninterrupted time in our classrooms, Montessori students have the opportunity to experience flow more often.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian-American psychologist, identified flow as a mental state which is highly productive and intrinsically rewarding. These opportunities for focussed engagement have been identified as a reason why Montessori students have even shown to have increased attention spans!
What makes a Montessori school a truly unique place is the integration of all of Montessori’s ideas. At North-Eastern Montessori School, children are given autonomy and responsibility.
There is a high degree of independence that is fostered in our students at the earliest stages of their education. The learning materials encourage students to learn through trial and error, and harness their ability to self-correct their own errors.
Our students use a scientific method in their approach to learning: observing, making hypotheses, testing out ideas, and correcting their mistakes.
What is most impressive is how the work of Maria Montessori in the mid-19th century stacks up against current day research on educational psychology and neuroscience. For example, Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset thinking has been adopted by schools all over the world.
Helping students see that their abilities can be improved through action and effort is part of the magic of a Montessori teacher. We do this by praising students’ efforts, highlighting the process of learning, not just the product.
As the Principal of North-Eastern Montessori School, I am excited to be surrounded by like-minded educators and parents who are committed to creating a nurturing, enriching and empowering environment for our young people. These are not just words used to market our School, it really is the kind of environment we aim to create every day.
Last week, a Year 5 student approached me, saying, “Janis, I have an idea for the school. Can I come see you at lunch?”
This is just one small example of a student who knows that he has the capacity to make a difference in his world, and is confident and empowered to take action.
Our goal is to be an environment that enables every child to thrive. Everything we do at North-Eastern is about inspiring students to develop a love of learning. Whether students are designing new inventions in the Creative Technology Lab, creating their own masterpieces in Art or publishing their very own first novel, our school promotes deep engagement with learning.
When I see our students tackling challenges and working in harmony together, I know that our Montessori method really works. I invite you to come see our community in action at North-Eastern Montessori: a place where we all love to learn.