This article first appeared in the 2011 Edition of The Parents League Review.
“With regard to the child, education should correspond to them, so that instead of dividing the schools into nursery, primary, secondary and university, we should divide education in planes and each of these should correspond to the phase the developing individuality goes through.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
Whenever parents, college students, or prospective teachers visit our Montessori school, inevitably the question is asked, “Where do students go after they leave the school?” In fact, how students transition into, within and beyond a Montessori school is often a concern for parents and educators unfamiliar with Montessori education. Accurate, thoughtful answers are particularly critical in New York City, where there are so many schools and unique school cultures from which to choose. Once families and students come to know the Montessori approach, they find that all of these transitions happen quite naturally.
My Own Transition
Eight years ago I became head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, a two-year-old through eighth grade school. After 28 years of working in traditional schools, I discovered the educational philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, and quickly found several of its tenets that I could easily embrace. Here are a few:
- Classes are composed of mixed-age groupings (ages three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve, etc.) through adolescence; students remain in the same classroom for a three-year cycle.
- A prepared environment nurtures freedom of choice, self-discipline, and personal responsibility.
- The teacher is facilitator (guide-on-the-side), as opposed to importer of knowledge (sage-on-the-stage).
- The student learns through self-discovery.
- The learning environment fosters an uninterrupted work period each day-ideally, a block of three hours.
- Learning is best when the student is motivated from within and not through extrinsic rewards.
- There is deep respect for the student
The benefits of the Montessori environment and philosophy are continually confirmed for me as I stand at the front door of school each morning, greeting students and parents. They are evident when I see fourth and fifth graders inching to walk ahead of their parents, demonstrating the need to test a newly found independence. But the best part is that parents — while they don’t want to let go—understand that the promotion of their students’ curiosity and need for independence is part of the Montessori plan.
Dane Peters, Head of School
Brooklyn Heights Montessori School