The Greatest Gift: A Montessori Education
Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of encounters with people who have asked about my education. Whenever I have this conversation about my education, it usually goes something like this:
Where do you go to school?
I go to Madonna University.
And what are you studying there?
I’m studying math. I want to teach high school math after I graduate.
That’s wonderful. Where did you go before Madonna?
I went to a private high school and before that I attended a Montessori.
This is where the conversation always gets interesting.
Oh. Montessori… What was that like?
Well. Let me tell you!
Growing up Montessori is an experience. I learned, right from the start, that it is my responsibility to take control of my learning. The teachers gave me direction, but what I worked on, how I got that work done, and when I got that work done was totally up to me. There was no one standing over my shoulder saying from 10:05-10:20 we will do math and then from 10:20 – 11:00 we will do science, and then at 11 we will work on writing. In my world, I could work on whatever assignment I wanted, whenever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was never forced to work faster or to slow down because other students in the class needed to work at a different pace. There was no such thing as one size fits all. Everyone was viewed as an individual learner with individual needs.
At the beginning of each week, every person in my class received a work plan. Some assignments were universal, in that everyone in the class had to complete them. However, most, like math or Wordly Wise, were individualized for each student. Having these work plans and learning how to make decisions about when these assignments got done over the course of the week is one of the most valuable aspects of my Montessori experience. I have noticed this immensely since I began taking college classes. At the beginning of each semester, I receive a syllabus with the assignments for each week and it is my responsibility to get them done. Just like in Montessori, I have to plan my weeks to get all of my assignments done. Being a college student can be overwhelming at times, but since I learned how to make choices independently right from the start, I feel that my college years, thus far, have been slightly less stressful and therefore, more enjoyable.
Another highlight, is definitely not having to sit in a chair, in a desk, in the same spot, all day long. First off, there were no desks. I worked at tables with my classmates and did not have to sit in the same seat or with the same people every day. Second, if I was in the mood to work on the floor, that’s what I did. There was something special about having the freedom to move around the classroom and choose a work space that fit my mood for the day. I was not only much more productive this way, but also never felt confined in my work environment.
To this day, one of the most vivid memories I have of learning at a Montessori is the feeling that my teachers actually cared about me as more than just a student. Having the same teachers for two or three years at a time was definitely an invaluable opportunity. Over the course of my time in any classroom, I got to know my teachers and my teachers got to know me. They knew what I was capable of, and pushed me to become better. They not only gave me challenges academically, but they also challenged my character. On some days, they knew me better than I knew myself. They inspired me to push my boundaries both, academically and as a person. This is definitely the experience I miss the most.
Now that I am older, I have come to recognize what an amazing gift my parents provided by enrolling me in a school that provided a Montessori education. I received an education that was more than just a series of facts and numbers. It was a series of experiences that have guided my life ever since.