Will a Montessori Education Prepare My Child for the “Real World”?
Article re-posted with permission from Jeff Groh at The New School Montessori.
Will a Montessori Education Prepare My Child for the “Real World?”
This is a common question I hear as I meet with prospective parents and take them on a tour through our community at The New School Montessori.
This is a difficult question to answer considering the “real world” is a relative term. Do they mean the “real world” of professional pressures, deadlines, and aggressive competition? Or do they mean the “real world” of emotional intelligence, engaged citizenry, compassion, joy, and relationship to one’s environment? If I were to be honest with myself, I’m pretty sure they’re asking about the former – the “real world” of work. Fortunately, no matter which version of the “real world” they are referring to, my answer is the same, a resounding “Yes!”
Multi-age classrooms and emphasis on time management prepare in “real world” ways.
For those of you who are not familiar with Montessori education let me briefly explain that it is a philosophy and pedagogy based on the scientific research of Dr. Maria Montessori. Children are grouped in multi-aged classrooms, where students are engaged in hands-on, self-paced, collaborative work. Multi-aged classrooms allow older students to be leaders and mentors while providing opportunities for younger students to work with older classmates on group projects. In addition, Montessori teachers do not stand in front of a class giving lectures while asking students to work on the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. Rather, they walk throughout the classroom working one-on-one with students or in small groups. At the core of the Montessori philosophy is the belief that all students have a natural desire to learn, explore, and joyfully work toward independence through knowledge and discipline.
Now, keeping all of that in mind, I want you to ask yourself:
- In any “real world” job, is everyone the same age?
- Are workers all sitting at their desks working on the same thing at the same time?
- Do workers often need to access memorized facts in a timed setting? Of course not.
In a “real world” job, one is expected to be able to work with people at different levels of experience, work well independently and in a group, set up work, concentrate on it, keep it organized, complete it, and put it away. Workers need to try things to see if they work and then learn from their mistakes. They need to be able to problem solve and to communicate effectively.
The top five types of knowledge and skills employers are looking for in the 21st Century were listed by a Gallup poll in this order and are all skills deeply embedded in the Montessori method:
- Critical thinking and problem solving,
- information technology application,
- teamwork and collaboration,
- creativity and innovation,
- and diversity training.
Montessori education has been proven to prepare children for the “real world.”
An article titled “Montessori Mafia” in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, states,
“The Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by [Montessori] alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.”
Sims didn’t mention other famous Montessori innovators like Julia Child, Katherine Graham (Pulitzer Prize winning author), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (winner of the Nobel Prize for literature), Yo-Yo Ma (cellist and winner of 15 Grammy Awards), George Clooney (Academy Award winning actor), Helen Keller (who is considered one of the most widely admired people of the 20thCentury), and the list goes on.
In 2004 Barbara Walters interviewed Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and asked them if having college professors as parents was the major factor behind their success. Page stated that more influential than having professorial parents was the fact that, “ We both went to Montessori school, and I think it was part of the training…being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a bit differently.”
In the popular magazine Science, Angeline Lillard published a study comparing the educational achievement performance of low-income Milwaukee children who attended Montessori preschools versus children attending a variety of other traditional preschools determined by lottery. Lehrer found that by the end of kindergarten, “Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.”
What about Montessori at a high school level? Clark Montessori (a Cincinnati public Montessori school) provided these results of their 88 graduates in 2010: 100% graduation rate. 100% of the graduates went to college. 33% were first generation in their families to attend college, and 33% came from families in need of free or reduced lunches.
So yes, a Montessori education will prepare your child for the “real world” of 21st Century employment. But here’s the added bonus; a Montessori education will also prepare your children for the “real world” of life, learning skills like how to:
- resolve conflicts peacefully.
- build a relationship between themselves and their environment.
- remain curious and a life long learner.
- treat others with kindness and respect.
- be more interested in the joy of discovery than the value of a grade or paycheck.
- reflect and know how to celebrate their individuality while at the same time knowing how to sacrifice their own desires for the benefit of the whole.
These values have deep roots in Montessori education, and it just so happens they are also what prepare us for how to live fully in the “real world” of life.
So, will a Montessori education prepare your child for the “real world?”
Yes it will.
Jeff Groh has been a Montessori educator for 15 years. He taught 4-6th graders for 10 of those years in both public and private sectors. During that time he also worked as the Educational Director at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and was the co-founder of a nonprofit theatre dedicated to building community through live storytelling. Jeff has toured the country for a year visiting schools and running teacher/student workshops on how to write, appreciate, and perform poetry. He has worked as an adjunct professor through the Montessori Department at Xavier University and was selected to travel to Seoul, Korea to teach Korean educators about Montessori methods and philosophy. He has received his Masters in Montessori Education and Administrative licensure through Xavier University. For over 10 years Jeff has been running a Shakespeare Club for 9 to 12 year olds and was recognized through the Cincinnati Enquirer as having the only traveling, child ensemble, Shakespeare troupe in the country. From 2012-2015 Jeff was the Assistant Director at The New School Montessori and is now the Head of School.
Last year I looked for an article linking the extensive brain research on learning, which has been done in the past ten years, with Montessori pedagogy. All current research supports what Dr. Maria Montesori, the attentive observer who she was, founded her methods of education on over a century ago. Thank you, Jeff, for your perspective and for shining a light on what Montessori truly is. The myth of Montessori education is that children are allowed to do whatever they want all of the time. The reality is the purposeful, challenging, focused, collaborative work that we see each day. I am optimistic for our future real world because of what I see in the classroom every day.