To Montessori, or Not to Montessori – That is the Question

“Katelyn, are you saying monastery?  What do monks have to do with your education class?” -My roommate

Before about 7 months ago, I had no idea what a Montessori school was.  I come from a town of under 2,000 people (a.k.a. the boondocks), so I was all about that #PublicSchoolLife.

With that being said, when I figured out that there was an entirely different type of schooling experience that existed in the world (other than homeschool and private school), I was incredulous.  How did I go 20+ years of my life not knowing about this?!  Naturally, my realization of this led to some serious research.  What I found was an innovative and progressive educational approach that allows students to think creatively and explore their intellectual interests in a uniquely independent environment.

I was especially sold on the idea of a Montessori education after watching this video on the history of the approach.  After watching this very cute and informative video, you might be thinking: “Katelyn, this sounds awesome!  You get to choose what to learn in an open and inviting environment where collaboration is encouraged?”  Or, even more importantly:  “Why isn’t this more commonplace in the U.S. education system?”  That’s what I was thinking too (what a coincidence)!  And even more coincidentally, this was the central idea in Merle Huerta’s article “The Montessori Method: Why Isn’t it Adopted by the Public School System?”  Let’s dive into this, shall we?

To kick off the article, Huerta makes reference to a 2006 study that found children ages 3-6 and 7-12 performed better on the Woodcock-Johnson test (which measures cognitive, academic, social, and behavior skills) as opposed to their public school counterparts.  As someone who is the product of the North Carolina public school system, this does not come as a shock to me.  Overcrowded schools and restricted funding does not foster the kind of environment that a Montessori school provides its students.

Is it feasible to transform every public school so that it follows the Montessori methods?  For the same reason I explained above when comparing the skills testing results between Montessori and public school students, I do not think so.

As Huerta’s piece explains, “to switch to the Montessori Method in the public schools would require a massive overhaul of the current system, an entrenched system.”  One of the hallmarks of Montessori schools is that teachers “become the architects and facilitators of each student’s learning program” and are responsible for designing individualized education plans.  Active learning is not an option in Montessori school – it is a requirement.  Now, let’s think about the common learning process in public schools.  Teachers have been conditioned to lecture students, and students have subsequently been conditioned to passively listen.  For a public school to make the switch to the Montessori method would require teachers and students alike to go against how they have been taught to approach education for decades and decades.

The article also raises the point that even if public schools were willing to make the switch, students already entrenched in the “traditional” classroom method might have a hard time adjusting to it.  Since Montessori schools organize their students according to developmental levels rather than age, a significant re-shuffling of the student population order would need to be done.  Although I personally do not think that potential difficulty should be a valid reason for the rejection of an idea (i.e. adopting Montessori method), I understand where the author is coming from.

So, readers – what do you think?  Should more public schools adopt the Montessori method for the classroom, or is this idea totally unrealistic?  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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3 Responses to To Montessori, or Not to Montessori – That is the Question

  1. haydenvick says:

    Katelyn,

    I am all for the concept of Montessori schools. If I do choose to become a teacher, I will likely teach K-2 and I will focus heavily on empowering my students to think critically about everything and find early on what is most intriguing and captivating to them. If schools were to ever switch to the Montessori method, I think it would make the most sense to begin with new kindergarten classes and have students in first grade and up continue to learn the same way they were initially taught. This would eliminate the confusion you discuss here and make the overall transition much smoother. I am curious as to how much more or less successful Montessori schools are compared to charters, so I may research this and write my next blog about it. What do you think is the biggest reason why Montessori schools tend to perform so successfully?

    -Hayden

    Like

  2. Pingback: Waldorf Schools: A Nontraditional Way of Learning | The Politics of Reading

  3. Patty says:

    I had a similar experience as you. After teaching in a traditional school for 9 years, I found Montessori and asked myself why this wasn’t discussed more. Now, I am in the process of training to become a Primary teacher and I can see how difficult it would be to switch over. I agree with Hayden, it has to be gradual and it will need to start from Kindergarten and go from there. The only issue I see is that the Montessori curriculum begins at 3yo and I am not sure how schools account for the 2 missed years of foundational work during the Absorbent Mind period.

    Like

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