The opening of our new school year included all of the wonderful things you would expect. Children happily re-establishing old friendships and starting new ones… getting oriented to all of the exciting new resources in the classroom… feeling embraced by the welcoming environment created by each teacher… bursting with the anticipation of making discoveries and exploring new topics ahead.
As a new school year begins, there’s also something more happening at Oak Meadow, something you’re not likely to find in other school settings. Let me share an example.
In our two fourth- and fifth-year upper elementary classes, students and teachers met to talk about getting organized for the upcoming school year. The teachers explained that the students were expected to take ownership of their own learning progress during the year, and then shared a tool for students to use in self-monitoring their personal growth. Students will use a sheet to plan the work week. On one side, students will write down their “work plan” for the week, in each of their subject areas. On the other side, students will record their “personal reflections” about their learning progress.
After handing out this new tool, students were invited to meet in groups, talk about the tool, help each other think more about how to use it, and ask questions. I sat in on one of these small group discussions. The students talked about how the work plan will help each of them to clarify their priorities and focus on something that needs to get done. The group also realized how the work plan would help in scheduling their work on long-term projects, rather than putting off an assignment until the night before it is due.
Although self-reflection about learning and growth happens even at the youngest ages at Oak Meadow, upper elementary is the first time when students are expected to record these reflections bi-weekly, in writing, and share them with the teacher. Students will score themselves in twelve different categories each week, including “utilizing my work time productively” and “collaborating with my peers on work, projects, or tasks.” In addition to this, students will write a weekly reflection answering four questions: “In what areas were you successful during this time period?” and “why?”; “In what areas can you improve?” and “what strategies can you use?”
Montessori education involves a planned process, a planned sequence, a planned environment, and a planned curriculum. Every student in the school, from our toddlers to eighth graders, is learning to take ownership of their own path to mastery, with guidance from the teacher, putting what they learn into practice and reflecting on their growth.
A Montessori beginning, at every age, puts students on a guided, independent path to acquiring the knowledge and skills essential to personal success in school and in life.